Thursday, February 28, 2013

This week's birds.

It's been a good week.  I conquered a nemesis.  The seeds I planted almost two weeks ago have been taking off (despite Ralph's best efforts to destroy them).  I added a handful of birds to my motorless list.  And I watched an eagle eat a duck. 

Tuesday morning I ventured up Larch Mountain Road to see if I could find anything cool.  I made it to almost MP 8 before the snow was intimidating enough to stop.  Outside things were silent except for the eerie sound of raven wings flapping out of nowhere...

I drove back down a bit and found Pacific Wrens singing all over the place... well as my county nemesis!

No more stupid eBird alerts about Hairy Woodpeckers!  Yay!  Now just Harris's Sparrows that folks mislabeled as Multnomah County when they actually saw it on Rentenaar Road in Columbia County.  Argh!  Nerd!

Anyway.  Wednesday morning I set out with the dogs on another motorless adventure, this time to another access point to the Columbia River.  I was able to add five birds to my list- Cackling Goose, Brewer's Blackbird, American Kestrel, Common Loon, and Belted Kingfisher. 

 Common Loon
Oh and bubo plasticus, I believe it is called...

This afternoon I went up to Ridgefield.  The most interesting thing was a Bald Eagle, yet again.  While parked at the trail to the bird blind I saw an eagle cruise across the lake and out of view.  I was bummed that I wouldn't see where it went, but amazingly the eagle returned shortly with a duck in its talons.  And landed pretty much right in front of me. 

I was pretty stoked.  The eagle went to town ripping feathers off the duck (that I still cannot positively identify). 

This was awesome, and would have kept being awesome, if it weren't for a giant douchebag.  While I was parked watching the eagle three cars came up the road.  The first two pulled over to see what I was looking at, the third kept driving.  Of the two cars that parked, both had dudes that got out of their cars which was annoying enough.  One dude was respectful and stayed back while taking pictures.  The other dude, the douche bag, just could not get close enough.

This complete a-hole kept creeping closer despite having an obviously decent lens on his camera.  Hell I took a decent photo with my phone camera!  Of course the eagle became increasingly (and obviously) agitated and took off with its lunch.  Eff this guy.  I posted his photo to the Ridgefield wall of shame.  People are stupid. 

Ok, done ranting.  The rest of my afternoon was less eventful.  Here are some crocuses from my yard, so as not to end on an angry note...

Monday, February 25, 2013


The dogs and I spent yesterday afternoon wandering around some good Vancouver spots- Shillapoo, Vancouver Lake, Lower River Road, etc.  Nothing amazing happened, though I weirdly knew that a full moon was going to rise over the lake without actually having any idea where the moon was in its cycle...

The clouds to the south were looking all swirly and cozy...

Great Blue Heron

That was about it for Vancouver, but here's something gross for you:  some Mew Gulls were hanging out at the high school near me and this one has its tongue sticking out from below its bill.  Seagull Steve verified that happens sometimes and a quick google search found some similar birds.

I hate it.  Good times.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

503 till i die

This afternoon after work I took the dogs for a nice long walk up to the Columbia River.  We passed under the Glen Jackson Bridge (aka the I-205 bridge) and found this choice graffiti that gave me quite a chuckle.  For those that don't know, 503 is the local area code for most of northwest Oregon.  We moved on to study a dead raccoon just up the path...

Always fun too look at dead stuff... We kept walking and found a ramp down to the water where we sat on rocks and watched some scaup and goldeneyes.  Nothing exciting, but a nice place to sit is a nice place to sit.

I figured it was a good spot to turn around and head back towards home.  As we were walking back towards the bridge something on the ground caught my eye.  A Bald Eagle!  Eating the dead raccoon!  In front of the "503 till i die" graffiti!

503 till I die?  Fine by me!

Unfortunately the eagle and its dinner were standing between me and home.  To the left was the Columbia and to the right was Marine Drive.  After watching for awhile I had to start walking, and the eagle took off with a good chunk o' 'coon.

I thought that was the end of it but the eagle banked south suddenly, heading right towards me.

The eagle flew south over Marine Drive and landed in some trees.  There were only scattered pieces of fur and bone left on the ground.   Oh and ten feet of entrails laid out in a straight line. 

Such an awesome encounter!  I added three birds to my motorless list on this walk too.  Good times!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Close to home.

After Jake gave me quite a scare on Friday morning I figured it would be a good weekend to stay close to home, keep things mellow.  Jake was fine by late Friday afternoon (google Vestibular Disease- it's a blast), but still liked the idea of working on yard projects and not planning any big adventures.  I realized it was the Great Backyard Bird Count weekend so it made even more sense to stay home.

I think I tallied about 17 species over the weekend in the yard.  Lesser Goldfinches have become nice regulars at the nyjer (when the Song Sparrows let them near it).

I've even had a couple new yard birds over the last week- a Bewick's Wren and a Downy Woodpecker.  No good photos of those guys, but here are a couple of other regulars...

On Saturday I started thinking about my motorless birding list and realized I should start over with the new house, as well as for the new year.  I don't live too close to any popular parks or nature reserves- that was one drawback about my house location.  But in the few months I've lived here as I've driven around running errands I have noticed some spots with potential- spots I could easily walk to.  And so the dogs and I set out!

I learned I live a ten minute walk to the Columbia Slough.  Sure I wouldn't want to dip my toes in it personally, but the habitat surrounding it is great and I immediately picked up Great Egret and Mallard for my motorless list. 

See that rainbow?  Another ten minutes of walking and we were crossing Marine Drive to a sweet view of the Columbia River...

I was psyched.  I don't know why it took me three months to realize how easily I could walk to these awesome places.  Sunday morning the dogs and I set out again- this time to check out another slough access point, as well as some ponds I had driven by.  This time I was properly armed with my camera and bins...

I was surprised to find Hooded Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, and Mallards in the slough!   I also added Great Blue Heron to my list here.  I made it to the ponds eventually, and as I had hoped, the area was rather birdy.  I added Gadwall, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, and a bunch of other birds to my list.

The crown jewel was this discovery:

HELL yeah!  This was all it took for me to know I found my new patch...  I found 19 species on my walk around the ponds- not bad, and I can only imagine spring there will get interesting. 

On the way home I stopped by the Columbia Slough again, adding both kinglets to my list.   This seems like another spot that could provide a lot of good birds come springtime.  Investing in future birding, just like Laurence!

Back at home I spent a couple hours battling the Italium arum that wants nothing more than to take over the northeast corner of my yard.

I found this feather on the ground- any thoughts?  I still need to get a feather guide...

I decided to take the dogs for another walk in the late afternoon, this time up to the river.  Here I was able to add both scaup, Common Goldeneye, and Glaucous-winged Gull to my list.  Hopefully I'll find some grebes and loons soon too.

Common Goldeneye

So sticking close to home this weekend gave me a whole new appreciation of my neighborhood, a couple of new patches, and a couple of tired dogs.  Winning!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ridgefield NWR.

The drive up to Ridgefield yesterday morning was dreary at best.  Misty rain, more misty rain, some fog.  My expectations went from so-so to zero over the 15 or so miles.  Thankfully after I arrived at the refuge the weather dried up and the skies brightened a little bit...

Cackling Geese

 For some reason I thought to myself that it was a good day to find a Virginia Rail.  With remarkably little effort I did indeed find one one weaving through the cattails.  Posing in true rail style...

Finding a rail already exceeded my expectations for the morning, so everything else was just icing on the cake.  There was a bird singing at one point that drove me nuts.  Turned out to be a Bewick's Wren.  This happens every time I hear one singing- serious mental block.

With the weather turning milder herons were super stoked.   Some just sat around in trees laughing their asses off.

Lately the bird blind has been offering views of the most vile nonhuman creature on earth: the albino nutria.

Lots of water birds were out picking in the mud today- snipe, yellowlegs, dowitchers, teals...  Fun to watch but no good photo ops.  Back in the slough in the forest were the usual gangs of Ring-necked Ducks...

Marsh Wrens were doing their adorable Marsh Wren stuff.

Bald Eagles were the real show-stealers yesterday.  I was parked along one stretch of road when I saw an eagle flying towards me.  It proceeded to land on the dike just up the road.  I crept up a bit closer and watched as it hopped up and down on the grass.

With each hop it was acquiring more dry grass in its talons.  Eventually it had enough and took off with what I assume will be nest material...

And that made my day.  Hell yeah.  I love how a day can go from zero to awesome in just a couple hours.  Lastly I will share with you a crime scene.  I have no theories, the evidence is all a bloody mess, and I can't even identify the victim (though that one little puff of feathers had me thinking Marsh Wren)...

Whodunnit??? And what did they do exactly?  And to whom?  So many questions!  Good times!