Tuesday, October 29, 2019

#neverstopexploring...your 5MR

Yesterday I was itching to bird somewhere new but rather than drive out somewhere crazy I decided to explore within my 5MR.  I zoomed in on the western portion of my 5MR and found a couple of promising spots I had never noticed.  First was a park with a ridiculously long name that I keep rearranging into different variations, Douglas Carter Fisher Neighborhood Park.


Look at that!  A wetland I had no idea existed a mere 3.5 miles from home!  The internet says it was named for the previous property owner's son (a condition of the sale of the property) and was once a 29-acre lake. 


On the left past the ghost and scarecrow are some fenced-in ponds that hosted a blue heron and later, a billion crows.


A boardwalk takes you over the wet grass to a playground and field on the right, or the bark chipped path to the wetlands on the left. 


The wetlands have their own name apart from the park, Thomas Wetlands East, per this sign:

"Rain runoff from streets, yards and roofs is captured here before making its way to Burnt Bridge Creek."

I walked the loop around the wetlands finding plenty of birds like Varied Thrushes, Song Sparrows, Bewick's Wrens, Red-winged Blackbirds, kinglets, juncos, and chickadees.  My only complaint about this spot is that it's surrounded by houses with dogs, all of whom seemed to be left outside to bark.


The south side of the wetlands offers a great view of the water and the ducks swimming around.  I failed to find any rails or sneaky bitterns but I bet they're in there somewhere.


The mix of waterfowl included a Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeons, and Gadwalls. 

Ring-necked Duck


Is the reddish color over the eye indicative of molting from eclipse plumage?  My brief internet search did not turn up much. 

Happy Gadwalls

As I was nearing the end of the wetland loop trail I noticed an intriguing backlit sparrow.  I pished and it hopped up into the light.


Swamp Sparrow!!


 I had been hoping to find one this month for the 5MR October Sparrow Challenge and here it was, at a random pond I had no idea existed a couple hours earlier.  SCORE! 

This spot yielded me 25 species and definitely has a lot of potential.  I suggested it as an eBird hotspot and will try to keep it in the birding rotation. 

There was another spot I wanted to check out while I was in this area, King's Pond.  This is a small pond on a dead-end road that is private property, but easy to view from the road. 


When I pulled up I was greeted by tame-ish Mallards which is a good sign for a duck pond. 



The Mallards already had a couple of non-Mallard friends in the mix, a coot and a Wood Duck. 



A gull flew in which I called a Western x Glaucous-winged but correct me because I'm probably wrong.


Farther out on the pond lurked a Pied-billed Grebe and my first Hooded Mergansers this fall.


I only had 15 species here but it will definitely be worth checking throughout the winter. 

It was really fun to explore new places only a few miles from home!  My 5MR continues to surprise me which is awesome.  Good times!!!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Pelagic Lite

Last weekend Jacob and I joined Oregon Pelagic Tours for a short 6-hour pelagic trip out of Newport.  A private group hoping for albatross had set this trip up and some birders like us also crashed the party.  I knew it would probably be too short for rarities but Jacob had never been on a pelagic and I loved that we could do it without needing a dog-sitter.

Yaquina Bay sunrise

We lucked out with fantastic weather and calm seas and zero puking that I saw.  Quite a change from the last pelagic I went on which was apparently four years ago. While we waited to board the boat the sunrise continued to impress.


All week there had been reports of big numbers of Rhinoceros Auklets in Yaquina Bay and we got to see quite a few on our way out. 


There were also Red-necked Grebes, Common Loons, and this Common Murre quite close to the boat.


Outside the bay but while still close-ish to shore we spotted a couple of Marbled Murrelets.


A humpback whale was blowing and diving nearby.


Northern Fulmars were pleasantly abundant on this trip.


Eventually we came across our first Black-footed Albatross sitting on the water, the first of several.


It was decided that we would stop to chum here and soon after Jacob and I spotted a Pomarine Jaeger flying in, our only jaeger of the day.


Someone noticed some fins way out beyond the chum spot.  First a couple of fin whales were seen briefly then some Risso's dolphins!

 Jacob's shot of the fin whales

Risso's dolphins!

We had views of three shearwaters on this trip:  Sooty, Pink-footed, and Buller's. 

Sooty

 Pink-footed

 Blurry Buller's

Blue sharks joined the birds at the chum spot.


Friendly fulmar

Friendly Rhino Auklet

We started to head back to shore after a while, stopping for more marine wildlife along the way.

Dall's porpoises


Mola molas! (Ocean sunfish) 

 Cassin's Auklet in the calm water


Northern fur seal


Steller sea lion

Heading back along the jetty we had the usual adorable harbor seals lounging on rocks.

Just stop.

Overall it was a really nice little pelagic trip with some solid pelagic birds and amazing marine mammals.  I even managed a state bird (Cassin's Auklet) and Jacob got four lifers!  Looking forward to getting out there again next year.   Good times!!!