Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lists lists lists.

Siskins are back!  In my yard!  They left in spring of 2013 and did not return until this morning. 

If only you could see the Lesser Goldfinch on the opposite side- finch fest!
Haha you don't care.  It's okay, I understand.  As Seagull Steve wrote recently, "Bird bloggers talking about their lists is some of the most unreadable garbage imaginable. Anything more than a sentence about it is overkill." 

That said,  I've become super stoked on my motorless list this year.  It started with the Pacific Loon last Sunday.  I thought, if I can find one new motorless bird a week for the rest of the year I can tie my motorless list from 2013.  A worthy goal considering I used my bike last year.  Then Monday happened. 

 Bike path pipit

I walked to Broughton Beach and picked up Peregrine Falcon along the bike path.  That alone made my day.  Then I got to the beach and started picking through the Western Grebes, looking for the reported Western X Clark's Grebe.  I found a bird that looked a lot like a Clark's but figured it must be the hybrid...

After much discussion with a variety of birders it was decided the bird was actually a Clark's Grebe, and not the dreaded h-word.  Another bird that invoked much discussion was a scoter.  A distant scoter.  So distant it was in another county state. 

See this crappy photo?  There are five scoters in it.  Only one seemed to be identifiable, second from the right of course.  It sure looked like a White-winged Scoter but it took much discussion, an additional photo of the bird landing in the water, and more discussion before I felt confident enough to count it (on my Clark County, WA list).  

Another crappy photo coming up, this time of a grebe flying by at a comparable distance.

It's a Red-necked Grebe.  I was pretty sure about this fact but still begged Steve to verify.  Why the desperation for identification of a poorly viewed bird?  My list of course.  One last bird managed to sneak onto my list before I left the beach, a lone Dunlin hanging with the gulls. 

With the addition of today's Pine Siskins I am only two birds shy of last year's motorless list.  That's crazy, there's still two months left. 

I imagine the only thing worse than talking about a list for this whole post is to show you more yard birds.  So here ya go!

One of my integrade flickers has returned!

 Robin bath

 I love all kinds of LEGO. 

Thanks for reading this unreadable garbage.  Good times!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Local birds and stuff.

October started off rather innocently, still way too warm and dry for my taste, but here we are now with over four and half inches of rain recorded and temperatures much more comfortable.  The birds have been very active in the yard...

Golden-crowned Sparrow

 Cedar Waxwing

American Goldfinches

Spotted Towhee

Varied Thrush- new yard bird!!  

Dummies.  Sometimes they try to climb the tree and then just fall off about ten feet from the ground.  Serious dummies. 

Yesterday was my dog Jake's ninth birthday and to celebrate I did whatever he wanted to do.  There were pumpkin pancakes, a romp on the beach at Frenchman's Bar without Ralph, dog Halloween cookies, more pumpkin pancakes, a long walk up to the river with Ralph, and a new Halloween sweater.  I sneaked some birding in as well.

Sandhill Cranes, Lower River Road

The last couple weeks I have started to really scan the river in hopes of finding non-Common Loons and finally yesterday I found a Pacific Loon!  Motorless year bird #127!  It was far out...

I lost the bird after four or five dives but then a rainbow came out.  Never gets old!


 Slightly less local and much less birdy was the adventure I went on with my friend on Saturday.  There was a major windstorm predicted and more rain predicted so we decided to finally check out Falls Creek Cave near Carson, WA.  Panther Creek Falls was an easy stop along the way...

The road got pretty bad with potholes filled with the pouring rainwater so we ended up hiking the last quarter mile to the Falls Creek Trail.  Following the directions from the book Curious Gorge we walked past the first pit to the second pit, where we climbed down to look for the tunnel that would lead to a third pit and the real cave opening.

This is a pit.

 This is the real cave opening. 

                      This is the scramble down into the cave.

The inside of the cave was amazing.  It's a lava tube, the 34th longest in the world supposedly, with miles of cave to explore.  Most of the hiking through the cave is scrambling, climbing, tripping, sliding, and scooting.  Taking more than a couple steps on flat ground was a rare treat.  Most of my photos didn't come out what with the darkness and all, but here are a few anyway.

Here's a short video from when we sat down for a little break.  Lots of dripping.

I highly recommend this adventure to anyone with a good headlamp and the energy for it!  Apparently there is good mushroom picking in the area too, if you're into that sort of thing.  Good times!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hood River.

I spent this cool fall morning birding Hood River (the city), to work on my Hood River (the county) list with some moderate success.  Let me explain Hood River to those that are unfamiliar.  It's Oregon's version of a California beach town, known for windsurfing and kiteboarding, as well as home to the Full Sail brewery and Tofurky  There is no shortage of wet suits or hippies here.  There is apparently a shortage of dog leashes. 

I hit up three main birding spots:  The Spit, Indian Creek Trail, and The Hook.   The Spit juts out into the Columbia River,  separating Hood River from Nichols Basin.  I just learned from this website that there was a proposal to build a crazy cable park in Nichols Basin but it will thankfully not be happening.  Anyway.  The first bird added to my county list here was a Great Blue Heron, posing by the reflection of gas prices.

The trees and shrubs lining the spit were filled with Yellow-rumped Warblers, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Dark-eyed Juncos.  One junco appeared slate-colored from a distance, but it was just the lighting. 

Rump of yellow

I walked out to the sandy area beyond the gravel road, and it appeared to be low tide.  I googled the tides though and am extremely confused to learn I was there at high tide.  Anyway.  On the sand I found a bunch of American Pipits, another new county bird. 

On the walk back four meadowlarks flew into the tall grass while a single Greater White-fronted Goose honked overhead.  Two more new birds!  Then I followed the sound of a calling Fox Sparrow, adding yet another bird to the county list.


After this fruitful beachy walk I decided to change things up and explore the Indian Creek Trail I had learned of on eBird.  Honestly I wasn't expecting much.  On the map it appeared to be just one of those trails that butts up against people's backyards, like that one trail... um... drawing a blank.  I want to say it's in Beaverton.  Forget it, it doesn't matter, because this trail was way better!

Here is the trail facing east.  On the left way up high I could sometimes see evidence of backyards, but since they were so high it didn't really detract from the nature vibe.  I said vibe, shoot me now.  On the right is a steep slope down to Indian Creek.  Farther along the trail the view changes from the creek to Hood River (the river, not the city). 

Our northwest fall colors may not be as flamboyant as the ones back east but they're pretty and we like them. 

The birds along the trail were decent too.  Tons of scrub and Steller's Jays, kinglets and chickadees, and some new birds for my county list too:  Bewick's Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, Anna's Hummingbird, and Eurasian Collared-Doves.  Most of the birds were heard-only, so here's some more scenery for you instead...

My last stop was The Hook.  This is another narrow stretch of land, like the spit, but instead borders the Columbia River and protects Waucoma Basin.  Again, it appeared to be low tide. 

I added my final new bird here, a lone Common Merganser on the Columbia, bringing my Hood River county total up to 98.   In the half-dry basin I found this barely awake Western Grebe who practically rolled its eyes at me when I asked it why it was not flying away from me...

Not giving an eff.

Coots made up the majority of the basin party, with shovelers and Mallards making strong showings as well.  Horned Grebes, cormorants, a few Ring-necked Ducks and a couple of kingfishers rounded things out.

It was a good solid morning of birding.  Now it's time to light my owl pumpkin in memory of my three seconds with a House Sparrow today that met its untimely end in my living room.  She flew out of the wood stove, surviving the FIRE, only to be slammed into the window by Jake.  May she rest in peace (aka the trash can).  Good times.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ridgefield NWR.

Yesterday at Ridgefield reminded me why I used to spend so much time there.  Lots of mammal action plus birds including lots of first-of-season species.

Let's start with this fellow above.  This is a muskrat.  He is cute.  For those that get muskrats and nutria confused, here is a nutria:

Note the big whiskers, the ugly face, the big eyes (relative to the muskrat's), the white on the nose and face.  Ok, back to the muskrat.  This muskrat looked like he was just lounging around but really he was busy.  Him and his buddy were upset.  There was a snake in the grass.  And by a snake, I mean a mink.

The mink had a dead frog.  He stopped to check out the paparazzi, then remembered that he had pissed off some muskrats.

Unfortunately the frog got dropped in the chase.  The mink was determined to retrieve it, but that meant going back into muskrat territory.  He stared at me while he thought about this.

Once the muskrats returned to the water the mink made a mad dash for it.

Success!  The mink tore up the hill and ran across the dike at full speed, the muskrats none the wiser.

This was only my second time seeing a mink, the first back in May of 2010, in the same general area at Ridgefield.  Pretty freakin awesome.

This was all in my first thirty minutes at the refuge.  The rest of the day was a bit tamer.  Here are the birds...

Pooping creeper!  Can you find the white nugget?  

 Splittin Savannah Sparrow

 Coy kestrel

 Happy heron

 Murky merganser

 Excellent egret

I was very excited to see a distant coyote here- my first since fish and wildlife slaughtered them all for the introduction of the white-tailed deer.  I saw one of the deer also, with the huge stupid yellow tag.

A little Pacific tree frog was hanging out in the bird blind:

First-of-season bird sightings included:  Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Ducks, White-throated and Fox Sparrows. 

Good times!