Saturday, November 30, 2013

Weekend Part One.

The first two days of my five-day weekend are over.   I birded a lot but don't feel like I have much to show for it.  So it goes.  Thanksgiving morning I got distracted by the bird party in the yard.  Lesser and American Goldfinches were getting along.

Later on I headed down to Ankeny and Baskett Slough NWRs with my friend, where we failed to find just about all the birds we looked for.  Acorn Woodpeckers are nice though.

Ankeny NWR

At Baskett Slough we hiked up to the lookout where children were running wild.  Eventually they left and we got to enjoy some deer, a hooting Great Horned Owl, and the sunset in peace.  Minus the gunshots, of course.

Yesterday we went up to Powell Butte to look for shrikes.  Again, major fail.  At least it wasn't raining and the scenery was nice.

The best bird was probably a Red-shouldered Hawk that I took five terrible photos of and promptly deleted.  Later on at Whitaker Ponds I got to witness the fact that it's become a dumping ground for animals.  Someone had told me about a couple of chickens they saw wandering around recently, and I saw what was left of them.

We also found a couple of non-wild bunnies that were just hopping around, being bunnies.

Maybe next time I visit someone will have dumped their pet wolf.

Anyway.  This morning after running some errands I stopped by Force Lake.  There were about twenty Hooded Mergansers hanging out, along with a few Common Mergansers, Canvasbacks, Mallards, etc.

That's about it... Good times!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ridgefield NWR.

I had a lovely time up at Ridgefield yesterday morning, which you would know if you had liked my new Facebook page.  It was cold and sunny and pretty perfect.

Along the slough were birds like the above heron, basking in sunshine.

Pied-billed Grebe

Even this sapsucker took time off from sucking sap to soak in some rays...

As I was passing the entrance to the Kiwa Trail I spotted a small bird at the top of a tree up ahead.  I thought to myself, it would be really cool if that was a Merlin.  Unfortunately before I could approach I had to wait for a giant nutria to cross the road...

Once the hideous beast passed, and the dogs' excitement level dropped, I slowly approached the bird in question.  And a Merlin it was!

Merlins also enjoy a good sun-soaking session, but with just a hint of stink eye of course...

My bonding moment with this bird was cut short by an incoming marching band horn section...  Eight Trumpeter Swans were flying in and the sound was pretty incredible.  Check out my video on Flickr and turn the volume up!   

The Merlin took off amid the ruckus and I continued on down the road.

Red-tails, I think.

As I was exiting the ash forest I should have been paying more attention.  Why?  Because the female Vermilion Flycatcher I saw two years ago has returned and was seen yesterday.  But I did not know that and did not look for it.  Instead I was fawning over a distant Great Horned Owl, also enjoying the sunny day.

Perhaps the same one Michele spotted a couple weeks ago?  Other good birds around included Tundra Swans and Sandhill Cranes, a dark morph Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagles, oodles of ducks, and all the other regulars.

Good times!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The weekend.

It's been a good weekend.  Yesterday morning began with another boring sunrise...

I walked the dogs all the way to the Sea Scout Base in hopes of finding some good birds.  Success.  A small flock of scaup there held a lone White-winged Scoter!

I think that was only my second time seeing one in the county.  Pretty cool, especially for a motorless bird!  A harrier came by while I was scanning...

Lots of Common Goldeneyes along the river but no Barrow's that I could find.   No loons either- haven't had any on the Columbia yet this fall, though others have.

This afternoon I went out to Steigerwald Lake NWR to hunt for owls with a friend.  We failed to find any Short-eareds, but had some great success with Barns.  Two in fact.  Neither wanted anything to do with us.

 Little human feet

Also around were lots of meadowlarks, a couple of Bald Eagles, oodles of harriers, a kestrel, and lots of people.

Good times!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Odds and ends.

No drama, no scandals, no emotional anniversaries.   Just some birds and things I've been seeing around over the last few days or so...

On Sunday I drove my friend up to Olympia to deliver some shirts.   We stopped by Capitol Lake briefly before heading over to Wolf Haven International, a wolf sanctuary.

 Canvasbacks, etc.

The sanctuary was awesome.

Most of the wolves (all of them?) came to the sanctuary from people who tried to own them as pets.  The above gray wolf, Shadow, was bought by a college kid as a pup and raised in an apartment.  People are stupid.

A pair of Mexican gray wolves were my favorites- Gypsy and Diablo:

The sanctuary participates in a captive breeding program for this endangered subspecies, as well as with red wolves.  They've had some success, which is awesome.  All of the gray wolves are "fixed" so they can't reproduce in captivity.

I think this is London, another gray wolf

Anyway, on Monday I went in search of another Ross's Goose.  I couldn't find it, but here are a few other birds from the Vancouver Lowlands...

Sandhill Cranes

 Greater White-fronted Geese

On Wednesday I was making lunch when some bright red caught my eye outside- a gorgeous pair of Purple Finches were visiting!

Finch fest (though no siskins yet)

Yesterday morning before leaving on a dog walk I noticed this quite grey junco in the yard.  It was still kind of dark so the photos are fuzzy, but you get the idea.  Slate-colored or Cassiar?.

Either way, I think is the first non-Oregon junco my yard has seen.  And from our sub-freezing dog walk...

Common Goldeneyes

 Common Mergansers

 Brown Creeper

 Frosty heron stink eye

Sounds like it's going to be cold but sunny for the weekend so hopefully I can get out and wrangle some more good stuff for ya.  Good times!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fruit, flowers, and appliances.

That's right.  Fruit.  Flowers.  Appliances.  These are the gifts that "i used to hate birds" will be expecting tomorrow, its fourth anniversary.  Hallmark says so.  In reality, I have been debating how to celebrate this occasion, and have decided to light a fire, crack open a Jubelale, and tell you all some stories.  Gather round, kids...

Let's take a trip back to the summer of 2009.  I had recently returned from a failed attempt at moving away from Portland- failed because apparently distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder.  I missed this wet and ridiculous city.  I wanted it back as soon as it was in the rearview.  The Portland I returned to was not quite the Portland I left six months earlier.  Friends had moved away, and more were planning to leave.  I was about to be living in a city of acquaintances, fake friends, and ex-boyfriends.  

This sounds kind of terrible but it was really the best thing that could have ever happened.  I started doing stuff that I had always loved doing... Exploring, taking little adventures with Jake, taking pictures, really truly appreciating this amazing place where I lived.  

Hiking at Mt. St. Helens, August 2009

Driving east, just to see what was past Mt. Hood, September 2009

The more little adventures I took, the more I wanted to take.  The more things I saw, the more I wanted to know what they were.  I've mentioned the Osprey at Kelley Point Park before.  It was one of the first birds that just blew me away- not only was it a gorgeous bird, but how the HELL had I never noticed one before? 

                            Deschutes River, September 2009

I had always wished I had some kind obsession.  A passion.  Something I just loved.  Dudes I dated were obsessed with their bands, or taking apart motorcycles, or taking apart amps (ok that was all the same dude, but you get the idea).  I never really had that.   But as I kept up my adventures, my photos were starting to shift focus... Less photos of Jake, more photos of birds.  I think you can see where this is going. 

One day in November of 2009 I discovered Force Lake.  I only learned it existed because my normal shortcut to Kelley Point Park was closed, and the detour took me by the lake.  I loved the little stone walls and the fact that no one else was there.  I clearly remember watching a blue heron fly across the lake and taking its photo...

I remember that moment.  That was when it clicked:  holy effin crap (that's the edited version), I found something I love.  I loved the birds, I loved taking their pictures, I loved exploring new places and finding these seemingly magical and secret spots.  I was hooked on the whole thing.  

A week later I started this blog.  I wanted to remember these places.  These birds.  Look up their names and learn what they were all about.  Share them with my mom, who always loved birds.  
I had no idea what would come of this blog.  I had no idea anyone would ever read it.  That I would actually make friends because of it.   That I was becoming a giant freakin bird nerd and there was no turning back... 

Nerding out in Olympia yesterday (Capitol Lake, checkin out the Canvasbacks)

So what's up next for i used to hate birds?  FOUR MORE YEARS!   FOUR MORE YEARS!   Yeah?  Maybe.  Who knows.  I've learned a lot from this thing, why not learn some more?

Lastly, I want to say thanks to you all.  You've made this journey a pretty fantastic one.  High fives all around.  You guys rule.  Cheers!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Drama time.

As some of you might recall, the last few months I have been exploring Clackamas County to the south of Portland.  I have been heading out there about once week to check out different spots and look for different birds.  I use eBird a lot for sightings, but also Birding Oregon for general location info.  On Tuesday I checked eBird and found a report of a Ross's Goose in the county.

I found the bird through the mist and the fog:

This was only my third Ross's Goose ever.  The first was a few years ago near the coast, then one last winter just appeared before me at Whitaker Ponds.

That said, I was psyched and could not figure out why the bird made its way onto eBird but not on OBOL, so I shared it.  The bird was in a field that was labelled as a "hotspot" on eBird, that can easily be viewed from the road.  It seemed legit to share such a sighting.  That day several people posted that they had seen the bird, possibly a county bird for many.

Things seemed fine.  Till I looked at the Portland Area Birds google group this morning and found a lengthy rant by the original eBirder, Greg Haworth.  He was not pleased that the bird was shared on OBOL.  And so I present to you, my first birder drama!!

Here is the post by Greg from the google group:


Last Tuesday i was surprised to find a Ross's Goose at a patch that is about a mile from where i work.  Known as the Blount Road Swale.  This place has been known for quite a while. Tim Janzen wrote about it in 1996 in Oregon Birds (v22.1,7).  It's a great place that i stop at almost every week day.

When i found the bird i emailed a few folks about it so they could judiciously get the word out and go see the bird if they wished, like i always do when finding a local rarity.  I personally know these people and respect them as birders, both for their knowledge and ethics.  I don't post to, but do occasionally read OBOL, and rarely post here.  So it is with some surprise, though not unexpected i guess, to read someone had mined my eBird report, "poached" the bird, and posted it on OBOL.

That won't be happening again and i'll explain why in a bit.  First, my new protocol when finding a local rarity will be to:
 1) email the folks in my pipeline -- people i personally know and trust
 2) post my sighting to eBird once the bird has been verified to have left.  I like the idea behind eBird and want to contribute to the database.  I'm even the eBird reviewer for Columbia County.

Now, why would i do this?  Because apparently not all birders know about or buy into birding ethics.  It only takes one "bad apple".  This one drives a car with the license plate: 305 EKR.

When i drove up to the swale today after work there was a "birder" down at the edge of the seasonal puddle, within 50 - 100 feet of the feeding cacklers that flushed as he continued his advance.  Why is this a big deal?
 1) It's private property!  It may not be posted but only an ding-dong would not recognize this. Strike one.
 2) Really, you can't exercise any restraint and have to get so close that you stress the birds off an important feeding area?  Strike two.
 3) Obviously you're interested in seeing the bird, but you flush the flock so that any other birder happening by wont be able to observe it.  Strike three

Now if this person actually obtained permission to enter the property, point 1 would be moot.  But, points 2 and 3 are still valid in my opinion.  So just two strikes, instead of three.

Like i said, i bird this place practically every day.  I've seen 106 species here to date. I have met both of the owners of the eastern properties and talk with them regularly.  I even helped remove some of the land from being slated for development.  This place is special and deserves respect.

I have emailed both owners, gave them the license plate number, apologized profusely on behalf of, most of, the birding community, and assured them that i would discuss the incident with the community.  I also explained that 99% of the birding community would never engage in this type of behavior.  I also appolized that word got out, that it was't my intent but i was responsible, and that their quaint country road was seeing an increase in traffic stopping along the road.  The last one was personal because i know these people, know how they feel about their land, how they cherish their country quiet, and how they regard "outsiders".

Is the goose still there?  How the hell would i know.  Some ding-dong tromped into private property, got so close that he flushed the flock as i arrived, and i was so pissed off i didn't stick around for it to resettle.

Someone need to reads this put out by the ABA: PRINCIPLES OF BIRDING ETHICS

So, 305 EKR if you are reading this, (or if you know who drives that car, send him here so that he can); please, please, please, reconsider your approach when observing these wonderful creatures that we all love so much.  Barring that, explain your actions and convince me you're not a ding-dong.  I'm reasonalbe and not ashamed to change my position and offer an apology given adequate reason to do so.

greg haworth
se portland"


So as you can see, I "poached" a bird.  Is that a thing?   I understand being upset about someone entering private property, that's messed up.  That 305 EKR person can go to hell.  But he posted a bird on the internet with a location, and is now upset that other people know about it. 

I knew I would eventually see some real birder drama here, just wasn't expecting to cause it...  Good times!!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Broughton Beach, etc.

Yesterday morning I set out on foot to take care of exactly two tasks: walking the dogs and working on my motorless list.  We left the house at 6:15 to ensure we would reach the river by sunrise, which I was hoping would be a good one...

Not too shabby.  Our destination was Broughton Beach, a roundtrip hike of 12 miles.  Four miles in each direction were spent along the Columbia River.  I saw my first goldeneyes of the season flying by, a handful of distant scaup, and this merganser just east of the Sea Scout Base made me quite happy...

My first new motorless bird of the day, a Red-breasted Merganser!  This is not a bird I've ever seen this far inland, and certainly not in Portland.  Thanks to Number 7 for the verification.   On the rocks between me and the merganser was a lone American Pipit.

Things got a little stinky at one point...

After an hour and a half of walking we finally made it to Broughton Beach, where the gull flock was being a Greater Yellowlegs.

Out on the water I saw the Red-necked Grebe that I first saw three weeks ago, and has been around on every visit since.

I walked up the bike path to the south side of Marine Drive where thankfully the meadowlarks were right where I left them last time...

A harrier hunting the fields beyond the meadowlarks was yet another new motorless bird.  Four total for the morning!

We found a nice little crime scene just west of the Sea Scout Base- I am thinking it might be the remains of a coot...

Perhaps the work of the Peregrine that has been seen here recently by John Rakestraw.  On the walk back the wind picked up and a couple of Red-tails made for great entertainment...

This dude just soared above us for a long time, straight into the wind.  Another was soaring in circles over the river, showing off his airport wing tag, 4K.

The last piece of awesomeness on our walk was this praying mantis standing on the bike path...

Jake was not impressed with how long I spent laying on the bike path looking at this guy.

I moved him to the grass before leaving, after witnessing him almost get run over by cyclists several times.  We made it home, sore and tired, in time for lunch.  Just as I was finishing up I got a message from a friend about a Barred Owl he had just found at Oaks Bottom.  I had to run a work errand just a few minutes from there, so I headed on over.

My friend was still there so he was able to show me exactly where the bird was roosting...

This was only my second time seeing a Barred Owl, and my first time actually getting photos.  Pretty awesome. 

Snooze fest.

And that was my day.  Still sore from all that walking, but it was totally worth it.   Good times!!