Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Apoceclipse Weekend.

For my birthday this year I decided throw a big old solar eclipse because why not?  I took the whole weekend off but then was afraid to go anywhere too far because of the scary traffic predictions.  Jacob and I decided to take a couple day trips, starting with one to the coast to look for some of the great shorebirds that had been reported.  Saturday morning began with a sliver of moon and then some delicious donuts from Donuts Plus.

Our first coast stop was Seaside Cove.

Black Turnstones were finally exactly where they were supposed to be, unlike the previous trips we had made there.

 We headed north to access the beach at Del Rey, then drove almost ten miles on the beach all the way to the Peter Iredale.  Shorebirds were pleasantly abundant, beginning with a pile of Semipalmated Plovers. 

There were also tons of Western Sandpipers, Sanderlings, and a lone Whimbrel.

Don't forget to use proper technique when photographing shorebirds but trying to stay dry at the same time:

Proper technique also involves giving up on staying dry and spending the rest of the day with awkward wet spots on your jeans.
The bounty of dead things on the beach attracted several Bald Eagles and ravens.

Dead sturgeon for me!

Dead murre for me!

At some point I noticed that way out over the ocean were hundreds (maybe thousands) of Sooty Shearwaters swarming which is always fun.

Back to the shorebirds, we had four Baird's Sandpipers in one area of the beach.

Eventually we came across the most exciting birds of the day, a trio of plovers.

They appeared to be all Pacific Golden-Plovers, but we spent a very long time photographing them and consulting the field guide to be certain.  They took flight at one point and we did not see black in any of their armpits and their tails had patterns with golden wash.  Their undertail coverts as seen above were definitely not white.  With all of this we ruled out Black-bellied Plover. 

Here are a bunch more photos so you can tell me I am totally wrong about my ID.

While we were laying there watching them the tide was coming in and eventually the birds were all standing in water.

Pretty cool!  And a state bird for me!  There was some talk about a golden-plover seen the weekend before in this area possibly being an American Golden-Plover so that is also something to be looking for in these photos.  But I don't feel like diving into that right now.

We finished our beach drive at high tide before heading out for burritos and beers.  Solid morning of birding!

On Sunday we decided to drive up to Gifford Pinchot National Forest to do some exploring.  My favorite area was Sawtooth Ridge where the fields of huckleberries are lovely.  We took the dogs for a little hike there...

Jacob somehow spotted a mountain goat on a distant rocky slope.

White dot, dead center.  Only had my macro lens on me. 

In the opposite direction of the goat was a sweet view of Mount Adams.

This area turned out to be quite birdy but with only my macro lens on me I didn't manage any bird photos.  Oh well.  A few more fun things from our day:

 Green false hellebore

 Hydaspe fritillary?

Frog at Forlorn Lakes

Monday was of course the real event:  my birthday!

Oh and that other thing happened too.

After breakfast at my favorite neighborhood spot, Jacob and I headed to Broughton Beach to combine the solar eclipse with some shorebird action.  Quite a few people had a similar idea but thankfully not many trekked out to the mudflats.

An Osprey flew down to get some drinks and splashes in before 99.2% of the sun disappeared. 

A flock of Western Sandpipers was flying around for awhile trying to find their eclipse glasses.

The eclipse progressed and the beach got darker and colder.  We watched the streetlights across the river in Vancouver turn on.  A Least Sandpiper putted around in front of us, acting oblivious to the sun disappearing.

About one minute from our 99.2% maximum coverage:

It was noticeably darker and refreshingly cooler, but overall not as dark as I had expected.  The bugs sure did get active but that was the only thing I noticed as far as "animal behavior."  The Least Sandpiper kept on going, the gulls sat around like normal, and nothing really seemed out of the ordinary.  Except maybe the lack of cars driving by on Marine Drive.

I took some photos with my camera through my eclipse glasses:


That was my birthday apoceclipse weekend!  Thanks to Jacob for making it awesome and for making awesome cupcakes!!

Good times!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

We interrupt your regularly scheduled birds...

...to bring you a moth. 

One moth?


A few evenings ago Jacob and I were sitting in the backyard having beers when I noticed Rexi was walking along with her nose to the ground, following a big bug.  I jumped up and ran inside to get my macro lens, and returned to find it had crawled up a blade of grass. 

It took me awhile to accept that this was a moth, and a brand new moth at that.  Most likely it had only just emerged when Rexi noticed it waddling along the ground.

Its wings were super short, like it was wearing a bad crop top.  How the heck was this thing going to fly?

Then I noticed a droplet of liquid was forming on its face and at the same time its wings were starting to vibrate and separate for the first time.

I found a page from a book online called The Natural History of Moths by Mark Young that described this very behavior:

"At emergence the wings are crumpled and soft, but the moth soon finds a secure foothold and then forces a fluid through the veins in the wings, expanding them rapidly."

The crop top was starting to fit!  The moth finished this behavior then took off for another patch of grass where it expanded its wings outward for the first time.  After a few minutes I poked my finger in the grass and it crawled right onto it.

It clung to my finger for quite awhile, seemingly undisturbed by my face in its face.  Eventually its wings moved to a more restful-looking position.

Again, from the Natural History of Moths:

"Once they are at full size, the fluid is withdrawn and the wings dry and harden, before either being folded into the usual position at rest, or being used immediately for flight."

The crop top was gone and it looked like a real moth, ready to party.  I put my finger to the grass and it waddled off quickly to a dense patch and hid out.

Blurry moth on the go. 

I would have loved to watch it take flight for the first time but instead it settled into the grass, leaving sometime in the night.  Pretty cool!  I had never seen anything like this before and thought you all might like it too.  Yay moths!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Summertime birding.

It's not that bad.  I'm supposed to be whining about the lack of birds or lack of diversity or lack of something or other, but it seems pretty okay to me.  This week has been the hottest week of summer with temperatures climbing over 100 with a smoky haze courtesy of fires in British Columbia.  But I still went birding and it was still great.

Let's start with Broughton Beach Wednesday morning.  Aside from the disturbing abandoned baby in the parking lot, things were pleasant.

 In a bathtub of panties no less.

Soon after walking out to the mudflats I heard a Greater Yellowlegs calling.  I crept around to line it up with the smokey orange sunrise.

 Aside from Killdeer and some distant peeps flying over the river, this was the only shorebird.  I walked down further, checked the beaches closer to the parking lots, then decided to head out to Chinook Landing on the opposite end of my 5-mile Radius.  A young towhee welcomed me. 

The area west of the boat launch has some good songbird habitat as well as a little muddy beach.  The bonus is that no one is usually there.  There's about a five foot drop off to get to the beach and as I approached I heard birds, then saw birds, then decided to sit at the edge and watch.  First up a Yellow Warbler and an American Goldfinch were disputing claims to some mud.

The warbler won this round.  Next up a young Bullock's Oriole appeared in one of the fallen trees on the mud and later decided to take a bath.

Above me chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches were finding food in the trees.

Piles upon piles of Common Yellowthroats were flitting around the shrubs, a female Black-headed Grosbeak lurked on a dead branch, and a Black-throated Gray Warbler got my hopes up for a Black-and-White one.  A Green Heron gave its loud calls from a tree about ten feet behind me while boats pulled out from the landing.  It was a really good place to sit.

But I don't have photos of any of that.  What I do have a photo of is an excellent combo, up in a dead tree across the mud from me.

 Hairy Woodpecker-Purple Martin-Northern Flicker-European Starling combo

A couple House Finches joined the combo also but those photos are even worse.  Chinook Landing turned out to be a great stop, and combined with Broughton Beach I added six 5-Mile Radius year birds to my list.  Yay!  First ones since early June.

A couple weeks ago I hit up another 5MR spot, Blue Lake Park on a cool and cloudy morning.  I found the Wood Duck population completely replenished with babies all over:

  Back in the wetlands area a Great Horned Owl disapproved of my existence.

When I was walking back out of the wetlands area into one of the fields I noticed something hopping on the ground, an ugly baby American Goldfinch:

I backed off and watched an adult male feed it a few times.  At one point it decided to go owl baby on the tree and try to climb up it.  It got farther than I had anticipated.

It fell back down.

Over at the lake a Belted Kingfisher perched on a branch and did not leave even when it noticed me.  Yay.

So many water lilies

There were several active bald-faced hornet nests around too, which I think look cool.

What else?  Oh yeah, last weekend Jacob had to go out to his parents' house in Astoria so I came along for some birding before dropping him off.  We hit up Cape Disappointment and Fort Stevens, both of which were fun.  At Cape D we walked out on the North Jetty pretty damn far and hung out with a bunch of pelicans, gulls, and murres. 

Poopin peli

We even managed to find a Rhinoceros Auklet in the distance, which was pretty cool even though we just saw hundreds of them.

At Fort Stevens we tried the South Jetty for shorebirds but had no luck on the beach.  On the walk back not too far from the parking lot Jacob noticed a small pile of Semipalmated Plovers lined up right in front of us.  Yes!  They had a lone Western Sandpiper with them also.

It was a good quick coast trip!

Finally, last week's evening trip to Ridgefield.  Not bird shots, just a couple of weirdly white mammals.

The old albino nutria, this time with babies (not albino), along the Kiwa Trail

Weird deer, in a driveway near Ridgefield NWR

Okay so summer doesn't exactly bring out the rarities, but I still like it.  The birding I mean.  I could do without the intense sunshine and wildfires and blazing heat.  Oh well, still good times!!!