Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Recent birds in three parts.

Part 1.  Chickadees.

Let's begin with the chickadees that are nesting in my front yard.  I was super psyched when I noticed they had returned and were spending their days dragging moss and dog hair into the house they used last year. 


They were busy for awhile, then a few weeks ago I realized I wasn't seeing them near the house as much.  I thought maybe the House Sparrows had been too annoying for them or they found a better house somewhere else.  Last week I came home from work and found the house on the ground.  Assuming they had abandoned it anyway I opened the side door to see what was going on.

Oh!  I guess they did not abandon it after all.  I quickly rehung the house and the parents returned immediately to check on their babies.  Since then I have seen them delivering food every day to these little turkeys.


Using Julie Zickefoose's Baby Birds as a reference I believe the nestlings were four days old when the house fell on the ground, so it should be another week before they fledge.  Fingers crossed!

Side note:  I didn't think I was much interested in that Baby Birds book, but we had it at work and I kept getting sucked in so I finally just bought it yesterday.  The artwork is great of course, but the story-telling is even better.

Part 2. Deer

This weekend Audrey and I had plans to hike around Larch Mountain in search of grouse and Hermit Warblers and all those fun mountain birds.   On the drive up we made it as far as milepost 4 when a deer appeared in the road and I hit it.  This was not a good start to a day. 

We got out to see what the deer did and found it had crawled into some blackberries, unable to walk but still breathing.  Ughhhhhhhhhhh.  It was 5:45 a.m. on a Saturday and it took us a bit to figure out who to call.  Eventually I called non-emergency and they were very helpful and said they would send a deputy out.

While we waited we looked at the car damage, watched Warbling Vireos and White-crowned Sparrows, listened to Band-tailed Pigeons, and hoped the deputy was actually going to show up.

Finally a sheriff from Troutdale who looked, as Audrey commented, like a Ken doll, arrived.  He checked out the deer, said he would have to shoot it, and asked us to leave before he did.   As we drove down the road I heard the shot.  RIP, deer.

Audrey suggested doing something to honor the deer, which I thought was a nice idea, and so I made a donation to Oregon Wild in its memory.

With all this bad luck on Larch Mountain we decided to change plans and go bird the Sandy River Delta instead. 

Bunnies are mellow

We barely made it to the meadow when a German shepherd charged at us barking like it wanted to kill us.  Its owner appeared and called it back, then it did it again.  Ugh.  This day was stressful enough without dogs trying to eat us.

Things calmed down and we walked out to the flooded area, rerouted through the trees to another trail, stopping to admire orioles and warblers and buntings and hummingbirds and all that.  At one point we stopped at a random spot and I lifted my bins to look at an even more random shrub.  A little bit of peachy orange caught my eye.  Was it a robin on a nest?  A grosbeak? 

There was a little animal trail nearby that we thought might offer a better view. 

Holy shit.  We just stumbled upon a young Northern Saw-whet Owl in an extremely popular park.  So many questions like is this post-breeding dispersal or did they actually nest in a cottonwood forest with no conifers in sight?   It seems very unlikely that they would nest here with all the dogs and humans.

So sweepy

I returned a couple days later and found no evidence of this owl.  I think we got really lucky that morning.  After the owl we kept birding and finally found a Yellow-breasted Chat wayyyy out in the distance and tons of more accommodating Lazuli Buntings.

What a weird day that was. 

Part 3.  Beach.

Last Friday Jacob and I headed to the coast to hopefully find some Red Phalaropes in breeding plumage as had been reported a couple days earlier.  We hit up Sunset Beach and Fort Stevens where there were no phalaropes anywhere.  Oh well.  We had other fun stuff.


 Sanderlings mostly

 Plover undercover

Plover sin cover

 Jacob spotted this Parasitic Jaeger way out over the ocean:

Jacob vs Sanderlings

 Caspian Terns 

That's about it!  Good times!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Summer Lake.

Last weekend Jacob and I went down to the very un-summer-like Summer Lake to bird and explore for a couple of days.  On Friday we started the journey on good old Highway 26, stopping at a gas station that produced a few nice birds.

This Gray Jay was serving as a crossing guard for sasquatch families while simultaneously begging for granola bar crumbs. 

By the time we got to Summer Lake around noon, snow was blowing around and sometimes mixing with hail. 

Tree Swallows in snow

Long-billed Curlew in snow

Thankfully after a few hours of snow showers moving through the rest of the day was sunny and we took our time on the 8+ mile auto tour.


 Sandhill Crane, dirty-neck subspecies

Yellow-headed Blackbird

 Curlew in sun

Snowy Plovers, not in snow

There's a barn at the wildlife area that Great Horned Owls have taken over and it's easy to take a peek at them.  This one was perched on a beam in the center of the barn, and after a minute flew up to a wire at the front of the barn surrounded by Cliff Swallow nests.  It was a strange scene.

We checked out one last area for the day where we finally found good numbers of American Avocets, but no stilts. 

After dinner at the lodge we returned to the Bullgate Campground to set up our tent and catch the end of the sunset.

In the morning we learned our coffee and oatmeal plan was a bust, so Jacob had to deal with me for a couple hours without coffee.  😬 

The sky looked pretty amazing, between the moon and the crazy clouds.


 Western Wood-Pewee
We birded around for awhile until the lodge opened for breakfast where delicious pancakes and coffee revived me completely.  From our table we spotted a Black-headed Grosbeak and a Townsend's Solitaire in the gravel driveway, which are probably my best ever pancake birds. 

With full bellies we got back to the auto tour and found more birds, like this ridiculously approachable Bald Eagle:


Look what I can do! 

Farther up the road a Black-crowned Night-Heron flushed from some tall grass:

We decided to take a walk out on one of the dike trails where Forster's Terns were fishing. 

We kept going hoping for shorebirds and eventually found a shallow area with two pairs of avocets. 

A hail storm was pushing towards us but we chose to ignore that fact.

As we walked back to the truck the hail began and we had the pleasure of enduring the entire storm.  The sun came out again and we found a couple Bank Swallows, which was a pleasant surprise.

We finished off the auto tour and began the long drive back to Portland.  Overall it was a very successful trip with nine lifers for Jacob and tons of year birds for me.  We had 71 species at the wildlife area including a lot of great birds I did not manage to get photos of like Trumpeter Swans, American White Pelicans, White-faced Ibises, Red-necked Phalaropes, Franklin's Gulls, and all the Gadwalls I could ever want.  Good times!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Local birds.

Man, it's been way too long since I blogged about the local birds!  After last weekend my 5MR list really started to grow with lots of fun birds coming through in migration.  I decided to bird Blue Lake Park one morning and had 13 new species for my Blue Lake list including four new species for the park's eBird list.  

It's been a strong spring for Nashville Warblers and I was happy to find a couple there along with Yellow-rumped, Wilson's, Orange-crowned, and a Black-throated Gray.

Oh yeah, and the best part was that they weren't super high up!  They were mostly in younger trees and shrubs.  They even offered up this nice combo for me:

The main field at the park has been flooded for awhile now and the ducks and swallows have taken nicely to it.  The fruit tree blossoms make for pretty reflection pictures.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

A pair of Killdeer seemed to be planning a nest along the gravel road through the trees and one put on its wing show for me, leading me away from its mate and into the grass.

Saturday morning Jacob and I finally planned to hit Mount Tabor for some real spring migration.  Most birders in Portland had the same plan so we ran into all sorts of characters including Audrey, Sarah, and Max.  We had not anticipated the Rock Wren found the day before to still be there and a sweet nerd crew gathered around to gawk.

Audrey, Art, Em, a Hinkle, Jacob, etc.

County fuzzball.

Jacob, Audrey, Sarah, Max, and I teamed up for awhile and found some more cool birds like Cassin's Vireos, Western Tanagers, a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and a Dusky Flycatcher.  The Dusky was particularly accommodating which blew my mind. 

Our full checklist from Mount Tabor is here

Things on the home front have been even more exciting if you can believe it.  Last Friday I looked out in the backyard to see what was happening and was dumbstruck to focus my binoculars on a Brewer's Sparrow.  I may have yelled a bit too much and the bird took off before I could get a picture.  Argh!  But I waited and it came back and hopped around on my walkway like it was totally normal.

Brewer's Sparrow is not a bird that lives in Portland.  It prefers sagebrush on the east side of the Cascades, but does appear in the county almost every spring.  I had seen three in the county before this day, two were together five years ago in Troutdale.  One was two weeks ago with Jacob and my friend Sunni at Salish Ponds in Fairview.  This is not a bird that shows up in people's yards. 

This is a very good yard bird, probably the best I have ever had.  Audrey saw it again Saturday morning in the yard, and Jacob saw it Sunday afternoon.  Yesterday morning before work I was looking out the window, watching an Orange-crowned Warbler flit around in my snowberry.  Then something flew into the dogwood in front of the snowberry, a freakin Lazuli Bunting!

Phone through binoculars photo

This was another new yard bird, another GREAT yard bird.  In some places Lazuli Buntings are common feeder birds but certainly not in Portland.  It took off soon after and I had to go to work.  I noticed it was the first one reported in the county this year, so that's nifty. 

Anna's Hummingbirds have returned after nesting and the young ones area always around doing weird stuff.  One even flew right up to my camera and hovered in front of the lens for a few seconds. 

Black-capped Chickadees reclaimed the house they used last year and have been pretty active collecting nesting material, including Ralph's fur. 

A couple falls ago I planted a baby big leaf maple tree in the backyard to replace the mountain ash that had to come down.  I crossed my fingers that someday it would attract warblers though I was not expecting it to do so when it was still only four feet tall.

Orange-crowned Warbler blending in

There has been an Orange-crowned and a Yellow-rumped in the yard almost daily this spring, which is unusual and awesome.  Golden-crowned Sparrows will leave me soon so I have to enjoy them while I can.  At least the White-crowneds will probably stay. 

These two went to the same modeling school.

 That's about it for the local birds for now.  Let's see what turns up in the yard today!  Good times!!