Tillamook

I had to go to Tillamook Bay to get some photos for an upcoming webinar. This particular day had freakishly nice weather, very un-Tillamook-like. Ideally, during fall migration, a birder hopes for onshore winds to bring seabirds and shorebirds close to shore, and a light overcast to provide gentle light for viewing and cool temperatures. This day brought light east winds, a cloudless cobalt blue sky, and temperatures in the 80s. I guess we have to play the cards we are dealt.

This is the Three Graces Tidal Area. The sun hadn’t cleared the hill yet so it was too dark to photograph the Harlequin Duck that was swimming around the rocks. Harlequins are regular at this site.

At the Bay City Oyster Plant, this Double-crested Cormorant was taking advantage of the sun to dry his wings.

Black Phoebe on the pilings at the oyster plant

With the east winds, shorebirds were very rare on this trip. This mixed flock of Least and Western Sandpipers at the oyster plant was the only big flock of the day.

Western Gull, hanging out on the Purple Martin boxes

I did the Tillamook Death March around Bayocean Spit. The ocean side of the spit is typically not as birdy as the bay side, but there was not a single shorebird on this trip.

There had apparently been at least a couple of shorebirds here earlier in the day.

Always glad to see these signs, hope that the Snowy Plover population will continue to recover on the Oregon Coast.

The Common Ravens on the beach were pretty skittish. I wonder if they have been “encouraged” to avoid the plover nesting areas.

There were a lot of these jellyfish near the mouth of the bay. Yet another reason I don’t swim in the ocean.

Despite the summery weather, autumn migrants, like this Red-necked Grebe, are trickling in.

A Mew Gull with two California Gulls

Despite the eerily nice weather, there were a few birds around. We need to remind ourselves that there is always something to see.

Happy Autumn

Timberline Lodge

IMG_0717

I spent a few hours birding above Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. It was cold and very windy when I arrived, but conditions gradually improved. 

This is not a site to wrack up a long bird list. After three and a half hours of birding, I ended this trip with 12 species. The top eBirder for this site has only accumulated 33 species (I have 31). But I still try to visit at least once a year. The site is unique in that you can drive to the treeline on a paved road, and find high elevation species that you won’t find anywhere else so close to Portland.

Black-backed Woodpecker
The best bird of the day was this Black-backed Woodpecker, who made a brief appearance on this isolated snag before flying back down slope to the forest. 

IMG_0714
This Townsend’s Solitaire was near the woodpecker. I got two photos before the bird flew off, one blurry and one with the bird looking away.

IMG_0712
With its gravel and fine volcanic ash, Mount Hood above the treeline would look much like the surface of the moon were it not for the abundant wildflowers and the occasional Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel.

IMG_0721
still not on the moon

IMG_0730
There are usually a couple of Common Ravens hanging out near the parking lot. This one was feeding on an apple core.

raven small
While photographers generally try to avoid harsh midday sunlight, the intense light brought out some nice highlights on this Common Raven.

It was another tough day above Timberline Lodge, but there is always something to see.

Mount Hood

At least once a year I like to visit the moonscape that is Mount Hood above Timberline Lodge. The birding there is hit or miss, sometimes yielding great spectacles like a flock of 200 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, and sometimes offering little besides a distant Common Raven. This trip was somewhere in between.

Every trip to the mountain results in at least one photo of a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel. Yes, we see them every time, but their cuteness knows no bounds.

Mountain Bluebirds are expected here in the warmer months.

Townsend’s Solitaires are a little harder to come by, but are usually around in small numbers.

The sun at this elevation is pretty intense, making even this Common Raven glisten.

Another bird on a stick; Red-tailed Hawk. I hope to see migrating raptors when I visit Timberline in autumn. There wasn’t much movement on this day, but I did see several Red-tails, a Prairie Falcon, and at least one Sharp-shinned Hawk.

California Tortoiseshells were present in good numbers. I don’t know what they were eating, as all the blossoms had long since dried up.

So ends another visit to Timberline. While the birding varies, it is always fun to explore this part of the mountain.

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.

 

Rocky Mountain National Park

sunriseI spent a recent morning in Rocky Mountain National Park. We arrived before sunrise, so we got to watch the sun come up from high elevation. Note the Common Raven in the center of the frame.

tundraMy main target of this trip was White-tailed Ptarmigan. But despite walking through some lovely tundra, with scattered rocks and stunted pines, I dipped on this species again. Sing it with me: I am a rock….I’m not a ptarrrrrrrrr-ar-miiii-gan.

mountain bluebird 2I did manage to find a few birds, including this Mountain Bluebird.

elk bull 1I think we saw more individual elk than all other birds and mammals combined. Here is an assortment of some of them.
elk herdelk cow 1elk treeelk woodselk spike bull

Rocky Mountain National Park, Part 1, Birds

tundraI spent a morning above the tree line in Rocky Mountain National Park. We saw more mammals than birds (next post), and the two target species, Brown-capped Rosy Finch and White-tailed Ptarmigan, both eluded me. But any trip to this area is well worth it, whatever you manage to find.

pipit frontOne of the more common species on the tundra is American Pipit.

pipit 2The choice of habitat, along with the scruffy plumage, really threw me, but this seems to be a Sage Thrasher.
pipit 4

ravensThese Common Ravens were feeding on an Elk carcass.

clark's nutcracker 2A few Clark’s Nutcrackers were hanging out near one of the parking lots.

Other species seen but not photographed included Golden Eagle, Horned Lark, and a couple of fly-by hummingbirds, probably Broad-tailed. So there was not a huge bird list by the end of the morning, but it is a treat to visit this habitat at an elevation over two miles higher than my home in Portland.