Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ridgefield, etc.

Lately I've been spending most of my birding time focusing on my motorless list, but this week the weather got a little chilly/rainy so I decided some car birding wouldn't be the worst idea.  Here's what was going on at Ridgefield...

First goslings of the year.  Always cute.

Cinnamon Teals
Wilson's Snipe
Greater Yellowlegs

Blue-winged Teal

 Common Yellowthroat

Booming American Bittern

So yeah, some alright birds up there, but nothing crazy.  This week's motorless birding walks have included walks to Johnson Lake, Mays Lake, Mason Wetlands, lots of Columbia Slough spots, and lots of spots along Airport Way.  On Monday I found a Black-throated Gray Warbler near Johnson Lake...

I also did my best to turn an Orange-crowned Warbler into a Palm Warbler.  I failed.


Yesterday at Mason Wetlands I added Vaux's Swift and Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Of course I easily ID'ed that hawk in seconds.  Haha. 

This morning I walked the dogs to a bunch of regular spots, not really finding much of interest.  On the way home we stopped at one last spot where I was hoping to find Cinnamon Teals.  It's a marshy spot behind some office buildings where I have never found anything interesting ever.  And yet I keep going back, because I am insane. 

But today!  Today I flushed two Wilson's Snipes!  I felt bad for the flush but great because that was a new county bird for me!   They landed on the opposite side of the marsh where a Virginia Rail started up its kidick sound.  Two motorless birds!  No photos!  Good times!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Yard birding.

Yup, just by making that the title of this post I know many people won't even read it.  Yard birds are generally unexciting to anyone beyond the actual yard-owner.  I get it.   But it's all I got for you today.

I love knowing that for the next four or five months there will be Osprey flying over the yard daily.   A couple weeks ago I gained two new yard birds within a couple days:  Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Last week I was sitting in the yard talking to my mom on the phone when I caught sight of a bird up in my ash tree.  I put my bins on it and discovered it was a Chipping Sparrow!  A pretty darn good yard bird for me.  He stayed and hung out for a few days...

Finches are still the predominant (predominate?  Why am I so good at English??) yard birds: House Finches, American Goldfinches and Lesser Goldfinches are almost always out there.  I've been keeping an eye on one goldfinch in particular, One-Eyed Willy.

Willy's good side

 Willy's bad side

I'm not quite sure if Willy is female or male, it seems to be the only goldfinch left without much color. 

Now for some more yard regulars...

Eurasian Collared-Dove


 Golden-crowned Sparrows

 Fox Sparrow

One of the local male flickers (an intergrade) has been drumming on my chimney topper thingy almost every morning around 7:30.  The sound vibrates all the way down my chimney and into the wood stove in my living room.  The sound is nothing short of heart-stopping.  Thankfully the dogs have gotten used to this morning serenade.

The yard visitors are not limited to birds. 

And yesterday morning I learned that my yard birds are not limited to wild birds either.  I looked out the window while fixing some coffee only to find this lady under the feeders...

She was strutting around eating all the sunflower seeds!  Check out the video here where you can see her strut, hear Jake bark, and then hear the ruckus of him falling off the bed in excitement.  After giving me a run for my money I gave up on the idea of herding her back into her own yard and went over to wake up the neighbors who own the chicken.  It was a lot of excitement for early in the morning, but at least I finally got to meet the new neighbors (both human and chicken).

Dandy on the run

Good times and good yard birding!!  If this is all too sunshiney happy happy joy joy for you, check out this website about the insane spring hunting sessions in Malta.  It will bum you out for sure.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Weekend adventure: Ghost Towns, Dead Stuff, and Birds!

Last weekend I convinced my friend to join me on a trip east of the Cascades to look for birds, abandoned buildings, and things to poke.  Much success was had.  On the way to one of our first stops I saw what looked like bones strewn around a field along Friend Road.  I made a U-turn only to find that these were not bones, they were dead coyotes.  Six of them, likely dumped after being shot or poisoned or otherwise murdered.

Kind of a downer.  Back at the car a Horned Lark was singing on the fence...

We kept driving down Friend Road until we made it to Friend, a town considered a ghost town.  An old store remains as well as a one room schoolhouse.

At the store, Mountain Chickadees chattered away in the trees, while a Say's Phoebe and Western Bluebirds called from nearby powerlines.  There is a residence very close to the store, and they have a horse.  And the horse was very curious about us.

Best horse ever

The schoolhouse was cool too.  They leave it unlocked so you can go inside and check it out.  The outhouses next to it are also open and stocked with wipes.

After Friend, we made our way south towards Maupin where we stopped for the Peregrine feast, then kept driving the backroads for a bit.  A Loggerhead Shrike swooped down from a powerline to catch a lizard, then perched on the barbed wire with it.  I didn't see any great impaling action but it was cool to see anyhow.

Mountain Bluebirds were flying around, catching bugs, looking pretty...

And then there was this guy:

We got back to the main roads and continued the drive south towards Bend, occasionally stopping to poke stuff...

Road-killed GHOW

We stayed in Madras that night, then woke up super early on Sunday to drive the rest of the way to Millican for the really exciting destination:  a Greater Sage-Grouse lek.  This is where sage-grouse males gather to put on fascinating displays to attract and impress females.  The females will select a mate, get down to business, then carry on to raise their young on their own.  Some males never even get lucky, while others get lucky over and over and over.  

Without a doubt, displaying male Greater Sage-Grouse are the strangest, craziest, weirdest wild bird I have ever seen.  I meant to take a video at some point, but never did.  So here is a sequence of what these guys do...

Pretty cool, right?  Factor in some strange noises and you have quite the entertainment.  One of the males took a break from displaying for a few minutes and went back to looking like a regular old grouse...

Only a couple of the males approached fairly close to where we parked, and we never got very good looks at the females.  We left after about an hour and many males were still going strong.

We drove around the dirt roads nearby and found a couple spots to walk the dogs and investigate random junk...

Shipping container of personal belongings and a child's playhouse filled with plastic toys

Our next big stops were the ghost towns of Shaniko and Antelope.  Shaniko has tons of preserved buildings, many made into museums or otherwise still in use...

Antelope has a bit more interesting history, mainly the 1980's takeover of the town by Baghwan Shree Rajneesh.  This fellow is best known for his cult leadership, his salmonella-unleashing at salad bars in The Dalles, being a sex guru, and the large number of Rolls Royces that he owned.  I recommend a quick google search if you need some entertainment. 

The plaque above is located next to the town post office. 

We made a few more stops along the way home, mostly abandoned buildings...

See the Say's Phoebe?  How about here...

And the last bird of the trip, at the gas station in The Dalles...

This was a long post!  Glad you made it to the end.  Good times!!!