Sunday, February 18, 2018

Local February birds.

It's February, a month of taking what you can get birding-wise.  For whatever reason, being in a new county makes me want to bird a little bit harder so I've been trying more than usual to get county year birds.  It's been fun.  It's also been a little easier now that I get texts from some of the local birders when they find cool shit, like this Western Screech-Owl tucked in a potential nest cavity:


This was probably a county bird for me, as my only previous sighting was a sketchy backlit bird at Ridgefield my first year of birding.

On a sunny day earlier this month I walked to Meadowbrook Marsh Park to work on my motorless list, adding only Green-winged Teal and Pied-billed Grebe, but also my first motorless rough-skinned newt!


Local birders had seen a Black Phoebe around Vancouver Lake Park recently and I tried for it a couple times unsuccessfully.  There are plenty of birds to entertain there though.

Steller's Jay

 White-throated Year Bird


Eurasian Wigeons

 White-breasted Nuthatch

Over the last couple of months there have been some reports of a Glaucous Gull at the transfer station on Old Lower River Road (known officially as West Vancouver Materials Recovery Center).  I tried for this bird close to ten times I think, once lucking out with my county Brant in a nearby field.  Finally on Friday it was there, standing on the roof like it was supposed to be.


Even with this view I didn't feel 100% confident and had to have it confirmed by Seagull Steve.  Of course it was indeed the Glaucous and it became my third county bird for the year!

I have hit up Steigerwald Lake NWR a couple times this month which has helped the county year list.  One day I took Ralph for a walk on the dike trail, hoping for an early Say's Phoebe or something but instead finally found a Common Loon.


I made the mistake of telling Jacob that Common Loons are super common in the Columbia and that I was surprised he hadn't seen one in Clark County before.  Then we spent two months never seeing a Common Loon despite birding a ton.  Finally this bird saved the day, and even stuck around till yesterday when Jacob and I went back to Steigerwald. 

A few more birds from my walk with Ralph:

 Bald Eagle drying out

Pileated Woodpecker

Kestrel with snowy Crown Point in the background

On yesterday's walk at Steigerwald we managed to enjoy sunshine much of the time, with one major but quick-to-pass downpour followed by a sweet rainbow. 


This rainbow made swallows appear from thin air, even ones that eBird was not pleased with like a couple of early Violet-greens.


And more acceptable for February, Barn Swallows:


One more bird-related thing to share:  a Red-tailed Hawk.  Recently when birding I heard a bell sound and looked to see a Red-tailed Hawk fly by with bells jingling.  My first thought was that it had eaten the cat wearing a bell I had recently seen.  When it landed I could see that it actually had bells attached to its legs indicating it's a falconer's bird.


It's possible the falconer was nearby, taking the bird out for a training session, but I have my fingers crossed the bird escaped and is going to enjoy a life of freedom. 


Oh yeah, one more bird.  Another Sharp-shinned Hawk showed up in the yard yesterday morning.

Where dat junco go?
 
That's it for now.  Good times!! 

Early February sunset near the Vancouver lowlands

Monday, February 5, 2018

Owls and stuff.

Last weekend Jacob and I met up with Audrey in eastern Washington to track down some owls.  We stocked up on snacks at a gas station in Burbank, then Audrey led us to our first owl stop, a rocky wall with a few small holes filled with Barn Owls. 


Next we headed out to the area where a Snowy Owl had been seen all winter.  Jacob and Audrey had both tried for this bird before and dipped, so the pressure was on. 


We finally drove far enough down a side road and crested a small hill when it appeared below us perched on some farm equipment, as it was supposed to be.


Lifer for both Jacob and Audrey! 


We decided not to push our luck and get any closer and we left the bird in the same spot we found it in.  With the most important bird under our belt we decided to go for the next hardest one, the Long-eared Owl.  There is a well-known road in the area where piles of Long-eareds roost, though they are notoriously difficult to see through branches and such. 


It continued to get darker with clouds as we drove up and down the road, scanning every nook and cranny inside those trees in the above photo.  Eventually Audrey picked out the silhouette of one behind a bunch of branches.  She was in fact looking at it when another car appeared carrying a fellow whose license plate declared he would rather be birding.  Audrey decided she did not trust the fellow just yet and did not tell him she was staring at a Long-eared, and instead told him she was "looking for Long-eareds."  He kindly offered to help.  I found this hilarious.

Eventually we all got onto about four or five Long-eareds and even managed a few photos. 


With the most challenging species taken care of we decided to head to a park on the Snake River for a good dog walk and some more well-known owls.

Owl poop

We found two Northern Saw-whet Owls roosting in one area, one angrier than the other.

Angry

 Only semi-angry

Not far from the saw-whets we stumbled across a Great Horned Owl pair.


All the owls!  We walked the dogs around the park for awhile checking out the other birds and things.


The weather had gone from sunny to cloudy to chilly rain and wind and then back to sunny and warm.  With the dogs tired we headed back to Kennewick to check into our hotel, then caught the sunset as we toasted to owls at Ice Harbor Brewery. 

Pasco-Kennwewick Cable Bridge

The next morning the wind was howling as we packed the car and met up with Audrey at Little Randy's Diner.  After breakfast we drove back out to the Snowy Owl spot where the Snowy Owl was not hanging out.  Finally Jacob spotted it flying across a field in the distance and we drove over to the area.  It sat in one field for a long time, then flew to another field where it attracted the attention of a Northern Harrier.


We left it to it's battle and headed to Nine Mile Canyon where some redpolls and other birds had been seen.  We didn't see much besides tumbleweeds and goldfinches.


After that we parted ways with Audrey and stopped at McNary Wildlife Area to walk the dogs a bit.  I had been here once before and remembered a big Black-crowned Night-Heron roost along the trail and sure enough it was going strong.

It weirdly looks like night.

 
On the river there were some big white birds I had forgotten existed in the winter: pelicans!


In the shrubs were packs of sparrows including this bright Song Sparrow:


I thought it was an eastern type, but after consulting Sibley I think it has more southwest traits.  Not sure.  Cool to see one that's not PNW-style.

After that we slowly made our way back home along Highway 14, with several stops at random parks along the way.  This is Jacob and the mutts at Sundale Park in Klickitat County where I picked up two county birds making this my second WA county over 100.


Overall it was great little trip with tons of neat birds and gorgeous scenery!  Oh and the company was pretty good too!  Good times!!