Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tres Pollos National Forest

With summer heading into its final stretch I was itching to get in a little camping on Friday and decided, without any research, to head towards Sisters.  Unfortunately this lack of research led to me driving straight towards a wildfire burning just west of Sisters. 

My plan had been to take the long way along Highway 242 so when I turned off onto 126 (which leads to 242) I was relieved to find the smoke clear and blue sky return.  But 242 was closed.  For fire.  Time for a new plan.

 I noticed a few roads leading into Willamette National Forest along 126 and took one that looked like it might lead to somewhere I might want to camp.  Barely any humans were detected on these roads, maybe two trucks the whole rest of the day.  At one point three grouse flushed from the road. 

Sooties!  I was not sure what county I was in (it was Lane) but I figured it was a county bird.  Heh. 

The lack of people on these dusty roads really increased the appeal for me, along with occasional stunning views of hazy scenery.  I kept exploring and found a Ruffed Grouse standing in the road.  Two chicken species in one day is always nice.  I managed one shot through the windshield before it flew down the brushy hillside.

So good.

I was keeping an eye out for owls and got excited for a second when I saw a large bird perched on a branch in the woods.

Only a Red-tail but kind of a cool one at least. 

 At one point I thought I had found as good of a campsite as I was going to find.  The area had burned so there were lots of dead trees and a view of Mt. Washington.  I took the dogs on a walk here but Jake did not like that rough red lava rock.  The decision was made to keep on looking for a better spot.

I kept following NF-2649 up and up and found some lovely viewpoints that would have been amazing without the smoke. 

Another fire.

A little ways past the Melakwa Scout Camp turnoff I found another dirt road that looked like it had a good view.  Holy guacamole, I had found my camp spot. 

At over 4000 feet elevation it had amazing views of the Sisters and Broken Top, plus soft dirt for Jake's tender feet!  Perfect.  Shortly after I had things set up I heard a vehicle approaching on the road.  A camper van pulled into *my* camp spot much to my disappointment.  The fellow driving leaned out his window and yelled "just turning around!  Had to see the view!"  Jake barked at him the whole time.  It was that one time out of 100 when I actually appreciated that barking.  After that no other vehicles came by, not even on the "main" road. 

After dinner and an after-dinner dog walk I set my alarm for 11:00 p.m. so I could try to get some night sky shots. 

It was hazy but still plenty of stars (and planes) could be seen.

That pink glow above showed up in two photos and then never again.  I tried moving around to re-find it and failed.  It was probably Bigfoot lighting one of his farts on fire.  Or aliens. 

I went back to bed and set my alarm for a half hour before sunrise, which I was guessing would happen somewhere over the mountains.

I was moving the tripod around when a nighthawk came flying from the east right to our campsite where it did a full loop, getting as close as ten feet from me, before flying off.  Probably one of my favorite nighthawk encounters ever.

The dogs listened to chipmunks snacking in the manzanita shrubs while the sun rose. 

I had been planning to take off for more exploring after the sunrise but with the sun came a lot of bird activity in the camp spot.  Warblers, nuthatches, Gray Jays, and more kept me from leaving too quickly. 

Orange-crowned Warbler

Full morning checklist here.

Eventually we got back on the road and found pockets of bird activity here and there.  One great spot held Nashville, Townsend's, and Hermit Warblers.  Another had a feisty MacGillivray's.  Yellow-rumpeds were around along with more Orange-crowneds.  It had been awhile since I'd had so many warblers in one morning. 

 Typical MacGillivray's

Hermit Warbler

 Early on I found this rabbit in the road which I think is a varying hare, aka snowshoe hare, mainly due to the white splotches on its hind feet. 

I stopped to walk the dogs up a road I had seen the day before that passes through a large burned area.  It seemed like it should be a woodpecker paradise but I was only able to find one Hairy.

After that walk we kept on going until we hit another interesting burned area.

Something rustled in the bushes and when I stopped the car the weird sounds of a Mountain Quail could be heard.  I finally managed to pick out its butt in the shrub, and then its belly, and finally its head. 

 Typical MOQU view.

This was a nice find as it holds the ever important title of being a Year Bird, as well as chicken #3 for the trip!

Once I gave up on decent quail photos a House Wren volunteered its services as internet model.

After that I made my way down off whatever mountain I was on (Scott Mountain?) and back to the highway.  Overall a successful camping trip with lots of good birds and beautiful scenery!  Good times!!!

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!!!!!!!