Thursday, May 30, 2019

The L.C.

A month ago Jacob and I bought a house in Lincoln City on the central Oregon coast.  We had been looking for awhile, checking out everywhere between Yachats and the Long Beach Peninsula, before we finally found this house that had almost everything we wanted.  It's on a half acre with only one real neighbor, it backs up to protected green space (one of Lincoln City's many Open Spaces), it's a quick walk to Devils Lake, a slightly longer walk into town, and you can hear the ocean when standing in the backyard.  The house itself was built in 1940 and has tons of what you might call character.

I believe this is what some folks call their "future forever home."  We can't move out there yet but when we do it will be for the long haul.   Till then there will be lots of visits!  We've been out there almost every weekend to get some work done, but also to do some birding.  Let's start with the yard birding...

We set up feeders right away along with a bird bath, but the biggest bird attraction seems to be this massive Sitka spruce:

This tree has attracted waxwings, Western Wood-Pewees, Yellow/Black-throated Gray/Townsend's Warblers, juncos, crows, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, robins, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Steller's Jays, and more.

Western Wood-Pewee

The green spaces that borders the back of the yard is filled with more bird sounds from Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Swainson's Thrushes, Pacific Wrens, Wilson's Warblers, and more.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Band-tailed Pigeons spend a lot of time flying over the yard, hanging out in the trees, being big and goofy.

The absolute best yard bird we've had so far was spotted by Jacob when we were taking a break from installing blinds.

MacGillivray's Warbler!  Gotta love it when eBird shows a little red dot for frequency.  I'm up to 34 species in the yard so far and I think Jacob has even more.

Robin enjoying the bath. 

We've been to one of our local beaches, Roads End State Park, twice to see what we could find. The first time was a sunny evening walk near high tide.  A bunch of flying ants had made up most of the wrack line on that trip which was weird and interesting.

The gulls were snacking on the ants as well as a random robin.  We had been hoping for shorebirds and when we finally saw some we were not psyched to see the child that followed...

Eventually the birds were spooked towards us and into better light, so it was all okay.

Mostly Westerns with some Semipalmated Plovers

 Our second visit to this beach was a misty rainy foggy morning and this time the wrack line was all Velella velellas.

These are also known as By the Wind Sailors.  They're not jellies but rather hydrozoans, and when the wind is right thousands of them get blown to shore and die. Blue means fresh, clear means dead.

We had a few good birds on this wet morning including Whimbrels, a Black Oystercatcher, and a Caspian Tern.

One-footed Whimbrel.

Regular Whimbrel.

Taste test.

The other spot we've explored is Friends of Wildwoods Open Space, a 41-acre forest that backs up to our backyard.  Lincoln City has worked hard to protect a number of undeveloped areas that they have declared Open Spaces, which only makes me love this place more.

This is one of the smaller Open Spaces but there's a nice trail through the area and it was birdy enough for sure.

At one point we heard the jays, crows and a raven all very upset and Jacob spotted the source of the rage:

Barred Owl!  Nothing else unusual on the trail but some solid forest birding!  We made it a hotspot and saw that Lincoln City Audubon even led a bird walk there recently.

That's it from this month in Lincoln City.  There is SO much more to explore there which I am very excited about.  Good times!!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Malheur NWR: The Second Half

On Tuesday morning we drove from headquarters to the Burrowing Owl spot my friend had mentioned, which is a few miles from the old spot I had visited before.  It took a minute but eventually we found one hanging out.

A ground squirrel popped up and demanded attention also.

 Next we drove back down the road to head north into town and pick up some supplies.  Many things distracted us along the way.

Sage Thrasher

 Loggerhead Shrike

White-faced Ibis

After our supply run we wanted to look for phalaropes because we had only seen some on ponds with nowhere to stop.   I remembered Alan Contreras mentioning a flooded area down Ruh-Red Road that had a lot of birds, so we decided to check it out.

Success!  Wilson's Phalaropes were swimming close to the road with ten or so Red-necked farther out, about 40-50 total ropes.

From there we headed south to check for a well-known Golden Eagle nest near the Narrows.  Before we could get there we found a rattlesnake relaxing in the road.

I jumped out to take a bunch of pictures at a distance, then we drove around it and saw it fairly close up.  So cool!

I think it's Crotalus oreganus lutosus, the Great Basin subspecies of western rattlesnake.

We found the nest we were looking for but didn't notice any activity, so we continued on south to check out Diamond Craters.   There's a self-guided auto tour of the area which is (from Wikipedia) a monogenetic lava field consisting of a 27-square-mile area of basaltic lava flows, cinder cones, and maars.  This is also the area with Pete French's Round Barn, built in the late 1800's to train horses.

The first thing we noticed when we pulled up to the barn was a jackrabbit (probably black-tailed) chilling by the fence.

Inside the barn there is a large nest, and there was a woman who kept telling me she was talking to the birds inside it.  She thought it was an Osprey nest though it was pretty clearly not.

 At one point some youngsters started calling so I began to take a video and a parent flew in.

Ah!  Raven nest.  The parent was actively looking for food outside the barn later.

From the barn we finally made it to the right area to explore the craters.  It was cool with lots of wildflowers as a bonus.


Crater lake!  Aka a maar.

It was pretty cool to see the maar up there in the middle of nowhere.  The landscape appears totally rocky and barren and then you look down and boom, Cinnamon Teals cruising around.

Dwarf monkeyflower (Diplacus nanus)

After spending the afternoon in this area we drove down to our campground to take a hike along the Blitzen River Trail.  A couple of yellow-bellied marmots were waiting by the campground entrance.

Yellow-breasted Chat

 Black-crowned Night-Heron

Over that evening's chili and beers I found that we had hit 100 trip birds!  We hoped again for poorwill and again were denied that night.  A 5 a.m. Great Horned Owl was all we got of interest.

Wednesday morning we made coffee, packed up our tent and everything, then drove up the Center Patrol Road to bird along the way to Benson Pond.  At Dredger Pond we finally saw a trip bittern.

We also had a trip Western Grebe and a calling Virginia Rail.  Good spot!  At Benson Pond we applied yet another thick layer of DEET as the mosquitoes were abundant.  Check out this Western Kingbird basking in the food supply.


We walked out the trail to the weird little stone house finding more birds along the way, like a bunch of Bullock's Orioles.

On the lake a Trumpeter Swan was sitting on its nest while a second one flew around trumpeting for a bit.

Nest in background

 We walked the trail into the trees which we had also walked on Monday.  A pair of kestrels did the deed while we creepily watched, then felt like something might be watching us.


Another day another fuzzy Great Horned owlet

We walked to another view of the same tree and found mom and another owlet.

We walked the trail away from the family but then accidentally flushed another adult we hadn't noticed.

After that we walked back to the car and headed up to headquarters for one more visit.  A Great Horned there was enforcing the rules.

A Spotted Sandpiper on the log in the lake was another trip bird.

A thrush was poking around in the shadows and I wasn't convinced it was a Hermit until looking at photos now.

A Black-headed Grosbeak and some flyover white pelicans were new trip birds here.  We watched the hummingbird feeders for a bit but never managed a Calliope.  Plus the chipmunks were distracting.

We were getting ready to head out but spotted an owlet in a tree.  While pointing it out to some people Jacob noticed something else in the tree:  a porcupine!!

YESSSSSS!!!! Seriously one of my favorite animals, if not my absolute favorite!  Plus Jacob had never seen one and had really hoped for one on this trip (or a badger).

 It tucked itself into the tree and we finally managed to pull ourselves away and walk back to the car.  A Caspian Tern appeared over the lake, our final new trip bird.

We finished the trip with 108 species in Harney County, 17 of which were new for me in the county (108 were new for Jacob in the county).  I probably won't be back this way for awhile as it's so dang far, but man is it an awesome place.  Good times!!!!

*And it rained the whole way home, we left just in time...