Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ocean Shores & Ilwaco, Washington.

I drove up to Ocean Shores on Friday afternoon because I wasn't sure if I'd have another chance to see the Snowy Owls before they leave.  Plus I wanted another shot at the King Eider.  I caught a gorgeous sunset over Grays Harbor on my way in...

I got a room at the Sands Resort which is just a big motel.  I wasn't expecting much, but everyone working there was super nice, the room was clean (and moose-themed), the cable worked, and in the morning someone above my room was throwing food out their window to some deer and gulls.

If only that elderly couple in the next room hadn't gone out drinking and come back to argue from about 2 a.m. till I got up at 6, the place would have been perfect.  Anyway.  So I got up early and arrived at Damon Point around 7:30 a.m.  As I had hoped, the owls were still relatively active and getting settled for their day.  Same with the photographers.

Hmm, it was also pretty dark.  I walked towards those two dudes slowly because it seemed like owls were appearing constantly.  I have no idea how many I saw.  It felt like dozens, but probably ten?  One owl just couldn't decide where it wanted to sit and changed spots several times (not because of people from what I could tell).  It landed near me at one point I took a few photos before he took off again and flew right. at. my. face.

I was not expecting this.  This was my only clear shot because I kept peeking above my camera to make sure he wasn't going to smack me upside the head or something.  My last shot, though fuzzy, is pretty cool.

Here are a couple more flight shots (since on my last visit they never budged)...

That last owl was flushed by a fellow who did not comprehend another man waving his arms and pointing, indicating the first fellow was about to walk right up on an owl.  I had almost done the same thing but saw the guy waving and immediately walked in another direction.   People are dumb.

Farther out on the point I met a very nice photographer/birder named Andy who mentioned he was going to be starting a blog this year (he turns 70 this year!) about Damon Point.  I can't wait to see what he does because he seemed to have a lot of awesome and creative ideas for it.

I walked back towards the parking area and stopped briefly to scan for the eider.  No dice, but I did manage a photo with all three scoters in it- a first for me (the photo, not the scoters).

Ok, I didn't say it was a good photo.  I headed back to the car because the dogs were probably getting annoyed (they were sleeping) and drove back to the motel to warm up and refuel.  I drove past the golf course and noticed some geese milling about, and sure enough the Emperor was among them...

So awesome.  I took the dogs to the beach for some running and fetching and whatnot, then returned to Damon Point intent on finding that eider.  The dogs came along and helped.  Ok, so they mostly just dug a few holes and Ralph tried to eat various crab body parts.

I found this loon that I think is a Pacific Loon, but let me know if and why I'm wrong [Ah, it's actually a Red-throated Loon!]:

I had walked the dogs pretty far down the beach (away from the point) and scanned all the rafts of scoters, still no eider.  We walked back towards the parking area when I finally found her... the Queen Eider. 

Finally!  She is certainly a beauty.   I left Ocean Shores in the early afternoon to drive down to Ilwaco on my way home (ok, not really on the way) to look for the Yellow-billed Loon.  Success!

I'll be honest.  At the time I wasn't 100% convinced I was looking at the right loon, having never seen one before,  and I wandered all over the marina checking out other birds.   A pair of Red-necked Grebes had much yellower bills than the Yellow-billed Loon.

At one point while I was walking along the docks a big splash in the water scared the crap out of me... A second later a Common Loon popped up with a crab in its mouth:

He chowed that sucker down.

It made for a nice neck bulge:

And then a victory dance...

It was a great little trip!!  Two lifers and tons of other awesome birds, plus two tired mutts.  Good times!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

PDX & Ridgefield NWR

I visited the Snow Bunting on Monday afternoon to see if the rumours were true that it had made some Horned Lark friends.  Indeed, I counted ten larks milling about...

The bunting seemed to like the new buddies.  Maybe they reminded him (her?)  of the homeland.

Yesterday morning I went up to Ridgefield.  It rained a little but was mostly dry and even saw a few patches blue sky. 

Red-winged Blackbird

At the beginning of the trail to the bird blind I flushed a Red-tailed Hawk who flew off farther down the trail and landed.  This caused a Red-shouldered Hawk to start screaming its head off.  The Red-tailed eventually flew off and the Red-shouldered stopped hollering.  But I still couldn't see it until I reached the blind and it flew off also. 

Red-shouldered Hawk

Birds can sure make some bone-chilling sounds sometimes.  Back by my car there was a Spotted Towhee sitting on a branch.  Out in the open.  Preening.  I was surprised when it didn't fly off into hiding immediately, but rather plucked a little berry or something off the tree and snacked. 

I saw my first bittern of the new year creeping in some grass...

American Bittern

In one of the ponds some geese were bathing wildly and were quite entertaining.

Good times!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


It was a good morning.  I finally drove the half hour down to Woodburn to see a rare bird.  I arrived at the house where it was being seen at 9:49 a.m.  The yard was extremely birdy so I (and everyone else gathered under the awning) were quite entertained.  I even added a few year birds to my list including:

Pine Siskins, House Finch

 Chestnut-backed Chickadee

                          Lesser Goldfinches

 Mourning Dove & Eurasian Collared-Dove

There were always Anna's Hummingbirds buzzing around and a flock of Bushtits came through at one point...

There was a giant rat lurking in one of the shrubs, dashing out to steal food once in awhile...

Finally around 11:30, just as one fellow made the mistake of going inside to use the bathroom, the Brambling appeared!  The sighting lasted less than a minute as she flew from one feeder to another, to a tree, then back to the second feeder, and then gone... Luckily we were able to alert the bathroom guy in time and he was able to see the bird with the rest of us.

Such a beautiful bird to see on such a dreary rainy day!  Oh yeah, and it's my 300th bird!!!!   Like I said, it was a good morning.  I counted 20 species seen in that yard and may have even forgotten some.  Good times!!  [I was just reading up on the Brambling in Wikipedia and learned that the bird has also been called Cock o' the North.  I will refer to it as such from now on].

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Crystal Springs, etc.

It's been a messy week.  Snow, rain, floods, muds, ice, slush, wind... We've got it all.  It's been a bummer for the most part- the snow only looked pretty in the middle of the night, and the weather wasn't bad enough to get out of working.  But definitely bad enough to not go birding.  So when I got up today and it wasn't raining I was psyched.

I headed to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden to look for some color in doomtown.

The sun even came out for a bit and Song Sparrows were singing like it was springtime...

Crystal Springs is always a good spot for tame-ish Buffleheads and Wood Ducks...

Even this flicker seemed more colorful than normal:

This afternoon I took the dogs to Vancouver to walk the Frenchman's Bar Trail.  There I found this woman on a pink scooter being pulled dog-sled-style by her two huskies:

Can't decide if it's stupid or brilliant.  Maybe both.  At Frenchman's Bar Park I stared at a large flock of sparrows trying to find interesting ones.  I was surprised to find a Savannah Sparrow in the mix, first time I've seen one in winter here...

 Three pheasants were prancing across a field, probably on the way to their death. 

The last part of our walk there were some serious clouds nipping at our heels despite the blue sky overhead.

I will spare you the photos I took of the road-killed bloody beaver and skip ahead to the bird I found when I arrived home.  I got out of my car and saw a bird circling overhead- I tried my best to turn it into a Merlin but I think it's a sharpie [oops, a Cooper's].

Still a great yard bird since I've never seen one anywhere near my house.  Good times!