Friday, September 28, 2012

Birds this week.

Yep, I've done a bunch of birding this week and have yet to share anything with y'all.  So here we go... First off from Ridgefield NWR:

Northern Harrier

 Black Phoebe

River otters

The other day my neighbors tossed a pile of walnuts into my yard.  Not sure why they didn't leave them in their own yard, but whatever.  This crow was perplexed:


 Yesterday morning I walked the dogs along the Frenchman's Bar Trail and found lots of good birds have returned, starting with Golden-crowned Sparrows...


 There were a few geese around...


 Only Cackling and Canada Geese, have yet to see any Greater White-fronteds or Snows.  Also saw this guy flying over the Columbia River:


This afternoon I stopped by Smith & Bybee Lakes.  I avoided the Smith Lake boat launch area due to the avian botulism outbreak, but instead headed for the Bybee Lake blind.  A Red-shouldered Hawk was calling loudly right behind me but out of sight.  This Orange-crowned Warbler came by to peek at me:


 Along the paved trail I found an interesting crime scene.  Feathers everywhere.  An owl pellet.  Some owl poop.  Using my keen detective skills I determined that an owl had taken a bird and eaten it on this broken limb:


 Here are some of the feathers that were scattered:


In the above photo there's that big area that appears black but it was actually blue.  Any thoughts on what bird this was?


 And onto the owl pellet... I did what any normal person would do- I carried it all the way back to the parking area picnic tables and dissected it.  It appeared to be rodent fur and bones, no big surprises. 


And that's about it for the week.  Got some good adventures planned for this weekend as long as I can figure out how to put some new bulbs in my headlights!  Good times!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunrise, sunset.

I set out for Broughton Beach this morning hoping to catch a sweet sunrise, but was immediately disappointed by the amount of fog and haze and clouds.  The dogs and I trudged on anyhow, hoping for at least a wayward shorebird.  Instead we got a giant ridiculous chocolate lab all up in our grills while his owner ran across the beach to come haul him away.  But then I looked up...


Wowzer.  I was not expecting that.  It kept getting brighter and awesomer.


Back up on the bike path I found a kestrel was nibbling on the head of a vole...


On our walk back down the bike path I saw bird zipping around in the sky.  I followed it with my bins until it morphed into a gull and landed on the beach.  Then I realized that next to the gull was the mystery bird so I dragged the dogs down the trail back out onto the mud to investigate.  Turned out to be a Black-bellied Plover!


Around this time a huge swarm of swallows gathered nearby.  Hard to see in the photos, it was pretty impressive in person...


This evening after dinner I thought another walk with the dogs might be nice.  We headed over to the Columbia Slough Trail just in time for the sunset. 


There were a few Greater Yellowlegs mingling with a couple of herons in the slough...


And the sky as I was heading back to the car...


Good times!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wasco County.

Yesterday morning I drove out past Mount Hood to explore a few areas in Wasco County.  My first stop was Camas Prairie, though I never actually saw a prairie.  I followed the two signs from Highway 216 and ended up at this sign:


This seems simple enough.  I went about a quarter mile in the direction the sign is pointing and found a trail head.  I walked the dogs about a mile straight down the trail, never seeing anything prairie-like, only cow pie after cow pie.  We backtracked and followed another trail.  Nope.  I had been hoping for American Three-toed Woodpeckers and came up with one flicker.  Oh well.  On our way back down the trail I found a couple of Hermit Thrushes...


They looked a lot greyer than the ones I usually see- perhaps a different subspecies?  After the [lack of] prairie we headed east past Pine Grove and drove up Victor Road.  You might recall my last trip back in July to this very spot when I ended up in Short-eared Owl heaven.   It's really a gorgeous area...


Doesn't get more scenic than that!  Instead of driving all of Victor Road this time I took a turn-off for White River Crossing Road.  I was hoping to find the river and its accompanying canyon from here, something you would never guess was there when you stare across the land.  But first, some birds got in the way!

This fella was chattering away, hidden in the shadows at first, but eventually hopped to the top of a tree for excellent viewing (and listening!). 


A Townsend's Solitaire!  Behind me I could hear another one singing the same chattery song.  Definitely not a bird I was expecting to find there.  Also poking around in the shadows were a couple of towhees and a White-crowned Sparrow.

A bit farther up the road were the first views of the White River Canyon...


The drive down into the canyon was pretty rocky and dusty, but could have been worse.  I found some chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches in one spot, with ravens and vultures soaring constantly overhead.  I found a spot to park where I could walk the dogs down to the river and do some exploring. 


I quickly found an American Dipper hopping around eating stuff off the rocks...


I was hoping for some warblers by the water but only found this one mysterious empid (yes, Fly Jen is back!):


According to eBird, the empids expected here are Hammond's and Pac-slope/Cordilleran.  I unfortunately have zero concept of what is a long vs. short primary projection.  Also, it's fall migration so perhaps other empids would be possible too.  Argh.  Maybe I do still hate birds. 

Lots of the rocks in the river had these little growths on them... What are they?


They made the river look like it was filled with deer poop.  I am guessing they do not taste like deer poop though, because Ralph did not try to eat them.

One last shot of one of the canyon walls (towards the top of the canyon).  So freakin pretty...


Just like on my last trip, my favorite bird of the day was on my way back down Victor Road.  I saw something perched on a telephone pole that was strongly backlit.  I briefly turned it into a Ferruginous Hawk (I saw lots of pale areas, that's my only defense), until it took flight...


Prairie Falcon! 


So awesome- a bird I had only seen twice before.  And now I shall leave you with something else I found to be rather impressive... This horse's weiner:


Good times!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grebe vs. Frog.

This week at Ridgefield I watched a Pied-billed Grebe suck down a whole frog.  I had only seen them eat little fish before so this was pretty cool.  It was cloudy/hazy/early so photos aren't the best, but still interesting (to me, hopefully to you too).


Yummy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sauvie Island.

I went out to Sauvie Island yesterday morning bright and early.  The sun was rising in a lovely shade of red due to forest fires in central Oregon...

St. Johns Bridge

 A long walk around the Wapato loop didn't provide many great birds, but the return of loads of wigeons, pintails, and teals was nice.


I headed to Oak Island next and found yet another accipiter perched on a telephone pole.  This one was much easier to identify than the Larch Mountain demons.

Cooper's Hawk

The only warblers I saw yesterday were yellowthroats...


Sandhill Cranes were streaming by almost constantly...


I was happy to see my first Fox Sparrow of the season.  Interestingly, it appears to be Slate-colored? [Nope, it's of the regular sooty variety...]


And that was about it for the morning.  Good times!