Friday, September 30, 2011

Ridgefield NWR 09-29-11

The auto route of Ridgefield NWR had been closed the last couple of weeks so I was anxious to get back up there yesterday morning...  The refuge was engulfed in fog early on, but cleared up nicely after an hour or so.

All over the refuge spiders have been very busy getting ready for Halloween...

A young deer and its mom were snacking in the thistle...

Oh yeah, and there were some birds around too.  In one of the muddy areas with a bunch of Killdeer and snipe were a handful of American Pipits:

A Peregrine Falcon perched in a tree watching ducks and geese scatter when a Fish & Wildlife vehicle cruised by...

Rest Lake held the biggest mess of birds I have ever tried to sort...

It was kind of overwhelming... There were my first Greater White-fronted Geese of the season, Canada Geese, a billion ducks in vague plumages (mostly Mallards and Green-winged Teals?), a huge flock of starlings, swallows zipping around, and yes, some shorebirds.  It was hard to focus on just one area, let alone just one bird, but I tried...

Seemed like mostly dowitchers within view, but I could be wrong...

Just out of range of camera and bins were plenty more little guys...

Anyway, enough of that mess.  Sandhill Cranes are back!

Lastly, on my way out I saw a coyote finishing up a snack...

That was about it for the morning... Good times!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Force Lake, etc.

I went over to Force Lake this morning to see if I could find any birds in the fog...

Not much at the lake to start so I walked down the road to the slough... There things were hopping.  I ended up just sitting on the stone wall that was once part of Vanport, the city that drowned, and watching and listening to all the activity...

A harrier flew overhead which I have definitely never seen near there before, a couple of Wood Ducks flew off, and at least three kinds of warblers worked the bushes across the slough...

Black-throated Gray Warbler

While sitting there I watched a couple of kingfishers chase each other up and down the slough, a heron pluck little fishies out of the water, and either a Cooper's or a Sharp-shinned Hawk cruise overhead....  All the while a Red-breasted Sapsucker worked a tree behind me:

I felt like I had the best seat in the house and could have only been made better with a hot cup of coffee in my hands.  Across the slough at the top of a tree, a thrush perched briefly, a Swainson's?

After I got my fill of the slough, I returned to the lake and found a juvenile Green Heron near where I saw one last week. 

I spooked him once and refound him perched on a branch right near a Great Blue Heron... I had never seen them side by side before and man did that greenie look tiny!!

It was a really nice morning of lazy birding... Driving away from the lake I stopped to check out a Red-tailed Hawk being harassed by crows.  He seemed confident but still kept his eye on them above him...

It only took a couple minutes before the crows moved on and so did I.  Good times!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekend birds and stuff.

One of the best things about having friends come to visit is doing all the stuff you never normally do, or have never even done before.  This weekend I took my friends from California to the Japanese Gardens (my first time) and the rose gardens in Washington Park.  Everything was pretty...

At the Japanese Gardens a Chestnut-backed Chickadee was splashing around in a stream:

Right by the entrance to the gardens is a little fountain type thingy that birds just loved.  Unfortunately I scared most of them away by flinging my lens cap at them.  But before I did that, I saw a Brown Creeper sit still for a second!!

Also at the fountain were CB and BC Chickadees, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a little squirrel.  That evening after a vegan vacation at Apizza Scholls (worth it!), I took my friends to see the Chapman School Vaux's Swifts.  We got there just in time for the end of the show, but it was probably the most exciting show I've seen... Also the most crowded.

Here's a bad photo of the awesome swirling action:

At one point a Peregrine Falcon swooped in and (I never thought I would say this about a bird-watching event) the crowd went wild.  Serious screaming and cheering and clapping.

Yesterday morning/afternoon my friends were getting some tattoo work done so I had some free time... Decided to head up to Tacoma to see if I could find the "megararity" Black-tailed Gull.  I did not.  I had to leave at 1:30 and it hadn't shown up, but I saw on Tweeters that it was there by 2:30.  Grr...

Don't worry, I saw lots of other things!

Steller's Jay

At Dash Point State Park there were hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls...

And a Ring-billed:

I liked the size comparison between the Bonaparte's and the, uh, other gull... Herring?

Three other awesome things about Dash Point State Park:

1. Karate-chopping sea lions is just not tolerated.

2. I found my first intact sand dollar on the beach!!
3. And this orange fuzzy caterpillar in the parking lot:

My next stop was the Dash Point Pier which was filled with fisherpersons.  I could see why:

Here there were many more Bonaparte's Gulls as well as several fly-by Heermann's Gulls.

A flock of Common Mergansers also flew by at one point...

While watching the Bonaparte's Gulls out on the bay I realized that one of the birds was not like the others...

Ooooh because it was a Rhinoceros Auklet!!  My first one not at the coast aquarium!  It was soooo far away but I think I am finally motivated to drop some change on a scope. 

There are several pull-outs along Highway 509 to view Commencement Bay from, and at one a couple of Belted Kingfishers seemed to be arguing over who was the king of the pilings.

My last stop before leaving Tacoma was back at the pull-out where I had started the morning... Talked to some nice birders who pointed out a Common Tern and some Black Turnstones on the logs where the Black-tailed Gull liked to make appearances.  Here are the turnstones:

Oh well, it was still fun to explore Tacoma which had previously been known to me as the gross and smelly (lots of lumber mills) place where I happened to spend 9-11.  But now I know a much prettier and more interesting side to it.  So there's that.

Yesterday evening after dinner at the Vita Cafe, my friend and I took her son, Levi, for a walk along the waterfront.  We strapped my GoPro camera to him and man did he take some rad photos....

Levi, future photography genius

Downtown PDX,  by Levi

Bike ramp to somewhere I forget, by Levi

So rad. And now the rain seems to have let up so it might be time to take on the Polish Festival!  Good times!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kelley Point Park, etc.

I took the dogs over to Kelley Point Park this afternoon for a long walk.  I wasn't expecting much but the park seemed to be brimming with birds.  One of the first birds I chased around was a Pileated Woodpecker who had no desire to be near me.

Young robins were causing a ruckus.  This photo does not illustrate said ruckus:

Black-capped Chickadees were the loudest birds around (except during a brief crow party),  not illustrated in this photo where the bird clearly has its mouth full:

It must have been a banner year for Red-breasted Sapsuckers... They were EVERYWHERE.

Bushtits made a grand contribution to the general bird noise level.

A couple of Western Wood-Pewees were flying around the tops of the trees...

Out of curiosity, what would make this giant freakin hole:

On the way home I stopped by Force Lake to see if anything interesting was around and found a Green Heron there for the first time.  He was not stoked on me.

Good times and tired dogs!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Central Oregon.

Last week was kind of lame for me so I decided a weekend in the woods was in order.  I headed back to Sisters for a couple nights of camping and birding.  From what I hear, the weather was far better there than in Portland anyway, with stunning sunrises both mornings.

The first area I wanted to check out was near where I found a White-headed Woodpecker on my last visit, near the intersection of Forest Service Road 1018 and Highway 242.  I ended up visiting this area three times with great results.  First off, my first Black-backed Woodpecker!

Also in the area were lots of Hairy Woodpeckers:

...and a very cooperative White-headed Woodpecker!

And his other side...

I spent a lot of time letting the dogs drag me around the forest along Cold Springs Cutoff (FSR 1012).  I think they were just following chipmunk smells but we found some good birds too. 

My camera generally hates focusing on Western Bluebirds.  I don't get it really.  Here's one of the few shots I managed despite seeing dozens of them during my trip:

Yellow-rumped Warblers were by far the most abundant species...

Flickers were pretty thick too... [Oops, but this is not a photo of one... It's a female Williamson's Sapsucker.. thanks!]

I was stoked to find a Williamson's Sapsucker in practically the same spot I left one back in June, in a pose that seriously makes my neck hurt:

No wait, here's the painful one:

Ravens were everywhere, though not often posing for pictures. 

On this trip I found the local Pinyon Jays rather easily.  This one was digging deep under the bark of this branch...

Sadly, once again I found a Pygmy Nuthatch and only got terrible photos of it...

That was about it for birds, but I can't forget to mention the chipmunks, squirrels and deer that are everywhere...

And some other cool stuff around the area...

Oh and I lied, there's one more bird... On the drive home I stopped along the highway to look at some Gray Jays.  Bad photos.

Good times!!