Friday, September 21, 2018

Birding is good again. Again.

Earlier this month Buff-breasted Sandpipers began showing up all along the coast, testing my resistance to chasing rare birds.  Eventually I could not take it anymore.  I made the drive to Nehalem Bay State Park to try for a couple that Audrey had bummed around with in a patch of salicornia about 15 hours earlier.  My initial optimism was shattered upon finding a little white dog running all over the area.  A Cooper's Hawk was perched nearby, periodically taking on the crows that were fighting over clams or crabs or something.

I'd love to blame an annoying dog for the lack of sandpipers, but really they probably had left anyway.   A handful (maybe two hands full) of Baird's Sandpipers further up the beach were not much of a consolation and I decided to check the ocean beach, then head home.

Back home, eating my feelings, I checked OBOL.  Goddammit.  A local birder had found five Buff-breasted Sandpipers on Sauvie Island.  Did I really want to put myself through this again?  Not really, but when I heard Sarah and Max were going I figured it would be slightly less painful.  I arrived at the Oak Island boat ramp shortly after them and we braved the sun and mud together.

We found them!  The sun was too bright and the distance too much, but scope views were okay.  Then Sarah and Max pointed out a bird flying in the distance that looked like it had jaeger potential.  It disappeared briefly then returned and we were able to confirm it was a Parasitic Jaeger.  Sweet.

After that day, even with the success in the end, I was pretty much over chasing.  Back to local birding.  Things have slowed down at Shillapoo Lake though it did produce a county bird for me and Jacob a couple weeks ago.

Red-necked Phalarope!

On another morning out there I had a Horned Lark, only my third time seeing one in the county.  Also my first Sandhill Cranes of fall.

On the way there in one of the small fields along Lower River Road I noticed a coyote standing over something large.  I did a U-turn to see what it was.

I totally thought it was an owl at first but then noticed the feet.  Headless Canada Goose.  Sad to see the poor pup seems to have mange.

Across the road from Shillapoo is a trail that leads to Vancouver Lake over a little bridge.  Below the bridge are piles and piles of baby Bullfrogs.

We're gonna need more herons. 
After Shillapoo one morning, Jacob and I went to look for a Black Phoebe reported at Ridgefield NWR since we had dipped on the one at Vancouver Lake this spring.  It was exactly where it was supposed to be.

My 189th Clark County bird this year!

Jacob had been hoping we'd see a reported Redhead since he needed it for the county, but all we found was this Mallard doing a decent impression of one.

I'm not saying anyone misidentified this bird as a Redhead, but it definitely made me do a double take.

Birding my local patch, Meadowbrook Marsh, has been some of my favorite birding this month.  Nothing rare but always solid.  Exactly what you need from a patch.

Cooper's Hawk guarding dog poop bags

 Kingfisher poop

One of my favorite things about my patch is that I can almost always find multiple mixed flocks, chock full of warblers, vireos, chickadees, etc.

Yellow Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler (common at my patch, but photo from Shillapoo area)

Orange-crowned Warbler

 Flickers doing stuff

Look at this terrible photo:

House Wren is probably the most common bird I could never find in my old 5-mile radius, and I carried that tradition over to my new 5MR.  But look, there it is.  On the ground.  Being a weirdo.  Yay.  5MR bird #176.

Yesterday morning I had my largest checklist ever for Meadowbrook Marsh with 46 species (30-40 is standard).  Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows are officially back in business.

Time to get yer nails did, maybe

I caught a flock of Bushtits post-bath.  It seems to me like piling on top of each other to preen and dry off would be inefficient, but I am not a Bushtit. 

Confusing mess of ten or so birds lined up preening

 A couple liked having some space.

Willow Flycatcher

 Western Tanager in an interesting plumage

Also present yesterday were both kinglets, Warbling Vireos, Swainson's Thrushes, a lone Rufous Hummingbird, Purple Finches, and the increasing flock of Lesser Goldfinches.  Golden-crowned Kinglet was new for me there, as well as American Kestrel and Savannah Sparrow.  I'm up to 92 patch birds!

Lastly, and this is important, a Turkey Vulture dropping a little poop bomb at Frenchman's Bar.

Good times!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Birding is good again.

Finally!  As much as I love my chickadees and Song Sparrows, I am thrilled for fall migration to be in full swing.  Shorebirds and warblers have been moving through and it is that time of year when anything seems possible.  There are certain local birding spots that will need to be in heavy rotation for the next couple months so as not to miss anything.

First off, my patch!  I went out to Meadowbrook Marsh last week and enjoyed the nonstop bird activity.

California Scrub-Jay and Black-headed Grosbeak

 A better birder could probably identify this thing.

 Warbling Vireos with the bluest legs!

So blue.

Swainson's Thrush, a new one for me at the park

Purple Finch, gorging on elderberries (I think)

Rufous hummers heart invasive jewelweed

 At one end of my patch there's a big fenced off area with a greenhouse where the parks people grow many of the native plants for Vancouver parks.   Surrounding the fence they planted a ton of sunflowers, cosmos, and other plants which are loved by the goldfinches.  I reported 25 Lesser Goldfinches which eBird did not appreciate.  The truth hurts.

On this morning I also had Orange-crowned, Yellow, and Wilson's Warblers, Western Tanagers, a Cooper's Hawk, as well as all the resident birds.

A second area that needs to be birded regularly now is the Vancouver Lake/Shillapoo Lake are where the "good" shorebirding is in the county, plus potential for interesting gulls, terns, grebes, and loons.  Jacob and I went out to Shillapoo Sunday morning and quickly found a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers.

This is not a rare bird, but it's a bird I had only seen once before in the county.  We could see there was more potential for shorebirds farther along the trail but we had to cut it short because I had to work that day.  We decided to return yesterday (Labor Day) to see if anything else could be found.

We first found a couple local birders, Jim and John, who had not seen much beyond one Pectoral Sandpiper still around.   After they left we started walking up the trail when a small gull flew in.  In early September this could be very exciting, though this one turned out to be a more common Bonaparte's Gull.  Since I had only seen my first one in the county earlier in spring I was not that disappointed.

We couldn't find anything else interesting there so we headed to the end of Lower River Road to check another shorebird spot.  As we pulled up we heard four gunshots and watched a kid (13 years old?) run to grab a Eurasian Collared-Dove thrashing on the ground.  This was only about 20 feet from the road.  Nope.  We turned around and drove to Vancouver Lake where Jim and John had seen a Red-necked Grebe earlier in the morning.

This Green Heron was standing on the shoreline between groups of fishermen, making up for the lack of grebes to be found.

The third and final area that is worthy of regular visits now is the Columbia River, best accessed from Marine Park and Wintler Park.  A nice paved path connects the two and makes for a good walk.  This time of year there is much potential for interesting terns, scoters, grebes, loons, gulls, and jaegers.

Last week I stopped there and the most interesting thing was an Osprey with a big fish, chowing down super close to the path.

When I walked back a bit later it had eaten most of it and took a quick poop break. Yep.

Yesterday after a lunch break Jacob and I went out there to look for Caspian Terns, a county year bird we both needed.  It was super sunny with lots of people out and about because of the holiday and weather so expectations were fairly low.  We walked out on the little jetty next to Tidewater Cove Marina when Jacob spotted birds in the water:  three Red-necked Grebes!

After dipping on this bird earlier in the day it was awesome to find three in our 5-mile radius!  We watched them for a long time from a shady spot under some shrubs on the jetty. 

Red-necked Grebes with Mount Hood and the Glen Jackson Bridge

As they began to dive more regularly we noticed if one popped up before the others it would start to call loudly.

Eventually they moved far away from us so we got up to head back to the car and go home.  Overall a very fun day of birding!  Good times!!