Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The 5MR must go on.

A thick layer of dust had accumulated on my 5-mile radius list this summer and I decided it needed a sprucing, a revival, a brand new 5MR bird to bring it back from the dead.  Conveniently a Rough-legged Hawk has been hanging out by the Portland airport for months, often seen from Broughton Beach.  It didn't dawn on me that this was in my 5MR until Jacob saw it from his work (next to the airport) and I was like WAIT A MINUTE.  I finally made it over there recently to check it out.


Now, a Rough-legged Hawk in Portland in July is pretty wild so I was grateful when Carole Hallett posted the backstory on the bird on OBOL:

"It came from a nest site in Alaska the summer of 2016, spent some time in a rehab facility in Alaska as a result of an injury, and missed the opportunity to migrate south with its cohort.  It was flown to Cascade Raptor Center near Eugene where it spent additional time prior to release.  It was caught at PDX back in April or May of this year and released in Washington Co.  It returned soon thereafter and, as you all know, has been around since.  So, it's confused.  The hope is that it will find some friends when the Rough-legged Hawks return to our area this fall and follow them back north in the spring.  If not, it may end up pairing with a local redtail."


A pretty interesting story!  For now this bird has plenty to eat on the airport grounds, and I am guessing they are not planning on catching and moving it again. 

Broughton Beach was not particularly interesting that day aside from the hawk but I managed a few 5MR year birds anyway.  This inspired me to hit up more 5MR spots, starting with a park I had not realized was inside my radius:  Marine Park on the Columbia River.  Don't ask how I missed this important information. 

View of PDX and Broughton Beach across the river

There's a nice bike path that leads from the main beach access along some wooded swampy areas, back out to the river and all the way to Wintler Park.  Of course there were Osprey nests.



I was psyched to find a couple Bank Swallows in a swallow/swift swarm as it was not only a 5MR year bird, but also a county year bird.


There were tons of young cowbirds along the trail and I was most disturbed to see a Song Sparrow with a trail of not one, not two, but THREE.  Ugh. 


Good thing this dolphin was around to cheer me up.


The devil's spawn was moseying around on the tiny grass lawn by the Tidewater Cove Marina.


Back in the trees I was swarmed by chickadees for a few minutes.  A pleasant swarm.


It was a good little birding outing with three 5MR year birds added.  Another morning I decided to hit up a couple of old spots as well as new ones beginning with Columbia Springs Fish Hatchery.  At East Biddle Lake, just east of the hatchery, a duck was swimming around refusing to be identified.


A Mallard had flown by earlier, and two Wood Ducks were way on the backside of the lake.  I couldn't seem to turn this bird into either of those things.


 Now, the worst thing you can do is look at Sibley because then you might become convinced this is a Garganey.  I did not become convinced of such lunacy but I still did not understand what this is and so sent it over to Steve for help.  Since I didn't see the wing pattern all he had to offer was the suggestion of "highly weird Mallard."  I should probably go back there and look for it again, just in case...

From the hatchery I was excited to check out a new spot I found on the map, a tiny river access called Peach Beach, snuggled between private residences on the river.  Unfortunately when I arrived a youngish couple were out and about looking methy and I got the bad vibes.  So I abandoned that idea and headed to my next new spot, Fisher Cemetery. 


 I only had 13 species here but I really liked it.  It's a decent size with plenty of trees, a tiny view of the river over someone's roof, maintained but not watered or anything.  There's potential.


This Bewick's Wren bashed this earwig into submission and fed it to its children.  Not the earwig's children.  That would be interesting though. 


The pioneer section of the cemetery had the oldest graves though I found it odd that the "earliest recorded burial" was a 4 month old baby (July 25 1852- December 3 1852).  I guess I never thought about who the first person to be buried in a cemetery would be. 

From the cemetery I headed up to Pacific Community Park, a spot I visited once back in December.  It's main draw is the large fenced-in dog park but there's also some trails, gardens, and a ball field.  I was immediately charmed by all the young awkward towhees.


As I was walking around an older couple with their Westies saw me with binoculars and a camera, and the man yelled out, "you looking for the owl?"  I'm 98% sure this exact situation happened when I came here last time, most likely with the same people. 

I replied, "No, but if you know where one is...?"

The man said, "Right here!"  He pointed to some pine trees behind him then said "well, maybe not right now." 

I was ready to keep moving but then he said, "You know where Homestead Park is?" He proceeded to tell me about some young Cooper's Hawks he and his wife had seen the day before.  I was interested but then he told me about how there are Williamson's Sapsuckers at Pacific Park.  Sigh.  I kept walking and found a very noisy Bushtit nest.


It was getting warm and I was thinking about heading home, but instead looked up Homestead Park on google maps.  A new 5MR park with potentially nesting Cooper's Hawks is hard to resist.  I arrived at the park and immediately heard a hawk calling.  Ok, old man, you win this round.


There were in fact three young Cooper's Hawks in this small neighborhood park.  They were all pretty vocal which made it easy to do a headcount.  Plus they all flew together across the small field at one point.


They did not seem to care much about gawkers as almost every person walking the short circular path stopped to stare at them (because they were SO LOUD).  Pretty cool.  Aside from the hawks, the park was a yawn bird-wise so I called it a day.

July is certainly not the best time of year for birding but I am glad my 5MR list motivated me to check out some new spots.  I had more fun than expected even though it was only the common birds for entertainment.  Good times!!!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Grassy Knoll Trail

Well.  Blogger decided I did not actually want to write a blog post about the birds I have seen over the last few weeks and deleted the whole thing.  I will take that as a hint and write about the hike I did this week in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest instead.  Perhaps if this gets deleted I will try a post about the various bugs coming to the porch light, or a post about how many times a day Ralph tries to lick Jake's weiner.  I dunno.  Throw some shit on the ceiling and see what sticks, right?

Anyway.  I decided to check out the trail to Grassy Knoll, a 3648 foot hill that once hosted a fire lookout.  My original interest had been in Big Huckleberry Mountain but I decided with time constraints (and my slow flower-poking pace) a 12-mile hike would not work out.  Grassy Knoll is less than five miles round trip which leaves plenty of time to look at stuff. 


I got an early start on the 2-hour drive because I happened to wake up early and the day was supposed to get HOT.  The sky was brightening over Cascade Locks when I passed the Bridge of the Gods so I stopped at the lookout for a few minutes. 


Bridge of the Gods, where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Columbia

 After turning off the main road in Carson I did not see another car, or even another person till I was driving back hours later.  It's about eleven miles of bumpy potholed forest roads to the trail head which may explain the hike's unpopularity.


 I began the hike in wildflower mode with my macro lens on so I didn't capture the Gray Jays that flew low over me, checking for snacks.  Instead I captured some tall buckwheat.

Eriogonum elatum

Once into the woods the trail starts to climb but it's not as bad when you stop to look at flowers every 20 feet.

Scouler's harebell (Campanula scouleri)

As I was starting to get my first good views through the trees I also started to hear birds.  A few Red-breasted Nuthatches were piping up along with Chestnut-backed Chickadees and others.  Who doesn't love a flock?  So I switched out my lens for my bird nerd lens and caught the first bird I saw.


 Wilson's Warbler with a spider web to protect it from overeager photographers.  The flock was moving around and I kept finding new birds in it.  



Hermit Warblers galore

 Young Golden-crowned Kinglet

Cassin's Vireo

I could hear a Band-tailed Pigeon calling but didn't see it until I hiked up further and the trees opened up.

Surveying its domain

The trail led to some rocky outcroppings which offered amazing views to the north and east, plus wildflowers.

 Mount Adams 

A mess of Woodland beard tongue and Columbia lilies

Back in the woods some more wildflowers distracted me, like this foamflower.

Tiarella trifoliata

Eventually the trail came back out from the trees for a minute and I got my first look at Grassy Knoll.

Back through some more woods and the trail pops out at the bottom of the hill with some sweet views of Mount Hood to the south.


At the top I found my first Skamania County Chipping Sparrow which was not very exciting at all.


The remains of an old fire lookout are at the top as well.


There are great views to the southwest of the Columbia River Gorge including the Bridge of the Gods.

See it?

 There it is.

According to the Washington Trails Association website I should have hiked another mile for more wildflowers, but I didn't know about that at the time.  Instead I turned around and began the hike back and MacGillivray's Warblers started appearing and disappearing.

Mostly disappearing

In one of the open sections of the trail a female Rufous Hummingbird was guarding her domain of wildflowers.  She had some pollen-chin going on that I think adds some spice to her look. 


I watched her chase away other hummers but she seemed okay with this swallowtail enjoying the same Columbia lily she had been enjoying earlier.

Pale Tiger Swallowtail I think

I found a really cool ichneumon wasp on the way back also, with the craziest ovipositor I've ever seen. 


I made it back down the trail to the field at the trail head where a Peregrine was perched.   Wrong lens, wrong settings, no photos.  The 11 miles of potholes were just as fun on the way down but again, no people.  I finally encountered another car about half a mile from the main road.  Pretty sweet! 

Overall, I loved this hike because it seemed to have a little of everything.  Good times!!