Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Yesterday was another cool and rainy day here in the northwest.  I tortured myself for two hours early in the morning looking for a godwit that never appeared.  In the afternoon the rain slowed a bit and I took the dogs over to Mason Wetlands to wander around.  From the overlook in the Mckinstry parking area I started watching the Vaux's Swifts that were flittering around with the swallows...

I don't usually pay much attention to the swifts beyond noting that they are around.  But as I was watching through my binoculars I became convinced I saw a bigger one, and therefore spent a long time trying to refind it and photograph it. 

In hindsight it may have just been a swift that flew closer to me than the others did.  But maybe, just maybe, it was actually a Black Swift?  From what I understand, these birds are possible at this time of year though definitely not common.  Anyway, I took a billion photos of every swift I could focus on.  I went through the photos last night and found one that almost looks like it has a notched tail, telling of a Black Swift. 

But wait, is that even a swift?  There's an excellent chance it is not.  Perhaps a martin?  Argh... Bird brain pain strikes again.  Good times?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dog walkin.

This week was just not conducive to birding.  It started on Monday when Jake came trotting over to me in the yard with his head covered in blood.  Always a delight.  Thankfully the source was a tiny ear tear that I was able to bandage up.  Not thankfully, such tears take awhile to heal and I had to keep his ear wrapped tightly to the side of his head for several days. 

Jake is nothing if not tolerant of clothing.  The things I have gotten this dog to wear really boggle the mind, so a head wrap of gauze didn't faze him.  He rarely even batted at it.  Yesterday I finally let him run around without it and it seems to have healed. 

The other reason we didn't bird this week was the weather.  It was January all over again- cold and raining heavily and nonstop.  But yesterday evening the sun came out so we went for a short walk to check for rainbows...

The Osprey nest I have been watching is located on top of those lights but I didn't see any Osprey around.  I was only mildly concerned because there was a big track meet going on and really, what Osprey wants to listen to Gangnam Style blaring from the speakers while teenagers run around in circles below?

This morning I walked the dogs to various ponds along Airport Way and found lots of good stuff...

 Young robin



Western Wood-Pewee

Bunny playing peek-a-boo

Young Bewick's Wren

Bullock's Oriole

I checked my Osprey nest again and still no Osprey.  I swore I saw a head pop up at one point, but I think it was wishful thinking.  Oh well.  This morning's walk added three new motorless birds so I'm up to 110 for the year!  Good times!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cold Springs NWR.

This weekend I spent a couple days out in Umatilla County exploring Cold Springs NWR.  I was fighting an itch to get to Malheur, though at half the travel time, Cold Springs made for a pleasant compromise.  Plus the weather was supposed to be rainy in PDX and a desert adventure sounded perfect. 

Western Kingbirds were all over the area, but the best views were along the county roads just before the refuge.  

There was pretty much no one else at the refuge, except a few fishermen near the boat launch.  All the other areas were deserted.  Both days I started at the easternmost parking area where I followed the Sagebrush Trail (I'm making all these trail names up) to the Oriole Trail, over to the Big Pond Trail. 

California Quail (view from parking lot)

I kind of love sage.  When walking through lots of it I often rip off little pieces, chop it up into lines and snort it.   Ok, not really, but I do rip off pieces and sniff it and put it in my pocket so I can keep smelling it.  Everyone does this, right?

Along the Oriole Trail, Bullock's Orioles were busy building nests and looking sharp.

The Oriole Trail winds around one side of a pond, a pond filled with reeds as well as trees. 

And in one of these trees (not in the above photo, unfortunately), quite conspicuous, is a Red-tailed Hawk nest.

The Big Pond Trail was a winner as well.  It's essentially a road that winds around the pond, meandering between cattails and sagebrush, leading to the far side of the pond where all the action was located. 

Avocets!  Stilts!  Phalaropes!  Sandpipers!  The dogs and I stood there for quite awhile as the birds moved around, showing off how rad they are. 

Wilson's Phalarope, Killdeer

 Spotted Sandpiper

Back along the other side of the Big Pond was this bird I called a Western Wood-Pewee, but surely someone can tell me I am wrong...

 After exploring this end of the refuge I decided to go over to the westernmost parking area and check that area out.  We parked at the Road Closed sign and hoofed it the rest of the way to the reservoir, where the dogs were happy to take a break in the shade.

(a fish jumped out of the water just as I was taking this picture)

We walked down another dusty trail over a bridge to another trail along the west side of the reservoir.  A couple of overhead hawks kept me entertained, like this Swainson's Hawk:

 And this...Cooper's Hawk?

Black-billed Magpies are all over the place out there.  Unfortunately they hate hate hate having their photo taken.  This was the best I could do...

And a couple more shots from this part of the refuge...

I definitely enjoyed my time at this refuge but there are a few things you should know if you decide to go:

1. There is nowhere to camp anywhere nearby.  My plan to camp failed miserably.  The only option was a state park that wanted $25 for me to sleep in my own damn tent.  Hell no.

2. There are dog ticks everywhere.  Between me and the dogs we acquired 7 (and counting...)

3. Grass seeds are also everywhere, which is not a big deal if you are dog-free, but they can do horrible things to dogs.  Like work their way into their toes, get infected, and require surgical removal.

Good times!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ridgefield NWR.

It had been months since I visited Ridgefield so I was psyched to get back up there and see the spring arrivals.  Right away I picked up a couple of year birds: Blue-winged Teal and Redhead.

More good stuff:

 Lazuli Bunting

 Cedar Waxwing

Common Yellowthroat


Young Song Sparrow, so damn cute my black heart melted.

 Another photo of a blackbird.  Yawn.

Pied-billed Grebe.  Can't wait for funny little zebra babies.

Cinnamon Teals: hands down the sexiest ducks I know.  Umm... except maybe Black Scoters.  Hmm. 

That's all I got.  Other highlights were two young Bald Eagles with one of their parents on the nest, Yellow-headed Blackbirds up the wazoo (is that the saying?), and only like three other people there including one guy mowing the edges of the road.  Good times!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dog walkin.

I've been out birding quite a bit lately but I don't have a lot of photos to show for it.  Or the photos I have look like this:

Duh, it's a Yellow-breasted Chat

So this morning I decided to take the dogs for a walk and try to get some shots actually worth sharing.  I did okay.

First off, the Osprey nest near my house is always entertaining.  Today one was perched on a wire, then swooped down to the grass and grabbed something, then brought it up to the nest.  I couldn't tell what it was, but he ultimately decided he didn't need it so flew off and dropped it on the ground.  He came back a minute later with talons full of mossy grassy stuff.

I haven't seen any evidence of young ones yet but I sure have seen them, uh, working on it...  At one of the ponds I like to visit a Bald Eagle was perched on a dead tree, upsetting another Osprey and a couple of crows.

Tree Swallow bein cute and stuff

We walked up to the river where not much was going on...

The walk back home was pretty good... We came across this cute kitty that Jake desperately wanted to be friends with (friends obsessively lick each other, right?)...

The kitty looked pretty small and rather young, if anyone wants to go catch it and be its friend for real.  There are no houses around this area, only hotels and fast food, so not sure how it ended up there. 

Back along 122nd we found about half a dozen Western Tanagers flying around while Black-headed Grosbeaks serenaded them...

Good times!