Friday, February 24, 2012

In Search of the Blue Jay

Many times in conversations about birds, people refer to seeing “Blue Jays”, and I end up correcting them saying that what we have here in the Northwest are Steller’s Jays or Western Scrub Jays, where on the East Coast they have Blue Jays.  However, this winter a Blue Jay has been reported by a good number of birders in the Bald Hill Park area of Corvallis.  This afternoon we hiked for an hour on a trail in the area with the hope of seeing this unusual bird.  In total we identified 15 different species of birds among which were a good number of Western Scrub Jays and one Steller’s Jay, both of which are indeed blue in color, but not our desired Blue Jay.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In Review

In reviewing our trip to California with our friends Dan & Charlene; we were on the road 14 days, stayed in 7 different campgrounds, reported 11 bird lists to eBird, and birded in 7 different counties. Looking back, the most significant sighting was this Californian Great Horned Owl in the Red Bluff Recreation Area.  During a morning bird walk Dan and I had spotted nest building activity by a pair of Yellow-billed Magpies and a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks.  After lunch we went back to see if the Red Shoulder Hawks were still there, and along the route I was checking out other nests, when I noticed a couple of ears sticking out of a nest.  A closer look revealed this owl. We assumed at the time that the owl was just resting from a night’s hunt. Early that evening Dan went for a bike ride and spotted not only the owl on the nest but another owl perched close by.  After reading all I could find, I am now convinced that we had seen a nesting pair.  Great Horned Owls are one of the earliest nesters, mating in late Jan and early Feb. And they don’t even take the time to build a nest, but instead take over an existing nest.  Conveniently in this location, there is a large population of Yellow-billed Magpies which have built nests in lots of trees.  I’m pretty sure we will be back to check on these owls. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vallley of the Rogue State Park

We stuck with our plan for the day and drove to Valley of the Rogue State Park north of Medford, and will drive on to Elkton tomorrow.  We like to keep our driving day around 200 miles or less, this lessens the fatigue and gives us the time for sightseeing, shopping, walking or birding. After getting set up here in the park this afternoon we took a little walk mainly to get some exercise. There had been some light rain and I wasn’t planning on doing any birding, but then this Bald Eagle appeared and forced me to pay a little more attention.  It made several circles above us at a low elevation, and we weren’t certain if it had its eye on Buster.  When it landed in a tree across the river from us right above four Common Mergansers I decided that was who it was checking on.  After some preening it took off up river presumably looking for something better.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Birding in Red Bluff

Birding in the electronics age adds another facet as Dan demonstrates today using the iBird app on his Kindle Fire. There is a whole wealth of information available right at your finger-tips from photos to audio files plus much more.
Dan has been my birding buddy for the past ten days during our trip in California. Today was our last day and we chased after birds from 8 in the morning to after 2 in the afternoon here in the Red Bluff Recreation Area.  We will spend our last night here in the Sycamore Grove Campground and then tomorrow we split up and go our separate ways back to our respective homes.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Yellow-rumped Warbler

OK, she wouldn’t show her yellow rump to me, but believe me this is a Yellow-rumped Warbler.  This was the most numerous bird we saw during this morning’s birding, we easily saw over two dozen of this busy little birds, most of them high up in the Eucalyptus trees here at San Lorenzo Park.  The white chin on this bird indicates it’s the Myrtle race of the Yellow-rumped Warbler. I spent three hours birding this morning and tallied up 31 species.  Probably one of the most interesting ones we saw, and definitely the one with most melodious song, was the CaliforniaThrasher.  We also heard a good number of Wrentits, but could not see any. Because I wanted Dan to get to see one I finally used the bird’s song on my iTouch to call it in close enough to see.

Friday, February 17, 2012

San Lorenzo Park

Today we started our slow return to the North by driving from San Luis Obispo to King City in the Salinas Valley where we are camped at the San Lorenzo Park.  This is a Monterey County Park and one of the more unusual parks we have stayed in.  It is a very large and varied park with several day-use areas, two museums, and a number of historic buildings and a huge collection of agricultural machinery. All this plus a well groomed campground with 99 sites.  Oh, and I should probably mention it has hiking trails and great birding. We stopped here in November of 2010 for one night and stayed a week, so you can easily understand why we wanted to stay here with Dan & Charlene.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Morro Bay

We went to Morrow Bay this morning for a scenic walk along the bay and birding.  In two and a half hours we identified 31 birds. There is such a large and diverse population of birds here that it is hard to stay focused. It’s very easy to find yourself skimming along and not paying close attention to each bird. I know we overlooked a lot, and there were some we didn’t get a good enough look at to identify.  So our count is just sort of a general count. 

San Luis Obispo Bay

Yesterday we took a little tour in Dan’s pickup over to San Luis Obispo Bay.  We went to Pismo Beach first for lunch of clam chowder in bread bowels at the famous Splash Cafe. Next we drove on around the bay through Shell Beach and Avila Beach to Port San Luis where we walked out on the pier. I took this photo of Charlene & Dan on the pier with San Luis Obispo Bay in the background. We saw a good number of birds and I was able to add photos of a Surf Scoter and a Rock Pigeon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

First Flowers of Spring

Yesterday while hiking the Eagle Rock Nature Trail I noticed my first wild flowers of this spring.  One of the ones that caught my attention was this yellow violet.  I assumed it was the Wood Violet I was familiar with in Oregon, but on further research last night I discovered it was a different violet, the California Golden Violet. We also saw some paintbrush and some other flowers I hope to identify today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

El Chorro Regional Park

Yesterday we made it to San Luis Obispo and got set up in El Chorro Regional Park where we hope to stay for a yet to be determined number of days.  This is a large and varied park and today we tried to flavor it all.  We started with breakfast at the golf club-house next door, then strapped on our hiking boots and tackled the Eagle Rock Nature Trail, where Jeanette, Dan, & Charlene are pictured.  Dan and I birded in the afternoon, and then the four of us went to Morro Bay for Valentines Dinner. May have to plan a little rest time tomorrow, need to work on the new photos of wild flowers and birds that I took today, plus hope to add to the Trip Journal.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dos Reis Regional Park

Today as we continued south the sun gradually gave out and we found ourselves in the late afternoon at our destination, Dos Reis Regional Park, in the late afternoon with light conditions too poor to take any outdoor photos.  So, how about some photos from inside? Dan & Charlene have a roomy fifth wheel trailer, so we get together in the evenings for dinner in their RV. We had a great day with a morning bird walk at Red Bluff Recreation Area, and a second bird walk here at Dos Reis Regional Park. That means I’ve got double work to do this evening entering two bird lists on eBird.

Dan is shown keeping track on their Kindle Fire, while Cocoa relaxes on the floor.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mountain Gate RV Park

As per our plan, Jeanette & I and Dan & Charlene met up at Mountain Gate RV Park north of Redding early this afternoon. It was blue skies and bright sunshine and lots of excitement for our days ahead. The fact that our dog Buster and their dog Cocoa are long time good friends adds to the fun. This is a great park and it is well layed out and maintained. They even have a Bird Watching & Walking Trail that we got to use this afternoon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Seven Feathers RV Resort

Here we are at Seven Feathers RV Resort in Canyonville Oregon, our first stop on our way to California to meet up with friends Dan & Charlene Lawry.  We enjoyed a great walk this afternoon through the RV Resort and along Jordan Creek. Tomorrow afternoon we will rendezvous with Dan & Charlene in Redding California at Mountain Gate RV Park and then spend the next 10 days touring California in search of sunshine and warm temperatures. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Coots and more Coots!

We went birding at Tahkenitch Lake yesterday, taking the Fivemile Rd and stopping along the Mallard Arm and Fivemile Arm to count birds.  The tiny specs on the water in the photo are American Coots, or as I remember my dad calling them, Mud Hens. There were unbelievable numbers of these birds at every stop we made, too numerous to count, in total I’m sure we saw over 1,000.  At one point a Bald Eagle glided silently past and then we noticed the Coots all pressed together in a tight formation.  Our best guess is that it was a defensive measure against the Eagle. Coots are not pretty birds, in fact rather ugly, and they must not be good to eat because hunters do not seem interested in killing them. My best guess is their most important value is providing an ample food source for raptors.