Monday, February 24, 2014

Skamania!


Skamania.  I am referring to the county in Washington, not my teenage wannabe rude girl days...

But anyway.  On Saturday I decided to head out to Skamania county to do some exploring.  I had driven through the county, climbed Beacon Rock, and hiked Wind Mountain, but I had never birded there. 

I picked up 37 species throughout the day and managed photos of far fewer.  The morning's first stop was at Mt Pleasant Cemetery not far over the county line...






It was sufficiently spooky, with Varied Thrushes and Steller's Jays providing living entertainment.  My next stop was the completely deserted Beacon Rock State Park. 


Beacon Rock looms over the park to the west...


Down by the water were hundreds of scaup, a handful of fishermen, and a soaring Bald Eagle...


After the park I headed west with a quick stop by the Bonneville Dam.  Ravens and a Red-tailed Hawk were the only birds of interest...


Along the Stevenson waterfront I picked up more birds like Western and Horned grebes, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and House Sparrow. 

I was all ready to proclaim this post a sex and death-free post, but holy crap, I just noticed something in my photos from a little waterfall spot on Dog River...


See that?  Let me crop it for you...


Wow.  How the hell did I not notice that in person?! 


Moving on, I headed to the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery.  I wasn't expecting there to be a nice park attached to the hatchery with a walking path and river access.  Someone recently reported a Williamson's Sapsucker here but I never saw it.  I did see a mildly cooperative Varied Thrush...


Some kind of falcon took a quick swing through the hatchery when I first arrived, but too fast for a definitive ID.  After the hatchery I began to head back west towards Portland with a stop at Drano Lake...

Tired mutts

The lake held many Barrow's Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers, both new for the day.  It was also a good vantage point to see this nifty train tunnel (to the right of the highway tunnel):


My final stop was at the mouth of the Wind River- finally saw some wigeon and Hooded Mergansers, plus the train bridge was quite scenic.  At first I was psyched to see a train coming for the photo op...


But then I realized it was carrying car after car of what is most likely crude oil...


Fun.  So that was my day in Skamania county, a place I definitely hope to return to in the spring.  Good times!!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ratão-do-banhado!

Well that sure sounds fancier than river rat, don't it?  I apologize in advance- this a dumb post about nutria.  On a recent trip up to Ridgefield in the pouring rain I was treated to something even more horrific than the albino nutria (you didn't think that was possible, did you???):

Ridgefield NWR, March 2011
 
NUTRIA SEX!


BLEEEEHHHHHHHHH!!!!   NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!  

I watched it happen.  Twice actually.  I didn't obtain a good video, so I recreated it for you with this crappy video.

Also on this visit I watched a muskrat and a nutria swim by each other and I managed a comparison shot.  Not the best, but I know a lot of people don't know the difference... 


Muskrat below, Nutria above.   Distinguishing features:  muskrats are cute, nutria are foul.  Nutria often show their orange teeth and their big creepy whiskers.  Muskrats often look furrier or softer, even though nutria were introduced for their fur.  Vomit.  

At least some animals do their part in attempting to keep the nutria population in check.  Remember this post from two years ago?  Too bad I haven't seen a coyote at Ridgefield in forever.   Thanks USFW, for killing a bunch (at least 13) for the sake of the imported deer that have mostly died regardless.  Haven't heard?  Check out this article for more details.  

ANYway... Nutria are gross.  You're welcome.  Good times.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Clackamas County.

Clackamette Park

I went down to Clackamas county yesterday to try to do some birding between rain and hail showers.  Clackamette Park was flooding on both the Clackamas and the Willamette sides, pushing the gull flocks into the parking lot.  I decided to try to find a Thayer's among them, and actually had a couple good candidates.


The above gull seemed to follow the guidelines as laid out by Seagull Steve recently.  Be sure to check out his awesomely helpful Thayer's Gull post.  So this gull up there- rounded head, yellow/green bill, pale iris but not crazy Herring Gull pale, "black eye" look (suggested by someone else on my last gull post), and the underside of the right wing looks pale- though I get a little confused when I try to use that as a field mark.

Another candidate:


The above bird looks very similar to the previous bird.  Now a third bird, which also has a pale iris, but I find a bit more confusing.   Viewing the underside to the wings at this angle is what gets me confused, I can't tell what I'm looking at exactly. 


So as you can see, after staring at gulls for awhile I start trying to turn everything into a Thayer's.  It's a problem.  Perhaps I have learned nothing at all.

Clearly mocking me

I am also interested in this other gull that was wandering around the parking lot... It has a semi-pale iris, but to me has that Glaucous-winged look to its head...


Here's a super cropped head shot:


It's entirely possible I am overthinking this bird.

Ok, enough gulls.  Clackamette Park has a large and bold pigeon population.  While I was looking at the gulls they flew up and landed all around us, walking right up to me and the dogs. 



Pigeons!   What am I doing?  Why am I showing you pigeons???  Sorry.  Got carried away.  Here's a shot of the Clackamas River flooding at the park:


After Clackamette Park I went over to Meldrum Bar Park where I was treated to a new experience:  a weird duck three-way. 


You can see the domestic-y Mallard is doing the dirty work, while another domestic-y Mallard watches.  What you can't see is that a white domestic thing is also joining in...


I'm a little hazy on the white duck's exact role in this sexscapade, but no one seemed bothered by it. 


This park is a little odd- there's a muddy bmx course, a boat launch, some huge fields and community gardens, and a feral cat population that people leave food out for...


Oh!  There's also free bark dust and dirt!  I filled five garbage bags with the bark dust and might go back for more. 


Good times!!!


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Post-snowpocalyptic Life.

This week I've been doing something new- trying to learn how to take pictures.  I've been a lazy bum about the whole thing for so many years that I finally decided it's time to really understand things.   Thankfully I have friends who actually know what they're doing and are quite helpful.  All photos from this post were taken NOT on auto for once...


This Pileated Woodpecker at Rooster Rock was a most obliging subject, pecking away for twenty minutes while I sat in the car trying to figure out how the hell to use a camera.  It was raining and foggy but I was pretty happy with a good handful of photos. 


Also at the park, a ground squirrel sent my carload of dogs into an excited frenzy...


Robins made for easy target practice too.


Yesterday I went up to Ridgefield for more practice.   I will start with one of the worst photos I wish to share, only because it makes me happy:


Heh.  Things at the refuge were tame overall.  Eagles were the stars but I will start with the waterfowl...


Pintails are rad, though I would never want one as a pet.  Unlike some people.  Now for the eagles.  They were all over, doing cool stuff.

Bad shot of awesome behavior


Obviously I need to work on zooming out a little faster...  And now for an even worse shot of eagles doing something even more awesome, taken through the back window of the car at a good distance...


Valentine's day sexy time!  Bring on the eaglets!!!  Good times!!!