Monday, December 10, 2018

Seeking Sunshine & Birds

We are back home in West Salem following our fun week at the coast.  We are feeling a little let down weather wise after the mild temps and sunshine we experienced.  This morning, pinned in with cold fog, by chance I looked at Trip Check and noticed that South Salem had bright sunshine. We piled into the car, noticing the temperature was 37 and drove to Fairview Drive Wetlands which is out south by the airport.  Here the world was 46 and bright sun shine. We got in a good bird walk which netted us this handsome male American Kestrel. You can see the list here. So, when people ask if we are going south this winter, we will say yes, down to Fairview Drive Wetlands.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Ferry Road Park

Yesterday morning as we were on our way to go birding at Bluebill Lake I noticed a park off to the right just at the foot of the McCullough Memorial Bridge that crosses over Coos Bay. After birding at Bluebill we returned to explore this park called Ferry Road Park.  It looks like it gets a lot of use as a play ground and a park to walk dogs, but we looked at it through the lens of birding, and were surprised at its great potential, to the point that I have recommend it to e-Bird as a Hot Spot.  Besides the playground and picnic area at the parking lot, there are some nice walking trails, and most important  from a birders view point access to the bay. Below are two birds I photograph while there.

 Western Grebe

Spotted Sandpiper 

This stop capped our three day stay in the North Bend/Coos Bay area, which has been filled with birding past favorite birding locations and adding new locations. We spent a good amount of time at Ferry Road Park yesterday, resting, having lunch, birding, and computer work. In late afternoon we traveled on north on 101 to William Tugman State Park for our overnight parking spot.  The parking area in the Day Use Area at the boat ramp is recognized as a State Rest Area and overnight parking is allowed.  We have known about this for a couple of years, and now we can say we have stayed here.  This was our fourth night out on this trip and our camping fees were a total of zero!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

North Bend/Coos Bay

Jeanette at Mingus Park

We spent yesterday hanging around North Bend and Coos Bay enjoying a glorious full day of sunshine. We had spent a quiet night parked in the Pony Village parking lot.  In fact we parked next to a Christmas Tree lot.  The owner came over to strike up a conversation with us and admire our Roadtrek Zion.  His parting words were, "If security gives you any problem, tell them your working for me."

Not having to get on down the road, we had a leisurely morning; coffee, watched the morning news, and had breakfast.  By 10:00 we drove to the bank for some cash, Walmart for shopping, and a stop for propane.  The digital meter for propane in the van read empty, but the attendant couldn't get any propane in. After spewing enough propane out his loose connection to set off our propane alarm in the van, he pronounced it full and noted the gauge on the tank read full.  He decided he was going to charge me for 2 gallons of propane, but when he couldn't get his computerized cash register to work he waved me off. Next was lunch at Subway before driving to Mingus Park for some birding.

Mingus Park was a good choice.  The sun shone brightly, the ducks were plentiful, people strolled the walkways, and Buster got to meet lots of other dogs.  Everybody was in a good mood.  Below are a couple of the most striking ducks we saw.  For the complete list click here.

Eurasian Wigeon

Hooded Merganser

We left the busy park to spend the rest of the afternoon in the quiet parking lot of the North Bend Boardwalk. My time was used to work on photos and the bird list, Jeanette and Buster relaxed.  Cell service was puzzlingly poor, so we moved to our next planned early dinner spot, Captain's Choice Family Fish House.  Cell service was good there and I could download photos.  We enjoyed take-out fish and chips in the van and possibly the best clam chowder ever. For our night parking we returned to our guard job at the Christmas Tree lot for a second night.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

New Birding Spots and A New Life Bird

Jeanette at Hall Lake

Yesterday morning we continued on our way from our over-night spot at Three Rivers Casino in Florence.  Temperature was a cool 39 degrees, but that was 10 degrees warmer than the morning before in Salem.  Our first birding stop of the day was at Hall Lake, a small overlooked lake in the Siuslaw National Forest just across Hwy 101 from William Tugman State Park.  I had visited this lake some ten years ago while living in Elkton and searching for fishing destinations, but I had never stopped here to bird.  I had the hunch that it might be good for birds, and it turned out to be as our short stop here in the cold netted 14 species.  The bird list can be seen here. We next went over to the William Tugman State Park and enjoyed a sunny spot in the Day Use Area where did some more birding, had lunch, and relaxed and got caught up on bird photos and lists.  In mid afternoon we moved on South to the Coos Bay area.  Another new birding spot that I wanted to check out was the North Bend Boardwalk. Here we had the great good fortune of Jeanette discovering some busy little busy birds, which later I identified as Palm Warblers, classified as a "Rare" bird.  Perhaps even more important to us is it a new Life Bird for us.  For any non birders, that means a bird you identify for yourself for the very first time. Life Birds get harder to find the longer you bird , so they also get to be a bigger deal.

Palm Warbler 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Escaping Sub-Freezing Temps

The temperature was 29 degrees,when we pulled out of our drive-way in Salemtowne yesterday morning. Wallace Road had been sprayed with de-icer. Mid 20 degree temps are forecast this week for the Willamette Valley so we are hanging out at the coast for the week.  It looks like we will not be traveling to Arizona this winter, for a variety of reasons, so this is enacting our survival plan.  Anytime the temps are this cold we go to the coast where milder weather usually assures us a 10 degree or more advantage.

The above photo was taken late after-noon yesterday at the Three Rivers Casino in Florence.  Notice the sunshine and the empty parking lot!  This was our night parking spot and it was very quiet.  A short walk to the Blue Bill Sports Bar in the casino netted up a nice dinner. We will venture on to the Coos Bay area today to spend the next three days, where day time highs will be in the mid to high 50s and night time lows in the upper 30s. The forecast is also for dry weather, so we are also planing on some good birding everyday.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Spontaneity and Serendipity

On Friday evening Jeanette suggested that she would like to broaden our birding circle.  That is, instead of taking our daily bird walk just in the Salem area, take the van and go someplace further, like the Row River Nature Park in Cottage Grove.  Saturday morning we started packing and we were on our way before 9:00AM on four day spontaneous trip.

Cottage Grove -

Greater White-fronted Goose
One of our all-time favorites for birding and dog walking is the Row River Nature Park in Cottage Grove. It's a series of ponds that were dug out years ago for gravel for the I-5 construction. Our push to get here on Saturday was based on the forecast calling for rain on Sunday.  We made stops along the way at Adair Wildlife Area to bird, and Guarantee RV in Junction City to spend a gift card.  It was still dry when we arrived in Cottage Grove and we got in a great walk and bird list. There were 75 Canada Geese on one pond, but Jeanette was able to pick out this lone Greater White-fronted Goose. 

The Walmart in Cottage Grove no longer allows over-night parking, but Jeanette selected a quiet dead-end street in an industrial area for our overnight spot after picking up some carry out Thai food.  We had a great evening of watching the Ducks win a football game, eating Thai food and enjoying a quiet parking spot.

Siltcoos Recreation Area -

campsite at Lagoon Campground.
Sunday morning the weather forecast came true and we drove in rain from Cottage Grove over to Reedsport.  At that point the rain had passed and we stopped at Stables Road on the Smith River to bird.  This is another of our favorites.  From there we traveled on to Carter Lake for another walk and bird list, and then just a short piece up the road to the Siltcoos National Recreation Area where we pulled in to the Lagoon Campground for the night, eleven dollars with a Senior Pass. Before leaving the next morning we did a bird walk on the Lagoon Loop Trail.
Lagoon Loop Trail

Walport -

Monday morning we continued north on 101, starting with fog, then rain, then bright sunshine at Yachts where we stopped for lunch at Luna Sea.  After lunch we were a little uninspired and stopped in Walport on a side street RV parking area.  Rain gave us a good excuse to fold out the bed and take a nap.  In late afternoon Buster was restless and wanted outside, so I stepped outside with him.  Now here is where the Serendipity part kicks in.  Directly across the street was a hiking trail sign!  We walked up the dirt road and discovered the John Mare Woodland Trail!

 Jeanette and Buster were still in the rest mode, but my curiosity was stoked, so I put on my boots and took off on a wonderful hike up this lovely trail.
Woodland Trail

Tuesday morning we pushed on up the coast and home, making stops at Depot Bay and the Van Duzer Rest Area.  Our Roadtrek Zion van is working out well for us to pick-up on a moments notice and head out, stop when ever we want, park for the night in a variety of situations, and live comfortably in all kinds of weather.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Rewarding Morning

Huddleston Pond

A good amount of rain was in the forecast to arrive midday yesterday, so continuing to work our "bright spot" plan we made a morning trip to Huddleston Pond in Willamina. I was hoping that recent rains would have brought in some winter migrants to the pond.  When we arrived, all was quiet, and we immediately began to think we were going to have to make a second choice of where to bird, but we started off on a loop of the pond.  The further we went the more birds we started to pick up, and by the end we had identified 22 species.  You can see the complete list here.  

The real story of the day is a rare bird we happen to get, a Black Scoter.  All Scoters; Surf, White-winged, and Black, are coastal and rarely seen in the Willamette Valley.  Jeanette is the spotter on our team and I'm the recorder/photographer.  She noticed an unusual bird with a lot of white swimming near a couple Pied-billed Grebes, and called to me to get a photo.  As I zoomed in the camera, I was unsure so took a number of photos.  As I looked at them later in the camera, I decided it was probably a female Ruddy Duck, a common bird to be seen arriving this time of year.  When I got home and down-loaded the photos to my lap-top, it didn't look right.  Searching through bird guides I began to think it was a female Black Scoter.  But as I looked at eBird records, none had ever been seen at Huddleston Pond, and very few have ever been seen in the Willamette Valley.  So, I retracted my Scoter idea and settled for a Ruddy Duck.

Late last night while reading "Oregon Bird New" on my iPhone I was surprised to see a birder reporting that a Black Scoter had been seen at Willamina Pond by Jim & Jeanette Scott!  Isaac Denzer, an amazing teen-age birder, had recognized my photo on eBird of a Ruddy Duck was actually a Black Scoter and reported it on Oregon Bird News.  It was confirmed on site by another birder, and then reconfirmed by veteran Yamhill birder Paul Sullivan.  Wow, a first time ever at that location! I gladly changed my Ruddy Duck to a Black Scoter.

female Black Scoter