Sunday, September 24, 2017

Broughton Beach, etc.

This week has been a good one for Broughton Beach.  Not as good as in 2015, but still pretty damn good.  I went out one morning and found no one on the beach, only a coyote.

That big black patch on its neck seems to be blood, and I'm guessing it got into a scuffle with an off-leash dog.  After it saw me approaching it went up to the bike path and started heading west, but then some joggers spooked it back my way. 

It's got to be rough trying to keep a low profile at Broughton.

American Pipits are back and I had my first couple of fall on the mud.

My friend Tait was also out on the mud looking for birds and we decided to try walking through the willows for longspurs.  Big flocks of Greater White-fronted Geese were migrating overhead.

I looked back at the gull roost area and noticed a small gull had joined the party.  We walked back towards it, still unsure if it was a Bonaparte's or something more exciting. 

I was thinking it sure looked like the Sabine's Gull we had just seen in Woodland when another interesting bird caught my eye.  This one was cruising fast and low over the river, with a dark back and pointed wings.  I was shooting off photos while also trying to get Tait on it.  Photos showed it was a jaeger!

I was not completely sure which jaeger it was yet, but once I got home and studied some Sibley I was fairly confident it was a Parasitic. 

Soon after the jaeger fly-by the small gull took off and proved to us it was a Sabine's.  Two county birds in five minutes.  What a day.

After that excitement I walked back towards to the car and stopped for this super peaceful Common Merganser.

I had been home for about an hour when I got a call from Jay Withgott that he was at Broughton Beach and also had a Parasitic Jaeger.  Tait had stuck around and photographed this bird which we determined was a different one from earlier, despite both being light adults.  Two jaegers within a couple hours is pretty damn good for that spot. 

In addition to the second jaeger they had a flock of Lapland Longspurs.  Damn!

One afternoon this week Jacob and I chased a reported Black Phoebe on the Columbia Slough.  It took awhile but he finally picked it out as it chased a bug over the slough.

At the time I didn't think this was in my 5-mile-radius but OH SNAP it is!  #149 for the year.

We decided to hit up Broughton afterwards where the sky was looking amazing. 


We could see a bird perched on a log in the middle of the river near the gull roost.  I figured it was probably a merganser but after a few photos I realized it was one of the reported Common Terns!


A little bit later we ran into our friend Eric but the tern had disappeared by then.  Luckily Jacob noticed it flying back, crossing over to Washington waters as it flew west.  Yay, it became a Clark County bird for us all!  We took off shortly after, and the sky was still looking wild.

I had a good morning birding Blue Lake on Friday with a large mixed flock of warblers, chickadees, flycatchers, and more.  A singing male Purple Finch was not only a new park bird but also 5MR bird #151!

A flock of at least six Black-throated Gray Warblers was definitely a highlight.

And lastly, another new Blue Lake bird was a Lincoln's Sparrow at the edge of the lake.

This has been an excellent week for county birds, 5MR birds, and birds in general!  Yay birds.  Good times!!!!

Monday, September 18, 2017


The last few weeks I have spent quite a bit of time birding around Clark County, across the river from Portland.  I like it over there and my future home base will be over there so I need to keep my eBird stats up in that county.  That's right, I will someday be a Washington birder rather than an Oregon one.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it. 

On Labor Day Jacob and I went out to the Shillapoo Wildlife Area along Laframbois Road and had a great time with migrants and shorebirds.

 Greater Yellowlegs

Least Sandpiper

We didn't find anything unusual but it was a solid morning of birding.  On the way back to town for lunch I forced him to look at pigeons so I could eBird them for him, filling a ridiculous hole in his county bird list.

Last week I went out to the fields north of Shillapoo Lake to see what could be found.  American White Pelicans were the most conspicuous birds, flying over almost constantly.  eBird still can't handle the numbers of pelicans in this area. 

A harrier was cruising over the corn fields and at one point flew right at me.  As I tried to focus it got way closer than expected before it banked north and away. 

A flock of geese flew over that I thought sounded like Cackling so I took one quick photo.  They were indeed Cackling, definitely on the early side.  Sandhill Cranes were also calling in the distance making fall official.  

On one side of the trail is marsh and wetlands, on the other side corn fields and blackberries.  I noticed a glowing white blob in the mess of shrubs, a flashy leucistic Savannah Sparrow. 


On Saturday Jacob and I went up to Woodland in Cowlitz County for the reported juvenile Sabine's Gull.  Unlike most Sabine's, this bird had stuck around for almost a week and I was particularly excited to see it.  Upon arrival at Martin's Bar a birder came up and told us exactly where to look, and when we looked, there it was.  Birding is easy.  It put on a great show flying up and down the river, eating stuff, showing off its lovely wing pattern.

It coughed up that round thing (some kind of shellfish?) and then half-heartedly poked it like it might try to eat it again.

Then it caught a little fish.

This was my first time seeing a Sabine's from land so it was very cool to see it walk around.  Of course, the real show was the bird in flight.

So cool!  It was a state bird for me and a lifer for Jacob.  Yay!  When it flew south one last time we decided to drive down the sandy road to give it a last look.  An older woman driving a prius also drove towards it, then stopped and parked, nervous about the deep sand.  She walked up to us and asked where it was, and when Jacob said it was quite a ways down she said "I ride with you" and jumped in the back of the car.  Old ladies are great like that.  Then the gull chose to fly back towards us and land nearby, so she jumped out. 

We continued driving south to a spot where we could turn around and found five Horned Larks in the road, which came up as rare in eBird.  Fun.

From Woodland we drove back south to Vancouver and checked the pond on Lower River Road for the reported Snowy Egrets.  We found one Snowy quickly, always a good bird this far north.

See it?

 There it is. 

After the egret we checked out the bridge trail about a mile (half a mile?) north of Vancouver Lake Park.  The trail leads through the woods to the lake and I was hoping to catch glimpse of the reported Common Terns.  No luck there but Jacob did make some worm friends.

We returned to the road and explored in the other direction, the area I had been last week north of Shillapoo Lake.  Sandhill Cranes were flying over non stop.

 Insert heart emoji here.

In the middle of the trail I noticed a wasp fly up from the ground, then another, and another.  Further inspection revealed a hole in the ground with a perfect grass canopy.

Yellow jackets, I think.  I thought it was cool to see, even if they're not the most pleasant insect to share space with.

As we were walking back to the car Jacob pointed out some soaring birds.  We picked out two pairs of harriers plus a Peregrine Falcon all soaring.  The falcon and harriers scuttled a little here and there and I took some bad blown out photos. 

The falcon soared off to the east and the harriers returned to messing with each other.  We weren't sure exactly what they were doing, but it was fun to watch. 

Overall it's been fun birding Washington, as it always has been.  Good times!!!

Friday, September 8, 2017

End of summer.

Maybe by calling this post "End of summer" summer will in fact end.  It's not that I haven't had a good time this season, because I have, but I am over the heat, the smoke, the haze, the butt sweat (not to mention the hurricanes, the floods, the wildfires and now the earthquakes).  There have been birds though, many that have yet to make it to the blog.  So let's begin.

Last Thursday was a regular day.  I was walking Rexi home from Jacob's son's elementary school when I received a text from Seagull Steve.  "So are you driving to Seattle right now?"  I checked Tweeters and found the reports that a Swallow-tailed Gull had shown up in Seattle, a ridiculously rare bird (a MEGA if you will) that belongs in the Gal├ípagos, not the Pacific Northwest.  It did not take much to convince Audrey to drop everything and get in the car to Seattle, never mind the facts that one:  she was at work, and two: that she would have to drive all the way to Malheur once we returned. 

We made it to Carkeek Park in Seattle by 1:30 and had great views of the bird through other people's scopes.  Photos were far less desirable as the bird never came close as it did for many other people.

 California and Swallow-tailed Gulls


 Audrey and I were both short on time so we didn't really look at anything else while we were there.  The bird continues to be seen from various points around Puget Sound so it's tempting to return for more gawking. 

Now back to more local birding.  Blue Lake Park has been my patch this year and it continues to make me happy by exceeding all my expectations.  Here are some birds from the the last month there:

Western Wood-Pewee vs. underwing moth

 Willow Flycatcher playing phoebe over the pond. 

 Snoozey McSnoozerson

 White-breasted Nuthatch

 Cooper's Hawk subtly eating and screaming

Kingfisher screaming and not eating

 TUVU after being chased around by geese (this is embarrassment)

Yesterday I hit up Chinook Landing to see what was around and learned that Warbling Vireos eat red osier dogwood berries.  Who knew?

Across the field from the vireo a lovely Orange-crowned Warbler hopped out into the open(ish) for me.  I read the piece on eBird about OCWA subspecies, but all I know is this is one of the gray-headed ones.  eBird took that as it being rare, though I don't know if that is true.

Behind the boat launch a young yellowthroat gave me an earful.

On the home front the feeders continue to be busy.  Red-breasted Nuthatches showed up a couple weeks ago and are spending all their time caching sunflower seeds around the neighborhood. 

All the birds are appreciating the baths right now and I'm doing my best to keep them full.

Yesterday the real harbinger of fall zipped over the yard and landed in a distant tree:  a Merlin!  Two crows took a couple half-assed dives at it before moving on. 

Lastly, there is a Barn Owl in my 5-mile radius that I have been checking on every month since I first discovered it last December.  It often flushes, but the other day I visited and it finally decided I was not worth flying away over. 

We are friends, forest muppet.
Later that day I took Jacob back to see it and it was snoozing hard with a foot out in front of it, barely visible at all. 

This is my first self-found non-barn-dwelling Barn Owl so it is a very dear bird to me. 

That's all I'm going to share today, though trust me there are a billion more photos from this summer that never made it to the blog.  There's always next time.  Stay safe out there!  Good times!!