Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Spring Lake Escape

Crowded parking lots and cold winds thwarted our plans for a relaxing time on the beach yesterday, but led to an enjoyable afternoon at a hidden gem buried away in the middle of Lincoln City at Spring Lake Open Space. Click here to read the Trip Journal. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilts are a familiar bird that I have enjoyed for many years during winter trips to California and Arizona, but they are an unusual sight here in Western Oregon.  Unusual enough that an adult and several juveniles being seen at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge west of Salem have caused a little stir in the local birding community. This Black-necked Stilt with a great reflection from the morning light at the Cottonwood pond this morning was a little puzzling to me because I had never seen a juvenile before.  They are a little more subdued in coloration than the adult, with duller colored legs and body. If you live in the area it’s worth your time to look them up.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Memorable Marion Lake Hike

Eleven other hikers, for a perfect dozen, joined me for a hike into Marion Lake yesterday. Nearby forest fires on Bingham Ridge and Lizard Ridge had threatened closer for the past two weeks, but the Marion Lake Trail remained open. In fact we had a perfect day of warm sunshine, clear skies, and very few mosquitos. This was a very memorable hike for me as I recalled my first hike to Marion Lake with my parents and sisters sixty eight years ago at age six.  The above photo was our view from our lunch stop yesterday, looking across Marion Lake to Three Fingered Jack in the distance. Lots of changes have occurred over the years, gone are the boats and boat house and Marion Lake Guard Station, but the view across the lake to Three Fingered Jack is ever there. Below is the photo of our group assembled at the trailhead.   

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Downy Woodpecker

The best photo from yesterday’s birding trip to Keizer Rapids City Park is this male Downy Woodpecker. The red “skull cap” is the clue that this is a male of this smallest of woodpeckers. The trip was a Field Trip put on by the Salem Audubon Society.  It was my first trip with the SAS, and as I think back it’s possibly the first trip ever with someone else leading, a different experience and well worthwhile. This trip was led by Mike Unger who lives in Keizer and knows the park and trails very well.  His preparation and patience is a model for any trip leader. We were able to identify thirty to forty different species depending on the sharpness of the observer. The group totaled a dozen people, some with great skills in identifying a bird purely by sound, which has challenged me to spend more time in learning more calls and songs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mucking Around in the Mud

Here is a juvenile Virginia Rail mucking around in the mud. We visited the Fairview Wetlands in Salem yesterday morning and found the water lever low exposing lots of muddy areas. Virginia Rails were in abundance drilling into the soft mud with their large bills to find some kind of food. Virginia Rails, although easy to hear, are normally hard to see, preferring to stay out of sight in tall grass and sedges. Yesterday was one of the magical moments when we were at the right place at the right time and we actually saw a record seven of them in the open plus heard at least another three. Also working the mud were three Killdeer, one juvenile Spotted Sandpiper, and one Greater Yellowlegs, but the high numbers were the Virginia Rails. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Marion Lake Hike this Saturday

This is an invitation to hike the Marion Lake Trail to Marion Lake this Saturday July 26th.  I will be leading a Chemeketan Hike, recreating my first hike there as shown in the photo above with my family in 1946. We will be making stops at Lake Ann, and locations of the former Marion Lake Guard Station and the boat house. If time and energy permit we will also visit historic sites of Doctor Prill’s Cabin and Camp Mazama. It’s a two and a half mile hike to the lake with an eight hundred foot elevation gain. If you are interested in joining in, call me at 541-670-9189 for information on meeting place and time. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nesting Sandpiper

Today I led a bird walk at Willamette Mission State Park for a class of 4th & 5th grade students from the Straub Environmental Learning Center.  I think the last time I led a bird walk for kids was when my daughter Lisa was in the second grade, so I’m thinking it was close to 40 years ago.  I wasn’t sure what to expect today, but the moment we stepped out to begin our walk I was immediately blown away with their enthusiasm. I had a great time.  And as I always say, it’s the teacher that learns the most.  Today, I learned things about the Spotted Sandpiper that I hadn’t even thought about.  We were about to leave the river late in our walk thinking we had failed to find the sandpiper I had seen fly in, when one of the teachers spotted it on a stump.  It blended in so well I had missed it. I took some photos and finished the walk and went home tired but happy.  At home I researched Spotted Sandpipers in more detail and was surprised to learn that the male builds the nest and after the female lays the eggs, the male sits on the eggs until they hatch and then continues to care for them as well. So the photo above is not of a female sitting on a nest, but a male.   

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Osprey Nesting Success

On April 24th I did a post, Osprey Action, on a pair of Osprey starting to nest for the first time at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve.  In the following months there have been off and on sightings, but no real knowledge if their effort was a success.  This morning I got the first documented evidence that there was indeed success when I saw this chick peering of the edge of the nest at me. For a more detailed story and photos click on the link to the Trip Journal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Eagle Eye

Yesterday while John West and I were at Willamette Mission State Park we checked out the Bald Eagle’s nest that I had just learned of last week.  The lone juvenile on the nest seemed to be giving us the “eagle” eye.  I’m sure he could see us easier than we could see him, and because of that he never really allowed us a clear shot of him. I got to wondering how long does he have to spend his days hiding out on the nest depending on his parents to bring him something to eat?  Turns out it’s almost three months.  The average time from hatching to fledging for Bald Eagles is 84 days.  Nearby were Turkey Vultures, which take 77 days to fledge, and Ospreys which take 54 days. No wonder this juvenile Bald Eagle watched us so intently, he has nothing else to do for a long time.     

Monday, July 14, 2014

Photographer Extraordinaire

I took John West with me this morning to Willamette Mission State Park to check out some trails. He is shown here in action as he tries to get some good shots of a family of thirteen Common Mergansers, a couple of Long-billed Dowitchers, and some Least Sandpipers. He will go to great lengths to get a good shot, take advantage of cover, and use anything to steady his camera and big lens. John is a photographer first, and a birder second. This morning was a perfect example, in addition to photos of birds and scenery; he came away with a photograph of an elk! You can see more of his work at John West Images.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Feeding Cormorants

I’m fascinated by all there is to learn about the various Cormorants.  For two days in a row I have visited Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, it’s free with my Senior Pass, to photograph the birds on the rock islands.  It’s more difficult to get a good photograph than you might imagine.  The bright white background from all the bird poop, makes getting the details of a totally black bird to show almost impossible.  The magic of Photo Shop helps some. This feeding scene from yesterday at a Brant’s Cormorant nest is interesting for a couple of reasons.  Notice the young are getting fed by inserting their beaks deep into the parent’s throat (you will need to click on the photo to enlarge), the opposite of what we are used to seeing in most other birds where the parent drops the food into a waiting open chick’s mouth. The other interesting thing is the other mid-sized bird. My best guess is that it is actually a different species of cormorant, a Pelagic Cormorant which are smaller in size, and is just looking for a hand out. Sort of like the neighbor kid that stops by in hopes of getting a cookie.   

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Nesting Sea Birds

The rock islands off the end of Yaquina Head just north of Newport are home to crowded colonies of Common Murres that are packed in so tightly it’s difficult to distinguish individual birds.  However, yesterday I took more time than usual to concentrate with binoculars and search out individual nesting birds. I didn’t manage to pick out any Murres with nests, but I did find mixed in with the Murres, Brandt’s Cormorants with nests and even young ones. How these chicks manage to survive in this crowded and precarious location is a marvel of nature.

We are spending some more days on the Oregon Coast, escaping the heat in the valleys, and I am looking forward to learning more about the sea birds at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bald Eagle's Nest

One of the highlights at Willamette Mission State Park this morning was being shown this lone juvenile Bald Eagle atop this huge nest. We spent some interesting time touring trails in the park with Ranger Bonnie in preparation for a Bird Walk for 4th and 5th graders I will be leading this month on the 21st. Although we have hiked and birded a number of trails in the park over the years, today Bonnie showed us a great many more.  I guess we have been guilty of repeating some of the same old routes.  Today our sense of exploring definitely was piqued and will we be expanding the trails we take for birding.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tillamook River Rest Area

There are Rest Areas, and then there are Rest Areas. Many come to mind, but the Tillamook River Rest Area along Highway 101 just south of Tillamook, has to rate as one of best. We stopped for a quick break there yesterday mid-day, just to use our restroom, and stretch our legs. An inviting trail down to a streamside picnic area beckoned us.  With Buster in tow we went to explore and soon our attention turned to spotting birds.  In the end we simply sat at the picnic table and enjoyed a dozen different species of birds, many busy with feeding juveniles.
Spotted Sandpiper

Swainson's Thrush

Western Tanager

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Escape to Whalen Island

Because of temperatures in the ninetis es in Salem, Jeanette and I decided to escape to the coast for a couple of days.  I looked for a destination that would have a campground and good birding, and selected Whalen Island in the Sand Lake area south of Tillamook.  Whalen Island has a county park with a campground and is right next to the Clay Meyers State Natural Area.  Arriving at the campground we found out that the cost for one night was $37.50, no water, electric or sewer, and on top of that there was no cell phone service.  We opted out of staying there, but decided to spend the morning birding at Clay Meyers before moving on to check out different camping options.  

Clay Meyers State Natural Area has a good trail that loops through a mixed forest with occasional open views to wet lands and sandy beaches. We were pleased to be able to hunt down some Red Crossbills busy with harvesting cone seeds. 

The tide was out a good ways giving us access to wide beach areas where Buster got to run and we were treated to scenes like this of an American Crow trying to threaten a Bald Eagle.

Another highlight was this nestling Northern Flicker looking for some more food from his parents.

After the luxury of lunch in the motor home we traveled on over Cape Lookout, and on to Tillamook where eventually we located the Port of Tillamook RV Park, $10 a night.  More later.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dozing Off

This Juvenile Peregrine Falcon with opaque eye-lids appears to be dozing off. And in fact, I think that is exactly what is happening.  This is the second day after leaving the nest for him, so sitting in the warm sunshine on a cliff face at Yaquina Head, sheltered from the wind, and perhaps tired from all the stress from his new responsibly of flight, it’s easy to imagine it’s just too hard to keep his eyes open. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Escaping the Heat with a Day at the Coast

Temperatures in Salem hit 99 degrees yesterday, but it didn’t bother us as we spent the day at the coast with temps 30-35 degrees cooler.  We visited Ona Beach, lunched at The Chowder Bowl, and had dinner at McMenamins Lighthouse Brewpub; a full day. Sean and Jeanette are shown here watching for a whale to “blow” at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area north of Newport.  I took almost a hundred photos and we had a number of other interesting sightings of Brown Pelicans, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, Pelagic Cormorants, and Peregrine Falcons, that I will probably write about in the days to follow as time allows.