Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Heading North

I normally limit myself to one blog a day, but there is so much going on with my brother Mark and his wife Holly on their epic journey of the Pacific Crest Trail that I have to post again today.   After spending last night in Klamath Falls I took them up to catch the PCT near Fish Lake. They are shown here in the morning sun starting their next section which will take them 50 miles north to Crater Lake in the next three days. At Crater Lake they will receive their support package of food that Jeanette sent ahead several days ago.  From Crater Lake they will continue North to their next take out point at Elk Lake where they will get off the trail for a few days at home in Bend. Will they get back on the trail??? Mark is now hoping to get as far as the Columbia Gorge this season.  Their original goal of the Canadian border will probably have to wait for another year, hopefully one with less snow.   

California Finished!

With this section of the Pacific Crest Trail in Castle Crags State Park, my bother Mark and his wife Holly have finished up the PCT in California.  With all the extra snow this season they have been forced to “flip-flop” on the trail and do sections of the trail out of order.  Earlier in the trip they had gotten off the trail in Southern California and came up to Oregon and hiked south from Lake of the Woods to Etna Pass, then got a ride to Dunsmuir bypassing the Russian Wilderness and the Trinity’s,  and then hiked south to Burney Falls.  After several more “flip-flops”, which I will not attempt to remember or explain, this section from Etna Pass to Castle Crags was the last of the PTC in California to finish. This leaves them with a sense of accomplishment, having hiked 1,700 miles since leaving the Mexican border in April. You can follow them on thier blog on Post Holer.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sea Gulls

“There is no such a thing as a Sea Gull”, I always tell my students when I’m leading bird walks in the winter along the Lower Colorado River in Arizona, “there are however many other different kinds of Gulls”. Two completely different looking gulls are shown here in this photo I took Thursday at the coast on Winchester Bay. The larger one in the background is our very common Western Gull, the smaller darker one in the foreground is a Heerman’sGull. The next time you go to the beach, don’t assume you are just looking at sea gulls, take a closer look and note some differences, and you may be surprised at what you find.   

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hooded Mergansers

The Mystery Bird turned out to be a juvenile Hooded Merganser. I have now spotted and photographed these birds for four days, and after hours of research I am confident in my identification.  The adult male Hooded Merganser is very dramatic in his plumage, so it’s quite a stretch of the imagination to think these non-hooded juveniles are the same, but they are. Another fact that makes this identification unusual is that they are normally nest further north. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mystery Bird

The following three photos are of an unfamiliar bird I have not been able to identify.  I have seen and photographed it on the Umpqua River at Elkton for the last three days.  If anyone has a clue, please leave a comment or send me e-mail.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Least Sandpiper

I’ve been scratching my head for several weeks for locations in Douglas County where I would be able to find new species of birds to add to my eBird List.  And, wouldn’t you know it, that location now appears to be right under my nose! For the second day in a row the Umpqua River right in front of our city park, the Alfred Tyson Park, has given me a brand new species.  Yesterday it was the Spotted Sandpiper; today it was a Least Sandpiper.  When I saw this small bird today I started taking photos and just assumed it was the same sandpiper as yesterday.  When I got home and looked closer I realized it was a different species.  That is when the detective work began and I checked the bird guides and looked for clues as to what I had seen.  After much deliberation I finally am satisfied that what I photographed is a juvenile Least Sandpiper.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spotted Sandpiper

Doing daily walks around Elkton for Buster and bird watching I repeatedly see the same species every day, so whenever I get to see a new bird, I consider it a real gift.  This was the case with this Spotted Sandpiper feeding in the Umpqua River.  At first sighting I was ready to dismiss it as another Killdeer. When I took a closer look with the binoculars I realized it did not have the facial pattern for a Killdeer, but I was unclear what it was, so I continued to watch it.  Then it turned to me and I noticed the telltale spotted breast, and as I continued to watch I saw the trade mark tipping back and forth that made it a positive identification of a Spotted Sandpiper, a first for me in Douglas County.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wandering Tattler

My habit every morning is to check my status on the Internet site eBird.  This morning when I looked I saw to my great surprise that my most recent addition from the day before was supposedly a “Wandering Tattler”.  What the heck, I thought, has someone hacked by account?  Oh, I get it, a little joke, not the Cascade Rambler, but the Wandering Tattler.  I yelled for Jeanette, we began brainstorming on who would do such a thing.  The list is pretty short, I only know two people on eBird.  The duties of the morning took me away from the computer, and it was after lunch before I got back to the problem.  First order of business, contact eBird and see who did it.  Then I remembered that eBird had sent out a warning notice last week that August was when they review all the names of birds and because some names change we should all be looking at our bird list. Relieved, I explained to Jeanette the probable answer.  So then the question was what bird had its name changed?  I closely checked the computer trip list against my paper list and discovered that the missing bird on the computerized eBird list was a Western Tanager. Oh, did Western Tanager get changed to Wandering Tattler.  I pulled up the form that I use to fill in my sightings, scrolled down the list to “Tanager, Western”, it’s still there.  But just below on the next line I notice – “Tattler, Wandering”! Evidently when I entered my list on the day before I had clicked on the wrong line, so nobody hacked my account, nobody is trying to call me a Wandering Tattler; I’m still the Cascade Rambler.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Unusual Sighting

Sunday Jeanette and I went birding at the Elkton Community Education Center.  Almost right away Jeanette spotted what at a distance looked to be some kind of unusual heron.  Upon closer examination she determined it was no less than the Great Rusted Heron. Luckily I was able to get a photo to be able to verify her finding.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pigeon Guillemot

It’s getting harder and harder to find new birds to add to my Douglas County eBird list, but on Friday’s trip to Winchester Bay we did actually add two more species, one of which was this colorful Pigeon Guillemot. The other bird was a couple of juvenile Heermann’s Gulls, but I failed to get a photo of them. A good number of the Pigeon Guillemots were hanging around the piers with Western Gulls, and Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants. I think they were all looking for stray pieces of crab bait from the crowd of crabbers lined up along the pier.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

No Picture

On the way to the coast yesterday in a quest of finding some new birds, I was discussing the idea with Jeanette how I actually now needed two pair of binoculars when I am birding, one to see birds close at hand with a low magnification, and a more powerful pair to spot birds at a greater distance. The down side would be one more thing I would have to carry.  Suddenly I had a brainstorm, what I really needed was a bird caddy; you know like a golfer, I could use a caddy.  The caddy could carry several pairs of binoculars and hand me the appropriate one to meet the situation. Maybe a tripod with a spotting scope too. The caddy could also carry several birding guides that again would be close at hand for me.  If the caddy had a sharp eye, they could call out the position of bird in a nearby tree or bush.  Of course the caddy would be able to hand me my camera when I needed it, carry some snacks and water.  I guess Jeanette didn’t quite get the picture----her response was---“in your dreams!”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feeding Time

This is yet another juvenile demanding to be fed by its mother! They are everywhere right now. This is a juvenile Common Yellowthroat, but we also saw a number of juvenile Spotted Towhees, and American Goldfinches, all acting like, well, juveniles.  The first female Common Yellowthroat we saw this morning was difficult to identify, but later we saw one with a male, and there was no question.  The male Common Yellowthroat’s contrasting colors are anything but common.  A few minutes later after firming up our identification we were lucky enough to see some feeding juveniles and I got this photo.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Worn-out Chickadee?

It was such a quiet morning when we were leaving to take Buster for a walk, that I was going to leave my bird paraphernalia; binoculars, bird guide, and camera at home.  But just as I stepped out the door, the cheerful song of the Chickadee caught my attention, and then it proceeded to fly up to the post of the feeder.  I went back in and got my camera and took this photo.  I was a little puzzled as to why this Chestnut-backed Chickadee looked so bedraggled.  My first idea was a juvenile, but they usually have a plump well fed look to them.  When I looked it up in my “Sibley Guide to Birds”, he shows a “Worn adult”.  I’m going with that.  In my mind I can easily imagine a worn out adult, tired of chasing bugs for its young ones, and tired of trying to get them to leave the nest and fly off on their own.--- Tired and worn-out.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Buster and Birding

We took Buster for a long walk out Schad Road this morning as far as Elk Creek Ranch in search of birds.  He was enthusiastically met by one of the ranch dogs that was very anxious to make his acquaintance. Birding however, for us was far less exciting. It seems to be a quiet time of year for birds.  Gone are the wonderful spring songs of the males seeking to entice their mates, silence now fills these cool overcast mornings, giving the impression that the birds may still be asleep. We did see hundreds of Violet-green Swallows congregating on power lines, amassing for their migration to the south.  I’m feeling that it’s going to be a long wait until October for the fresh influx of migrating birds from the north.   

Thursday, August 4, 2011

South Lane Birders

I went birding this morning at Lynx Hollow State Park with the South Lane Birders.  It was a very calm morning, pretty much a bust for birds.  The five of us could only come up with nine different species in two hours of birding. We saw the following:
1.  Chipping Sparrow (1)
2.   Western Wood-Pewee (3)
3.   Purple Finch (2)
4.   Cedar Waxwing (4)
5.    Spotted Towhee (3)
6.    Great Blue Heron (1)
7.    Turkey Vulture (1)
8.    Canada Goose (14)
9.     Song Sparrow (1)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Screeching Cooper's Hawk

Continuing on the theme of juveniles----we are seeing them everywhere right now.  We stopped today for a picnic lunch in Salem’s Bush Park.  Our lunch was interrupted with some loud screeching calls.  Jeanette got my binoculars and camera out of the car and we went to have a closer look.  What we found were two juvenile Cooper’s Hawks up in the oak trees loudly protesting or I should say demanding more food I would imagine. Again, juveniles are tricky to identify because their plumage is nothing like the adult plumage, so it took us some time to come up with a positive identification.