Sunday, December 3, 2017

Random stuff from the last month.

A month ago I went to Newport with some friends to chase a bird that goes by the name Mr. Costa, rather unimaginative compared to his yard companion's name of Piglet (an Orange-crowned Warbler).  Anyhow, we showed up and the bird was there and birding was easy that day.

I haven't had a lot of interest in chasing birds lately but having dipped on this Costa's back in March with Audrey I was determined to finally look at it.  We walked up the road so Sarah could get Audrey her state Virginia Rail and found some other stuff too, like a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Because of this weird lack of interest in chasing birds I could not muster any sort of excitement when a Virginia's Warbler showed up in Portland.  Ten days after it was first reported I finally went to look at it with Jacob.  It showed up at a suet cage exactly as reported.  Meh. 

It was a lifer but I still lacked enthusiasm. 

In other news I have been doing some more work in my future 5-mile Radius and I think I even found what I am going to call my patch.  It's a piece of the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail about a mile and a half from Jacob's house called Meadowbrook Marsh Park.  There is the main bike path through it along with some smaller trails, plus a duck pond and a marshy field. 

My first time there netted me 31 species which is decent enough for the time of year.  A sampling:

Steller's Jay

This Cooper's Hawk flew in when I pished

Fox Sparrows are pleasantly abundant here

 Mmmm Merlin

The other day I decided to try walking there from the house with Ralph and it only took about 30 minutes.  I'm leaning towards starting a new motorless list for 2018 with a place like that so close. 

Yesterday I took Jake for a walk at Columbia Springs, another future 5MR spot.  It was a fairly tame walk but at the end we found an American Dipper working a tiny creek that drains into one of the fish tanks.  5MR dipper is a wonderful thing.

My current 5MR still needs attention so I made a trip recently to Blue Lake Park.  I was psyched to see a wigeon that looked interesting on the far side of the lake. 

Promising backside

 Denied.  Hybrid.  Face pattern like an American, backside like Eurasian.

I made my way all the way to the eastern end of the lake where more wigeons were hanging out. 

 Horrible photo of a real Eurasian!  Species #100 for me at Blue Lake, plus a 5MR year bird. 

One last outing, a trip to Steigerwald Lake NWR a couple weeks ago.  Nothing rare but plenty of good regular birds.


Cinnamon spice Teal

Hairy Woodpecker hiding from a scrub-jay.

Now I'm all caught up for the month.  Good times!!

Monday, November 27, 2017

The coast.

Over Thanksgiving weekend Jacob's parents kindly let us stay at their house in Astoria for a couple days with the mutts.  The first thing we did was tire the mutts out on a bird-less stretch of beach so we could do some birding without them in the afternoon.

After having lunch we stopped at the Hammond Boat Basin on our way to Fort Stevens.  A Red-throated Loon was hanging out close-ish to shore.

From there we headed to the south jetty at Fort Stevens and spent a lot of time walking the edge of the beach grass looking for longspurs and buntings.  We scared up a couple of birds, one of which was probably a longspur.  A big flock of Least Sandpipers and a rainbow appeared on the walk back to the parking lot. 

Jacob vs. LESAs (plus random family staring at him)

While we were out there the tide came in quite a bit so we ended up getting pretty damp on the walk back.   Despite our soaked feet we decided to check out Coffenbury Lake to get out of the howling wind and ended up walking the whole 2-mile loop (though eBird's new feature said we walked 2.8 miles).  This is a pretty perfect Pacific Northwest hike, filled with amanita mushrooms, dripping ferns, mossy branches, and all the birds you would expect.

 Varied Thrush


 Pacific Wren

Other highlights were big numbers of both Common and Hooded Mergansers, a flock of 8-10 Fox Sparrows, and Red Crossbills flying around the tree tops.  Though it rained quite a bit on the first half of the hike, the sky cleared up for the second half.  By the time we got back to the house the sun had set and the sky was looking lovely. 

The next morning we planned to visit Cape Disappointment State Park on the Washington side of the river.  After crossing the Astoria-Megler Bridge we stopped for the sunrise. 

Once at Cape Disappointment we found the road to the north jetty was closed so we had to park a bit farther away than planned.  As we walked the closed road we found that the whole area must have flooded because the road was covered with sand and beach logs and debris. 

There weren't too many birds close to the jetty but there were plenty of seals and sea lions.  Also a confiding Pelagic Cormorant. 

Standing alone on the jetty was a sad Sanderling with a fresh bite taken out of its wing. 

Hopefully it's okay. 

After the jetty we decided to walk up the beach a bit to try again for longspurs and buntings.  Again we failed, but we kept going to try to find a trail to loop back to the car.  Instead of a trail we found jelly fingers.  Lots of them.

Thankfully someone posted the same creatures on Instagram so we quickly learned they are pyrosomes and they have been showing up in big numbers on the West Coast this year.  OPB did an article about them earlier this month here.  

Finally we found a trail leading us off the beach and were greeted by a perfect amanita.

 The trail led us back to the main road, nowhere near where we intended on being.  That was fine though, there were more creatures to find in the marshes and woods along the road like a grunting Virginia Rail and this deer that failed at hiding.

 Oh hey.

You can't see me now.

We took the McKenzie Head trail up to Battery 247, an old WWII battery.  The history is fun and all but I was more excited to get decent views of Red Crossbills finally.

The crossbills were coming down to drink from puddles on the roof of the battery, but I was too low to see that action.  I was high enough to look down on a soaring Red-tail though.

We did a quick walk through the dark and creepy battery before climbing to the top where the view of the jetty was pretty sweet.  Columbia River on the left, Pacific Ocean on the right.

We hiked back down to the main road to finish our ridiculous loop back to the car.  As we were nearing the campground Jacob pointed to a tree ahead of us and said there were crossbills down low.  I took a few shots and something did not compute.  These birds had big white wing bars.  I told Jacob who had been conserving his dying camera battery to take photos while I did a quick Sibley check to confirm what I was thinking:  we had just found a freakin flock of White-winged Crossbills! 

There's a dozen of them in this photo, which I'm not sure captures all the ones we saw.   This was a lifer for Jacob and only the second time I had ever seen them. 

Apparently White-winged males are much pinker than Red Crossbills, and the females are super streaky.  They don't generally slum it at the coast this far south but it sounds like it's an irruption year for these finches.

This was the perfect ending to our morning of birding and we made it back to the car as the rain began.  eBird told me we had walked 6.588 miles.  Not too shabby. 

Overall it was an excellent couple of days at the coast!!!  Good times!!