Saturday, September 28, 2013

Camera-free birding.

I've been birding without my camera all week, leaving it to weep quietly on the coffee table while I rely on nothing but my phone for my photographic needs.  It's not bad really, but if there were any crazy birds around it would be a bummer.  

One morning I headed south to Browns Ferry Park to add some birds to my Clackamas County list.  I had never been there and I was pleasantly surprised- it's a charming park with a decent mix of habitats.  And this random barn...

I picked up ten birds for my county list there, not bad!  Another morning I went out to Eagle Creek to look at some dippers, not even realizing it's salmon spawning time.  The river was full of 'em, some making impressive leaps upstream over rocks, some just keeping things mellow.

In the next photo you can kind of see one jumping...

This whole area is so damn gorgeous...

The yard has been hopping with birds as well, finally had my first junco of the season yesterday.  Also had a Downy working on my sunflowers...

In other news, it's crazy stormy here and I woke to the sound of a large branch breaking off my ash tree and landing on my greenhouse.  And my neighbor's house.  UGH. 

Luckily I was able to saw off all the parts touching my neighbor's house and it didn't appear to do any damage over there.  The greenhouse will need some work if I ever get the main branch off of it.  Fun times.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Birds around town.

Yesterday morning I took the mutts on a nice long walk along the Columbia Slough.  I went over there with zero expectations bird-wise and was pleasantly surprised. 

A Great Egret flew in as we began our walk...

Double-crested Cormorants were fishing up and down the slough.

A flock of Cackling Geese flew overhead followed by a small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese.  Mmm... migration.

Greater White-fronted Geese

One of the best finds of the day was a flock of sparrows and finches foraging around a pile of brush and wood.  My second Golden-crowned Sparrow of the season was among the sparrows, in addition to a Chipping Sparrow and a Lincoln's Sparrow, neither of which are easy for me to find in the county.

Chipping Sparrow

At the pedestrian bridge was another awesome find- a Peregrine Falcon perched on a bare tree that was amazingly unconcerned with me and the dogs.

Back at home yesterday afternoon I watched the crazy goldfinch party that has been going on the last week or so.  I noticed there was an American and a Lesser sitting side by side on the feeder and it finally made sense why the Lesser has its name.  It's smaller.  Duh.  Learning.

As I shut the window I had opened to take the above shot I knocked my camera about five feet from the windowsill to the floor.  It looked okay and turned on fine so I forgot about it quickly.  Until this morning.

This morning I set out to conquer a nemesis.  I have tried to find the Snowy Egret at Smith & Bybee Lakes maybe five or six times.  Today I rode my bike through light rain and gloom to the lakes hoping my luck would change.  From the Smith Lake blind I was able to locate the American Avocets that appeared last weekend, a damn good motorless bird.  Still no Snowy, though dozens (if not hundreds) of Great Egrets were hard to sort through. 

See how blurry that shot is?  Yeah.... about that camera fall.  Turns out the manual focus vs. auto focus switch popped off during that incident.  It's stuck on manual focus now.  Fun fun.  After throwing in the towel at Smith Lake I walked up to the Bybee Lake blind.  And there it was, the freakin closest bird to the blind.  I should have slayed it...

It was soooo close.  And I could not focus if my live depended on it.  ARGH.  It's okay though.  It was another awesome motorless bird.  And a county bird.  And OH RIGHT, a freakin state bird.

Then I had to ride my bike home in the 20 mph winds with even worse gusts.  Worth it.  Good times!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New yard bird.

I know, serious yawn.  But I don't care.  On Tuesday I looked out at the bird bath and saw a robin sharing the water with a Fox Sparrow!  Fox Sparrow was a bird I always expected to show up in my yard last winter but never did.  I was never able to track one down on my winter motorless birding trips either so it's actually both a new yard bird and a new motorless bird.  Score.

I don't know why it took me so long to buy a damn bird bath. 

American Goldfinches have been taking over.  I put out a second bird feeder (a $5 job from a thrift store) and it's usually packed with them.  

Cedar Waxwings have been daily visitors since my ash tree became filled with snacks. 

Another thing I've noticed in the yard is the Lesser Goldfinches chewing on sunflower leaves.  Huh?

Oh yeah and all these photos were taken through dirty dirty windows, sometimes at angles that make focusing impossible.  All this yard action was made possible because I have an extra dog right now, sometimes an extra extra dog, and birding elsewhere is a bit difficult.

Good times.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pacifica, CA

Ok, I know I already posted something called "The rest of California" but that was a lie.  Here is the rest of my California trip- mostly just walks around the beach or a county park with my friend and her son who live in Pacifica. 

One day we ate lunch by the pier and watched Elegant Terns fishing...

Here I saw my first jaeger tearing through the terns and then disappearing...  No photos worth sharing.

We spent a couple hours at San Pedro Valley County Park, with a quick stop in the visitors center to look at the stuffed birds...

                     Olive-sided Flycatcher

Random selection of birds.  On my last afternoon in town we went for a walk from my friend's house down to the beach.  There's a little boardwalk area with a sign about the threatened California red-legged frog, many of which could be found directly below the sign. 

On the walk to the beach we kept hearing ravens and I was trying to think if I had ever seen a crow there.  That's when I saw a crow.  Chasing a raven.  Offering some of the best comparison views I've ever seen...

When we got to the beach I could see some kind of shorebirds in the distance and went to investigate.  They turned out to be those crazy California Surfbirds pretending to be sandpipers I had read about here.

 Elegant Terns were flying back and forth over the water...

A small group of gulls on the beach consisted of Westerns, Heermann's, and, of course, Californias...

On the walk back California Towhees were keeping post on some shrubs...

And now I am done posting about California.  The end.  Good times!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mount Rainier NP.

Somehow I convinced my friend to wake up at a ridiculous hour yesterday morning to head up to the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park and hike the trail to the Mount Fremont fire lookout.  I had promised my friend marmots galore, maybe bears, maybe mountain goats, deer, all that.  Apparently the marmots only hang out at Paradise, and we saw no bears nor deer.  Mountain goats saved the day.  As did the freakin amazing scenery...

It really doesn't even look real.  The trail to the lookout was rocky and amazingly beautiful.  Looking behind us on the trail...

And looking ahead... You can see the lookout- it's a tiny square dot in the top left...

On the way up we didn't see many birds.  A couple of accipiters made for brief entertainment as they chased each other around and disappeared.  I believe they were both Cooper's but I am no expert.

Townsend's Warblers were hopping around in the trees...

Cicadas were buzzing all along the trail...

The fire lookout itself was pretty cool. 

We stopped for lunch nearby along with several other hikers.  One person pointed out mountain goats on the next ridge...

They were snoozing and FAR.  We hoped to get better looks on the way back down.  Before starting our descent we admired the peak of Mount Fremont which is just to the east of the fire lookout.  Then my friend noticed a couple of guys were hiking up it and we started looking to see if there was a trail.  That's when we found this guy:

It's a Horned Lark but it took me a bit to accept that fact.  It's plumage is like none I had ever seen before on a Horned Lark.  In the next photo I think I can barely make out some faint yellow on the chin where I am used to seeing bright yellow.

Is this bird just young?  Or is it the Arctic subspecies?  Thoughts?  Cool bird regardless.  Soon after the bird left with another flying overhead, then a couple of pipits flew in.

We decided there was in fact no trail to the actual summit and continued on the trail down.  The mountain goats had disappeared but we were psyched to find they had just rambled down the other side of the ridge to a large meadow. 

There were about thirty goats in total- so awesome.  But then we saw something else in the meadow... It was the two guys we had seen blazing their own trail up to the Mt. Fremont summit.  And now they were blazing their own trail through a meadow surrounded by signs indicating it was fragile and was not to be walked upon.  Time for public shaming...

Douchebag #1:

Douchebag #2:

It was bad enough that they were trampling everything, but we realized they were following a mountain goat.  They had no trouble scaring it across the whole damn meadow until it had to turn and cross the trail we were on.  Obviously we benefited from the douchebags' actions, but I felt bad for the goat.

As we made our way back to the intersection of our trail with the main trail back to Sunrise we saw a park ranger standing with her hands on her hips.  She greeted us but kept her eyes on something behind us.  I asked her if she was going to yell at the two dudes.  She didn't even make eye contact with me, just said, "yes that's what I'm about to do." 

Other wildlife on the trip included ground squirrels and chipmunks.

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

 Chipmunk... Townsend's?

Birds seen that did not make the blog: Clark's Nutcrackers, Vaux's Swifts, ravens, Steller's Jays, White-crowned Sparrows, Red-tailed Hawks.  People seen that did not make the blog: a nun.

Such a beautiful place, I forget just how amazing it is...  I hope to go back next month sometime to try for ptarmigan for the billionth fourth time.  One last taste of wildlife:

While adding Horned Lark to my eBird list this bee landed on my phone and starting making a sound like it was deflating.  I relocated it to the ground where I'm pretty sure it died.  Good times.