Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I finally got my house yesterday!  My first yard bird was officially a Western Scrub-Jay eating some berries, closely followed by a flock of Cackling Geese overhead.  Later on my friend and I were having a beer on my tiny deck and I heard a Killdeer calling.   Not bad. 

My birding adventures will probably slow down quite a bit as I try to move, paint, garden, rip up the ugliest wallpaper ever, etc.  Anyway, hope you have a great Halloween!  Check out my rad pumpkin carving skills I didn't even know I had...


Monday, October 29, 2012

Washington Coast.

By Saturday night I had decided that although I was sick and should be resting, rare birds will not flock to my couch for me to see.  I had to go see them myself.  I set my alarm for early on Sunday and headed to the Washington coast where rare and interesting birds keep turning up. 

First stop: Westhaven State Park in Westport.  A Northern Wheatear had been found on Friday and I was crossing my fingers it was still there.  Imagine the scene from The Big Year with the McKay's Bunting (I think that was the bird) with the birders running all over the place.  That was how the wheatear scene worked.  The bird would fly into some tall grass, then suddenly take off to the jetty, then fly out over the bay to a rocky point- all decent distances apart.  Birders were running with tripods, fully decked in bulky rain gear, looking like complete goons. 

I never saw it sit still (though I hear it sat for a nice long time after I left) but I did catch it in flight...


Yeah, bad photos, but I got much better looks with my bins.  It was my first time at the park and I was happy to see some of the other birds around, like a Whimbrel in the distant mist...


And a flyby blur of a Black Turnstone...


The morning's misty rain quit after about an hour, as I returned to the car to retrieve the mutts.  The weather stayed dry till about 1:30 which was awesome and completely unexpected.  I walked the dogs on the beach and found these four finches posing nicely on a stick...


On to the next stop: Harbor Resort Motel next to the Westport Marina.  A Common Eider turned up here awhile back and has so far stuck around.  Some people staying at the motel kindly let us use their deck to view the bird...


Others had determined it is a first year male.  


As you can see it was a good day for bad photos!  At least I saw this guy through someone's scope which made him look more like this photo.  On the drive out of the parking area I noticed someone scooping cat food out for a big stray cat and raccoon population.  It was kind of weird...


From Westport we headed south to our third stop: Grayland Beach State Park.  A Wilson's Plover had been hanging out with some Snowy Plovers here for awhile.  I failed to find the Wilson's (as did everyone else I talked to, though seemed to be found later on) but did find a couple of the Snowys...


This beach also had a nice big pack of Dunlin, a slew of Sanderlings, and a handful of Least Sandpipers...


After the beach we were heading south on 105 when I saw a bird up in a tree that I became convinced was a Merlin.  I pulled over in someone's driveway to take terrible photos of it...


I sent a photo over to Seagull Steve and he verified it was indeed my lifer Merlin!  Yay, second lifer of the day!

Our final stop was at the Tokeland Marina to look for the Bar-tailed Godwits.  I started off in the wrong spot and saw only pelicans, Willets, a heron and a cormorant...


I drove back around to where I was supposed to be and saw the godwits resting on the dock.  I walked down to where someone had a scope set up and saw a Bar-tailed sticking out like sore thumb. 


He woke up for about 30 seconds at one point so we could actually see him...


Yay, another lifer!  What a crazy day... So many birders out and about, and all of them so happy because the weather was great and the birds were cooperating.  Now it's time for me to rest and get better.  Hahahahah yeah right, someone found a Lapland Longspur and a Palm Warbler just up the road!  Plus I get the keys to my new house tomorrow and should probably be packing.  No rest for the wicked!  Or the sick!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dogs and birds.

Yesterday was my dog Jake's 7th birthday.  Despite being sick as hell, the rain and the cold, I took the boys out to Sauvie Island so Jake could do his favorite thing: run around on the beach.


While I lay on the couch consuming a steady diet of Umcka, Airborne, Odwalla Superfood juice, and coffee, I figured I'd take you a trip down memory lane, and show you how Jake is mostly to blame for my birding obsession...

It all started one spring morning in 2006 when I looked on Craigslist and found a "6 month old Jack Russell Terrier" for sale in Camas, WA.   Before I could think about it I was calling the phone number.  Soon I had Jake and his interesting paperwork stating he was actually 5 months old, sold in a Vancouver mall pet store for $500 as a Jack Russell/ Chihuahua mix (he is 42 pounds now and more likely Jack Russell/heeler).  

Jake, April 2006
 
He was nuts.  He had SO much energy and I had to figure out how to drain it.  I learned quickly that he loved other dogs and daily trips to the dog park were a huge help.  His best friend at the dog park was a dog named Josie, whose owners became a couple of my favorite people (remember Mystery & Enigma?).

Jake & Josie, fall 2007, Sandy River Delta

As we tired of going to the same old dog park, we started branching out and going on "dogventures" with our other dog park friends and their dog Mays.  We checked out parks all over the area and my favorites became the Sandy River Delta (known by dog owners as Thousand Acres) and Kelley Point Park.

  Josie & Jake, August 2008, Kelley Point Park (yep, it was so hot I was swimming in the Willamette)

In the fall of 2008 I made a rash decision to move to Philly.  The only good thing about that was that I realized just how much I loved Portland, loved green spaces, and missed the nature I had grown accustomed to in the northwest.   I bought a new camera while I was there, replacing the 2.1 megapixel camera I had been using before with a nice Canon powershot.  I started taking a LOT of pictures.

While in Philly I would visit my parents in Connecticut often.  I would watch their feeders and take pictures of all the birds.   I'm sure my mom told me what they were but I didn't really remember any of their names. 


In late April 2009 I moved back to Portland.  Jake had grown out of his interest in playing nonstop with other dogs and I had to find new ways to tire him out.  I relied on many many trips to the Sandy River Delta, Kelley Point Park, and wherever else the road took us.  Little did I know I was hitting up some great birding spots!  When I tired of photographing Jake I would turn the camera on anything that moved...

June 2009
 
This Osprey at Kelley Point Park, as mentioned in my "About Me" section, really captivated me.  I ran home to identify it and then spent the summer watching it raise a family. 

At the Sandy River Delta I saw my first Bald Eagle and seriously got choked up.  Of course now I feel like I see them all the time, but I will never forget that first one.  I also saw my first Green Heron, but didn't identify it till much later on...

August 2009
 
Jake's energy level required near-daily adventures.  It was like a birding immersion program.  The more I saw the more I wanted to see, and taking pictures really helped me identify everything.   So as you can see, it's really mostly Jake's fault that I bird. 

Sometimes I like to think about what Jake's life list would be, and how it would be bigger than a lot of people's life lists.  Yep, I'm making a bumper sticker: "My dog's life list is bigger than yours."  Hahaha.  Seriously, though, this dog has lived.  How many dogs have been to Malheur NWR AND Madera Canyon?  He's dipped his toes in the Atlantic, the Pacific, Lake Mead, Puget Sound, Lake Powell...  He's walked the strip in Vegas and the boardwalk in Atlantic City.  He has stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon and the top of Steens Mountain.  Can't wait to see what the next seven years will bring... Happy birthday little buddy!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Broughton Beach.

Yesterday morning at Broughton Beach was great- the weather was just unwelcoming enough that I was the only person there for the first hour and a half. 

Geese, crow, heron

 I found two Western Meadowlarks right at the beginning of the trail...


 Another ten feet or so down the path were three Horned Larks.  One was fully decked in leg bands:


 Orange and purple on the right leg, red and white on the left.  This bird has more accessories than me!


On our way back from the Sea Scout Base I saw some shorebirds had joined the gull flock on the beach.  I walked the dogs out there to see what was going on:  a mess of Ring-billeds, Californias, Mews (the first I've seen this fall), a handful of Bonaparte's (!) and a few Dunlin (I think).

 Dunlin, yes?  More interesting is the rare Great Unhorned Owl Gull next to them

Anyway, it was a fun and beautiful walk...


Good times!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday birds.

Thankfully I completely disregarded the weather forecast this morning and went out to look for some birds.  The weather was on my side (all day!) and the dogs and I had a nice walk at Kelley Point Park and then another at Force Lake.  Kelley Point was buzzing with bird activity even though I didn't see that many...  A funny little Bewick's Wren came over to have a chat with me:


Force Lake actually had a greater variety of birds including a pair of Ring-necked Ducks:


A lone Ruddy Duck:


There are always at least a couple Pied-billed Grebes at the lake, but today there was one that looked a little funny...


...because it was NOT actually a Horned Grebe. 


I returned home from my morning of birding to eat lunch and start tackling my to-do list.  I figured I would start with steam-cleaning the spots on my carpet so I took my new steam-cleaner out of the box and looked at the instructions.  Step 1: charge the battery for 12 hours.

I could have easily moved on to some other tasks but instead drove out to Hillsboro to the Intel campus to look for some recently reported Barn Owls.  I wandered around the huge parking lot looking into each tree hoping for some luck.  After about 15 minutes I heard someone whistling and turned around to see some arms waving.  Figured it was someone who knew what I was looking for and knew better where to look. 

Indeed!  It was Rhett the owl whisperer himself.   I joined him, his wife, and his friend, and was treated to the sight of not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Barn Owls! 


Yay for lifer #378!  High fives all around!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rentenaar Road.

I took the dogs to Sauvie Island yesterday afternoon to walk along Rentenaar Road.  The weather was not what I anticipated, starting with mildly irritating mist and ending with straight up pouring rain.  It was still a good walk and the dogs still got tired, and that's what really matters.  Oh, and they were stylin too:


I took what I could get bird-wise, not many sparrows yet and only a few raptors.  The blackbird swarms were awesome though...


After they landed in some trees a Peregrine swooped in and stirred things up again...


The Peregrine didn't get to keep his seat long.  A harrier that had been cruising the fields nearby decided she did not approve of the falcon- she dive bombed him once and he took off.


That was probably the most interesting thing to happen there.  The rain picked up as we walked back up the road.  I was expecting to see fewer sparrows as a result, but instead they all decided to come out and have a bath party in the puddles.  Mostly Golden-crowneds, a White-crowned, a few Songs.  No White-throateds yet.  I will respect their privacy and not show you the bath party.  Instead, I will show you this dead snake:


Good times!