Saturday, May 28, 2016

Jackson County.

Tuesday morning I packed up the car and headed south to Jackson County to bird with local Russ "I've seen 100% of the species in Jackson County this year" Namitz.  For the record he does not call himself that, but I found it hilarious when I looked at the Top 100 on eBird for the county.  I arrived in the mid-afternoon heat, perfect time to hit the sewage ponds on Kirtland Road.

I took zero photos here but trust me, it was good.  Year birds and state year birds around every corner including Wilson's Phalarope, Blue-winged Teal, Great-tailed Grackle, and Northern Mockingbird.  Next up was Tou Velle State Park which had Yellow-breasted Chat, Wrentit, Bullock's Oriole, Yellow Warbler, and more.  After a stop at Avenue G we picked up the best burritos in Medford (lies) and drove out to Howard Prairie.  It was pouring and there was a rainbow.  Despite this I got a very good lesson in empids and potato chip/bean dip songs. 

After sunset we finally located a Great Gray Owl which was obviously awesome.  Too dark for photos but fantastic views nonetheless.  Later on we heard Common Poorwill, Western Screech-Owl, and surprisingly a Sora.  This was a very good 7 hours or so of Jackson County birding.

The next morning we headed out to Lower Table Rock so I could nab a state bird I had yet to meet up with, the California Towhee.

We walked the Savannah loop trail and found Ash-throated Flycatcher and Oak Titmouse as well.

Good birds.

After this we headed into the woods for the real treat of the trip.  Along the way Russ pointed out these:

Groundcone, a native parasitic plant

With a bit of effort, braving both poison oak and ticks, we made it to the bird I had been most excited to meet, the Spotted Owl.


 A male and female pair, female in foreground:

Thanks to Russ I had incredible looks at these beauties.  What an experience!  From this spot we headed back to Medford, stopping to try for gnatcatcher in one spot.  This swallowtail was the consolation prize.

After some celebratory pizza and beer I ventured off on my own, back to Lower Table Rock.  This time I hiked to the top enjoying the wildflowers and bugs along the way.

 Large flowered collomia

Lorquin's Admiral

 Henderson's triteleia


 (Winecup?) clarkia with beetle

Top of Lower Table Rock, Mt McLoughlin in the distance

I will spare you the tons more flowers I photographed and skip ahead to camping.  Russ had recommended a spot where I could hear Flammulated Owl and I was eager to get there and set up camp.  Not to mention eat my can of chili.

As I waited for it to get dark I sat on the back of the car, drinking a beer, when a deer appeared.  She stuck around snacking on the vegetation nearby until well after dark, and later on when I got in my sleeping bag she came back to snort and snuffle right next to the tent.  We are pals.

Darkness was slow to come but when it did I spent a long time messing around with star/tent photos, listening for owls.  Eventually I heard something very distant that I thought might be a Flamm.  The sound came closer after about 15 minutes and I was able to confirm it was the single deep hoots of a Flammulated Owl.  SO cool.  A Western Screech-Owl joined the soundscape for about ten minutes before leaving the Flam to be the star of the show.  Lifer! 

It was a quiet night of camping till I woke around 5:45 to the sound of Band-tailed Pigeons and Mountain Quail calling.  Not bad.

I made coffee and oatmeal, then broke down the tent and began the drive back to the highway, stopping for wildflowers along the road.

Calochortus elegans (aka elegant Mariposa lily or cat's ear)

Iris... Siskiyou? 

Before heading back to Portland I stopped in Josephine County to bird Whitehorse County Park on the Rogue River.  My two minutes of research on my phone told me this spot offered a great variety of birds and I found that to be true. The only issue I had was that the trails were overgrown with a mixture of weeds, grass, and blackberries, so I worried about ticks.  None found though!  A quick photo dump of what I found here:

 Perhaps the towhee capital of Oregon

 Yellow-breasted Chats were extremely noisy and extremely hard to locate

 Rufous Hummingbird:  the official hummer of Whitehorse

 Red-shouldered Hawk taking a break from screaming

 One of a pair of Common Mergansers

White-breasted Nuthatch, one of several in this tree

Not pictured:  three Black Phoebes.  I highly recommend this spot if you're down this way.

After that I drove back to Portland.  It was a fantastic trip overall, with so many fun birds to fit on so many dumb lists.  A million thanks to Russ for taking the time to show me around Jackson County, getting me amazing looks at my lifer Spotted Owl, and for recommending the camp site with the Flammulated Owl!!!  Good times!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Birds, Bugs, and Flowers.

It would be really nice if I had a photo of a bird with a bug in its mouth perched near a flower to kick off this post.  But I don't.  I have a kestrel with a mouse in its talons on a snag which will have to do.

This kestrel was hunting the summit of Powell Butte yesterday morning when I finally made it up to look for the reported Gray Flycatcher, which I never found.  Per usual, plenty of other good stuff was around to entertain.

Linaria vulgaris?  (Common Toadflax aka Butter and eggs)

One of 4-5 Western Kingbirds, the most I've seen together in the county I think

 Sidalcea malviflora?  (Checkerbloom)

As I made my way down the trail I concentrated on the general area the Gray Flycatcher had been seen, and a Pacific-slope was calling instead.  Amazingly it hopped around near eye-level and I managed a few photos, which rarely happens. 

While following this bird a girl power-walking by me talking on her cell phone stopped, told her caller to wait a second, then asked me if I was taking pictures (duh).  She wanted me to know there were two deer on the next hillside that looked very pretty.  I thanked her and went back to flycatcher chasing.  Once I made it down the trail I realized that the deer actually did look quite pretty and I felt bad for not caring at all when she had told me so.

Powell Butte is one of the best spots in town for Lazuli Buntings and they never really get old.

No Gray Flycatcher but a nice dog-walk nonetheless.  Last week I went out to Catherine Creek to see what was in bloom.  I missed camas and bitterroot  completely, but had a ton of other cool flowers as well as insects.

 Lorquin's admiral

 Ookow with a blister beetle

Hooker's onion with a pollinator

 Something on something.

Thread-waisted Wasp

This wasp was sticking very close to one particular spot on the trail so I decided to take a little video of what it was doing, which was mostly gathering small sticks and moving them around.

Did I mention it was super freakin windy?  This made photos even more challenging but I was glad to have lugged my heavy tripod around with me. 


 This robber fly clung to this rock for a long time while I tried to get close-ups.  Thankfully no one was around to point and laugh at me lying on my belly on the trail.

That's it from Catherine Creek.  One last macro from the yard, a fly blowing bubbles:

Fun stuff.  Good times!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oregon's Finest: The Beach and the Gorge.

On Tuesday morning the dogs and I headed out to Cannon Beach to look at some birds.  The exit off 101 had a couple of large distractions. 

A couple of elk were grazing not far from the road so I had to stop and watch for a bit.  They watched back.

Listening to the mutts whining

Once at the beach we walked out to Haystack Rock.

 Pigeon Guillemots

Black Oystercatchers

 Tufted Puffin


 Bonaparte's Gull

The dogs were being ridiculously patient while I got my Haystock Rock fix and as we left I took the same damn picture I always take...

 Next we walked the loop trail around the Cannon Beach Settling Ponds.  A couple of Spotted Sandpipers were the only shorebirds and a random late Common Goldeneye was the only "rarity."

Our last coastal stop was Ecola State Park where Leonard proved you never really forget your circus days.

As I walked the dogs along the edge of the field by the parking lot a crow flew over near us.  It also wanted to walk along the edge of the shrubs, so I sat down with the mutts and watched.  I had seen the crow pull a worm out of the grass earlier so I got ready for a crow/worm combo shot, but then this happened:

I am not sure if the crow went for the snake first, or if the snake went for the crow, or what exactly happened.  The crow went for it this time though.

The crow gave the snake a good yank before dropping it, and the snake apparently got away.

That seemed like a good note to end on so I left the coast with two tired mutts and a couple of year birds.

Yesterday morning I headed to the Columbia River Gorge on a mission, armed with a treasure map and my camera. 

Spoiler:  I did not find what I was looking for, though I did find the right spot.  Along the way I found enough other cool stuff that it didn't even matter.

Horsetail Falls

 Geranium (?)

 Red columbine

After about half a mile the trail passes Upper Horsetail Falls, and by passes I mean it goes behind the falls.  Super cool.

This is awesome and all but then things got full-blown amazing when I looked down in the mud and found this guy:

The biggest salamander I've ever seen!!  I poked it to make sure it was alive and it sauntered across the trail while I tried to get decent photos.

I am almost positive this is a Pacific Giant Salamander but could use a second opinion.  I really really wanted to get this guy in a better spot for a photo op, but despite the amount of mud I acquired on my knees and elbows, my efforts failed.  Dude would not sit still in front of scenery so only blurry salamander-waterfall shots.

For size reference. 

If someone had offered me a treasure map to a Pacific Giant Salamander spot I would have been equally, if not more excited to follow it as the map I was following.  I eventually pulled myself away from my new giant and slimy buddy and continued on the trail. 

While checking out a side trail I found these cool wildflowers:

I believe they are stenanthium occidentale.

While I never found my target animals I found plenty of other treasures along the way.  Good times!!