Thursday, September 24, 2015

Recent birds.

The weather has been so much better since I returned from Boston so birding has been a lot more appealing.  Let's dive right in. 

Last week I went to watch the Vaux's Swifts at the Chapman School do their thing; roughly 4500 went down the chimney that night according to Andy Frank. 

With Cooper's Hawk on the chimney

 A quick stop at Broughton Beach would have been completely lame without this lone Sanderling eating a dead fish.


I took the mutts out to Sauvie Island one day to walk out to the Narrows where birding was decent, but the photo ops not so much.  The mutts tried to make up for it.


The sunflower fields by the Reeder Road viewpoint thing are looking rad.


Yard birding has been picking up again.  I bought a thistle feeder and put fine sunflower chips in it instead of thistle and the goldfinches go nuts over it.  Seriously. 


So now when the House Sparrows that moved into my camellia clog up the tray feeder the finches still have somewhere to feed.  Elsewhere in the yard, the hummingbird feeder ant moat continues to be many birds' favorite watering hole. 



 I was super excited the other day when I noticed a Purple Finch in the camellia...


 I probably won't see another in the yard till April. 

On Monday I decided to drive down to Fern Ridge Reservoir in hopes of seeing some shorebirds.  The weather was somewhat unpleasant with a steady wind and a misty rainy thing happening for much of the time, but there were birds.  And crawdads.



This morning happened to be the day all of the Greater White-fronted Geese in the world decided to migrate, or so it seemed.  They were flying overhead nonstop, in dozens and hundreds, many coming to rest at the edge of the reservoir.


The mudflats were packed with dowitchers, yellowlegs, and four Pectoral Sandpipers. 


I recently had the chance to bird with one of my long-time blog friends, Sondra, who is on a wild road trip all the way from South Carolina.  We had fun driving the Ridgefield auto tour, while her sweet rescue pup Casey snoozed in the backseat. 


She still has lots more to see on her trip but you should check out some of her recent posts, she's been exploring all over!

Yesterday I took the mutts out to Fort Stevens after dipping on the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Astoria.  Of course it was seen later in the day after I was gone.  But that's okay because at the South Jetty the Sooty Shearwater spectacle is continuing! 



I didn't see any whales on my trip but the day before there were reports of Humpbacks in the Columbia River.   So wild.  At times random shearwaters were flying down the river side of the jetty which was so strange to see.


I stopped by Seaside Cove where Surfbirds were almost outnumbering Black Turnstones, and Western Gulls were eating Heermann's Gulls.


Last night I stopped by Broughton Beach where I failed to see any Common Terns or American Avocets.  Instead a foursome of Horned Larks were my entertainment.


And lastly, a Mallard.  


Happy fall!!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The rest of Massachusetts.

 While on Cape Cod my dad and I hit up a number of beaches and other random spots, per usual.

Sandy Neck

Weather ranged from hot and humid to cool with thunderstorms to outright downpours.  Birding was on the slow side but it gave me time to stare at birds like Great Black-backed Gulls, which I never get to hang out with.

Sea Gull Beach, Yarmouth

 Shorebirds were not easily tracked down though I found a few way out on the West Dennis Beach jetty.

Semipalmated Sandpiper & Plovers

Ocean Avenue Beach is a neat little spot where I was reminded that Laughing Gulls exist.


I rarely get to see Herring Gulls in breeding plumage, let alone with youngsters begging...



We checked out the Harwich Community Gardens one morning, a pretty and peaceful spot with lots of birds including my only Baltimore Orchard Orioles of the trip.


Gray Catbird

It was a good spot for grasshoppers like this one that I have yet to identify [update:  it's a green-striped grasshopper nymph]:



We stopped at a bird carving show at a local nature center and outside in the garden were many locust borers.  A number of them were paired up...


I watched a third fellow climb on top of a pair, making it an awkward three-way until finally the top two fell off to the ground.


An outing to Peterson Farm in Falmouth was highlighted by a tolerant, though feisty, eastern garter snake.


I went to my dad's carving class with him again and got to see my friend Joe's current project, a saw-whet owl:


And around my parents' house are tons of my dad's recent projects like this zebra whirly-gig:


Birding around my parents' yard is always fun, though on this trip birds were not exactly cooperative for photos.  Grackles told me where I could stick my camera, as did Blue Jays.  This hurts.  I was happy to see Ruby-throated Hummingbirds there for the first time but they were not happy to see me.


They preferred the jelly feeder that the orioles had recently abandoned over the actual hummingbird feeder.

One of the coolest birds around was this guy:


Right.  I didn't get a great photo of it, but it's a crow with lots of white on its wings.  When it flew over my first thought was magpie.

Always a crowd-pleaser, the neighborhood turkeys...


My last day in MA my brother and I took a ferry out to Spectacle Island, one of the Boston Harbor Islands.  It was once a horse-rendering plant, then a landfill, then left to burn for a couple years, then smothered in sediment from the Big Dig, and then made a national park where people swim and picnic.  Because America.


It's not very big so we were able to explore the whole island in a few hours.  Not much bird life, but quite a few bugs and great views of the Boston skyline kept things interesting.


And that's it.  I had another great trip to Massachusetts with lots of fun with my family.  Good times!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cape Cod: Wellfleet Bay & Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuaries

Last week while visiting my parents on Cape Cod, my dad took me birding at a couple of Mass Audubon sites.  At Wellfleet Bay the first fun creature was a red squirrel, New England's version of our Douglas squirrel.  We had seen some in Maine but I never got a photo...


They are ridiculously cute.  We came across a second one at the end of our walk making an amazing amount of noise.


The Silver Spring trail proved lovely and squirrel-friendly but lacked the birds I had been craving.


We continued on to the Goose Pond Trail, with Goose Pond being a big highlight.  When we first walked up a couple of Great Egrets were in such a pose that I thought I was looking at a statue.  It was several seconds before they moved.


After realizing they were in fact real birds, I started to notice the edges of the pond were littered with shorebirds.  This spot turned out to be the best shorebird spot I found while on Cape Cod.


Great Egret and Greater Yellowlegs

 Snowy Egret


 Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs


 Solitary Sandpiper

The peeps were mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers but I was able to pick out a Western and a Least among them, plus a handful of Semipalmated Plovers.

The trail goes out to the sand where many diamondback terrapin turtle nests are marked.


Fiddler crabs are abundant in this area.


The trail winds back into the trees and I spent some time trying to identify a warbler in a pine tree.


I'm leaning towards Pine, but if anyone has a better opinion, let me know.


Farther along the trail I stopped for a cool bug, identified as a species of Panorpa, or scorpionfly (with help from Bug Guide).


Fun fact:  they're called scorpion flies because the males have enlarged genitals that resemble the stinger of a scorpion (thanks, Wikipedia).  This specimen is apparently a female.

On the way home we stopped at Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary.  No foxes on this visit, but for some reason there is a pen of pigs here.  And the pigs were busy.  Getting busy.


Less scandalous was this vine wrapped around another vine, dripping some kind of sap.  Anyone familiar with this?


In between our birding visits we stopped for lunch and did some browsing in the Birdwatcher's General Store.  I made sure to check out the big Bushnells again, to bring back everyone's favorite, Big Bins Jen.  Good times!!!