Monday, November 30, 2015

Indoor Birding Weather

This morning it was a cool 20 degrees at our house on Walnut Place in West Salem and it seemed like a good day to stay inside.  As I started noticing the various birds in the backyard foraging for food, I decided to make up a bird list for the day for just what I could see from my windows. As the day went on I next started to take some photos.  The most interesting photo to me was this Yellow-rumped Warbler, all puffed up presumably in an effort to stay warm.  In all I counted 19 different species that visited our yard through the day.  For the complete list of birds plus additional photos click here.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunny Days and Icy Ponds

It's hard to see from this photo taken at the south end of Huddleston Pond, but the far north end of the pond is completely covered in ice.  We came here yesterday morning hoping for enough warmth from the sun to keep us warm from the freezing temperature. The pond, located in Hampton Park in the small town of Willamina is becoming a favorite of ours for winter birding this year.  This community and former logging pond are tucked up next to the coast range, leaving their south-east side exposed to the morning sun.  With half of the pond covered with a sheet of ice, the ducks were crowded up on this south end.  Although not a large variety, there were large numbers of American Wigeons and American Coots. The observation list and photos can be seen here

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Birding from my Window

This is a male Downy Woodpecker at our suet feeder this morning. It's a cold and wet here in Salem, which lends its self to count birds from the comforts of my living room window.  It also fits right in with eBird's November challenge and drawing, which this month is to submit 15 complete observation lists for the same location.  I thought about this at the first of the month and decided that observations from my own yard would the easiest way to assure 15 lists for the same location. I've been doing what known as a stationary count, which means you are stationary at one point for a subscribed amount of time.  Todays stationary count was for ten minutes and it produced the following observation list:
 Downey Woodpecker - 1
Western Scrub-Jay - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
Dark-eyed Junco - 3
Song Sparrow - 1
House Finch - 3
Pine Siskin - 4
House Sparrow - 1 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sheridan South Side Park

 Entrance Parking Lot

Of the three birding stops we made on Monday, I was most interested in returning to the Sheridan South Side Park.  Despite "Sheridan South Side Park" being the official name of this location, I think it is more commonly known as the Sheridan Pond or simply the fish pond.  It's claim to fame may actually reside with the fishing population, but we are looking at it through the lens of birding. My interest in returning was basically I felt that we could do a better job of birding with nicer weather, and although today the temperature was nearly the same we did have sunshine which made it seem warmer, and we did actually get a larger variety of birds.  You can look at the observation list and photos here.

Fishing dock at far end

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Day In The Bird Mobile

Today was another day we needed to evacuate our house while the painters went to work, so we piled into our RV, which I am starting to refer to as the Bird Mobile, for a day of birding. With the weather rather cold and wet, it made a perfect mobile base for birding.  We totally love being able to stay warm and dry with all the comforts of home no matter what the weather.  We made a total of three stops for short walks to seek out birds.

Our first stop was an unplanned one at the Brigittine Monastery, the result of a mis-turn. The temperature was a frigid 39 degrees with a bitter wind from the south.  We only lasted a short 18 minutes at one of ponds scoping out water fowl, but we did make a list. The Monastery seemed rather quiet, I suppose the brothers were still at morning prayer, so we missed sampling their famous chocolate. Continuing on we were still cold so we pulled over in Ballston at the Ballston Park with a quaint pioneer school house (shown above) for some hot chocolate in the bird mobile.

Our second birding stop was at the Sheridan South Side Park.  Temperature here was a balmy 47 degrees, perhaps in part because of it's location, protected to the west by a hill top cemetery, and to the south by a large federal prison complex. In spite of this unique almost hidden location, it was the best birding location of the day, producing this list.

Our third birding stop was at the Huddleston Fish Pond in Willamina.  I made a brief circle of the pond here in between rain storms, and made this list.

We spent the remainder of the day on couch and recliner, enjoying having a furnace, TV, and a bathroom. Oh yes, also hot coffee, tea, and chili.  I think there are many more trips to be made this winter in the bird mobile.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Wintering Pintails

Yesterday we went birding at Fairview Wetlands primarily to check on the progress of the arrival of wintering birds.  We were pleased to find in addition to the expected Mallards, three male Northern Pintails.  (The Pintail is the duck with the brown head in front of a male Mallard with the green head.) I normally think of Northern Pintails as ducks with long slim necks, but here in this instance they seem to be trying to blend in with the Mallards and adopting a squaty profile. Jeanette counted 88 Mallards, with an approximate even mix of males and females, but we could only find three Northern Pintails and they were all three males. Although it's possible to find Northern Pintails year around in the Willamette Valley, their numbers only become significant in the winter when they migrate from their arctic breeding grounds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Grand Island Access

We are always on the look out for new locations to walk and watch birds.  Yesterday morning we went exploring to check out Grand Island Access,  It's a part of the Willamette River Greenway, a concept born in the late 60's and administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. This particular parcel, which incidentally we just learned contains the states largest continual Black Cottonwood forest, is located along Lambert Slough on Grand Island just north of the Weatland Ferry. Primarily a canoe and kayak access point at river mile 70, it has the amenities of a port-potty, a picnic table, a couple of fire pits, and large flat areas that would work for camping. We were more interested in the informal trails that wander through the cottonwood forest to different access points to Lambert Slough.  It was a cold quiet morning for birds, but will be worthy of future trips in spring and summer. 

 A tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet bathes in a mud puddle.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Of Birds and Beavers

Once again we took advantage of the best part of the day to get in a bird walk.  Based on the weather forecast for rain that was moving in, it looked like the best window of opportunity would be in the morning to the south-east of Salem. It was just starting to sprinkle when we left Salem and we drove into dry weather before we got to Lyons and our destination the Lyons City Park. The skies stayed clear for an hour and we almost made it back to the car before it started raining.

The Lyons City Park is a favorite of ours for birding, but beyond that it is a perfect place to observe nature in harmony.  Busy beavers continue work on dams that have resulted in a series of ponds that provide the perfect habitat for water birds like ducks and geese.  On this trip we saw newly arrived migrants of Ring-necked Ducks and Gadwalls, augmenting the resident Mallards, Canada Geese, Mergansers and Wood Ducks. Additional birds that like to hang out around the water were Kingfishers and Herons. 

At first glance you may assume this photo of a beaver is taken looking down directly above him.  If so, your eyes are playing a trick on you.  The photo was taken from the side and the reflection in the water is making an almost perfect second image.  I didn't realize I had a reflection in the water until I got home and downloaded the photo into the computer. While walking the trails around the many ponds, we spotted this beaver up against the bank holding very still, I think he assumed he might be unnoticed if he held very still. These ponds used to have a large population of Nutria when we started birding there in 2013, but at some point someone did something, which is a good thing, and yesterday we only saw beaver and their handiwork.  They have constructed some amazing dams that well are worth the trip to the park just to marvel at their expertise. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Seeking the Sunshine

The arrival of dawn yesterday morning revealed that we were completely shrouded in fog at our home in Salemtowne, dashing our hopes for a morning bird walk.  Jeanette wondered if we could check the Internet to look at road cams and see if other areas would be free of fog, like for instance, Fairview Wetlands.  I checked some road cams in the vicinity and was amazed to find the south-east area of Salem almost free of fog.  We made an instant decision to drive to Fairview Wetlands where you can see from the above photo that we had an abundance of sunshine.  Sunshine certainly enhances our out door experiences and provides such a lift to our spirits.  I say it's better to seek the sunshine than sit at home and curse the fog, sort of my version of the old adage of "better to light a candle than curse the dark".

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Huddleston Pond

Our daily schedule operates something like this.  When the first person makes a suggestion for a birding location that everyone agrees with,  we pack up and head out.  Today it was Jeanette that suggested we go back to Huddleston Pond in Willamina. Serious readers of this blog will remember we were just there the Saturday before last on our way home from the Tillamook area. I was delighted with the suggestion to return to Huddleston because Jeanette and I both felt that we could do better than the 13 birds we found that day.  We hit the pond this morning just before 9:00 with the resolve to find more birds.  Although the temperature was rather cool, we had bright sunshine and a whole raft of waterfowl. We ended an hour later with a list of 21 species. Our observation list and photos can be seen here.  Interesting, we left Salem in sunshine, endured rain on the drive which stopped when we arrived in Willamina, and then started raining again just as we finished birding.  The rains seemed more like spring showers than real fall rain.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Riverfront Park Swans

This morning while birding at Wallace Marine Park in West Salem a walker stopped to tell us he thought he had just seen Swans in Salem's Riverfront Park.  We finished up our observation list at Wallace and went in search, hoping he wasn't confused with perhaps Great Egrets.  We found two swans, which turned out to be Mute Swans not the Tundra Swans we were hoping for.  These may possibly be the two we found last year at Stone Quarry Lake by the airport. Those were considered to be released pets and not countable on eBird.  Mute Swans are not native to North America.  The thing is, last winter we found Mute Swans in Anderson California, see blog post here, and they are an accepted species there I think because their numbers are large enough. I guess these bear watching to see if there are any more. Maybe with Global Warming the California birds will eventually find their way north to Oregon.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Water Finally in the Wetlands

Jeanette with umbrella at lower pond

The first significant storms of the year this weekend brought in enough rain to recreate ponds at the Fairview Drive Wetlands in Salem.  A long time favorite hang out of ours for birding, the wetlands have been completely dried up this summer and fall, the ponds exposing their bare cracked clay bottoms.  We have been watching them with each small storm only to witness the small amount of moisture instantly absorbed in the parched soil. But today was different, finally we had enough rainfall to have water back in the wetlands.  As we had hoped for, some ducks had already found the the now usable bodies of water.  We only saw Mallards, 30 in the lower pond and 20 in the upper, but soon other varieties of water fowl will find their way here and once again we will be seeing the large variety of birds that we have come to enjoy here at the Fairview Wetlands.

Mallards in flight from upper pond