Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reedsport CBC

Christmas Bird Counts have been going on in North America since the year 1900, but this is this first year for it to be done in Douglas County in the Reedsport circle, thanks to the efforts of Matt Hunter.  Matt asked us to participate and do a section of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area because of our experience with the coastal locations, and after some discussion we settled on the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail.  We enlisted the help of our friend and fellow volunteer Glenn Pannier to help us. After a meet-up breakfast in Winchester Bay with a number of other counters we drove to the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area to begin our hike.  Although at 8:30 we had cold temps still in the 30's, it was a dry day.  We were out for four and a half hours and hiked six miles, counting 22 species.  You can see our observation list and photos here.  

Friday, December 25, 2015

A December Favorite

A Great Blue Heron and a pair of Mallards share a corner of a pond at the Lyons City Park where be birded this Christmas Morning. We first discovered the Lyons City Park as an excellent place to bird in December of 2013.  Today was my 10th trip here and the start of our third year of birding at this eBird Hot Spot. Although we like to bird here year around, winter is a favorite time because of all the migrating water fowl.  It's a mystery to me, but at this point no other person has turned in an observation list for this location. It further astounds me because it is such a beautiful place to bird.  A number of ponds, both man made and beaver constructed, with a network of trails and bridges provide a setting that Walt Disney would have been hard pressed to improve. But, why should I complain, once again we had the park to ourselves. To see the lists for this eBird Hot Spot click here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Backyard Birding

Mourning Dove
When I paused this morning to do a quick two minute stationary bird count in our back yard there were only two species.  Two Mourning Doves and three Northern Flickers. It's unusual to only see two species, I can usually spot close to half a dozen at a time.  The Mourning Doves were on the ground, fluffed up to keep warm, and the Northern Flickers were up in a tree trying to dry out their feathers from the last rain shower. The astute reader of this blog will no doubt recognize that an unusual high number of photos and posts come from my backyard. There may be a number of reasons, any place from laziness to convenience.  The startling thing to me is how all these little observations I record add up. November began the third winter we have been at this location in Salemtowne, and during this time Jeanette and I have identified 59 different species of birds from our back yard. Which says to me that our backyard is a legitimate birding location even if it is easy.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Buster's New Coat

Our dog Buster got a pre-Christmas gift of a new bright red winter coat.  With our staying in Oregon this winter, and being out walking and birding on a daily basis, he needed a little more protection.  He has worn sweaters for years, but doesn't particularly like them, they seem a little restrictive to his movements, and they soak up the rain.  This stylish new coat complete with faux pockets is insulated for warmth, designed to shed water to keep him dry, and allows for good movement for him to run.  He got a good test this week with a trip to Siltcoos Beach where he ran with unabashed freedom in the sand dunes.  In this photo he is shown at a view point on the Siltcoos Lagoon Loop Trail during a bird walk.  Click here to view our eBird observation list.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Under Cover

House Finch

 It's pouring rain on an everyday basis right now.  This morning I ventured out anyway, put on rain gear and walked down to check a flooded area that had a lot of ducks a few days back.  It was a bust, so much wind I think the ducks had left for more cover some where else.  Back home, and changed out of my rain gear,  I decided to watch for birds in our back yard from the cover of our living room.  The birds were also seeking cover, multiple Juncos were on the ground feeding under the cover of the rhododendron. A couple of bright male House Finches sought the cover of the bird feeder. In addition a Song Sparrow and a House Sparrow also took turns under the cover of the feeder.

Song Sparrow

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Merlin a Winter Favorite

Yesterday we had a brief window of sunshine in the late afternoon in which we got out for a well deserved walk.  To our surprise we also saw a record high number of diverse bird species.  You can see our observation list here.  One of our winter favorites is the Merlin in the above photo that I took yesterday. This is a small bird, about the size of a Morning Dove, but do not be fooled by its size, it is a member of the falcon family and a fierce competitor that is capable of taking a sparrow in mid-air. This is the third winter we have seen a Merlin in Salemtowne where we live.  Looking at my eBird records, I notice we see it arrive in October and is gone by the end of February to travel to the far north to breed. We have watched it enough that we know three different trees that it prefers to use that we can spot it most days.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

More on the Copper's Hawk

Beyond being surprised to see this Copper's Hawk on our back yard fence yesterday, we were also intrigued to notice that it was leucistic.  Leucism in birds is a condition in which there is a loss of pigmentation which results in patches or areas of pale or colorless feathers. Since learning of this condition a couple of years ago, we are surprised how often we see birds with this strange white coloring. In the case of this hawk, the leucism shows up in a white patch on the top of the head.
top view
left view
right view
back view

Monday, December 7, 2015

Backyard Visitor

Jeanette called out from the kitchen for me to come look at the backyard fence.  This menacing looking adult Cooper's Hawk had just arrived and doesn't look at all happy.  Only a few minutes earlier I had  made up a 5 minute observation list of the birds in our backyard which you can see here.  Cooper's Hawks are in a small group of hawks called accipiters, which make their living feeding on small birds. He looks like he just missed the group of small birds that were at our feeder. He also may be not too happy about all the rain we are having as he looks pretty wet. All in all, he's probably not having such a good day.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bright Birds of Winter

Rain is the main component of the next 15 days of weather, but a window of sunshine was in the forecast for nine o'clock this morning, so we planned accordingly. We arrived at one of our favorites, Fairview Wetlands, at nine o'clock sharp, dressed for cold and wind.  I think it was a good plan and we got in a nice walk and identified 22 different species of birds.  You can see our observation list here.  Below are three species I was able to photograph.

 White-crowned Sparrow
One of the little sparrows we see consistently here at the Fairview Wetlands is the White-crowned Sparrow.  This photo seemed appropriate for the Christmas Season with the Sparrow possed with the bright red rose hips.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbirds are a common staple here too.  Noisy creatures, they are usually heard several times before being seen. Only the males have the bright red and yellow patch, which they are able to flash to show their assertiveness. 

Spotted Towee
We can also always count on hearing and seeing the Spotted Towee.  They are usually to be found on the ground scratching for tidbits, or hiding in the bushes. The rusty breast, white spotted wings, and bright red eyes, are to be enjoyed in any season.