Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Coastal clearcuts.

Prior to buying our house in Lincoln City I had not spent any time in clearcuts of coastal Lincoln County.  I had not actually given them much thought until one of this year's 5MR challenge participants started posting about the birds he sees in one such clearcut.  Across the lake from our new house is a big patch of clearcuts which I finally went up to explore last weekend.

 There are a number of gates along NF-1726 so I just picked a random one and started hiking up the logging road. 


It was fairly birdy with the most abundant birds being families of White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos, with a sprinkling of other randoms mixed in.

 Purple Finch

Moth to be identified

Band-tailed Pigeon

I followed all the dead-ends till the final dead end at the top which was probably less than a mile from the gate.  It felt high up but when I checked the elevation I was barely over 500 feet. 

 The thistle along the road attracted quite a few of these Ctenucha moths

On the walk back down I stopped for awhile to watch the swallows zipping by my head and noticed a couple were landing on a stick below me.

Violet-green (I think? based mostly on wingtips extending beyond tail) and Cliff Swallows

There were a lot of combos on this hillside including Cliff Swallow and Dark-eyed Junco:

Chestnut-backed Chickadee and White-crowned Sparrow:

 And the one that dispersed too quickly for a photo:  Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Wilson's Warbler, and American Goldfinch all on one branch. 

Solo finch instead.

I heart fireweed.

 I had 32 species on this little hike including my Lincoln County Olive-sided Flycatcher, House Wren, and Western Tanager.  I have high hopes for this area during migration!

That evening Jacob arrived and I suggested we check out another clearcut after dinner.  This time we had nighthawks in mind.  We chose the gate across the road from where I had hiked that morning and set off.

 For some reason Jacob told me this deer was fake, and for some reason I believed him.  This deer was not fake at all, though he stood very still for a minute or two.

I heart goldenrod too.

As we hiked uphill we caught views of two Olive-sided Flycatchers, one sharing a thin tree with a Hairy Woodpecker.

At 7:40 Jacob looked up and said the magic word, "nighthawk!"  It took a few seconds before I heard it also and then we were stoked.  It cruised overhead but seemed to keep on going. 

 Clearcut views

We continued uphill and found this fun snake which I think is a northwestern garter snake.

Another nighthawk appeared, then another, and another.  The next hour and a half was a full on nighthawk party.

Often two or three or even four were flying around together, with the most we had at one time being six.  eBird did not approve of six.

We found a ridge that they seemed to be using as a place to soar effortlessly in the wind and they came within feet of us.  It was one of my favorite nighthawk experiences ever.

Clouds rolled in as the sun was setting.

I was hoping for a nighthawk-ocean combo but wasn't sure it was going to happen.  But then it did, during the lovely sunset. 

On the walk back to the car a few bats came out and I failed miserably getting a photo of one, but here is a terrible video to make up for it.  Nighthawks still peenting in the background.

It was a really fun evening and I can't wait to explore this area more.  So much potential!  Good times!!!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Summer day trips: Mt. St. Helens and Horsethief Butte

A few weeks ago Jacob, Matthew and I drove up to Mount St. Helens for a hike and some exploring.

The harsh paintbrush was looking fantastic, even better combined with the mountain or a caterpillar.

We hiked part of the Boundary Trail toward Harry's Ridge from the Johnston Ridge Observatory.  We noticed a couple of ants with a tiny caterpillar but could not decide if they were working together or fighting over it.

The wildflowers were looking good along the trail.

Rosy pussytoes (Antennaria rosea)

A few people were stopped at one spot looking at something down in the distance which turned out to be two black bears.  My first ones at Mount St. Helens and Matthew's first ones in the wild. 

Birding was mild but we did hear then see a couple of Common Nighthawks and later barely heard a booming Sooty Grouse.

After our hike we drove down to Coldwater Lake because I had never been there.

We walked around some of the short trails, marveling at the tent caterpillars that were all over.

On one vine maple were a bunch of active waspy things that looked kind of intimidating but seemed okay with me taking their photo. 

The combination of Bug Guide and iNaturalist helped me to the ID of Trichiosoma triangulum, a type of sawfly.  There are a few common names kicking around on the internet including Giant Birch Sawfly and Cimbicid Sawfly.

From the boardwalk that goes out over the edge of the lake we searched for salamanders in the water, as one sign promised.  We finally found a newt.

Fun fact:  this lake happens to be in Cowlitz County, unlike the hike we did which is in Skamania.  Two of the six species we eBirded here, Downy Woodpecker and Pacific-slope Flycatcher, were new Cowlitz County birds for me.   #99 and #100!  That makes Cowlitz my 4th county in Washington to reach 100 species (weak compared to 18 in Oregon).

Yesterday Jacob and I decided to take a little trip out the gorge to Horsethief Butte, part of Columbia Hills State Park.

It's very close to The Dalles on the Washington side of the Columbia River, only an hour and a half from Portland.  It's popular for rock climbing but yesterday there were barely any other people there.  After getting out of the car the first bird we heard was a Rock Wren but the first bird we saw was a Yellow-breasted Chat.  Later a wren was very interested in posing for photos right on the trail.

This was one of only two bird species I photographed here but there were a few other cool birds around like Canyon Wrens and a Peregrine Falcon.  We hiked around the rocks, looking at lizards and wildflowers and insects.

A few areas in the butte are protected by little fences and signs mentioning their cultural significance, possibly meaning petroglyphs were found there.  Another couple that was in the area called us over to see a petroglyph they had found near one of those signs.

We politely admired it though neither of us were sold on its authenticity. 

I think this is Penstemon richardsonii


 Maybe Phacelia hastata? 

After exploring inside all the rocks we walked the trail around the butte where a pile of Brewer's Blackbirds was flying around.  Not my usual Brewer's scene.

Blue Mountain buckwheat (Eriogonum strictum)

There were tons of robberflies along the trail, some fairly tolerant of me.

After hitting a dead end packed with poison oak we turned around and headed back towards the car.  The beginning of the trail is thick with Narrow-leaf milkweed which was in turn thick with bees and other pollinators.

One extra large fuzzy bumble thing stood out:

Also near the milkweed was this spider:

We returned to the car and drove back west to Horsethief Lake State Park, just across the lake from Horsethief Butte.  I had no idea they had an awesome display of petroglyphs and pictographs here.  They were originally part of the cliffs near where we had just hiked but after The Dalles dam was created they knew they would be completely submerged in the river.  So they cut out a bunch of them and eventually they ended up here on display. 

So cool.  We took a little walk around the grassy shady part of the park where we saw several Western Kingbirds, Bullock's Orioles, and more.  Nothing unusual though.


 Awkward scrub-jay

When we began the drive back home I asked to stop for some of the wild sunflowers growing along the highway. 

I think this is the native sunflower, Helianthus annuus.

Overall it was great little adventure with plenty of birds, wildflowers, bugs, lizards and history!  Good times!!!