Thursday, January 31, 2013

California Part Two--Lake Merritt

Sunday morning my friend and her son and I headed to Lake Merritt in Oakland to check out the bird scene.  There were rumors of a Tufted Duck, but in true FJ style, I failed to find it.  So many other rad birds were around though...

I assume these nests are part of a Black-crowned Night-Heron rookery because those buggers were everywhere!  And they are not like the Night-Herons I am familiar with.  These losers beg for bread crumbs with lowly pigeons!  PIGEONS!!!

But yeah, it was pretty cool to see them up close without bothering them.

But GAWD, they were friends with PIGEONS!  They lost soooo many cool kid points that day.  Coots were abundant too, and my friend's 3-year-old can actually ID them so that's fun.  My friend pointed out this coot lacking the red spot on its frontal shield.  It reminded me of a coot that was seen in Vancouver awhile back.

The lake itself holds lots of nice ducks sitting pretty for photos bread crumbs.  There were piles of scaup (most likely holding the TUDU underwater for my visit) scattered with Canvasbacks, Common Goldeneyes, Ruddy Ducks, and others.  I also now understand why Seagull Steve has so many good bellowing duck photos.

The lake had its share of gulls too- most, if not all, of which were also lowly bread-crumb-beggars.

After awhile my friend took her son over to Fairyland (insert joke here) and I continued to wander the area.  I found a Spotted Sandpiper bobbing on a log...

While walking the main path I heard a couple of hummingbirds making a racket.  I watched as they both flew down to the grass and was able to see them laying with their wings spread facing each other.  What does this mean?

It didn't last long and they flew out of sight quickly.  I started to move away from the lake and into the trees.  I heard a sound I could not place and saw a large-ish bird moving around in a tree across the lawn.  I followed the sound but kept losing sight of the bird.  Finally I was able to confirm it was a Nuttall's Woodpecker!  There were actually two of them chasing each other around making me feel insane as I followed from tree to tree, always two steps behind.

I managed a second life bird after rejoining my friend and her son post-Fairyland.  It was an Oak Titmouse, a bird I had not even realized I should be looking for there.

My friend referred to it as the most boring-looking bird ever.  Indeed, it lacks pizzazz.  Another fairly simple bird at the park (though definitely brimming with pizzazz) was the American White Pelican.  There were two resting near the heron/pigeon/gull havoc.

Ok, and I was not going to do this, but I feel I owe it to you to be honest.  It wasn't just Night-Herons acting like pigeons... There were two Great Egrets joining in, begging for crumbs.  Sorry to crush your visions of these guys as regal beauties...

Shame on you beggars!!  Go murder some voles!!

Ok, anyway, it was a fun place to spend a few hours.  Good times!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

California Part One.

The best thing about my flight to San Francisco?  I saw my house from the plane!  By the time we were allowed to turn on electronics my house was long out of sight, but downtown Portland was in view...

On Saturday my friend Sunni and I tagged along with the infamous Seagull Steve on an adventure down the coast.  We stopped at Moss Landing and were treated to a scene that will never be erased from my mind- a pair of sea otters doing the nasty!

Kind of brutal- the male chomps the female's nose during the event and I guess it can get kind of gnarly-looking.  I was more shocked by the sight of an otter rocket:

Post-copulation activities included washing up, stuffing mussels in their mouths, and being adorable.

Our real destination was Monterey Wharf to find an Arctic Loon that had been hanging around.  Before finding the loon Steve pointed out a Northern Fulmar- lifer!  Crappy photo:

On the wharf was a nice variety of trash/fish-gut-eating birds...

Sea lions and Pelagic Cormorants did their best to entertain us while scanning for the loon...

Eventually the loon began making appearances.  It started off way out in the harbor but traveled impressive distances underwater until it was within reach of my camera...

Awesome bird!  On our way back north after lunch we took a turn off the highway on a dirt road where I was pretty sure Steve was going to kill us.  Thankfully this did not happen and instead we visited a big pile of brussels sprouts.  And now the word "brussels" is looking very strange yet google is telling me I have spelled it right.  Anyway, this patch was very birdy with lots of Yellow-rumped and Townsend's Warblers, Song/White-crowned/Golden-crowned/White-throated/Fox Sparrows, a few Western Meadowlarks, Chestnut-backed Chickadees and more. 

Our last stop of the day was at a beach somewhere I cannot recall.  We were looking for gulls but I most excited to see our second White-tailed Kite of the day!

An excellent day overall with three lifers and good times!  Many many thanks to Seagull Steve for taking time out of his busy schedule to take us birding!

Steve and the only birds he really even likes: gulls

Good times!  More to come from California soon...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Lamest post ever.

I'm at the airport heading to the Bay Area for the weekend. I have no real bird photos to share but check out this awesome print in the art section of the airport! I am guessing it was inspired by the Chapman School in Portland where thousands of Vaux's Swifts roost every September, occasionally snatched by Peregrines.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mount Tabor.

It's been freakishly cold and freakishly sunny here in Portland lately.  It's confusing.  The cold makes me want to pile blankets on in front of the wood stove and not move ever.  The sun makes me want to run outside and chase birds.  Yesterday morning I had to really force myself to get out from under the blankets and head over to Mount Tabor.  It was gorgeous...

My reason for visiting this park was to add a couple year birds to my list.  I had made this sort of vague goal of hitting 100 species before heading to California this weekend and I was at 96.  I knew I would at least see some Cedar Waxwings there...

Check out that waxwing tongue!  Down by the large reservoir were a bunch of crows flipping their lids and I was hoping to find them battling some interesting raptor.  No, it was just gulls pissing them off.

Near what I think is the smallest reservoir (the weird one away from the other two) I heard some Red Crossbills up in a tree.  I was psyched, but they were on the move.  I followed them from tree to tree for awhile before losing them completely.

I followed the trail behind the reservoir to the top of the volcano (yep, it's a volcano) and came across the flock again.  This time they flew to the ground to feed!  Ten feet from me!  My best views of crossbills ever...

I loved that they managed to find the only two square feet of snow/frost at the top of the park.  After this encounter I walked back down to the largest reservoir to check out the gulls.  Mostly Herring and Glaucous-winged (or hybrids) but one bright Western stood out.  I walked back up the ridiculously steep and narrow staircase and looked back out towards downtown.  Perched at the top of a tree was a Merlin!

The first one I've seen in sunlight.  Yes.

He looked me right in the eyes at one point and I'm pretty sure he stole my soul. 

So glad I made myself leave the house!  The best part is that my year list was bumped up to 99 after that trip.  Who will 100 be?? 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lacamas Lake Park.

Yesterday afternoon I dragged my friend out to Camas to look for a damn duck.  Never found it.  It was cold but sunny and we ended up spending several entertaining hours exploring Lacamas Lake Park.

The park was filled with the sounds of nuthatches, creepers, kinglets, and chickadees.  Varied Thrushes popped up onto branches as we walked the trails.

Song Sparrows sat around looking chilly...

We came out one end of the park at a school where a group of chickadees were hopping around along with what I think is a Hutton's Vireo:

Right?  We made our way back into the park along a different trail, then hopped through a hole in a fence to walk along the river (along a steep and probably dangerous drop-off).  We made it to an amazing area with small waterfalls and rushing water. 

We found a spot where we could sort of climb down (read: slide on our asses) to the rocks seen on the left.  An American Dipper spooked while I was sliding/screaming and flew upstream to another rock. 

I only had my 300mm lens so I couldn't get any grand photos of the waterfalls, but here's the upstream view...

And the downstream view with my phone camera...

We scrambled back uphill to the trail and made our way back to the main lake to walk the loop trail.

There were several No Swimming signs along the dam but a couple of Mallards were rebelling.

There were lots of cormorants on the lake and my friend worked on mastering digi-binning with his phone.  I just took regular photos.

We ran into a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets about halfway around the lake.

I started walking without realizing my friend was still looking at something.  For a non-birder he was looking for birder-ish, crouching and using my binoculars to try to find something.  I made my way back and he said he heard something- sure enough he had found a Hairy Woodpecker!  

We kept going along the trail as the sun started to set...

The trail led out of the park onto a side street.  As we were walking my friend said, "what is that?  Is that a bear?"  I thought he was just being a weirdo till I looked up and saw a big brown beast on the hill behind a house. 

Looks like a big raggedy, dreadlocked bison?  This really didn't make any more sense than a bear did, but it was pretty cool.  A strange ending to a fun afternoon!