Monday, June 29, 2015

Rocky Raccoon

We discovered yesterday that we have a new camper in the area.  Actually he is probably not new, and probably not a he, because the report was that there was a Raccoon with babies.  We had stopped to talk to a camper with binoculars and we were discussing birds, when he asked if we had seen the raccoons.  We had not and the first chance we had we went to look for them and found nothing.  We encountered the camper a second time and verified the location and made a second attempt. We were just about to give up when I suddenly spotted the den in the spruce tree. We will be checking again with the hope of getting to see more than one.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Success Story

Every time I see this brightly striped yellow and black caterpillar it brings a smile to my face.  It is the larva of the Cinnabar Moth. It stands out as a success story in the fight against invasive  plants, and it's been done with a biological tool.  In the 1950's I remember my Dad's concern and frustration in doing battle with the poisonous Tansy Ragwort in the cow pastures of our farm. In the 1980's I became aware of the use of the Cinnabar Moth to control the tansy when a State of Oregon Agriculture botanist asked permission to hang a trap at my home along Pringle Creek in Salem to be able to monitor the Cinnabar Moth population. The way the Cinnabar Moth helps in the battle against the Tansy Ragwort is that the larva thrives on devouring the foliage of the Tansy Ragwort. When we arrived at the coast this summer I noticed the Cinnabar Moth busy laying its eggs on the emerging Tansy Ragwort. Today while stationed on the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail waiting for hikers to arrive at the beach I noticed the larva busy devouring the Tansy Ragwort.  In a period in time that we seem to losing the battle with invasive plants like European Beach Grass, Scotch Broom, and English Ivy, the success of the Cinnabar Moth stands out as a success story.
Cinnabar Moth adult- taken at Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area - June 2, 2013

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Great, Great, Great Herons

After three days of being at home in West Salem we are back to the coast. It is a glorious morning here on the Siltcoos and we did our favorite morning ritual, a bird walk on the Lagoon Loop Trail. I spotted this Great Blue Heron, and even though I have more than enough photos of Great Blue Herons, this one high in a Sitka Spruce tree with a blue sky background seemed too good to pass up.
While I was talking this first photo Jeanette said, "How many Herons do you see?"  I took a second look at the tree and above the first heron I saw the second one. So I took a photo of it.
Then Jeanette said, "look again, there is a third Heron way in the top".  Sure enough, up near the top was this immature Heron.
Three Herons during a bird walk is grand enough, but three Herons in the same tree at the same time is over the top. We're guessing Dad, Mom, and Junior.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Thing I Like About Juveniles

The thing I like about juvenile birds is their naivety. They are unaware of the ways of the world. They haven't caught on to some of the important facts of life --- like humans could be predators. Therefore they are easier to see than an experienced wise adult. This morning's juvenile Pileated Woodpecker shown above is a case in point.  We heard and then found him pounding away on a big fir tree limb.  He paused, gave us a curious look and then went back to pounding. An adult, once spotting us would have vanished immediately.  Another example comes from yesterday when a juvenile Song Sparrow showed up on our patio in a rather carefree way before being ushered out of harms way by an adult Song Sparrow. Next time you notice a bird that seems to tolerate your presence more than normal, consider it might be a juvenile.   

Monday, June 22, 2015

Birding at Home

Two little baby Tree Swallows peer out of the entrance hole in their nesting box in the above photo, hoping to see mom or dad coming with another bug. We are home for a few days off from our volunteer jobs at the coast. When we arrived last night I noticed that the side panel on this nesting box used for inspection and cleaning was open.  I checked and there were baby birds inside and they appeared to be some what alive.  It's a mystery as to how the nail could have been pulled out and the panel opened.  Perhaps a cat or a raccoon? I saw no adult swallows around so I was concerned that the babies would get taken care of. I refastened the panel and hoped for the best.  I kept an eye on the box all day today and did see some visits by adults, but not many, so I kept my fingers crossed.  By this evening I notice these little heads appear. I took this photo while sitting on the living room couch, my preferred birding location when I am home.  My other favorite location when home is sitting on the patio.  I tried that this afternoon, and identified 19 species in an hour, submitting them to eBird via my iPhone and never had to get off my butt. Home is good.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Stoping to Smell the Roses

Felt kind of puny today, so didn't work on the Scotch Broom while we were at our volunteer spot on the beachhead of the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail.  Didn't make a bird list either or get any bird photos. I guess you could say I took time to "stop and smell the roses", as I did pay a little more attention to the flowers under foot and took a few photos.

Beach Pea

Coastal Strawberry

Seashore Lupine

Monday, June 15, 2015

Excuse Me!

"Excuse me, can't you see I'm having my lunch here"?  That's what I think this Osprey seems to be saying in this photo.  If you think Osprey only fish in lakes and fresh water rivers, here is proof to the contrary. I watched this Osprey take this fish right out of the ocean.  Lack of a "necklace" would indicate this is a male, and although the male does all the fishing for the female once she is on the nest, this one is gobbling up the fish right here on the beach.  I guess the other possibility is that he doesn't have a mate, or maybe he will share the next one, but I watched him make two successful catches which he ate while still on the beach.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Volunteering while Volunteering

Our volunteer job this summer is interacting with beach goers in regard to the plight of the Western Snowy Plover.  One of the beachheads that we work at the most is the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail.  It's over a mile through sands dunes and forest from the parking lot of the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area to the beach on this trail, which probably accounts for the scattered out visitors we see.  There is quite a bit of wait time between hikers, so I've volunteered to cut back some of the terrible Scotch Broom along the trail to fill in my spare time. It actually pays the same.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Witchety-Witchety Bird

We enjoyed hearing and then finding and photographing a male Witchety-Whitchety bird this morning during a walk on the Lagoon Loop Trail. It's real name is Common Yellowthroat which seems unfitting for such a beautiful bird that is far from common in both sight and song.  We prefer the discription of its song, "witchety-witchety", as the name we like to use.  It's one of our favorite warblers in part because its song is easy to recognize, which is very helpful because like most warblers it normally prefers to stay out of sight.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Snowy Plover From A Distance.

I took this photo of a Western Snowy Plover from the top of the fore dune looking down on the beach yesterday morning when we were hiking the Carter Dunes Trail.  To appreciate this feat you have to realize that from our position on the dune it was impossible to see the lone bird on the beach with the naked eye because of the distance, it was only by searching with binoculars that I found it.  Ironically, he seems to have already spotted us because he appears to be looking directly at me with a "you looking at me?" look.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bird/Dog Hike

This morning we took our friends Dan & Charlene and their dog Cocoa and our dog Buster for a bird hike.  It is a day off for Jeanette and I, and even though our volunteer job involves hiking and birding everyday, still our choice for our day off was to go on a bird hike. It didn't seem like work because we were able to bring friends and dogs along. We started at the Taylor Dunes Trailhead and walked to Carter Lake, circling through the Carter Lake Campground.  From there we took the Carter Dunes Trail to the beach and then returned back via the Taylor Dunes Trail. It's been a favorite of ours since living in Elkton and we always enjoy visiting this little used campground and trail system.  Dan, Charlene, Jeanette and the dogs are shown taking a break and sharing a snack while on the Taylor Dunes Trail.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Sweet Song of the Song Sparrow

Even though it was foggy with a cold wind blowing at the beach this morning, the Song Sparrow still sang. The weather seemed to keep most of the birds silent and hidden away, but not the trusty Song Sparrow.  I have been surprised to find it so common here at the beach. It is one of the most consistent birds we hear and see on a daily basis, and it is one of the easier birds to locate when it sings.  It seems to pick a prominent point to sing and then it stays put and belts out it's song repeatedly.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Bird of the Day - Whimbrel

Yesterday while touring Sutton and Baker Beaches with our ranger we saw three Whimbrel.  An unusual enough looking bird with its large curved bill, it always gets your attention.  Even though they were mixed in with a group of gulls they stood out as different.  They are considered a migration species along our coast, wintering in California and further south, and breeding in Alaska. But, as changes seem to be occurring in a number of species, this one seems to be changing in its choices as well and some birds are deciding to hang around Oregon's bays and beaches year around. We have been seeing some about once a week here on our stay on the coast.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nesting Gull

 Today was a day off so we drove to Florence this morning, had breakfast, did laundry, shopped at Ace Hardware and Safeway. On our way back we took a detour to check out the Siuslaw River South Jetty area.  One of our stops was at the crabbing dock.  We were surprised to find a pair of Western Gulls standing over a nest.  I can't say that I've ever seen or given much thought to where gulls nest, but I certainly didn't expect to find one on a public dock right on the deck where people would stand to go crabbing.  Yet here it was. When I got home I checked to see what kind of nest they make and sure enough they make a nest out of grass.  The nest appeared to be empty even though it looked to have been set in, and this gull would not leave the site in spite of our presence.  As I write, I am reflecting on a Raven I saw drinking from a puddle in the parking lot.  We have learned in our volunteer job with Plovers that Ravens are one of the top predators to the plover eggs.  So now I'm theorising that perhaps the Raven stole and ate the eggs from the gull's nest.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Birds of the Backwater

Our favorite trail to bird here in the Siltcoos Area is turning out to the Lagoon Loop Trail. It's a one mile trail that makes a loop around the Lagoon Campground along the shoreline of Siltcoos Lagoon.  The Siltcoos Lagoon was cut off from the main river years ago when the road was built and is a quiet backwater supporting a nice variety of bird life.  So far we have identified 35 different species of birds here. We bird here about every other day.  It's a short walk from our campsite in the Waxmyrtle Campground just across the road.

One of the most consistent birds we have seen and photograph here through the years is the Great Blue Heron.  A good supply of Bullfrogs probably make this a good place for them to hunt.  Yesterday we saw two of these herons.  This one caught my attention in it's stretched out posture ready to strike.

Another consistent bird here is the Rufus Hummingbird.  We saw a record six here yesterday morning.  This is a female I was able to photograph.  What you don't see or hear here in this photo that was a part of our experience is the dive bombing of a male hoping to impress this female.

Monday, June 1, 2015


This morning before work while taking Buster for his bird walk on the Lagoon Trail we heard a distinct bird song we did not recognize. After some time we located the singing bird high on a tree top.  Jeanette wrote down what it sounded like as - - "Cheery-Peep".  We spent the next 20 minutes trying to match the song with a bird.  I took 23 photos in trying to get a definitive view. It was behaving like a flycatcher, but it's song was like no flycatcher we could find on our iPhones. We were stumped until later in the morning at a different location I heard and saw an Olive-sided Flycatcher make a similar strange song following it's traditional song which is usually described as "Hick-Three-Beers". If any of you out there in bird-land have a better understanding, please let me know.  Other wise I have now learned that an Olive-sided Flycatcher has more than the one "Hick-Thee-Beers" song.