Sunday, November 30, 2014

Coos Bay!

On Thanksgiving morning my friend and I headed down to Coos Bay for a few days of exploring and getting completely soaking wet.  Since the Lesser Black-backed Gulls seen recently near Creswell were directly on the way I decided to stop and check them out.  You like bad photos right?

Both the adult and the 3rd year are present in this photo.  Thankfully scope views were far better than what you see here.  We continued on towards Coos Bay but there was no shortage of distractions along Highway 38...

Near the town of Drain is this random roadside attraction that has mostly burned down.  After doing some research, it seems it was attached to the Road Kill Grill that burned down in October, shutting down the highway for awhile.  There was an attached house that also burned.  Sad.

View of Elk Creek from bridge near Elkton

Eventually we made it to the coast and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  We hiked in on the short but tiring John Dellenback Dunes Trail and enjoyed amazing views in the rain.

We stopped in an area where no one was around and there were already tons of footprints and let the dogs run for a bit.  We cut this adventure short in order to make it to a motel in Coos Bay before dark.  Thanksgiving dinner was tasty:  some stuffing and a hazelnut cranberry Field Roast with veggies and no utensils.  Because we forgot utensils.  It all washed down well with some Alaskan Winter Ale.

Friday morning we got up and headed out to explore Cape Arago.  The first stop was Sunset Bay State Park where the rain was dumping and the wind was blowing.

There were tons of gulls resting on the beach with a few Black Oystercatchers mixed in.

Mew, Western, California, and Herring Gulls were in the mix, along with a lone Bonaparte's.

 Everyone loves a Mew

I also had this gull that I'd like to call a Thayer's but am feeling uncertain...

 Classic Oregon Coast

The next stop was the Simpson Reef overlook where hundreds of sea lions and seals rest on the islands just offshore.  It was still rainy and windy here so photos weren't great.

 We drove out to the tip of Cape Arago where the wind was gusting so hard we could barely walk; my knit hat went flying right off my head.  It was ridiculous and hilarious.  We made our way back down the main road to try to find a trail that might lead to World War II bunkers my friend had noticed on a very crude map of the cape.  As Wrentits sang in the pouring rain, we noticed an off-the-beaten-path sketchy trail off a gated road and finally we found the bunkers!

They were cool but with the worst graffiti ever.  I was more impressed with a perfect mushroom and some snuggling trees. 

We were completely soaked after this hike and drove over to Shore Acres State Park to eat lunch and dry off.  The rain let up after lunch and we checked out the pretty but unexciting botanical gardens. 

At least there were Fox Sparrows!

The rest of Shore Acres was amazing, but I will save that for the next installment of my Coos Bay adventure weekend, which I promise will have MANY more birds for you.  Good times!!

Thursday, November 27, 2014


It has taken almost a year for me to erase the piles of pain and fountains of frustration that I felt on that dark and gloomy day in late December of 2013.  Time heals most wounds, though, and recently I felt an urge.  An urge for revenge.  A rematch of the Taken for Granted Challenge

                      The sun never rose on December 22, 2013

Yes, my buddy Nate of This Machine Watches Birds and I will be battling again on December 6th, to see and photograph five predetermined birds in our respective counties.  Last year we chose the birds.  This year we are letting Seagull Steve choose.  The power has gone to his head and now Nate and I are getting scared.  ANYTHING can happen.  Stay tuned.

 This is the last bird I saw during last year's challenge.  She is my friend, but useless to the TGC.

My worst failure last year was not losing dreadfully by finding only one bird on my list, Bushtit, but rather getting frustrated too early on.  This year I need to head out with unwavering optimism fueled by pop songs, staying strong even when the sun never rises.

It helps that I am coming off the high of finding a rare-ish bird in the county, an American Tree Sparrow, on a long walk to Broughton Beach.  The sparrow admittedly took me a few minutes to understand and I ran through a number of ID's including Chipping Sparrow, longspur, weird White-crowned, and finally American Tree Sparrow.  I texted Seagull and he confirmed.

I was psyched.  State bird!  County bird!  Motorless bird!  I posted it to the listserv and ran down the path to grab a distant man with binoculars.  Funny enough, the man turned out to be Ken, a guy I had met only once two years before, in that exact spot, where I had found a Black Scoter in the same flock as the Tufted Duck.  The day I slayed that old county nemesis.

I stayed on the bird while birder after birder showed up, one in flip flops and shorts on his way home from the airport, another thrilled to see a life bird so close up, some who had been heading there for the Short-eared Owls anyway and had no idea.  Turns out sharing a good bird can be better than finding a good bird. 

Between Katy Perry and my recent spike in birding confidence, I feel good about this challenge.  Time for the trash talk!  I mean Thanksgiving!  I mean trash talk!  Good times.

P.S.  Oregon rules, Texas drools!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Recent birds and things.

Thanks everyone for the kind words on my anniversary post, and for taking my silly survey!  I'm sure you are all curious about the results... Survey says!

Well, it turns out that out of 21 respondents, 18 like my blog!  Yay!  As for favorite headers- wow, there was a wide variety of responses:

The Cinnamon Teals won by a narrow margin, beating the Snow Bunting by one vote (3-2).  Thanks for playing everyone!  Except the person who doesn't like my blog and thinks all the headers are stupid.  That person can... I don't know.  I'm not good at threats.   The survey is now closed but I hope to come up with another silly one soon, because that was fun.

In other birding news, a new Taken For Granted Challenge occurred yesterday!  Well-known Arizona baller Laurence of Butler's Birds took on the lesser known Hoosier Greg of Greg and Birds fame.  It sounds like both competitors fought hard and well, but in the end... Well, you can check out their stories for yourself.  Let it be known that there are talks of a rematch between me and my former rival, so stay tuned. 

Let's get to some actual birds now!  I have two weeks of birds to catch up on here, and I haven't even shown you the most popular bird in Oregon right now!  While I was in Massachusetts a Tundra Bean-Goose was found at Nestucca Bay NWR along the coast so the morning after I got home I drove straight out there to see it.

The sun was not on my side that morning, but the goose was thankfully close-ish to the entrance road.  When I left I stopped along Highway 101 to get a more distant but sunny view of the bird.

It was cool to see such a rarity, but one of the coolest things about that morning was that like 10 of the 12 birders around were women.  That seemed like the real rare event. 

Last weekend my friend and I went to check out the icy situation in the waterfall alley of the Columbia River Gorge.  There was snow and ice and all kinds of loveliness.

A Varied Thrush with a snowy backdrop is kind of perfect, even when it's not quite perfect.

Long dog walks in Vancouver have been part of our regular schedule lately.  Jake takes these walks super seriously.

On this sunny day we had gone to see the Snowy Egret at Post Office Lake.  That bird was a blurry mess in photos, but this American Kestrel was pretty nifty:

Thursday was my four year anniversary with my dog, Ralph.  I can't begin to explain how much I love that weirdo or how much he has challenged me over the last four years, but we are finally the best of friends.  To celebrate we took a long walk in Vancouver and out to the outer reaches of beach at Frenchman's Bar Park. 

The walk from the sharp-turn-parking-lot (that really needs a name) to the park was fun in itself.  I was especially psyched to see a Northern Shrike perched on the fence along the path...

The Cackling Geese that hang out in the fields along the road are really the main attraction.  Sometimes they're chill and just slowly walk away as we walk by on the bike path.  Other times, like ten birds will spook, then hundreds, then thousands, and the sound just overwhelms and amazes.  I don't like being the cause of it, but I do feel an excited flutter at the sound of them all taking off.

Now let's get back to the recent sunny days.  From a dog walk up to the river: 

From the walk that produced that funky Common Goldeneye:

 Green-winged Teal

I heart real camo.

 Yesterday my friend and I found this little stepped-on salamander guy on a hike in Forest Park:

 I don't know much about salamanders, and aside from newts, this is the first one I have seen since I was kid digging them up in the woods behind my house to make them my friends.   This cool 2012 Forest Park Wildlife Report says there are four kinds of salamanders in the park:  coastal giant salamander, Ensatina salamander, Dunn's salamander, and western red-backed salamander.  I am leaning towards Dunn's on this fella, but if any herp nerds want to weigh in, please do!

It was a great muddy hike with the most random birds of the day being nine Tundra Swans flying over at dusk.  I forget how close Forest Park is to Sauvie Island.  

Good times!!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

50 in blog years.

 Borrowed from another bird blog.  Apparently there's a demand for this type of image. Wtf.

Yesterday "i used to hate birds." turned a whopping five years old.  That's like fifty in blog years.  Maybe more.  I consider quitting the blog game every once in awhile, but then I remember my Ukrainian fans and just cannot let them down.  Yay spam!

I'm not going to spew sentimental emo yammerings like last year, don't worry.  This year, let's take a journey.  A journey in BLOG HEADERS.  Oh yes, I have saved most of them.   Be sure to take the quiz at the end! 






I created my first ever survey, take it here:

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Good times!!