Monday, March 30, 2020

Birding during a global pandemic.

Birders are lucky, we can still do the thing that we love while COVID 19 rages: we can still make lists!

Any birding plans I had for the next month (or ten) have been replaced with yard birding and motorless birding.  That's two lists.  Luckily we have two homes, so that's four lists.  I can live with four lists.

House Finch with nesting material

The day after I proposed a yard bird challenge to the 5MR Facebook group a Varied Thrush appeared in our backyard.  This is not an easy yard bird for us.

Every spring the Song Sparrows do a little a dance back and forth along the chain link fence. 

 Black-capped Chickadees always investigate our lighthouse, either for nesting or for snacks.  There's no way in unless they make the hole bigger that a Downy Woodpeckers started.

 Lesser Goldfinches offer the most color in the yard now.

 Violet-green Swallows returned to the yard yesterday and will hopefully nest in the vents of the neighboring apartment building again.

 This junco showed up that looks almost good enough for slate-colored but I'm not sure.

Yesterday I heard a Steller's Jay which is another good yard bird for us.  If I-205 isn't being too loud we can sometimes hear them in the pines to the west, but they never actually come to the yard.  Except this time!

 As they've bulldozed all of the habitat surrounding us to build apartments and townhouses our bird numbers have decreased.  It's a bummer but hopefully our yard is a tiny refuge for them. 

I knew a yard list wouldn't cut it for me during the pandemic so I decided to start a new motorless list also.  The ECAS website offers printable checklists for each Oregon county so I printed the Multnomah one to keep track of this new list.

My first outing was a walk to my patch, Meadowbrook Marsh, which I had somehow not birded in three months. 

Rufous Hummingbird (Motorless bird #16)

 Purple Finch

My first lucky encounter was an American Kestrel flying over, an unreliable 5MR bird.


Spotted Towhee

My next bit of luck was a Virginia Rail calling from the marsh.  Never reliable!

 This marsh extends off and on for many miles of Burnt Bridge Creek Trail though I only consider the first mile and a half part of my patch.  I like to walk to this little pond just east of Andresen because there's more marsh next to it and good duck potential.

 Coot! (Motorless bird #33)


My only Cinnamon Teal spot in my 5MR

 Hooded Merganser

 American Goldfinch

This little pond netted me five duck species (plus coot) as well as the goldfinch and Golden-crowned Kinglet.  I was at 40 species when I turned around here, then 41 when a Wilson's Snipe flushed from the marsh close to the trail.  So lucky!

American shrewmole, says iNat.  

On my walk back I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk flying in.  They nest along the trail but I don't know exactly where so I was hoping to find out.  But then I got distracted by another soaring raptor:

Northern Harrier!  Extremely unreliable in my 5MR

Then a Cooper's Hawk flew over while I was still watching the harrier.  What the what!  Three raptors in sixty seconds.  I made it only a few feet before a Marsh Wren started calling from a random section of marsh that's usually quiet.  I was feeling incredibly lucky right then.

I picked up Fox Sparrow for #46 and back at home, White-crowned Sparrow made for 47 species for the day. 

After a day of rain and being cooped up I was eager to take another walk, despite the damp weather.  I chose my "Walmart patch" where I've had many good birds in the past.  A couple blocks from home I spotted a few Killdeer in a gravel lot, #48. Then I spotted this tree:

There are plenty of cedars around and it was certainly not something I had paid attention to before. 

"This cedar tree planted by John Peter Bersch 1858.  He came here by ox team from St. Louis in the 1853 wagon train.  He was 30, his wife 21." 

"This tree blew down during the Columbus Day storm. Was placed back up by owner Loui C. Petersen."
Pretty cool that in 1962 they saved a hundred year old tree, and now it's 162 years old. 

Also along the way:

Looks like it hasn't been messed with at all, which is interesting
After an hour and a half I made it to my birding destination where the rain had picked up and the birds were minimal.  A flock of blackbirds yielded one new bird, Brewer's Blackbird. 

Also, lots of crap someone dumped, maybe because the Goodwill nearby is closed.

 I walked home defeated with only two new motorless birds, both of which I will likely see or hear in the yard in the next month.  At least I went for a 7.7 mile walk. 

Yesterday morning I wanted to walk again though not so far.  I took Rexi for a walk up to the cemetery near our house, barely a twenty minute walk with several birds species I needed.

 Fox Sparrow

 Hutton's Vireo, recently consistent here (Motorless bird #54)

 Bewick's Wren collecting nesting material

On our walk around the cemetery I also picked up Pacific Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  Back at home in the afternoon Violet-green Swallow became #55.

There's plenty to be freaked out about right now but I'm so grateful that I can obsess over birds and forget about it for awhile.  (Without touching anything or going near other people or doing anything that endangers others of course).

If you're on Facebook and want to check out a global yard birding event I recommend the group #birdthefeckathome, which Emma in Australia shared.  The goal is to see how many bird species people can record in their yards on one master list.  As of this post, 1307 species have been recorded!

Hope you are all safe and healthy!  If you need to work on managing your stress, check out this free course offered by OSU.  Virtual hugs all around.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Costa Rica- Green Paradise and Bajo del Tigre (Day 12, final day)

On our last day we woke up to howling wind.  I had the worst time sleeping the night before as it was rattling the whole house.  Birding expectations for the day were very low.  We had coffee and watched Brown Jays coming to the fruit feeder Caroline made out of random stuff in the yard.

While we were watching them I noticed a bird wander out of the shrubs into the entrance road.

Gray-cowled Wood-Rail!  Once lumped with the Russet-naped Wood-Rail (called Gray-necked Wood-Rail) we had seen previously, they were split in 2016.

Caroline had thrown some fruit in what looked like a compost pile and the wood-rail actually went over there and scrounged.

We braved the wind to walk around the trails by our Airbnb and it was kind of unpleasant.  This tiny lizard was cool:

iNat suggests a kind of anole

 Pale-billed Woodpecker with stick over its face

 Rufous-capped Warbler

Eventually we packed up to leave and go birding at Bajo del Tigre in Children's Eternal Rainforest, "Costa Rica's largest private reserve." (Says many internet sites).  The fellow working at the little entrance station/gift shop was very friendly and warned us that the wind could make conditions dangerous.  He said if branches started falling down we should turn around.  Ok.

Birding was slow to begin with and I remember we made a very low target number for species.  15?  We were not expecting much.  The first bird I photographed was a hummingbird perched in the sunlight, a Blue-vented Hummingbird.

 We had good looks at a Yellow-throated Euphonia here.

 Our species count slowly grew with the addition of a new trip bird, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, and many more common birds. We managed to walk far enough that we were even out of the wind for awhile.


This awesome lizard was sunning itself on a leaning tree.

The guy at the entrance station looked up the lizard for us in a book, it's a green spiny lizard (aka emerald swift).

Ruddy Pigeon

Jacob found this fancy feather on the ground:

We had been hearing a Three-wattled Bellbird all morning as we had heard several times before on our trip.

It's a great sound and I enjoyed hearing it but seeing one would be amazing.  As we walked we heard one getting louder and louder till we were sure it was close by.  Someone finally got eyes on it and we were able to watch it actually make that crazy sound.

 Holy crap!  What a bird!!

 Those wattles!  That sound!  I'm sure he does well with the ladies, though wattles can grow even longer than his.  He turned around after a minute.

Amazing!  It wasn't too long after this that Caroline saw some kind of Mottled Owl/squirrel encounter that caused the owl to fly to a very distant but exposed spot.  I failed to see it several times as it kept moving, but finally I saw it.

After hearing one several times and seeing them poorly it was redeeming to get a decent view.

Continuing with our good luck a few minutes later, someone noticed this Long-tailed Manakin moving around.

It coughed up something that looked like a seed and spit it out.

Not the fancy mating dance it is known for but still an interesting behavior.

Whatever it coughed up falling down


We passed this large tree limb on the walk back that was not there earlier...


Back at the entrance station we enjoyed the jaguar statue where Jacob and I posed for our only photo of the trip.

Complete checklist from the windy morning here.

We stopped for lunch in town before heading out on the long windy nauseating drive back to San Jose.  The road passes briefly by the Gulf of Nicoya where we decided to stop for some trip birds like Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Pelican, Willet, and Laughing Gull.  A random birding tour group arrived shortly after us and Steve enjoyed disagreeing with their leader on gull ID.  A major highlight was seeing this Scarlet Macaw fly over:

Inca Dove on the beach, my final bird photos of the trip

Complete checklist from this spot here.

 We finally arrived at our final Airbnb for the night, a cute little spot close to the airport.  Some people, not me, saw a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and Cinnamon Hummingbird in the yard.

Overall it was an amazing trip!  I was shocked to have almost 250 lifers out of my 371 trip birds.  I think the group tally was around 400.  Many many thanks to Steve for organizing and to Caroline for being able to see birds so well!  Good times!!!