Thursday, April 26, 2018

Local April birds.

Spring is all about year birds, and they are coming fast and furious lately.  No time to chat, let's dive right in.

 Not a year bird

Jacob and I went owling in my old 5MR a couple weeks ago and he showed me where he had seen a Barred Owl roosting earlier in the spring.  A Barn Owl flew out of the roost.  What?  Weird.  We had Great Horneds hooting that night but no saw-whet as we had hoped for.  Walking back to the car we had a striped skunk (life mammal for both of us!) creeping around.


It's initial reaction was to walk away from us, but soon decided we were not a threat and went about its skunk business. 


The Vancouver Lake area continues to hand out county birds, like this Bonaparte's Gull that Jim Danzenbaker found one morning:


After that success I went over to Shillapoo Lake and lucked into some flyover Black-bellied Plovers, another county bird.


Jacob and I invested in a couple of kayaks this month and our first outing was on Vancouver Lake.  We checked out some back corners you can't see from any public access point where a big grebe flock was hiding.  Three Clark's Grebes in the mix!


Classic "I'm on a kayak" photo.

Last weekend Jacob, Matthew and I went out to Steigerwald Lake NWR so Matthew could get some more photos taken for the youth photo contest they have every year.  This year they changed the rules about the age limit because he entered last year and would have placed but he was technically too young.  He got some particularly awesome photos when this Pileated Woodpecker flew to a tree like ten feet away from him.


This log supports diversity.

Our second kayak outing was in Ridgefield, using the boat launch at the end of Division Street on Lake River.  Lake River from this point heads south and under the bridge you drive over to get to the auto tour of Ridgefield NWR, or heads north to the Columbia where there's a view of Warrior Rock Lighthouse on Sauvie Island.  A third option is to head north but turn left and south on Bachelor Slough before hitting the Columbia.  This is the area we explored.


On the river there are tons of pilings with creatively made swallow houses.


One of the highlights this day was all the Northern Rough-winged Swallows staking out territory around holes in the riverbank.  I can't recall ever seeing one of their nest holes before.




We also had a sea lion and a beaver on this trip, which was pretty awesome. 

I had been excited to visit my patch, Meadowbrook Marsh, for some migrant-hunting.

 Hermit Thrush

Nashville Warbler

 And best of all, my FOY empid sp!

Brief views through a million branches

A few things from Ridgefield:

 Marsh Wren breakfast

 Great Horned with sad right eye

 Goslings debating ownership of vegetation

Possible Wilson's Phalarope!

Finally, last week I went out to the gorge to hike up to Mitchell Point, all because I saw someone's Instagram post of fairy slipper orchids there.  It's only 1.3 miles to the top though it's all uphill.  I found the orchids easily which made me very happy.

Calypso bulbosa

I was so pleased I almost turned around before going to the summit, then thought I ought to at least check out the view.

I-84 on left, SR-14 on right next to Drano Lake

I was very glad I chose to visit the top because then I saw a few birds flying around just below me.  Freakin Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches!  All I had was a macro lens, so I did some bad phone/binocular photos to document them.


A very good bird for this location! 

Now I'm all caught up, so time to find some more birds!  Good times!!!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Klickitat County

Yesterday Jacob took the day off work since it was going to be super nice outside for the first time in a long time.  We decided to head east on 14 with no real destination, though I never have trouble coming up with places to stop.  After boring Bingen Pond we ended up past Catherine Creek on Balch Road, an area with a winery and a cemetery known for offering up Lewis's and Acorn Woodpeckers.

Immediately I noticed a bird fly into a tree and disappear into a hole.  When it flew out we saw it was a Lewis's and eventually it landed on a branch not too far away, offering the best views I've ever had of this species.


We parked at the cemetery and walked all over the area hearing every variety of tapping and drumming.  Red-breasted Nuthatches were excavating a nest in one tree, a Hairy Woodpecker was pecking on another, and a flicker was drumming on a dead branch.

Hairy Woodpecker

After stopping along Balch Lake for turtles and Osprey, we drove to the end of Balch Road where the Acorn Woodpecker action was located.  No photos.  Then back to 14 where we carried on east to Columbia Hills State Park.  This is a park known for wildflowers so I was psyched to explore it a bit, starting with Dalles Mountain Road.  First off, a giant clover caught my attention and I took off up the rocky slope to take a phone pic.  Then Jacob yelled "Golden Eagle!" so I turned to take a cell phone video of it flying right towards us.




Later we stopped on the way out so I could take some macro photos of the same flower, which I learned was big headed clover (Trifolium macrocephalum).  I am a big fan.

With some fiddleneck, I think

We drove on up the road and took a random turn up a really terrible dirt road and stopped where another car had parked.  It kind of looked like a trail so we took it.  A Golden Eagle appeared in front of a cloud-covered Mount Hood, perhaps the same one as earlier.


 The oaks on the trail were hosting tons of yellow-rumpeds but also a couple of Western Bluebirds, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Chipping Sparrow.

Chipper

The trail passed a tiny creek and this area was packed with small interesting critters from bees to butterflies to frogs to lizards.  Water seeping through the gravel trail was packed with what looked like mason bees.


I just noticed in my photos that several of them had mites on their backs.


There was regular tree frog at the creek, as well as the biggest tree frog either of us had ever seen.


There's no good size reference in this photo but it was two to three times the size of the other tree frog we saw.  

Lizard pal

On our walk back to the car a female Western Bluebird flew by us and into a likely nest cavity, from which she studied us for a moment.


We drove back down the sketchy dirt road past amazing fields of balsamroot, stopped for the clover, then carried on till I heard a Canyon Wren singing.  It turned out to be a pair of wrens busy with singing, collecting nesting material, and hopping around on the cliff walls.


That was the last interesting bird of the day.  It was very fun little adventure into Klickitat County with amazingly no ticks found (yet).


Good times!!!!

P.S.  Have you checked out that Barred Owl nest cam yet?  The owlets are getting big and even more silly looking, as seen last night:


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Wildflower o'clock.

It's that magical time:  wildflower season in the Columbia River Gorge but also spring migration! Time to see all the things outside all the time.  Scattered dry days have been great for heading out to Catherine Creek for flowers, and rainy days have been the standard for birding locally.  Here I will combine the flowers from a recent day in the gorge with the birds I've been seeing recently.

Sunrise at Catherine Creek

 Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

 Yellow-headed Blackbird, Shillapoo Lake

 Upland larkspur (Delphinium nutallianum)

 Checker lily (or Mission bells) (Fritillaria affinis)

 Fingers crossed this will be a Red-breasted Sapsucker nest, Meadowbrook Marsh


Pacific Hound's tongue (Cynoglossum grande)

 Camas field with Mount Hood

Acorn Woodpecker, Catherine Creek (Klickitat County bird!)

 What is this??

 Chickweed monkeyflower (Erythanthe alsinoides)

 Wilson's Snipe, Meadowbrook Marsh

Naked broomrape (Orobanche uniflora) with monkeyflower and miniature lupine (I think)

 Meadow death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum)

 Shooting stars (need to learn to differentiate these guys)

 Hermit Thrush, Meadowbrook Marsh Park (Clark County year bird!)



 Jacob getting nerdy with his iPad


 Mount Hood


White camas!


Bushtit working on her nest, Meadowbrook Marsh

That's it for birds and flowers.  In other news the couple of recent warm days were enough to wake up my mason bees!


Unfortunately I noticed that at least one of the bees has some pollen mites.


Not sure there's anything I can do about it at this point.  That's what I get for never cleaning my cocoons.


Lastly, if you enjoy cuteness and dead stuff and need to kill your phone battery quick, it's a great time to watch the Barred Owl nest box web cam on the Cornell website.  Three little white monkeys are being sat on and fed fish (I had no idea) and dead rodents.  A couple screenshots from last night:


Happy spring!!!