Oregon's Finest: The Beach and the Gorge.

On Tuesday morning the dogs and I headed out to Cannon Beach to look at some birds.  The exit off 101 had a couple of large distractions. 

A couple of elk were grazing not far from the road so I had to stop and watch for a bit.  They watched back.

Listening to the mutts whining

Once at the beach we walked out to Haystack Rock.

 Pigeon Guillemots

Black Oystercatchers

 Tufted Puffin


 Bonaparte's Gull

The dogs were being ridiculously patient while I got my Haystock Rock fix and as we left I took the same damn picture I always take...

 Next we walked the loop trail around the Cannon Beach Settling Ponds.  A couple of Spotted Sandpipers were the only shorebirds and a random late Common Goldeneye was the only "rarity."

Our last coastal stop was Ecola State Park where Leonard proved you never really forget your circus days.

As I walked the dogs along the edge of the field by the parking lot a crow flew over near us.  It also wanted to walk along the edge of the shrubs, so I sat down with the mutts and watched.  I had seen the crow pull a worm out of the grass earlier so I got ready for a crow/worm combo shot, but then this happened:

I am not sure if the crow went for the snake first, or if the snake went for the crow, or what exactly happened.  The crow went for it this time though.

The crow gave the snake a good yank before dropping it, and the snake apparently got away.

That seemed like a good note to end on so I left the coast with two tired mutts and a couple of year birds.

Yesterday morning I headed to the Columbia River Gorge on a mission, armed with a treasure map and my camera. 

Spoiler:  I did not find what I was looking for, though I did find the right spot.  Along the way I found enough other cool stuff that it didn't even matter.

Horsetail Falls

 Geranium (?)

 Red columbine

After about half a mile the trail passes Upper Horsetail Falls, and by passes I mean it goes behind the falls.  Super cool.

This is awesome and all but then things got full-blown amazing when I looked down in the mud and found this guy:

The biggest salamander I've ever seen!!  I poked it to make sure it was alive and it sauntered across the trail while I tried to get decent photos.

I am almost positive this is a Pacific Giant Salamander but could use a second opinion.  I really really wanted to get this guy in a better spot for a photo op, but despite the amount of mud I acquired on my knees and elbows, my efforts failed.  Dude would not sit still in front of scenery so only blurry salamander-waterfall shots.

For size reference. 

If someone had offered me a treasure map to a Pacific Giant Salamander spot I would have been equally, if not more excited to follow it as the map I was following.  I eventually pulled myself away from my new giant and slimy buddy and continued on the trail. 

While checking out a side trail I found these cool wildflowers:

I believe they are stenanthium occidentale.

While I never found my target animals I found plenty of other treasures along the way.  Good times!!