Sunday, October 29, 2017

Klickitat County

For Jake the dog's 12th birthday this week I wanted to take him on a little adventure somewhere, just the two of us like the old days.  I decided we should head east through the gorge and do some exploring in the farmlands and wind fields of Klickitat County.  Highway 14 is stunning right now with fall colors, and when you throw in a pumpkin muffin and a hot chai it is pretty much perfection.

Tip of Mount Hood with its shadow

 View from Cape Horn

I turned up Old Highway 8, passed Catherine Creek, and stopped at random pullout with a view and spot to walk Jake.


My first planned birding stop was the cemetery on Balch Road but as I pulled up a dude and his giant off-leash dog appeared, coming out of the gate of the cemetery.  After staring me down (both the dude and the dog), they went back into the cemetery and disappeared.  Nope.  Nope nope nope.  I kept driving to the Centerville Highway and took a turn off there.


A series of abandoned structures were begging to be explored, but as I got out of the car there were gunshots on the hillside behind me.  A coyote was freaking out, howling and yipping and carrying on like I had never heard before.  It didn't stop.  I was barely able to make out the animal on the hill, not too far from where the shots came from.  It was an unpleasant scene and I decided to keep driving.

Uecker Road looked nice and deserted so I took that turn and quickly spotted a few flickers on the ground.  One was an obvious intergrade.


I like the brown malar.  My first magpies of the day were in this area as well.


I turned onto Dalles Mountain Road where juncos appeared, then meadowlarks, then a random tiny pond with ducks.  Northern Pintails and a sleeping Hooded Merganser.

Two county birds!

This road turned into cow and lark country.  Good stuff.




 Mount Adams, RTHA



There were far more pipits in these fields than I expected and it seemed like I could always at least hear a couple. 

Pip pip

On Rattlesnake Road I found a pull out under some wind turbines where we could get out and pee and all that.  A couple of little lupines were still blooming.


We came down Rattlesnake Road to Dooley Road, and finally to Highway 97 which I took back to 14.  I stopped to check out Avery Park which was boring, but a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a kestrel battling nearby was cool.


I also got my county Rock Pigeon here so yay.  Our next stop was Columbia Hills State Park for a hike up the Crawford Oaks trail.  It was slow-going, as Jake is not keen on uphill climbs these days.


This lovely hot pink penstemon was flowering along the rock wall:



We finished up here and continued back towards home, making only one more stop at the Drano Lake boat ramp.  A raven was perched on the dock.


All in all it was a fun day with my little buddy.


Plus 8 new Klickitat County birds!  Good times!!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Future 5MR: Arnold Park and Columbia Springs

Last week I decided to start exploring my future 5-mile-radius, beginning with a couple of hot spots I found on eBird.  The first, Arnold Park, is a little over a mile stretch of the Burnt Bridge Creek bike path.  Google told me little beyond the fact that someone had been murdered there this summer.  Fun.  I parked on Arnold Road right off NE St Johns Rd, across from what looked like an abandoned car.  Light rain fell and things definitely felt creepy. 

View from where I parked

 Arnold Road (above) dead ends beyond a lone house and a gravel trail leads to the actual bike path.  There was no one around. 


I was hoping an owl would appear in the open window of that barn, but no luck.  There was a sleeping bag below the overhang that may or may not have contained a body. 

The bike path winds downhill, past some open areas, before heading through some woods.


The shrubs in the open areas contained some birds, and I stopped for my first Fox Sparrow of fall.


Near the sparrows were all these cool mushrooms:


I continued down the path into the woods where I found a small pond on the south side which featured a few Mallards.



There were occasional trails heading north into denser shrubs but I could also make out a homeless camp back in there.  I made it to the west-side entrance to the park and decided to turn around, feeling what can only be described as the heebie jeebies.  After a power walk back to the more open area of the trail I slowed down to check the sparrow flocks again.  I found the best birding was had in one area above the creek where the longer I stood, the more birds appeared before me. 

More Fox Sparrows

Along this stretch there were American Goldfinches, a White-throated Sparrow, an Anna's Hummingbird, kinglets, chickadees, and a single Mourning Dove.  Cackling Geese flew over with a sneaky duck trying to fit in.


I was back at the beginning of the trail but noticed the bike path split in two directions.  The uphill direction went to a road crossing where it continued east, but where did the other direction go?  I followed it along the creek to a dead end, where the creek passed under the road but the trail did not.  It was a birdy little area with tons of kinglets, chickadees, wrens, and siskins.  A Downy Woodpecker was around, as well as a Red-tailed Hawk and a pile of Steller's Jays. 



I finished off my exploration with 27 species for the morning.  Maybe on a sunny weekend day this place would be less creepy but I doubt I will be going back alone. 

On Saturday morning it was raining again but Jacob and Matthew were down for checking out another spot in the future 5MR, Columbia Springs.  I didn't know much about it except that on eBird there was a hot spot here called Biddle Lake.  It turned out to be a great spot with a trout hatchery and a bunch of trails. 


We started at the hatchery and headed east to the lakes from there.



Once on the trails I began searching for salamanders and found a rough-skinned newt rather quickly.


Despite the rain it was a very pretty walk. 



We passed a large log and I asked Jacob to help me roll it over.  Success!  Another newt and a new salamander:



This one is a Western redback salamander. 

The trail through the woods pops out into a meadow with some scattered trees and another pond.


We made our way back to the loop trail and back to where we started, bringing our eBird checklist up to 22 species, 8 of which were new for the hot spot.  I am excited to check out the rest of the trails in the area as this place definitely has a lot of potential.  Plus it's not creepy!  Win win. 

Conclusion:  Columbia Springs > Arnold Park.

Good times!!!!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Recent things.

Birds are back.  At work, customers have been talking excitedly about the chaos in their yards, how they are seeing more finches than they have seen before.   Goldfinches and siskins are keeping us in business right now.

The fall weather has also brought Chestnut-backed Chickadees to the yard.


These handsome devils inspired my recent junk mail creation for Portland Audubon's Wild Arts Festival:


Anyone can donate a 6x6 canvas to be sold at the festival for $45 with the money going to Audubon.  More info here.  Jacob also made one by printing one of his photos onto regular paper, then using Mod Podge Photo Transfer goo to transfer the ink to the canvas.  It came out pretty cool:


I visited Blue Lake yesterday to see if anything new had shown up for fall.  First off was a decent-sized flock of American Pipits.  I counted 16 at one time, though there easily could have been more.  Possibly the biggest flock I've had in Portland, but no rarities that I could pick out.


At one point I found a nice flock of sparrows which included a bunch of Golden-crowneds, tons of juncos, a couple Songs, a towhee, and two White-throateds.  We don't see multiple White-throateds in one flock often in Portland, away from Sauvie Island.


Both the pipit and the sparrow were new birds for the park, bringing the total on eBird up to 110.  On the way out of the park I stopped to scan a flock of Cackling Geese and noticed one had a band.  I love learning how old a bird is and where it has been.



TX@.  What a name.  I reported the bird in the afternoon and by the next morning I had a certificate in my email with her details.


Sweet!  She was born in 2010 or earlier, and was banded near Chevak, Alaska.  Kristine Sowl seems to be a busy goose-bander because this is the third (I think) goose I have submitted that was banded by her.  Last year I did a post with another one of her geese here.  Fun stuff.

On Monday morning Jacob and I tried to go to Whitaker Ponds but unfortunately they're still making a mess, putting in a new parking area.  Instead we visited the weird pond by the Radisson Hotel off Columbia Blvd.  There was fog and sun and spiderwebs and some birds.

 Ring-necked Ducks


 Green-winged Teal



The Columbia Slough passes through this area and there's a pipe that connects it below the road.  At the entrance to the pipe the water was swirling around and the fall leaves reflecting in the water was lovely.



Yesterday someone posted on OBOL a link to this eBird checklist from a cruise ship off the coast of British Columbia.  I'm glad there was a birder on the boat to document this event as it really is fascinating, even though it didn't end well for most of the birds.  

The cruise ship reminded me of the movie Jacob and I watched the other night:



The NRDC recently sent out an email inviting anyone to watch the movie for free on Vimeo (available on Roku fyi) with the code SONICSEE.  It's a beautiful and horribly depressing film, perfect for a dreary evening.

That's about it for me, happy fall!!!