Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year-end Statistics

I’m using this photo I took yesterday of a Song Sparrow at our suet feeder as a segue to sum up the bird observation totals for this past year.  The Song Sparrow is one of 50 species of birds we have observed in our back yard this year.  During our walks in our neighborhood of Salemtowne we have seen 72 species.  Expanding into Polk County we have identified 131 species, and the grand total for the state of Oregon is 182 species on 447 checklists. These statistics are all easy to come up with thanks to the great Internet site of

I’m sure it’s apparent to all of our readers that birding is our current passion, but it hasn’t always been that way.  I remember in 1970 receiving a book for Christmas on how to tie flies, and for the next ten years or more fly tying and fishing was my major passion.  Hiking, backpacking, and cross-county skiing all took up major chapters in my life along the way.  And of course bicycling was a passion that both Jeanette had when we met, and have shared for twenty years.

As I reflect on this past year it’s become painfully obvious to me that we no longer have the burning desire necessary for intense physical activities.  Birding however seems to be a good fit for our aging lifestyle and something hopefully I can continue to review annually for some years to come.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Red-breasted Sapsucker

This Red-breasted Sapsucker caught our attention yesterday during a brief mid-day -bird walk at Wallace Marine City Park.  Its bright colors gave a cheery note to the dull shades of the winter day. As I started taking photos we realized that it was actually acquiring sap.  The four species that make up the genius of Sapsuckers all drill shallow evenly spaced holes in a horizontal line to tap the trees for sap.  Once drilled, they continue to revisit these “wells” to harvest the sap.  You can see from the photo that the entire bark surface is wet from the oozing sap.  A second source of nutrition for these birds is the insects that are attracted to the sap. This is a good time of year to find them at lower elevations. Once a working sapsucker is discovered you should predictably be able to make repeated observations.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Close Call

Buster’s favorite place to go “birding” is Fairview Wetlands.  He loves to make a try for the borrowing varmints in the grassy area along the trail. He came very close to success today.  The time difference recorded on my camera between these to shots is only three one hundreds of a second!  Until today I assumed these varmints were probably ground squirrels. This is first time I’ve been able to get any kind of a photo.  After studying the photo and researching in a couple of books I now think they are Western Pocket Gophers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Different Kind of Bird

Most of the time when we are out birding, Buster is occupied with searching for squirrels.  But today while we were taking a quick walk at Maude Williamson State Recreation Site he found something different, a chicken.  Notice how he appears to be on point. He wasn't sure what to do, and after a few seconds make a half hearted attempt to chase the chicken.  The chicken wasn't bothered much with Buster, and with a few flaps of his wings kept out of range. It soon became apparent that the chicken was more interested in a hand-out. The only thing I had to offer the begging chicken was some dog food, which after trying was rejected. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Drying Out

We basically had a dry day yesterday and the birds seemed to take advantage of it to dry out a bit.  We also took advantage of the dry “window” too to get in some walking, chalking up over three miles. While on a bird walk at Fairview Wetlands I photographed this Red-tailed Hawk. We are accustomed to seeing birds like Turkey Vultures and Cormorants spreading their wings and tails out to dry, but this is the first time I recall seeing a Red-tail Hawk with this behavior. It’s pretty obvious with this view why this is called a Red-tailed Hawk.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Birding Staats Lake

The title of this post should actually be “Fighting the Grey of Winter”, because this is what today's walk was really about.  It’s hard to be motivated when you wake up to another wet cold day of winter. This is where Buster comes in handy in getting us out the door.  After all the morning chores have been done, like coffee, reading the paper, checking e-mail, Facebook, favorite blogs, and having breakfast, Buster begins to whine for a walk.  He doesn’t realize its wet and cold out side and he won't like it.  He only knows the routine and the next most important thing to him is for us to take him on an adventure. He will not let up with the whining and we will have no peace until the walk gets taken care off.  So this morning we piled in the car to drive to some place with concrete sidewalks for a walk that would give us a change of scenery from our own neighborhood.  We considered several possibilities as we drove out of Salemtowne.  We ended up choosing Staats Lake in Keizer because it looked less cloudy to the north.  I had never been to Staats Lake before but it has been on my list for a while as one of those places I wanted to go to check out the birds.  It turned out to be a great choice with a paved sidewalk that circles the lake shoreline, and we got a good list of birds.  Halfway around the lake we also got a good shower, our only option was to just to keep walking.  But my thanks goes to Buster for getting me out the door, I hate moping around the house all day in the grey of winter.