Showing posts from December, 2014

My motorless year.

January 4th, 2014.  Creeping behind the pump station next to Mason Wetlands, trying to document the five Trumpeter Swans that had flown in ten minutes earlier.

I was not supposed to be at Mason Wetlands.  I was supposed to be arriving at my parents' house on Cape Cod around this time, but a blizzard in Boston caused my flight to get cancelled.  In an effort to make the best of things, I took the dogs on a walk to the wetlands to work on my fresh 2014 motorless list. 

Then the swans showed up.  These amazing birds had just fallen from the sky on a freakin dog walk.  A county bird for me!  I wondered, what else could I find on a walk?  By the end of January my experiment in motorless birding was made official:  for 2014 I would see how many species I could find only by walking.

The Marine Drive bike path and I became very close this year. 

Location is important of course.  I live in Parkrose, near the high school, and set my walking boundaries to about six miles from home.  Lucki…

Manual practice.

Manual camera settings continue to freak me out so I set out yesterday to practice on any obliging avian subjects I could find on my morning dog walk.  Thankfully I had some cooperative subjects, and some okay results. 

Along the river, a pipit was all about posing for me.

I picked up a new "patch bird" at Mays Lake, a Hermit Thrush!  This was not a bird I had an easy time finding for my motorless list, so I was happy to find one poking around the area. 

Nearby, Ruby-crowned Kinglets made for aggravating targets in poor winter light.

Back at home I flung out some fresh sunflower seed, put out a quickly and poorly made veg suet brick, and checked the hummer feeder.  Then I set up camp on my bed with a hot soy chai, my camera, and my mutts, and waited for some subjects to show up.  It did not take long.

Lesser Goldfinches are easily in my top ten favorite birds.  Maybe even top five.  Hmm.

A Downy Woodpecker discovered the suet quickly and was not impressed. 

Two Anna's …

It's raining.

Breaking weather alerts and flood watches be damned, I was going to get some birding in on my day off.  Once it got light-ish out (like 8:30) I headed west to the Vanport area to try to hunt down the reported Glaucous Gull.  I cruised by Vanport, Force Lake, and Heron Lakes Golf Course without noticing a single gull.  NOT ONE.  This is a feat all on its own. 

Force Lake

What the hell?  Where were they?  I eventually found dozens at Delta Park which, after a very wet dog walk, turned into hundreds.  I scanned and scanned and scanned and there was just no Glaucous among them.  One bird (through the window and the rain) looked possible for a 2nd winter Thayer's:

 But that was about as exciting as it got there.  One Ring-billed.  Tons of Mews.  All sorts of mutts.  I drove back over to the golf course where an egret was waiting for me.Perhaps my former lunchtime companion during the TGC. 

There were actually a couple of gulls visible now so I started driving up and down the road, scann…

North Coast.

Yesterday's day off from work provided the perfect opportunity to head to the coast, tire out the mutts, and try to track down a few birds.  Our morning began in Astoria with pleasant weather which continued throughout the whole day.

Astoria-Megler Bridge

I searched for the Snow Bunting in its reported location to no avail.  A Bald Eagle was perched nearby who hopefully did not enjoy a bunting breakfast.

The river held the expected birds: dozens of coots, a few goldeneyes, dozens of Bufflehead, cormorants, gulls, Western Grebes, and a lone Red-necked Grebe.

Western Gull looking important

I walked the dogs along the riverwalk away from the bunting site for about half a mile when Jake caught a whiff of his biggest (and only) fear:  sea lions.  We never saw any but he could smell them and eventually hear them.  It's always amazing to see this completely and ridiculously fearless mutt start pacing with his tail down and ears back.  Anyway.  On the walk towards the car some Mew Gulls …