Thursday, August 29, 2013

I must see birds.

There's a new book in town this week.  Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest by Sarah Swanson and Max Smith.  Full disclosure: I have five photos featured in this book.  Nothing I say about this book is to be trusted.  Ignore all of this, and read on...


As you can read on the cover, the book showcases 85 species that can be found in the northwest.  Mind you, these are not necessarily birds that can be found only here but also common birds that can be found across the country.  In some ways it's a book for beginner birders and I imagine for a Portlander, it would make an excellent companion to the pocket-sized Birds of the Willamette Valley, a book I used every day when I started birding. 

The birds are organized in a way I bet you have never seen before.  Not by color, not by taxonomy, not by alphabet.  Nope.  The birds are broken down into sections such as Big Birds, Tree Trunk Birds, and my favorite, Killer Birds.  The Great Blue Heron pages are not near the Green Heron pages.  It's a unique set-up for sure.

The last section is the one that I am most excited about- Weekend Birding Trips.  More than half of the 8 well thought out trips are to places I've never birded.  I can't wait to start planning trips to Central Washington, the Salish Sea, Puget Sound and the Klamath Basin!

So while I am obviously quite biased in my thoughts on this book, I will say Sarah and Max did a great job making this a really fun book to look through.  They also did a great job selecting photographers- I am in amazing company with Scott Carpenter and Greg Gilson and others.  You should go buy a copy.  It's not expensive.  You know you want to.  Available locally at the Audubon Society of Portland and Powell's!   DO IT.  

Now for some photos... I walked the dogs along the Columbia Slough Trail on Monday afternoon hoping for shorebirds.  Not many to speak of, but I did see something new.  A Red-tailed Hawk was perched on light pole at the raceway while two Osprey flew around together nearby.  The hawk started calling.  One of the Osprey came over and started harassing the hawk.  The hawk took off and the Osprey chased it, dive-bombing it till the hawk made it into some trees.


I missed some of the action because my left hand was occupied with binoculars, two leashes, and a bag of dog poop, but you get the idea.  I can't remember ever seeing an Osprey acting as the aggressor in a situation like this.  It was interesting.

Good times!!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekend birds.

This weekend I packed in some yard birding, a trip up to Ridgefield NWR, and an owl hunt failure at Oaks Bottom.  Good times had by all.  Well, except Jake, who had his cyst removed on Friday morning along with a dead tooth.  He's been spending the weekend relaxing...

Oblivious to the Eurasian Collared-Dove on the birdbath

Here are the weekend highlights...

Western Tanager, Ridgefield NWR

 Bald Eagle, Ridgefield NWR

 American Kestrel, Ridgefield NWR

This Cooper's Hawk at Oaks Bottom this morning was chasing squirrels in the most awkward and clumsy manner.  I watched him for about ten minutes trying to figure out his gameplan, but not sure he had one.


Ralph could relate- he also spent some time chasing squirrels and failing this weekend. 

Oaks Bottom buddy

Anna's Hummingbirds have been extremely active in the yard lately.  They love a lot of flowers but surprisingly, the tiny twinberry flowers seem to be their favorite.  I put out a hummingbird feeder right next to it on Saturday and almost immediately I had a customer.


Last night I was watering the yard (not realizing it would rain a bunch today) and found a dead crow right next to my front stoop.  It seemed to have some major problems...


Awesome.  Good times.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The best little mudflat in town.

Saturday morning I kicked my butt out of bed to go on another motorless morning adventure.  I was dragging but once I got outside on my bike and saw the skies, well, it all became worthwhile...



I rode by Broughton Beach but didn't see anything too exciting.  At Vanport Wetlands, without a scope, I couldn't ID any shorebirds at all- except a Greater Yellowlegs and that was by call.  Force Lake had frogs and Green Herons, Smith Lake had a goose with a busted wing.  So pretty much all my main stops were failures.


From Smith Lake I took the bike path down to the Columbia Slough path, hoping the slough had dried up enough to make some mud.  Indeed it had.  I stopped at a bridge to look at the mud below and it was offering up a nice little mix of shorebirds.  Ok, so maybe it's not the best mudflat in town, but this one offered the unique opportunity to stand over the birds and at a reasonable distance...

Oh and the birds in the shade looked like they were walking on the moon.  If the moon were watery.

Western Sandpiper, yes?

I spent a lot of time trying to pick out a Semipalmated Sandpiper but no success.  There were a few Spotted Sandpipers mucking about...


A Greater Yellowlegs joined the party for a bit...


Least & Western Sandpipers

And here's the cellphone shot of the view from the bridge I was standing on...


So yeah, a neat little spot to keep an eye on right now...  Hopefully I'll make it back soon.  Good times!

Friday, August 16, 2013

I heart terns.

To celebrate having a Friday off, as well as Jake's mystery lump turning out to be a benign cyst, I headed west with the dogs to hunt down the Elegant Terns that have been peppering the Oregon coast this week.  Before heading to the Hammond Boat Basin, where the terns have been the last couple of days, I stopped by Seaside Cove to get my rockpiper fix.

A Black Turnstone turns away from the awkward sword-crossing of a Surfbird and an oystercatcher



 Black Oystercatchers are never this accommodating

 Busted Heermann's Gulls everywhere today...

That's a good place for a tongue.

Our next stop was Hammond, where another Heermann's Gulls was looking funky...


I don't even know what is going on there.  Here's a nice regular sexy Heermann's to help you erase the previous monstrosities from your mind:


Ok, that's enough of that.  On to the terns!  Right here:


You see them right???  These rocks were just smothered with birds, but thankfully mostly grey birds making white terns and gulls stand out rather easily.  I managed to find an Elegant Tern standing in front of a Caspian another Elegant, later joined by a second third Elegant.


Life bird!  With the Elegant Tern under my belt I took the dogs over to Fort Stevens State Park for some running around and whatnot. 

Everyone loves a pelican

Jake and Ralph have very different ideas about hole-digging.  Ralph has two well-crafted holes in the backyard, perfectly round and smooth, ideal for curling up in.  Jake digs holes and puts his two front legs in them and then lays down in an awkward position.


After the jetty we headed up to parking lot D for a quick walk around the beach.  We came across five dowitchers.  Now who wants to share with me their top secret way to separate silent Long-billed from Short-billed?!


A couple of feisty Caspian Terns came tearing through and put on a lovely show for us...




I sure do heart terns.

I stopped at a couple of roadsides on the way home- Camp 18 and the Sunset Highway rest area, and was able to add a couple more birds to my Clatsop county list.  I had no idea (til I saw the eBird report) that there are American Dippers lurking in the creek behind the rest stop!  I'll spare you the terrible photos, but wanted to share the info.  Good times!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summertime motorless birding.

I have been majorly slacking this summer on the motorless birding.  I realized I only added a couple birds to my year list in June and ZERO in July.   Oops.  So yesterday I headed out on my bike to Troutdale to hopefully add some new birds.  I stopped along the Columbia River to look at a heron majestically posing in front of the sunrise and noticed a little Common Merganser family...


The next distraction I encountered was a recently roadkilled skunk on Marine Drive.  I could seriously poke dead stuff ALL day long.  It fascinates me to no end.  Plus this guy was adorable:


I also stopped to watch a couple of Osprey attempt to perch on the same piling with a large fish.  Eventually one Osprey won the spot and the other flew around calling (the "winner" was under attack by Purple Martins though, and decided to take off with the fish).  Here's the "loser":


And a bad shot of the winner, just to show the size of the fish...


Eventually I made it to Troutdale, stopping along Sundial Road to check out a family of Lazuli Buntings, the first new motorless birds of the day.


One thing I learned yesterday was that sometimes families of Lazuli Buntings sound an awful lot like Bushtits.  Weird.

I pedaled on to the bike path that leads to the Troutdale Sewage Treatment Plant.  Woohoo!  While scanning the pond I heard a Wrentit singing from the blackberries behind me- another new motorless bird!  The swallows were putting on a show, perching on the fence and even creeping on the bike path.


This area has become a good spot for Bank Swallows, with much talk about them likely nesting near here.  I managed to find a couple, like this one perched on the fence...


My third and final new motorless bird for the day!   On the ride home I stopped to look at a couple of Turkey Vultures relaxing on a telephone pole.  I rarely see them perched around here so this was cool.


That's about it from my morning ride... I still have a number of gaps in my list that I SHOULD have by now- harrier, Redhead, meadowlark, Caspian Tern... Hopefully I'll get out again soon!  Good times!!