Clark Fork River

As we continue our long trek home, we went from Washington State to our first stop in Alberton, Montana where we are camped on the Clark Fork River. The weather has been beautiful. We expected it to be hotter. It was in the high 70’s when we arrived and very nice while sitting outside but hot in the RV. After we went to bed, I had to put the air conditioning on in the bedroom to lower the temperature a couple degrees. Dart couldn’t stop panting. I got it to a comfortable temperature and then the rains came through and cool air came through the open windows. By morning, we had the heat on.

We drove to a nearby bighorn sheep viewing area this morning and did not see any sheep. It was a short drive and nice. On the way back, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things and headed back. I set out to do a couple loads of wash and Regis got some pictures of the surrounding area.

No one has been wearing masks at our campground which includes a restaurant and casino, so I was a little bummed to be the only one wearing a mask. We went into Frenchtown nearby to do some grocery shopping and folks were wearing masks. We continue to wear masks. We have no desire to get sick, much less while we are traveling.

Bridge over the Clark Fork River in Montana.
Morning view with some clouds at our campground in Alberton, Montana. Our campground is on the right and the road on the left is Interstate 90. We hate to camp next to interstates. Sometimes, it is what you have to do.
Clark Fork River in Montana. Notice the tree trunks perched on the granite islands in the middle of the stream.
Local black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia). These birds are very wary and hard to photograph.

Otters to Sheep

River otter (Lontra canadensis) family with two adults and two juveniles in Puget Sound.

We left Port Townsend this morning and were sad to leave the Olympic Peninsula. We love the area and it is close to Jason for visiting. This morning, while still camped at Point Hudson, I noticed some river otters in the water. I grabbed Dart’s leash and the camera and I sat on a hunk of driftwood on the beach and watched the otters until they came ashore and disappeared. It was a family with two adults and two juveniles. They were too far out to get good pictures, but we have a couple here to post. They were a joy to watch. The adults kept getting food and lifting their heads above the water while the juveniles scrambled around them, perhaps not sure what they were supposed to do. Regis came out to photograph also. I also saw a bald eagle on the spit. It took off with a dead seagull.

River otter adult with two juveniles.
River otter adult with two juveniles.
River otter adult with two juveniles.
River otters with two adults and two juveniles.

It was a wonderful gift of the day to see the otter family on our last morning at Port Townsend. Our plan was to drive to Ellensburg, Washington to camp and then head to Gingko Petrified Forest State Park to see if we could see some bighorn sheep. We originally planned to camp in the park, but camping was closed although the park was open for day use. We altered our plans and stayed in a private KOA campground in Ellensburg which is about 30 miles away from the park. After setting up camp, we headed to the park. I wasn’t expecting to get to see the bighorn sheep since I already had the opportunity to see the otters in the morning.

At this point, Dart must have been truly miserable. He had the longest drive in the RV for awhile and perhaps thought he was in for some relief before we packed him up into the Jeep after setting up camp. After we got to the State park, I missed the turn to the visitor center and took the next one and lo and behold, we saw sheep. I thought I would not be so lucky since I got to see the otters in the morning. It was too much to ask for one day. Wahoo!

Bighorn sheep lamb (Ovis canadensis) in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

While we stopped to watch the bighorn sheep, I noticed a rocky/dirt road into the park that was closed but you could get a permit. It gave a phone number for me to call and I did and it gave me the code to get through the gate. We put the Jeep in four wheel drive and headed out on the road. It was terrible. It was so rocky we couldn’t drive more than a couple miles an hour. Dart was, of course, miserable. After driving in a short way, we got some good views of bighorn sheep before they exited stage right. Once we realized we impacted their behavior, we stopped the Jeep, but they wandered off anyway. After they left, we kept going.

Bighorn sheep in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

We didn’t go far. I was certain Dart was beyond miserable and the road was no fun to drive, so we turned around and headed back. We headed to our usual place in the park to see the sheep, but there were people there and no sheep. Therefore, we were fortunate to have missed our turn and saw the sheep. We headed back on a scenic route to our campsite and saw lots of wind turbines along the way.

In Ellensburg, we went through a drive through to pick up dinner. We have had salmon the last two nights and we were going to have salmon again tonight. Having a lousy hamburger tonight wasn’t too bad. There is a story about all that salmon that may be boring but here it is. Regis went to the grocery store very early in the morning and the fresh seafood was not out and he picked up frozen seafood instead. We left some salmon out to thaw. I went to the store later to pick up a prescription and the seafood was out and I picked up a piece of fresh salmon too big to eat in one night. We have had fresh salmon the last two nights. I love salmon, but don’t mind skipping a day.

It was chilly most of the time we were on the Olympic Peninsula. As soon as we got close to Snoqualmie Pass, we began to see sun. By the time we crossed the Cascades, it warmed up. It was in the high 70’s today in Ellensburg but it felt hot after all those chilly Olympic Peninsula days. We better acclimate quick because I suspect it gets hotter as we move forward.

Bathing Gulls

Immature glaucous-winged (Larus glaucescens) gull bathing.

It is our last day here and I was hoping for some sun to get some action shots of some birds. It helps to have some light when you need a high shutter speed to capture the action. The day did not provide, so I made due with what was available.

I went back to the pigeon guillemots and thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to them. I’m glad we discovered a way to get closer to them at Fort Worden State Park.

Pigeon guillemot (Cepphus columba).

Dart went on a walk with me to an overlook to get this landscape view of the marina/RV park where we are staying. He was beat when we got back since we had to climb a steep hill for the shot.

Point Hudson Marina and RV Park.

This afternoon at low tide, I walked out on the spit and got some pictures of the gulls bathing.

Glaucous-winged gull bathing.
Glaucous-winged gull missing a foot.
Heermann’s gull (Larus heermanni).
Heerman’s gull preening.

It’s been in the low 60’s today. We know when we leave tomorrow we are heading into the heat. I think we are finally acclimating to the cooler temperatures, so it is going to be painful tomorrow when we start heading into the heat.

Gulls bathing.

Pigeon Guillemots and Submarines

Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba). Notice the red legs.

We have not been doing as much exploring as we usually do on our trips. If we venture somewhere that turns out to be too crowded, we turn back. Sitting still and enjoying the wildlife and scenery is just fine. I have no complaints. Over the weekend, I went to Fort Worden and it was crowded so I turned back. We went today and it was much less crowded, so we got to explore a little bit. We had great viewing opportunities of some pigeon guillemots. The science center at Fort Worden has some nest boxes for the guillemots and they regularly nest there. I love the red legs on these mostly black birds.

Pigeon guillemot.
Pigeon guillemot.

As we walked through the park to go to the headland where the lighthouse is located, we found some conifers with a bunch of chestnut-backed chickadees feeding in them. Those little birds move around very quickly and are often hidden by pine needles, so it was tough to get a picture.

Chestnut-backed chickadee (Poecile rufscens)

We walked out to the headland and sat on some driftwood and heard some weird noises coming across the water. We figured out that it was sea lions on the buoy out in the water.

At this point Dart was done, so Regis stayed with him at the headland while I walked back to the car and came back and retrieved them. It is hard to see Dart wear out so fast now when he drove us crazy with his energy when he was younger.

Back at our campsite at Point Hudson, a submarine came by. We have seen a couple submarines come through the Admiralty Inlet but this submarine was not going on the usual route. It was clearly docking nearby and we got a nice close look at it.

Submarine with lots of gulls hanging out on the back.

We leave here on Wednesday so tomorrow is our last full day here. I am saddened somewhat because I love the area but I am also ready to explore some other places.

Merlin says this is a California Gull. It is immature and I have trouble identifying immature birds, so I will take Merlin’s word for it.
Submarine with accompanying boat.

River Otters

River otter (Lontra canadensis) eating a fish.

We particularly enjoy watching the otters while camped on the shores of Puget Sound. We saw them several times while camped on Bainbridge Island and we see them regularly here in Port Townsend. They appear to be very successful catching fish. We often see them near shore as they swim in the water in pursuit of fish. Once they are satisfied, they exit the water and sometimes roll in the sand afterward. They are adorable. Sometimes they exit the water to eat the fish and that’s when Regis saw the bald eagle steal the fish from an otter. We have seen them in the marina and running around outside the restaurants. I heard someone say they often go under the restaurants. They are very difficult to photograph. If the sun is out, the wet otters reflect the sun. A polarizing filter would help, but we don’t have filters for all our lenses. Other times, they are too distant to get a good shot. I think the picture Regis got above is one of the better images.

Yesterday, Dart turned 10. Because of his digestive issues the best treat he got was a little bit of spam with medication stuffed inside to aid in his digestive problems and a few bits of bacon. Regis took the stuffing out of his new bed and put it in in old bed and it worked out well. Dart is clearly happier with his old bed back.

We were fortunate yesterday that the sun came out in time to enjoy a picnic on the 4th. Jason, Dan, and Coco arrived in Port Townsend on Friday and are staying in a nearby hotel. They joined us at our campsite overlooking Puget Sound for lunch and Dan’s parents came up from the Kitsap Peninsula to join us. We picked up some take out food from one of the restaurants in the marina and had a lovely afternoon outside in beautiful weather. Jason and Dan performed a few songs for us with Jason on the guitar and Dan singing. It was a beautiful performance. After they sang “Hallelujah”, one of our camping neighbors stopped by to tell them how lovely it was.

Following are pictures of wildlife at Point Hudson.

Black oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus). The birds primarily feed on invertebrates but don’t eat oysters. They search for food in the intertidal zone.
There is a pair of belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) hanging out in the marina. This one is sitting on sailboat spar.
House finch (Haemorhous mexicanus).
Chestnut-backed chickadee (Poecile rufescens).
Barn swallow (Hirunda rustica) gathering nesting material. There are some barn swallows actively building nests under the porch roof of a nearby building.
River otter swimming through the marina. Sea otters are rarely seen in the area. The most common otter in the area is the river otter. Sea otters often float in the water on their backs while river otters are more often seen swimming like the one here.

Point Hudson

Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica).

We have been enjoying walking around the near vicinity at Point Hudson in Port Townsend and enjoying the wildlife. When the sun is out, we sit in our chairs with binoculars and scan for wildlife, etc. Yesterday, Regis spotted a submarine being escorted out of Puget Sound. He pointed out the menacing boat behind the escorted sub. I said it didn’t look menacing and he assured me it was. He also noticed the other boats in front that were part of the escort. He had every boat identified and knew what was happening and I was only capable of maybe identifying the gulls flying by. I appreciated the education. We took pictures but they were on the other side of the inlet with a lot of humid air between us and them and the pictures are terrible.

Barn swallow.
Purple martin pair (Progne subis).
Glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens) directing traffic in downtown Port Townsend.
A black-tailed deer in a garden in Port Townsend. Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
This crow could be a Northwestern Crow or an American Crow. Without a vocalization, I could not tell.

I walked through town yesterday and visited a used book store that I love. I didn’t find the books I was looking for, but found others and was happy to pick them up. I love looking at the local art in the galleries and viewed them from the front window.

Today, I awoke to watch the sunrise and it was foggy so there was nothing to see. I will go with the flow. I later walked the beach at low tide and saw lots of sea anemones that should be green, but they were brown. I suspect that is not good.

The sun came out for part of the day, so we bundled up and sat outside in our chairs with Dart and scanned for birds, etc. with our binoculars. It was fun until the sky turned too cloudy again and it was too cold and we went back inside. My son loaned me his paddleboard so I could use it but it is too cold for me. I have seen people paddle boarding but I am a Floridian sissy and can’t bring myself to do it. I want very much to get out on the water. They rent kayaks in the marina but we are not sure they are open. With Covid-19, things are not normal. The office was closed today but I will try again tomorrow but I understand if they stay closed. We must take things day by day and be grateful for what we have.

Campground Flowers

The sky was overcast this morning, so I took the opportunity to get some pictures of the flowers in the campground rain garden.

I believe this is a redhot poker (Kniphofia uvaria (L.) Oken. (PlantNet Plant Identification.)
I believe this is a nasturtium in the Tropaeolum family. (PlantNet Plant Identification.)
I believe this is an opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.) (PlantNet Plant Identification.)
I think this might be a Dahlia. (Personal experience.)
I think this might be a California poppy (personal experience).
I think this might be a Dahlia (personal experience).
I think this might be a Dahlia (personal experience).

Eagle at Dawn

Sunrise over the Admiralty Inlet.

I love to get outside just as it is getting light before the sunrise. The water is usually calm and the birds are beginning their dawn chorus. There is little to no human activity, so it is quiet. I enjoy seeing the colors in the sky change and reflect on the water. Since I was able to get my camera set up at our campsite by our picnic table, I brought a cup of coffee with me today to enjoy while I waited for the sun to rise. While waiting, the seagulls started to make a lot of noise and I knew to look for the eagle. It was on a nearby log, so I took some video.

A Favorite Campsite

Before we left Port Angeles this morning, we went up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park to try to get some good views/pictures of the Strait and Canada. The weather was not cooperative and the pictures weren’t good but we saw lots of deer. I like the following picture because it shows “whiskers” on the chin.

Notice the “under chin” whiskers on this beautiful deer. Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus).
A young buck black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) in Olympic National Park.

We arrived in Port Townsend for a favorite campsite. We reserved this campsite a year ago and scheduled the rest of our adventure it. The campground was closed until about a week ago, so it was iffy as to whether we would be able to stay here. Following is a video panning Regis and Dart at the campsite and the view we have. You’ll understand why we love it. The land across the water is Whidbey Island and you will see the ferry that goes between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend.

I suspect that we won’t be doing much for the next 10 days except enjoying this amazing view and walking through the town. For someone who likes to be out in the wild, I am a little surprised that I love this place so much. There is lots of wildlife at our doorstep and we are in town and close to food, etc. With Covid-19, things will be different. Some of the restaurants are open for outdoor seating and take-out, so we got take-out for lunch. It was nice to have something besides tuna fish or chicken salad for lunch.

Dart has voted to stay here forever. He loves this weather and its hard to get him back in the RV. He likes to lie outside in the shade and watch the happenings while Regis and I sit in the sun and watch the happenings.

Following are just a couple pictures of the wildlife we saw today.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) at Point Hudson in Port Townsend.
Harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) on the Admiralty Inlet.
I believe this is a glaucous-winged gull chick. Parent below. It is on the roof of a building.
I believe this is a glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens), the parent of the chick above.
Two river otters (Lutra canadensis). One of them has a fish.

As I was writing this post, I heard the gulls making a racket. I looked out and saw that all the gulls had vacated the spit out in the water and there was a lone bald eagle standing there.