Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Central Oregon (Part 2)

Saturday afternoon Jacob and I went back to our cabin to pick up the dogs and take them for a great walk in the Deschutes National Forest.  We followed a tapping sound to a Black-backed Woodpecker and heard our only (!) Red-breasted Nuthatch of the trip.  The dogs had a good time too.

Rexi on the go.

 That evening we decided to catch the sunset by a big open field with a view of Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters.  Swallows and ducks kept the skies interesting. 

The next morning we woke early to head to the Greater Sage-Grouse lek near Bend.  There were a couple other groups of people there, none of whom wanted to stay in their cars as suggested by the sign nearby.  The four displaying grouse stayed to the far side of the fence so I did not bother trying for photos. Still cool to see.

It was pretty chilly and we decided to drive around and explore the area south of there, taking random forest roads.  I got out to pee in the tallest sagebrush I could find (not tall enough) and kept finding this poop.

I finally looked it up and it's grouse poop!  So much cooler than anything I had come up with.

Along one of the forest roads we noticed a freshly-killed chipmunk on a stump and wondered what predator we had spooked from it.

In the denser part of the forest we heard a couple of Townsend's Solitaires calling back and forth and one even flew in to a branch right next to the car.

At one point we took a random turn-off and began to hear tapping.  We got out to investigate and eventually located a couple of Williamson's Sapsuckers and a Hairy Woodpecker.

We followed a sign for Skeleton Cave and took the dogs out for a walk at the end of the road.

The mountain views were decent.

This was a pretty fun area to explore, though I was starting to get hangry and we returned to Sunriver so I could stuff my face with pizza.  The next morning we packed up our stuff and began the long and scenic journey home.  I suggested a side road to look for good views of a Swainson's Hawk and instead we found a Ferruginous immediately.

We continued on to another side road that led past this rando fake-looking horse.

The road passed farmland and turned into open sage where we started finding tons of White-crowned Sparrows along with Vesper, Savannah, and Brewer's.  We finally found the Swainson's Hawks we had been hoping for.

Up the road we found one perched next to a nest:

We got back on 97 to head north to 197, passing through Maupin and into Wasco County to look for Tricolored Blackbirds.  My "reliable" spots were fails, but we found another location on eBird called Oak Springs Road.  Success.

They were mixed up with Brewer's Blackbirds.

When we made it back to 84 we decided to take the scenic route along the historic highway and check the wildflower scene.  Balsamroot was blooming along with larkspur, prairie stars, and tons of stuff I am forgetting.

The rain picked up while we were poking flowers so we headed back to Portland after that.  It was a really fun four days with so many birds, amazing scenery, so many boogers, and the best of company.  Good times!!!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Central Oregon (Part 1)

Last weekend Jacob and I took a road trip to central Oregon and spent four days birding and exploring.  We began with a snowy drive over Mount Hood, then descended into the sunny and drier side of the state where wildflowers were hard to resist. 

All the shooting stars I could ever want

We made a stop at Smith Rock for White-throated Swifts and found bonus marmots and a Townsend's Solitaire.  A Black-billed Magpie is all I have to share from there.

Our first big birding stop was in Sisters where we visited the Best Western, Trinity Way, forest roads off of 242, and Calliope Crossing.  It went from sunny to crazy snow and back to sunny while we were there.

Jacob found his lifer White-headed Woodpeckers in the snow.

Along Trinity Way we stopped when we heard a bunch of birds including Evening Grosbeaks, Pgymy Nuthatches and Cassin's Finches.

A Western gray squirrel was digging around by the high school while we looked for Pinyon Jays.

At Calliope Crossing we failed to find any pure Red-naped Sapsuckers, only this hybrid:

From Sisters we drove south to find our Airbnb, a small cabin near Sunriver.  The next morning it was a balmy 19° as we made our way towards Cabin Lake.  We stopped for elk, coyotes, and shiny frosty plants that looked like they were sporting Christmas lights.

We had tried to take a more scenic route to Cabin Lake but had to turn around when the snow got too deep and take the more heavily traveled route past Fort Rock.  When we changed course in La Pine we found a pair of Red Crossbills drinking from the only part of a little watering hole that was not frozen. 

The road went from forest to open sagebrush and we began seeing some sage species near Fort Rock.

Loggerhead Shrike

We had Sagebrush Sparrows, Sage Thrashers, Prairie Falcons, and all the usuals.  Most were not interested in perching in decent light for photos.

Sagebrush Sparrow

We eventually made it to the Cabin Lake bird blinds where we put out some suet and water in hopes something would show up.  All we got was this golden-mantled ground-squirrel that wanted our potato chips.

We decided to walk around the area and found some good birds, like Jacob's nemesis Merlin:

Mountain Chickadees were taking over bluebird nest boxes:

Clark's Nutcracker

There was also a large flock of Pinyon Jays, Mountain Bluebirds, White-headed Woodpeckers, Pgymy Nuthatches, and other usual birds around. 

I'm going to save the rest for the next post.  Good times!!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Texas Volume Six: All the leftover stuff

Welcome to my last blog post about Texas!  This is all the random stuff that did not fit neatly into any of the other posts.  Enjoy!

When Audrey and I arrived in Brownsville to pick up Sarah, Max, and Eric from the airport, we had an extra hour to kill, so we found a small park to bird, Dean Porter Park.   It was windy AF but there were new birds and new trip birds and new turtles too.

 Texas spiny soft-shelled turtles

 Golden-fronted Woodpecker

 Domestic Muscovy Duck in top of palm

 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

Green Parakeets!

Audrey vs. Laughing Gull

Once the whole gang was in town we headed to our Airbnb in Harlingen.  This place was the shiznit.  We could have sat in the yard the whole five days and still seen a ton of birds.  For example, here is a checklist from one evening when we drank beer and ate popsicles. 

Harris's Hawk yard bird

The morning we went to South Padre with Nate and AJ we first drove the dusty Old Port Isabel Road.  The highlight here was finding the nesting Aplomado Falcons who eventually flew right by us. 

Initial views:  caracara on left, Aplomado on right

 Much better view, thank you.

Later in the day after leaving South Padre we stopped at the Zapata Memorial Boat Ramp and finally found some Wilson's Plovers. 

 There were a bunch of terns around and I believe these must be Gull-billed with their honkin black bills and long black legs.

Nerd cluster
 From this hazy spot we headed to Boca Chica Beach which involved driving the shoreline all the way to the mouth of the Rio Grande.  There was a dead dolphin that caused some excitement.

While we were standing around at one point AJ yelled "pelagic bird!"  We looked out over the Gulf to find a Sandwich Tern being pursued by a Parasitic Jaeger.  Definitely a surprise!

At some point Max caught a fish with his bare hands because that's how he rolls.

After picking up some Mexico year birds we headed out with one more stop at some random beach that held our state Dunlin. 

One morning we drove out to Sabal Palm Sanctuary and noticed this sign along the way:

Sabal Palm 

It didn't feel as birdy as I wanted it to be but we did see some good stuff.

 Couch's Kingbird

Broad-winged Hawk...I think

 Giant swallowtail

On Sarah, Max, and Eric's last night in Texas we headed south to Brownsville to visit the parrot roost at Oliveira Park.  The park itself was bananas with a bunch of different soccer games, little league, a playground or two, and people everywhere.  Someone noticed a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a palm tree around the same time parrots began to fly in.

Audrey vs. sapsucker

The parrots were cool, mostly Red-crowned which are ABA-approved.

There were also Red-lored (below), Yellow-headed, and White-fronted, none of which are "countable."

I was also stoked to look up at one point and see a Lesser Nighthawk cruising over. 

Bonus bird.

The last morning in Harlingen we birded random spots around town.  A few fun things were found...

 Ladies room spider bigger than my hand

 Roseate skimmer

Rio Grande leopard frog

 Tropical Kingbird

We packed up our stuff from the Airbnb, did a little birding at a college campus, then stopped for snacks and Lone Stars before taking the gang to the airport.

18 years of training.

On our last day in Texas after birding Salineño, Audrey and I had to make the long drive back to San Antonio.  We had time to stop for stuff along the way and so we did.  Like this turtle debating the idea of crossing the busy highway. 

We turned it around and it scurried off into the grass.  This is the sort of thing that makes Border Patrol want to stop and talk to you. 

One of at least fifty Crested Caracaras we saw that day

We stopped for tons of dead things including a snake, a cow, a piglet, and the saddest one, a bobcat.  I learned here that butterflies drink blood.

Lastly, we stopped for some swallows nesting under a highway overpass in hopes of finally getting good looks at Cave Swallows.  Success!  They were nesting right alongside Cliff Swallows.

Finally I am done blogging about Texas!  It was a fantastic adventure and I can't wait to go back and bird there again someday.  Thanks to Audrey, Sarah, Max, and Eric for joining me!  And thanks to Nate and AJ for making the trek to join us for a couple days and show us the secret pauraque hiding spot (and a million other things). 

25 lifers!  41 ABA birds!  Only one tick!  A billion bug bites!  Good times!!!!!

Sorry, pretty butterflies...