Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ridgefield NWR.

It's been raining.  Them weather folks have been calling this the wettest March on record.  Awesome.  Because of the rain I figured the Ridgefield auto route would be by best birding choice yesterday afternoon.  I even dragged along a non-birding friend to torture. 

Yellow-rumped Warblers were out and about in their fancy breeding outfits...

Snipe were prancing around like regular shorebirds:

Pied-billed Grebes have been rather frisky on my last couple visits, especially yesterday.  No bird porn to share, just lots of chasing and splashing.

And another pair in a different part of the refuge:

Fun stuff.  Back in the woods I showed my friend the Great Horned Owl nest, still occupied by mama owl though we didn't see the two new owlets seen by others.  Another owl, probably papa, was perched in a tree across the slough from the nest.

As we drove away from the owls my friend actually said, "See ya later, owligator."  Guess you don't have to be a birder to be a complete nerd.  We saw tons of Bald Eagles on this trip, including this one in the forest rather close to the owls:

We also stopped to look at the eagle nest where mama and papa were hanging around, looking sharp, unlike my photos which are too terrible to share.  Oh and back in the forest while we were looking at the eagle above I saw some sparrows messing around in the grass below.  I was psyched to find a Lincoln's Sparrow among the many Songs.

That was about it... Good times!!

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Like many others in the northwest, I saw my first Osprey of the year yesterday.  A pair actually, sitting on the nest on Rentenaar Road. 

They took off soaring in the wind and disappeared out of sight...  Looking foward to more showing up soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Eagle Creek & Whitaker Ponds

I've been using eBird a lot lately- still trying get all my old bird lists entered, but also exploring the rest of the site.  I signed up for daily alerts informing me what birds I have not yet seen this year in my county that others have seen (the alerts include when and where the birds were seen).  I don't county list or anything like that but I do like the inspiration to bird closer to home.  So yesterday I headed out to Eagle Creek to look for American Dippers. 

Success!  I found two along the creek.  I walked the dogs around for awhile, checking out the area.  A couple of Common Mergansers came swimming by at one point...

In a tree near the restrooms were three Red-breasted Sapsuckers, rather close together.

I've never seen three in one tree.  There was also a chipmunk in the area, which kept the dogs entertained...

We walked over to the nearby fish hatchery and watched a crow snatch a little fishy thing out of one of the ponds.  The netting above the ponds seemed to frustrate him as he made many attempts to fly away.  I was worried for a second, but he finally squeezed through a spot and flew off with his prize.

Nearby at the mouth of the creek is Eagle Creek Overlook.  There's a trail that leads to the top of a hill with views of the Columbia River and the Bonneville Dam.

There were lots of birds at the top including at Pileated Woodpecker.  I forced the dogs to pose on one of the stone walls along the trail.

This morning I rode my bike out to Whitaker Ponds in hopes of adding some birds to my motorless list.  Failed on that account, but saw lots of great birds anyhow.  First off, ducks in trees!

Not just Wood Ducks either- there was a Mallard up in a tree too..

I find ducks in trees pretty amusing.  I startled a couple of Hooded Mergansers out of a drainage pipe, and they seemed to swim away into the, uh, sunrise...

The best part of my visit to the park was finally finding the owl nest.  I spotted two lumps in trees from across the pond and realized they were two owlets!  I made my way over to the area and found those two owlets, plus mom on the nest with a third owlet.  Score.

This owl appears to be the oldest of the three:

This next one is probably the middle child:

So awesome!!  Good times!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ridgefield NWR

Yesterday was a lovely (and I don't use that term lightly) return to spring for the northwest.  The snow had melted and the swallows had emerged from wherever they disappeared to on Thursday.  After work I drove up to Ridgefield to enjoy the sunshine.  The first thing I noticed was the return of the turtle!

My first trip around was kind of disappointing, though a few regulars showed me their good sides...

 Great Blue Heron

Northern Shovelers

 Ruddy Ducks

I decided to go around the refuge a second time and found a bit of a traffic jam apparently caused by two American Bitterns.  Thankfully most people moved on and I was able to see that one of the bitterns was in a tug-of-war with a snake!

His method for snake-eating seemed to be to smash the head, then work his way down the body smashing as he went.  

As you can kind of see, the tail was knotted around some grass.  The bittern just kept smashing and moving down the body, eventually freeing the knotted tail.

Finally he sort of flung the whole thing up in the air where it seemed to tie itself into a knot and he swallowed it whole...

Done!  He dunked his head in the water a couple times, washing some of the blood off his beak, and then puffed out his chest and I swear he burped.

Pretty cool.  Just after leaving the refuge I was driving along the row of houses with incredible views of the refuge and a hawk was soaring low overhead.  I thought how cool it would be to live there and have all the birds there practically in my backyard.

I drove home and got out of the car with the dogs, noticing two birds soaring directly above my house.  A pair of Bald Eagles!!  I've never even seen them in my neighborhood before.  Thankfully my camera was still easily accessible and I fired off some shots..

Hell yeah.  Maybe my yard is not so bad after all...  In other yard news, my Brewer's Blackbirds returned this week.  While the starlings fight to the death (not really) over the suet, the blackbirds calmly eat the seed under the seed feeder.  Love them.

Good times!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy spring!

The rain was pretty brutal yesterday so I was happy to wake up to snow instead.  About an inch in my neighborhood, but I wanted more...  I headed up to Washington Park.

There were tons of crows flying around and chatting with each other...

There were lots of other birds around but not many interested in getting their picture taken.  I saw a couple FOY Band-tailed Pigeons in the treetops around the park:

Also around were lots of juncos, chickadees, a Red-breasted Sapsucker, robins, Varied Thrushes, kinglets and sparrows... All of whom declined my offer of internet fame.  Ah well, the snow made for pretty pictures and happy mutts.

Washington Park is known for its International Rose Test Garden though all around the park are tons of other pretty flowers.  Even prettier with a bit of snow on top...

The sun peeked through the clouds off and on, though only for brief moments...

Good times!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend birds.

I didn't have much success with the birds this weekend.  On Saturday I walked the dogs along the Frenchman's Bar Trail and was surprised to find this:

I thought it was a dead heron at first because its head and neck were tucked below the body.  I have trouble leaving dead stuff alone so I rolled it over with my foot (to the delight of my dogs) and discovered it was a Sandhill Crane.

It really bummed me out...  I couldn't figure out how it met its end.  Possibly hit by a car but that seems super weird.  Maybe a dumbass hunter shot it by accident and dumped it here.  Who knows.  I couldn't resist touching its beak- I popped it open and saw its tongue.

The park was tame bird-wise but a couple of Spotted Towhees were hopping around.

Sunday morning I headed down the valley to somewhere south of Corvallis to look for the Gyrfalcon that had been present for three days prior.  It was not there.  It was a disappointment, but I did get to gaze at an amazing display by a male Northern Harrier.  I found a website that suggests what I saw was a courtship display called skydancing.  It was mesmerizing and by the time I thought to take a photo it was over.

I tried to make the day better by stopping at Ankeny NWR on my way back north.  The Rail Trail was closed (flooding?) but I sat and watched some eagles by Pintail Marsh (I may have just made that name up).  There were five sitting in one tree, and a sixth in a nearby tree kept an eye on them. 

Three flew off together at one point and I got to see a split second of talon-locking!

I stopped at the viewing gazebo on Buena Vista Rd and was happy to find a Black Phoebe flycatching with the Yellow-rumped Warblers.  The first time I've seen one there.

This gnarly fella was hanging out there too:

 I got back to Portland just in time for a hail storm followed by snow.  This morning when I woke up there was a nice dusting of snow too.  WTF.  This afternoon I dragged my non-birding friend up to Mt Tabor, assuring him that the weatherman said it would be dry all day.  The weatherman was seriously misguided.

This Anna's Hummingbird did not approve of the wintry mix coming down...

We found a nice big flock of Varied Thrushes- at least twenty birds.  It was awesome.

A handsome Red-tailed Hawk flew right over our heads and landed in a tree in front of us.

This Steller's Jay was pissed about the rain/snow too:

Ah well, it was fun despite the weather.  Birding with non-birders is pretty funny- they always get real excited to point out birds to me (as they should).  Good times!