Friday, February 24, 2017

Song Sleuth first impressions

You have probably heard about Song Sleuth by now, an app that will identify bird songs for you in the field.  I had my doubts but I was also intrigued, especially with a trip to Texas coming up in a month which will likely be filled with unfamiliar bird songs.  Ten bucks was not my ideal price tag but I have wasted ten bucks on stupider things before so I took the plunge.

It was raining when I downloaded it and I didn't really want to test it outside, so my first test was at work with a Pacific Northwest birds CD.  It failed the first few I played and finally skipped ahead to Great Horned Owl, because what could be easier?  These are the options it gave me:

Ummmm.... No.  I tried a new recording of the same owl....

Okay then.  I tried a few others with similar results though it did manage to identify a Western Meadowlark song.

Of course the app does come with this disclaimer:  "If you will be disappointed to see the wrong answer, then this app isn't for you."

The app does offer ways to edit the recordings but that is more work than I am interested in.  I gave the app an outdoor test the other day when a Song Sparrow was really belting it out fifteen feet from me. 

I also got it to identify a singing junco on the fourth try, though it was the third option down on the list.

The app also correctly identified a scrub-jay.  Most of the time it seemed like there was too much other noise going on for it to work.  A Pacific Wren at the Grotto yesterday was identified as a Red Squirrel or Human. 

I'll give it a try again when the weather is nicer and more birds are singing.  Till then, I have to recommend saving your ten bucks.*

*This is based on very little so do whatever you want.  It's still fun to play with and will hopefully be improved over time.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Steigerwald Lake NWR and then some.

After days of nonstop rain Friday morning was finally pleasant.  The sun peeked through the clouds and fog only gathered in the distance.  The dogs were in desperate need of a walk and I was itching to get in some birding.  I found an eBird report of a Say's Phoebe and decided to see if any had shown up along the Steigerwald Lake NWR dike trail. 

Jake, Ralph, and their half-sister Rexi

Almost immediately I found a Say's Phoebe flying around, grabbing grubs.

This was pretty awesome, but then things got more awesome when I heard a familiar flight call as ten birds flew past me.  Horned Larks! 

I had only seen a single Horned Lark in Clark County before this, a bird that was seen on the Ridgefield auto tour for awhile a couple years ago.  A whole flock was pretty exciting.   One bird had some tail feathers missing and when it flew it looked like a little flying rabbit.

I walked the dogs to the end of the trail and back, stopping when a Bald Eagle showed up and began hovering over the river.  A fish was flopping around and the eagle was trying to nab it, but then a sea lion popped up too.  The eagle gave up and perched in a tree nearby while the sea lion chowed down on its meal.

It was an excellent walk, though not the best for photos while holding three leashes. 

Best mutt crew. 

That afternoon the sun was shining and I managed to get in a little yard/driveway cleanup before giving in and sitting in the sun to watch the birds.  The Bushtits came around several times to snack on the veg suet. 

Anna's Hummingbirds were displaying nonstop over the yard.

This Red-winged Blackbird was confident I could not see him in the camellia:

Later that afternoon Jacob and I went out to Blue Lake Park for a little birding before sunset.  The best bird was a surprising Say's Phoebe catching bugs out in the main field. 

 Strange to see one in a field with absolutely nothing to perch on, but I'll take it because it's in my 5-mile Radius.

Yesterday morning we got up early to head to Astoria where we squeezed in a little birding. 

View from Hammond

At Fort Stevens there were large flocks of Dunlin swirling around, looking rad.  

Pacific Loon


The weather, the birds, and the company were all lovely.

In short, I had a great weekend.  Good times!!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sauvie Island.

Portland birders have had to brave all kinds of weather this winter, but thankfully on Wednesday things were back to the usual gloom and rain.  Jacob and I drove out to Sauvie Island for a pleasant day of birding and exploring.  Let it be known that this post is filled with blurry and fuzzy dark photos. 

Oak Island Road is a great three mile stretch for birds, especially Barn Owls.

This was one of several we had throughout the day.  At the end of the road is a little shelter that birds are always poking around.   On this morning a flock of chickadees was taking turns plucking morsels from the wood.

After Oak Island Road we continued on Reeder and passed a beautiful dark morph hawk.  I turned around so we could take a few photos.

Honestly I did not think much of this bird, figured it to be a dark Red-tailed.  It was suggested by one of Jacob's Instagram followers that it's actually a Harlan's Red-tailed.  Seagull agreed that might be the case.  Unfortunately we never saw it from another angle.  We did see an interesting light morph Harlan's on Oak Island Road that looked much like a bird I saw at Ridgefield a few years ago.  No photo.

Coon Point had all the expected swans and ducks, along with half a dozen or more flickers hanging out.

Jacob finally located the Great Horned Owl nest there but we only barely saw the top of one owl head.  Not the most satisfying tick.  At the Reeder Road store we found a flock of starlings, a flock of robins, and one very popular tree.

This tree was hosting a Red-breasted Sapsucker (bottom left), a Brown Creeper, a crow, and a flicker.  Good tree.

On the Multnomah/Columbia county line were a billion more Tundra Swans and ducks.

From the observation platform we did not see much, but we did see one gull.  A Thayer's Gull!  Pretty sure...

After another stop at another barn we drove up and down Rentenaar Road.

It was not a hunting day and Rentenaar was offering up a good Sandhill Crane show.

I had told Jacob that morning that I never needed to see another photo of a flying Northern Harrier ever again.  Then I proceeded to take a bunch of terrible photos of a flying Northern Harrier.

The cranes were moving around, occasionally crossing this one flooded area, appearing to briefly swim.

We had distant views of the Red-shouldered Hawk that has been hanging around the area before heading to the end of Reeder Road.  There is yet another barn there.

On the walk back to the car Jacob noticed four birds at the top of a tree that is popular with cows.  Purple Finches!

Last year bird of the day.  I think that was even a Columbia County bird for me.  Wild.  It was an excellent day of birding with a most excellent birding partner.  Good times!!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Last week's birds.

Last week I had some hot tips on a new 5-mile-radius bird, a Barred Owl, and on Wednesday afternoon I went searching for it.  Turns out I did not have to search hard.  It was exactly where it was supposed to be. 

So sleepy

This was my 87th 5MR bird for the year!  It was also the fourth owl species in my 5MR this year following Burrowing, Barn, and Short-eared. 

Anyway.  On Thursday I randomly chose to drive out to Dawson Creek to walk the dogs around and look at ducks.  Eurasian Wigeon was a pleasant year bird.

Also sleepy

I saw my first "storm wigeon" too, or at least storm-ish.

It looks like it shaved and its stubble is growing in. 

With the dogs tired and all of us frozen from the relentless wind and cold I decided the best thing to do was head to the auto tour at Ridgefield and be warm while I birded.

A lone Cackling Goose among Canadas made for a nice comparison view:

I once said that the albino nutria was the most vile creature I had ever seen.

I no longer believe that to be the case.  Thanks, 2017, for making albino nutria look good.

Towards the end of the route I pulled over to watch a Great Blue Heron hunt and was almost immediately rewarded. 

This little vole thing fought as hard as it could but that did not matter.  The heron swallowed it alive.

Lastly, a Rough-legged Hawk sat on the ground while a Bald Eagle perched at the top of a tree.


That's about it.  Hopefully this week won't be as rainy as predicted and I'll have a chance to get out.  Good times!!