Sometimes I think we’re cursed. Almost every time we spend more than a couple of months somewhere, they have the worst weather in (pick one) ten/twenty/100 years. Bandon, where we’re staying, averages 55 inches of rain per year – as of today it’s rained 45 inches since January 1st. And that doesn’t include the record December rainfall. We’ve experienced leaks in our motor home in places we’ve never had leaks before, watched ducks merrily swimming around the fields, and we’re starting to grow webbing between our toes. But, as we learned while being stationed in the Puget Sound area years ago, you put on your rain suit, hike up your boots, and act like it’s a dry (but cloudy) day. And it’s still a place that amazes us – the pounding surf, marine mammals/shorebirds, and great folks to work with have made our stay here worthwhile.
We’ve moved to the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), a part of the Oregon Coast NWR, where we’re volunteering. Since we were already staying in Bandon until moving south to volunteer this summer, we were offered the opportunity to move to the refuge and help out with projects. We truly appreciate the offer; we’re alone on a gated large site surround by forest, with only Black-tailed Deer and Pocket Gophers for neighbors. We’ve had the chance to do a bit of interpretive work helping visitors understand marine mammals at Simpson Reef, but the weather has kept us inside most of the time. One project we’ve worked on is the building of Pigeon Guillemot nesting boxes, a project headed by Oregon State University. The plan is to install cameras in the boxes, then mount them under docks where they’ll be accessible to the Guillemots and the nesting and raising of young can be studied. Mike, a volunteer and part-time neighbor did the bulk of the work while Brenda and I helped assemble and paint the boxes. They’ll be delivered and set up soon, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they work.
We’ve been surprised by the number of hummingbirds in our area this time of year. We’ve put out feeders and often have half a dozen or more Allen’s and Anna’s buzzing around. One of the Allen’s males is fiercely protective of the feeders. All day, in the pounding rain and wind, he sits…..looking left and right…..daring another hummingbird to get even close to his feeder. When another approaches, he quickly drives them off, get a drink……and sits, waiting for the next intruder. We’ve been shopping on Amazon for a raincoat and umbrella for him, but so far no luck….
For people of my generation, there are some things that we just can’t get used to seeing. Driving through the small town of Charleston, we passed this new store. Although the use of marijuana is a foreign concept to us, it must be popular since even with a 25% tax for most of the year, the Oregon state tax revenue exceeded $60M. I’ve been trying, without success, to convince Brenda that there’s a market for Marijuana Cheesecake. Your support would be appreciated.
Bandon recently held it’s first-ever Gorse Blossom Festival, otherwise known as the “make up something to sell wine and beer at” festival. Celebrating Gorse is sorta like throwing a party for hemorrhoid pain (and yes, there is an analogy here). We think of Gorse as Bandon’s Kudzu – you can see and read about our experience with Kudzu by clicking here. In many ways, Gorse is worse than Kudzu – it’s almost impossible to kill, forms an impenetrable barrier, and burns like napalm. History tells us that Lord Bennett, the founder of Bandon, brought it with him from Scotland to remind him of home. Today, it’s everywhere; vacant lots, roadsides, the beaches - all covered with Gorse. It looks pretty from a distance, but get closer and you can see that each plant is a veritable thorn factory. And to add to the mix, Gorse leafs burn with the intensity of diesel fuel. In 1936, a fire broke out near Bandon, spread to the Gorse in town, and of the 500 structures, only 16 were left intact, 10 people were killed, and Bandon was effectively wiped off the map. Oh, and it loves fire – it will come back stronger, also the seeds can remain dormant for over 50 years, and cutting it just makes it grow faster. Only Bandon Dunes Golf Course has benefited, claiming the course is a replica of St. Andrews complete with wind, fog, and of course, Gorse. It’s a good thing Lord Bennett is long dead, there are folks in town who would love to find his grave, dig him up, and roast his corpse over a Gorse fire.
This is the time of year when the Pacific produces mighty storms – we’ve been treated to the sight of 30 foot waves pummeling the beach. And with the winter storms come piles of debris– huge trees that pile up like pick-up sticks everywhere. Here are a couple of my favorite images: