Birdathon 2016

Weekday WarblersThe Weekday Warblers birdathon team made its inaugural trip on May 12. We birded the north coast from Cannon Beach to Fort Stevens, with a stop at the Sunset Rest Stop on the way. We did well with seabirds and shorebirds, but were sorely lacking in upland species. A few tweaks to the route and a longer day would probably get us a bigger list, but we had a great time with great weather and ended the day with 80 species.

ravenThis is one of a couple of Common Ravens who were hanging out in the parking lot of the Sunset Rest Area.

whimbrelOne of many Whimbrels seen on the beach

bonaparte's gullsThis flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls was flying around the South Jetty at Fort Stevens.

elka distant Roosevelt Elk at Fort Stevens

white-winged scoterWe made two quick stops at The Cove in Seaside. Most of the few birds that were there were quite a ways out, requiring lots of squinting through a scope, but this White-winged Scoter came close to shore for some nice views.

western and dunlinThe best find of the day was the large shorebird flock on the beach at Fort Stevens. The Oregon Coast does not usually get huge numbers of migrant shorebirds. Birders joke about he Shorebird Dome that covers the coast, forcing birds to fly directly from northern California to Gray’s Harbor, Washington. But this past week the dome was breached and good numbers and diversity of shorebirds worked the beaches of the north coast.  We found these birds mid-afternoon, so the sun was already in the west causing terrible lighting for photos. But this will give you an idea. The photo above shows a Western Sandpiper with two Dunlin.

sanderlingSanderling

ruddy and westernRuddy Turnstone with Western Sandpiper

knotRed Knot, a rare treat along the Oregon coast

comboa nice combo of Dunlin, Red Knot, Western Sandpiper, and Ruddy Turnstone

IMG_8679Boat for Sale. Needs work .

A great day on the Oregon coast.

 

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Pacific City

black-bellied 2I led the Three Capes Tour for the Birding and Blues Festival last weekend. Spring migration had not quite kicked into high gear, but there were some nice birds around. This is one of two Black-bellied Plovers we saw on the beach the day before the tour. They were losing their dull winter plumage and growing in some crisp black and white feathers.

IMG_8632Black-bellied Plover with a Mole Crab

IMG_8634Black-bellied Plover tracks

IMG_8641At Whalen Island, this Dark-eyed Junco and Purple Finch were sharing a treetop.

IMG_8643These Long-billed Dowitchers were some of the few shorebirds we saw on the tour. Most shorebirds were migrating well off-shore that day.

IMG_8645This patch of Red-hot Poker at the Whiskey Creek Fish Hatchery always seems to attract good birds. This year it was a pair of Downy Woodpeckers.

barn swallowThis Barn Swallow sat and posed for us for quite a while.

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Sandy River Delta

IMG_8618Our freakishly nice spring weather continued this week, so I took Nala to the Sandy River Delta to check for spring migrants. Actually, Nala could not care less about spring migrants, but found the cool waters of the Sandy River just right for ball fetching. Nesting species have not arrived in any numbers yet, but spring is definitely taking off.

savannah singingSavannah Sparrows were the most obvious singers in the grassland habitats.
savannahcatching his breath before the next number

IMG_8622A pair of Belted Kingfishers is nesting along the channel that runs between the Sandy and the Columbia. They kept to the far bank, so these distant grainy images will have to do. This is the female.

IMG_8619And here is the male.

IMG_8621This is a hole. Not terribly interesting on its own, but very cool when it has a Belted Kingfisher entering or leaving it.

IMG_8624Northern Rough-winged Swallows also frequent this area.

The next couple of weeks should bring the delta’s specialties; Lazuli Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Willow Flycatcher, and perhaps Eastern Kingbird. Happy Spring.

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Birdathon

birdathonAfter taking a break for a few years, I am once again helping with the Audubon Society of Portland’s annual fundraiser, Birdathon. I am leading a team, The Weekday Warblers, on a trip to the coast on Thursday, May 12. We will be birding sites from Cannon Beach to Fort Stevens, with a few inland sites thrown in.

The Audubon Society of Portland lobbies for the protection of wildlife and wild places throughout the Pacific Northwest. They provide classes and field trips for children and adults, and operate the Wildlife Care Center, which treats over 3000 injured and orphaned animals each year.

Please consider making a contribution at my Birdathon web page. If you would like to go birding with us, join our team!

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Cannon Beach/Seaside

Nala and I spent a unseasonably warm morning around the towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside. Spring migration is just starting to kick in, but things are still pretty slow.

IMG_8591Since the tide was out, we were able to get pretty close to Haystack Rock and its compliment of Harlequin Ducks.
IMG_8594

IMG_8601This band of California Gulls were hanging out on the beach (yellow legs), accompanied by a couple of young Western/Glaucous Winged (pink legs).

IMG_8607Most of the wintering Mew Gulls have left, but this one was on the beach in Gearhart.

IMG_8605Small numbers of Caspian Terns have returned to the Necanicum Esturary. A few were holding fish, trying to impress the ladies. It should work. I can be won over pretty easily with a vegan doughnut from VooDoo.

IMG_8602This bird was vexing. He is obviously a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but I was convinced he was a Hutton’s Vireo. He moved very methodically, actually standing still for several seconds at a time. Spastic kinglets never sit still for that long.
IMG_8603But he has the classic field marks of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet; a black bar at the base of the secondaries (lacking in Hutton’s), and black legs with yellow feet (all gray in Hutton’s). I don’t know why his behavior was so un-kinglet-like. Just another reminder to mind the details as well as the gestalt.

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Fernhill Wetlands

If you haven’t been to Fernhill Wetlands since the major renovations were completed, you should definitely check it out. There is still a fairly large lake to attract divers, but now there is also a large emergent wetland to explore.

brewer's bbBrewer’s Blackbirds were holding court in the parking lot.

rw blackbirdThe Red-winged Blackbirds are setting up their territories.

swallowsTree Swallows, giving each other that “come hither” look.

ridgeway's cacklingEven though the local nesters are getting down to business, there are still plenty of wintering Cackling Geese around. These are Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese.

bullfrogThere is certainly no shortage of American Bullfrogs at Fernhill, which may explain why I didn’t find any native frogs.

fishThe shallow waters are teaming with these minnows. I can’t tell what species they are.

garter and feetI surprised this little Northwestern Garter Snake while she was sunning herself. I saw a Common Garter later in the visit.
nw garterNorthwestern Garter Snake

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Powell Butte

I hadn’t been to Powell Butte Nature Park in east Portland since they finished renovations. They had been working on one of the water system reservoirs and have added more parking, a visitor center, and new trail markers and maps. The targets of this visit were several Mountain Bluebirds that had been hanging out for a while.

mt bluebirdI found a male and two three females, all of whom kept their distance.

yellow-rumpedThere was a big wave of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the park. All that I got a good look at were Audubon’s race, and most were male.

say'sAnother regional rarity that has been hanging out at Powell Butte is this Say’s Phoebe. This bird was active and vocal, but also kept his distance.

kestrelThe open meadows are attractive to Northern Harriers (not photogenic) and American Kestrels (slightly more cooperative). The raptors can make it harder to study the grassland songbirds, but this site is still very productive. There was one singing Savannah Sparrow while I was there. In a few weeks, that bird will be joined by more Savannahs and Lazuli Buntings.

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Sauvie Island

IMG_8515I went to Sauvie Island to scout areas for my Little Brown Birds class next week. The huge flocks of waterfowl that spend the winter there have dwindled, but there are still a lot of birds around. This White-crowned Sparrow was enjoying a dust bath on the first dry sunny day we have had in a long time.

IMG_8513Golden-crowned Sparrows are still the most common species in the sparrow patches.

IMG_8520Song Sparrows are not as numerous, but are very vocal right now.

IMG_8505Raptors are still thick out at Sauvie. This Cooper’s Hawk did not make it any easier to find sparrows.

IMG_8507One of many Bald Eagles seen that day.

IMG_8530Red-tailed Hawk, scoping out the surrounding fields for rodents

IMG_8523A distant Greater Yellowlegs. It is a little early for shorebirds, but their migration should be picking up in the next few weeks.

IMG_8503There were Raccoon tracks all along Rentenaar Road.

Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, and Cackling Geese are still present in good numbers, but spring migration should bring big changes soon.

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Settling In

purple finch maleI moved at the end of last year. It was not a great distance (less than 100 yards as the finch flies), but I was anxious to see how long it would take the birds to find my feeders. When people ask me that question, I generally tell them between six minutes and six months. The Anna’s Hummingbirds found their feeders almost immediately. The seed feeder sat unnoticed for about a week.

The first birds I saw were a mixed flock of Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Not too shabby. A few House Finches came by a few days later. Things remained pretty quiet for a few weeks, but activity has recently taken an upturn. A pair of Purple Finches, including the ridiculously beautiful male pictured above, have been regular visitors. Lesser Goldfinches and Pine Siskins have joined the House Finches, and Dark-eyed Juncos and Spotted Towhees are busy on the ground under the feeder.

The biggest surprise at the feeder has been a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches, a species I never saw at the old location. These birds have eluded my efforts to obtain a photo. I am looking forward to seeing what else will appear.

purple femalefemale Purple Finch

pine siskinPine Siskin

Red-breasted SSNot a feeder bird, but a Red-breasted Sapsucker spent a few days on the property.

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Plover-palooza

mountain 1
I went to South Beach State Park, just south of Newport, to see the Mountain Plover that has been spending the winter there. I have seen this species in Kansas, but it is a special treat to see one in Oregon. Newport is beyond my normal chase radius, but this particular bird has been unusually reliable and cooperative, so I felt I needed to seize this opportunity.

mountain 2As plovers go, Mountain Plovers are pretty plain. They don’t have the flashy bands or patches of color found on other species. But their drab colors match the drab habitats of their normal range, and their scarcity greatly enhances their attractiveness to birders. If Killdeer were rare, we would be dazzled by their gaudy plumage. But since they are common and noisy, we tend to pass them by.

mountain 3Mountain Plover, giving a subtle “come hither” look.

snowy 1The Mountain Plover has been hanging out with a small flock of Snowy Plovers. This species nests from the central Oregon coast south, but is hard to find further north. These birds were even more accommodating than the Mountain Plover, walking right by me at close range. As with most shorebirds, these birds will get very close if you lie down on the sand and let them come to you. If you are lying down, you are no longer a large upright predator, you are a seal and pose no threat.

snowy 2Snowy Plover, taking a break

snowy 3Some of the Snowies were marked with colored leg bands. I appreciate the efforts being made to study and protect this threatened species, but I feel bad for birds who have to wear this jewelry their entire lives. The bands don’t seem to hinder the birds.

I spent a little time on the beach enjoying the show before the rains returned. While the six hours of driving were no fun, my little plover party on the beach was worth the trip.

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