Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sacramento NWR.

The first leg of my road trip went pretty well.  The dogs are being good- alerting me to every single cow, horse, and sheep we pass- and the car is being good too.  I even fit in a few hours on the Sacramento NWR auto tour. 


It was early afternoon and fairly warm, with a strong breeze keeping things pleasant.  The blackbirds and the Marsh Wrens were the loudest birds by far, only outshined by Jake and Ralph's whining when we came across a perfect trifecta of river otter, squirrel, and jackrabbit.


I was psyched to see so many Western Kingbirds...


A flock of White-faced Ibises flew overhead and landed, unfortunately, out of sight...


Other waterbirds inlcuded Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets...



I even managed a lifer at the refuge- an Ash-throated Flycatcher!  Please excuse the bad windshield shot...


There were roughly one billion coots hanging out in the water, and roughly one Common Gallinule:


My first one not in Hawaii.   Not a lot of birds were feeling like posing but these Snowy Egrets were being serious hams:



Alright, that was about it... I will leave you with one last bird from the rest stop just south of the refuge on I-5...


Yeah.  This cowboy and his rooster were chillaxin on the lawn.  Good times!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ridgefield NWR and other stuff.

I still have a bunch of stuff to do to prepare for my road trip, but it's kind of hard to get stuff done when I know there are warblers and tanagers and all sorts of other colorful things infiltrating every park in town...  So this week I've been trying to balance out errands and birding (oh and work, of course) and here's what I've got to share...

Western Tanager, Powell Butte 

 Some chickadees were working on excavating a nest just outside my kitchen window again- same spot as last year, so I am guessing that they will abandon it again once they realize how many deranged meth-heads walk by daily...  (Funny, it was on April 25th last year that I first noticed them).


A dog walk at Kelley Point Park produced the first Chipping Sparrow I've ever seen in Portland, as well as certainly-not-the-first Brown-headed Cowbird...


This morning I made a super early trip to Ridgefield and found a ton of great birds.  There were bitterns booming and Soras calling, and of course a Wood Duck in a tree...


I was psyched to find the previously reported Blue-winged Teal hanging out with a pair of Cinnamon Teals (even following them and head-bobbing along with them).


Along the shoreline I found what I am pretty sure is a Solitary Sandpiper:


This fella was briefly joined by some Least Sandpipers and a few yellowlegs.  One of the yellowlegs sounded an alarm after a few minutes and they all took off, except for the Solitary Sandpiper.  I love when a name makes sense.

This next photo I liked just for the size comparison of the Solitary on the left, the Least in the middle (to the right) and the Greater Yellowlegs on the right.


There was another yellowlegs farther away that looked like it might be a Lesser, but it could just be wishful thinking... Help?


Now it's time for some cuteness... The Great Horned Owl kids were out enjoying the morning (by snoozing):


And on the road coming out of the forest was some kind of goose family party:



 Good times!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Smith Rock State Park & Sisters

I bought a new tent a couple weeks ago and this weekend's warm temperatures made for the perfect opportunity to test it out.  Turns out I hate the tent.  It's going back to REI where it came from.  Luckily I kept my old one just in case...  Anyway, the warm weather meant that I felt confident about driving through the mountains finally so I headed east to Smith Rock State Park yesterday morning.


I took the dogs on a two-hour hike, as well as another 2-hour hike this morning.  I was finally able to see the White-throated Swifts that nest there.  Not really great for photos:


I was really hoping to finally see a Canyon Wren, instead of just hearing them, but no luck.  I did find a couple of Rock Wrens and House Wrens though...

Rock Wren

 House Wren

 Other good birds at the park were nesting ravens, a Golden Eagle, kestrels, and Canada Geese perching all over the canyon walls.  I found a cool lizard but my camera refused to focus on it (ok it was probably my own fault, but whatever)...


And probably the most unusual sighting of the day, this guy:


Yes, that is a unicycle, and yes we were on a steep rocky trail down the side of a canyon with sharp switchbacks.  Dude is nuts.

After leaving Smith Rock yesterday I saw a small falcon perched on a wire.  I was hoping for something good and was disappointed that it was just a kestrel... till I noticed it had a snack:


Yummy.  I drove down to Sisters and decided to camp at the same campground where I've stayed before, Cold Springs.  I did lots of hiking and exploring in the afternoon but didn't have much luck.  Cold Springs Cutoff seemed to be woodpecker-free (besides flickers) but some Mountain Chickadees and bluebirds tried to make up for it.



Ralph made sure I was up well before sunrise this morning so we were able to get started driving down Cold Springs Cutoff at 6:00 a.m.  We encountered a nice herd of elk and a Townsend's Solitaire (not pictured):


After walking the dogs around away from the elk herd I headed into town for some convenience store coffee.  As I was walking into the store I heard a Pinyon Jay, which was perfect because I planned to try to find them after I acquired my fix. 


I stopped by the Best Western to check their feeders before heading out of town.  I am glad I did because the area was smothered in Evening Grosbeaks, a bird I have much trouble finding despite their regularity at many Portlanders' feeders. 



On the feeder itself were a couple of finches which I had assumed were both House Finches.  Now looking at the photos, the male was definitely a House Finch but the female actually looks like a Cassin's.  Thoughts?


 Lastly, on my way home from Smith Rock today I spotted a couple of Swainson's Hawks perched near the highway...


It was a really fun little adventure and now it's time to buckle down and get ready for my real road trip to CA, AZ, & TX!  Good times!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ridgefield NWR.

I went up to Ridgefield early yesterday morning while the weather was still dry.  Overall I didn't see a huge variety of birds, but the ones I did see were pretty good.  I had been hearing Virginia Rails for a couple weeks and yesterday I finally found one creeping around the marsh.



I stopped briefly by the Great Horned Owl nest where the owlets were hunkered down showing only some fuzz.  Mama was on a branch across the slough keeping an eye on things.


Just beyond the ash forest a Wilson's Snipe was perched on a log over the slough, calling loudly.


Is that a snipe tongue??   The last thing I have to share is some Cinnamon Teals.  I counted at least a dozen on this trip and soon they will just plain take over.  Alright by me.


Soon after I noticed this lady in the grass she walked down the bank and hopped into the slough to join her man friend.  They began some head-bobbing action, and then slowly took it to the next level...


Yep.  They started to make whoopee.




They both seemed pretty psyched afterwards...



Good times!!!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Motorless Birding...to Troutdale!

Yes, I am insane.  I decided in the midst of a casual morning of riding my bike around NE Portland to ride all the way to Troutdale... with no water or snacks involved.  I started off the morning at the Columbia Childrens Arboretum, a sweet little spot with lots of trees (duh) and a nice trail.  Here I was able to add Lesser Goldfinches to my motorless list- as they seemed to be the most numerous and most vocal.


Nothing else too exciting there right now, but hopefully soon some migrants will start showing up.  Some nice horsetails coming up:


After that I rode along the bike path on Marine Drive to Broughton Beach and west.  I was able to add Savannah Sparrow but that was it.  I was feeling pretty good so I figured going all the way to Troutdale wouldn't be too bad.  I stopped a couple times to check out birds and once to check out what I thought might be just a log...


Nope, it was a freakin sea lion!!   I need to keep a motorless mammal list now too...  Ooh and motorless roadkill- yesterday I saw a dead cat, beaver, possum, and river otter.   Anyway, I made it to Chinook Landing Marine Park and as I had hoped, the Red-necked Grebe was still present.


Out on the river was a gull that I have been trying to turn into a Bonaparte's, mainly because two were seen here the previous day.  And it has that stubby black bill.  Thoughts?



Also at the park was this Downy Woodpecker that I desperately tried to turn into a Hairy (for my motorless list's sake):


I eventually made it to the famous Troutdale location in hopes of adding some great birds to my list.  Well, no Clay-colored and no Brewer's were to be found.  But I did meet some very nice other birders, and was still able to add White-crowned & Lincoln's Sparrows, Northern Harrier, and Brown-headed Cowbird.  After about an hour poking around the fenced-in lot I rode over to the next street over.  There I found a pair of Cinnamon Teals!


On my ride home just past Chinook Landing I saw my first goslings of the spring!


So adorable.  On my long and painful ride home I was able to add Eurasian Collared-Dove and Steller's Jay to my list, both from random yards. 


I added 12 birds total yesterday, though technically two were just ones I forgot to add to the list before.  Not sure if it was worth riding my bike 36 miles roundtrip, but whatever, it was a nice day. 

Today I took the dogs to Kelley Point Park and found a funny scene when I pulled into the parking lot:


This fella was checking himself out in the bumper...  He would tilt his head sideways to try to figure out who the heck that other fella was, but after a few minutes moved on to picking stuff out of the grass.  On the way home I stopped by Force Lake and found two pairs of Redheads... Never get sick of em.



 Good times!!