Saturday, August 29, 2015

The coast and stuff.

Yesterday I took a drive out to the north coast with Christian to check out a few spots for terns and shorebirds, stopping at the Hammond Boat Basin first.


The Elegant Terns have re-terned (shoot me now) and put on a decent show.


Sometimes I think terns are my favorite birds.


The other birds around were all usual suspects:  a few murres on the water,  piles of pelicans and gulls, cormorants, a couple Spotted Sandpipers, and a young Turkey Vulture that swooped down to the rocks behind us.


On the walk back to the car I noticed a fuzzy caterpillar on the grass, perhaps a Yellow Woolly Bear?  If so, it's a Virginia Tiger Moth in the making...


The next stop was the South Jetty at Fort Stevens where we walked out to the beach to find a bunch of peeps.  Funny enough, it was all birds seen at Broughton Beach this month:  Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Western and Least Sandpipers, and a Baird's Sandpiper. 

 The only other people on the beach enjoyed hugging amid the peeps (Baird's Sandpiper landing)


We only saw one dead murre at the coast, and it was here.  Lots of jellyfish too.


We saw some evidence of the fire that occurred here this summer though less than I had expected.


A stop by parking lot D was a bust, and then another bust at the shipwreck where the sky was looking pretty trippy.


Overall a successful trip to the coast.  Now for the "and stuff" part of this post...

Broughton Beach has continued to provide random birds to pursue and I caught up with a few more of them.  An evening walk on my birthday last week terned up (can't stop won't stop) a Common Tern from the gull roost.  It took off quickly but still a great county year bird.


And since this post is terning out to be full of terns, here are a couple of the local Caspians:


I went by Broughton another evening this week to see the two American Avocets that showed up.


So random.  So awesome.  Yay shorebirds and terns!  Good times!

Wildfire sunrise last week

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tiny brutality.

Yesterday morning I was outside bringing the dogs inside so I could go to work when I heard a buzzing on the ground.  A wasp and a honeybee were entangled on a walkway stone, going at it.  I fought the urge to break them up and watched to see what would happen.



I ran inside to grab the macro lens but it was still hard to tell exactly what was going on until it had already happened. 


This next photo best shows what was about to happen.  The wasp has a firm grip on much of the honeybee's abdomen, most of which has been torn from the honeybee's body. 


The last little bit holding the abdomen together was broken and the wasp flew off holding the big round butt of the honeybee. 

The honeybee fluttered around on the ground, still alive. 


I put a leaf over it and killed it to end the torture. 

The wasps have been around all summer but this was the first time they really pissed me off.  I will no longer be tolerating their existence.  I found this dumb meme on the internet that sums things up:
 
 Watch out, wasps.  You're going down. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Recent birds and bugs.

The majority of my birding lately has been focused on shorebirds, mainly due to all the good stuff that has been showing up at Broughton Beach.  This is probably the hottest birding spot in town right now and it's only a ten minute drive from home. 


So let's see, the first nice birds to show up were the Baird's Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Long-billed Curlews.  Folks going to look for those birds turned up Common Tern, Black-bellied Plover, Pacific Golden-Plover, and Red AND Red-necked Phalaropes, all of which I missed.  I did see the Semipalmated Plover one evening while failing to find the golden. 


Shorebird ID can be rough but I'm going to share a helpful secret with you:  a little known ID trick of the pros is knowing the size of a species relative to a yellow bell pepper. 

 Bell pepper, Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper

It all makes sense now, right?

One morning I arrived at the beach and found a Sanderling, always a nice bird for the county.


After viewing only lean shorebirds for a week it was nice to watch this plump little stay-puft marshmallow bird strut around.  I returned in the evening to find four more Sanderlings had shown up. 


Five Sanderlings is rarely an interesting sighting, but in Multnomah County it's pretty nifty.  Also nifty, this sunrise Osprey:


Now, don't go thinking that Broughton Beach is all happy happy joy joy.  There's a dark side there.  Some of you might know of the recent tragedy there, but that's not even what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about the two main things that can ruin your good time with shorebirds. 

1.  People.

Yesterday evening I was sitting on the sandbar with Christian watching the shorebirds and gulls that were walking up and down the shoreline.  A lady with two kids a dog were approaching.  The next thing we know they have dropped their belongings and taken off running straight down the sandbar to the birds chasing them all away. 


I may have yelled something, I don't remember.  Ahem. 

2. Killdeer.

Trying to approach shorebirds with Killdeer around is like... damn I'm failing to find an analogy that works.  Almost like trying to break into a liquor store without setting off the alarm, except the liquor doesn't fly away when the alarm goes off.  Ideas?


You know what I'm saying.  Broughton Beach is loaded with Killdeer landmines, be careful. 

That's all for birds, now on to the rad bugs!  I was super super stoked to find a jumping spider in my yard yesterday, something I had been hoping for since dusting off the macro lens.  This one is a Bold Jumper:


So cute and crazy-looking.  This is the best time to find Praying Mantises (in my minimal experience) and I had two on Sauvie Island yesterday.


I have a million little "Baby Boo" pumpkins thanks to my hard-working pollinators.  If anyone has any good recipes, please share!


The pumpkin flowers have been ripe with scandal as well as pollination...

Western striped cucumber beetles

If you need more bugs, check this Flickr album.   

Good times!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Portland shorebirds: They DO exist!

After dissing the Portland shorebird scene in my last post I spent my days off this week shorebirding like a madwoman.  It began Tuesday morning when I received a tip from another local birder, Tait, that a Baird's Sandpiper was hanging out at Broughton Beach.  I dragged Christian out there to sit in the mud and hope for the best.

A small flock of about eight peeps joined us and meandered the shoreline about six feet away. 


Western Sandpipers can be picked out by their longer bills and dark legs.  The ones I usually see look grayer overall with just a bit of rufous. 


Least Sandpipers like the one below are generally the easiest for me to pick out with their yellow legs, short bill, and rufous coloring. 


Here's another less flashy Least, but who is that creeping behind him?


That back bird appears to have no rufous coloring at all, a short bill, and muck-colored legs.  Could it be a Semipalmated Sandpiper?


Yes.  Yes it could be.  The first one I've found on my own (with verification by Seagull of course).  

Though the Baird's Sandpiper was not found, this was a great experience.  Shorebirding from six feet away is way better than shorebirding with a scope.  We eventually packed up our stuff and started to walk back to the parking lot when Christian said "and then there's that guy" while pointing at a large shorebird flying over our heads.  It landed on the opposite side of a pool from us:


A Long-billed Curlew!  Of course I embarrassingly identified it as a Whimbrel at first, only realizing my error as I hit send on my post to OBOL, but I corrected it quickly.  The bird appeared super thirsty and proceeded to down water in a hilarious manner that was not captured well on camera.


A Long-billed Curlew had been seen flying by here by Tait about a week before, but other than that the only records on eBird that I see are from April 2013 near Broughton Beach, and April 2006 at Smith & Bybee Lakes.  This was a good bird.  A county bird. 


The bird flew after about ten minutes of drinking and preening, and I feared no one else would get to see it.  Thankfully this was not the case, the bird made a number of trips back and forth from Broughton Beach to the aiport and quite a few people have seen it since. 

Yesterday I decided to return to Broughton Beach on foot to see if I could add some of these great birds to my motorless list.  I picked up Western and Least Sandpipers along the river before even getting to the beach.  A random Common Loon has been hanging around the Sea Scout Base, a bit out of season...


Fun fact:  this is the only Common Loon in August in Multnomah County in eBird. 

I met up with Christian who had just had some peeps and larks farther up the beach.  We walked over and found the Baird's Sandpiper, who seemed to want nothing more than to get close to us.


This was another county bird for me, though one I should probably have had by now.  While we were watching the Baird's, two Horned Larks wandered down the beach and I tried to get my first ever Horned Lark/Baird's Sandpiper combo photo.  Weak results.


The Horned Larks are in some funky plumage right now...


I was up to four new motorless birds and still hoping for the curlew.  We walked back to the mudflats where we had seen it before and a voice called down from the bike path above "Long-billed Curlew!"  The backlit birder was pointing and we looked over to find TWO curlews!  Amazing.  We stayed down on the mud to watch the birds sleep and occasionally un-tuck their heads. 


Five new motorless birds for the year, at least two of which were new for my motorless life list.  Yay.

In other Portland shorebirding news, my old patch Force Lake has dried up quite a bit and is currently hosting over a hundred peeps.  This is quite indicative of our dry and terrible (i.e. hot as f) summer.


Smith Lake, on the other hand, is usually ripe with shorebirds at this time of year, and sometimes avian botulism.  This year that will not be an issue because there is no water.  Zilch.  Nada.  It almost looks like a cornfield.


No pelicans swimming, no Osprey fishing, and certainly no stray American Avocets showing up here.  I hear Bybee Lake still has water, so there's hope. 

And that is the state of shorebirding in Portland.   Maybe it's not so bad after all.