Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wasco County!

After a week of rain and uneventful birding I was itching to head east to sunshine...


I hit up a bunch of new spots as well as some ones I've visited before.  I started at Celilo Park on the Columbia River, then drove east on 206 where I stopped to check out some ponds and cliffsides.


Getting out of the car I heard a Canyon Wren, followed by a hollering Peregrine.


There were a pair of Peregrines flying around, eventually disappearing into the cliffside, hopefully at a nest.  I walked the dogs down the little trail there and found this head...


We walked a bit farther east to another pond and found a raven chasing a Cooper's Hawk while a kestrel watched from a post.


As the hawk flew off, a Red-tailed Hawk entered the scene and a Golden Eagle cruised by.


All that was missing was a Turkey Vulture. 


It was a pretty awesome mix of birds for this side of the road random stop.  After that I drove to the Wasco county border at the Deschutes River for another quick dog walk, then drove back west to head south on 197 from The Dalles.  I picked a spot from eBird, the Price Road wetlands, and headed there.


A Bald Eagle was taking dives at a Mallard, pissing off a Great Blue Heron and a bunch of Green-winged Teals.  The eagle gave up after a few dives and flew off.  In the trees nearby was a Lewis's Woodpecker!


Love those guys, but this one did not like me one bit.  I did find a dead animal nearby...


Thoughts on ID?  There was a leg missing, as well as most distinguishing features of the face.

The last area I birded was along Juniper Flats Road.


I had been hoping for Mountain Bluebirds and I was not disappointed...


Mingling with the bluebirds were a couple of handsome Townsend's Solitaires...


 My last non-birding stop was at this abandoned and broken house...


It was already a little spooky so when a deer popped out of nowhere I nearly crapped myself.  But I did pick up one last new Wasco county bird here, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.



It was a perfect day of exploring Wasco county- 15 new county birds, two tired mutts, and lots of good times!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Yesterday.

Yesterday morning I walked the dogs up to one of my local patches to see what was going on.  Bushtits, Bewick's Wrens, Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, and American Kestrels were all paired up, while a flicker drummed on a light post and Anna's Hummingbirds practiced display dives. 

Kestrel poop!




One of the hummingbirds seemed particularly interested in me and the dogs and followed us for awhile...


Yesterday afternoon my friend and I went up to Larch Mountain to finally retrieve my wildlife camera.  We found it after searching for an hour in the wrong spot, then about five minutes in the right spot.  The photos didn't show up when I put the SD card in my camera but when I got home I found I had actually caught some stuff.  First off, a person with their dog:


The time stamp is all wrong unfortunately- it reset to Jan 1, 2013 00:00 when I set it up.   So, about 00:00 really is about 13:00, and therefore this was like 7:30 a.m.  The only other animal I caught was actually a wild one- a coyote running by...


I have some better ideas now of where to set it up, and hopefully will be able to catch something better next time.  Still cool and no one stole it! 

On our way down Larch Mountain we stopped to explore a clearcut.  My friend was scanning the area with binoculars and said something about a big hole in a stump.  It turned out to be an old chimney/fireplace all by itself in the clearcut. 


How cool is that?


While in the gorge, we visited the Bonneville fish hatchery, where there were viewing stations for rainbow trout and sturgeon.



And of course there was an abandoned house and gas station to check out on the way home...


Good times!!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Newport!

Somehow I made it almost three months without visiting the Oregon coast- kind of a long time for me.  The recent tales of a scoter feeding frenzy along the south jetty of the Yaquina River finally motivated me to get out there.

Yaquina Bay Bridge + scoter party

 I will be honest with you, I'm not sure exactly how this whole herring egg feeding thing works.  The internet has told me some interesting tidbits though, like how scoters spend 50% less time foraging when there is an ample supply of herring eggs around.  They also dive less overall.  If you want to pay 12 bucks to read a paper about it go here, and tell me what it says!


The internet also told me that scoters often dive at the same time to reduce the chances of gulls stealing their catches.  I'm not sure if that goes for herring eggs or if that's more related to mollusks and such.  Regardless, once one scoter dove it would set off a chain reaction of diving.

Waiting for the scoters to pop up

The scoters would also suddenly start rushing in a certain direction together.  Sometimes this was caused by a boat and one time a a dude got too close, but other than that I don't know the reason.


So as you can see, the scoter masses consisted mostly of Surf Scoters.  Most of the time there were two large groups, each with hundreds of birds.  Smaller groups were scattered throughout the channel as well.  I found a couple Black Scoters and one White-winged in the mix also, along with the most exciting birds for me- three Long-tailed Ducks!


Later in the day all three got together...


And some of the other birds around...

Black Scoters

 Harlequin Duck yelling



At one point I noticed some crows dive-bombing something over by the road.  I realized it was a raven that was intruding and they eventually chased him out over the river.


Mmmmmm  comparison shots...  Love them.

I walked the dogs up the fishing pier while I was there...


And made a new friend...


 Ralph was fascinated by that guy.  Common Loons were also lurking in every plumage from breeding to winter.  This one was interesting to me- the fairly pale tip to the bill stood out. 


 There was some recent discussion on OBOL about a pale Common Loon in Newport, but I can't find a photo of it or where exactly it was seen, so perhaps this is the same bird.  The person initially considered Yellow-billed for that loon but decided ultimately it had to be Common due to various field marks.  Anyway, always nice to see a bird that makes you stop and think.

 While I was on the fishing pier I saw a Peregrine Falcon fly from the bridge to the north.  I happened to follow it with my binoculars to see if it landed... and land it did!  Right on the back of another Peregrine.  Not what I was expecting at all!


It was way too far away for decent shots or even to be sure that they were in fact doing the nasty.  But I hope they were! 

Overall a pretty good trip to Newport, despite not seeing the King Eider.  


On the way home I stopped along Highway 18 to poke a dead Barn Owl...


Good times!!