Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunshine to Sunsets

We enjoyed spectacular  sunshine all day yesterday as we worked our way down the Oregon Coast from Lincoln City to Winchester Bay.  Checking for birds we made stops at D River, Siletz Bay, Devil’s Punchbowl, Ona Beach, and Beaver Creek State Natural Area, spotting, identifying, and photographing lots of birds. But in the end it was the sunset from our RV site at Winchester Bay RV Resort that proved to be the most photogenic. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Seeking Some Sunshine

It seems as though we have an aversion to inversions, so after numerous days of suffering from the cold and dark of a long term temperature inversion in the Willamette Valley we packed up the RV for some sunshine on the Oregon Coast.  We did some exploring and our most pleasant stop was at Knight Park on the Salmon River estuary.  Notice the meadow in the background, and then look at the lower zoomed photo for the elk.  Jeanette counted 71 elk.  They seemed to be enjoying the sunshine too.

After some lunch and some birding we ventured on to Lincoln City for some groceries at Safeway and are now boon docking in the Chinook Winds Casino parking lot.  They allow free parking for casino customers.  Those who know us well know we will be having a big night of dinner, drinks, and a show and gambling----not.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Whitey" the Song Sparrow

I was setting at the window this afternoon reading about sparrows when Whitey flew up to the suet feeder. I was reminded that I had posted a photo of him before.  I had to look it up, but it was the post of December 3rd. The photo in today’s post was actually taken back on November 21st, so you get the idea; we have been keeping track of him for a while.  Whitey got his name from the unusual “white collar” look to his plumage that makes him easy to recognize. We see him daily, or at the least three or four times a week.  It’s not often you get to see the same bird consistently enough to name it, in fact I think Whitey is the first one we have ever named. We see lots of Juncos daily, but never have a clue if they are the same ones or different ones. Whitey we recognize and it’s kind of fun. Pictured below is a normal looking  Song Sparrow for comparison. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Birding From My Kitchen Table

I would like to be able to say that I went to a lot of trouble and it took a huge effort to get this photo.  Truth of the matter is I had to put down my fork to be able to pick-up my camera. You see, my camera seems to reside a good part of the time on the kitchen table as I’m always taking photos into the back yard.  Today at lunch time we were enjoying a great salad when this Yellow-rumped Warbler flew in. One click is all it took and I had this bird, didn't even have to get out of my chair! Maybe I don’t need to drive great distances and hike a long ways to go birding.  Perhaps I’ll just park my butt permanently at the kitchen table.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Trio of Shovelers

Yesterday while running some errands we made a brief stop at the Fairview Wetlands near the Salem Airport.  There was a sharp wind and because of the cold we only spent thirty minutes on the trail. The most striking sighting was this tight group of three Northern Shovelers.

One of the things I love about birding is the multiple layers of experience to enjoy.  You can simply appreciate and enjoy the beauty of these colorful birds on a cold gray winter pond. Or you can look closer and notice the difference in plumage and be aware of male and female.  And then you can further think about migration and appreciate more what is going on in the bigger picture.

These Northern Shovelers are probably winter visitors, traveling from breeding grounds in the far north to either stay in the area for the winter or travel further south. Looking closer at this trio you will notice three different plumages.  On the right hand leading is a male in breeding plumage.  At the end is clearly a female.  The one in the middle is the interesting one with a plumage that almost suggests a combination of the male and female. It is possibly a first year immature male, or a male in non-breeding plumage.  I need to do more research, which brings me back to why I love birding so much.  I enjoy it in the field, I am challenged to photograph and preserve the moment, and then I have the opportunity for further research and learning.     

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Buster Likes Birding

We were ecstatic to discover a new place to bird yesterday, and Buster thought it was a great place too.  A family of nine Nutria really got his attention. The location is the Lyons City Park.  Read more about it in the Trip Journal.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Repeat Diner

For the second day in a row this juvenile Cooper’s Hawk has visited our back yard to view his dining options.  He evidently likes our menu, which would look like this:  for our Daily Special we are currently featuring Oregon Dark-eyed Junco. Standard menu items also include bright red House Finches and delicate Lesser Goldfinches.  For those with a larger appetite we suggest select Mourning Dove.  For a tempting desert we offer chocolate colored Song Sparrow.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Union Street Railroad Bridge

Our dream of moving to West Salem included being able to use the historic Union Street Railroad Bridge to walk into downtown Salem. This former railroad bridge was converted into a pedestrian and bicycle bridge by the City of Salem after purchasing it for the special price of one dollar.  It makes for a scenic route to cross the Willamette River from Wallace Marine Park and access Riverfront Park and the City of Salem without traffic congestion or parking worries.  Our destination for this morning was The Beanery where a group of our friends from the Chemeketans meet Monday mornings for a Koffee Klatch. We also swung by the Salem Summit Company for a quick bit of shopping before returning back over the bridge.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Evil Eye

When we returned home this afternoon our backyard was unusually quiet.  There were no birds at either of the feeders, or at the birdbath. I decided to check the seed in the feeder, which had ample seed, and as I turned around to return I happened to glance up into my neighbor’s tree and this is what I saw staring back at me.  It’s an immature Cooper’s Hawk.  Whenever he or his smaller cousin the Sharp-shinnedHawk which I posted about last month shows up, all the little tweeters disappear.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Busy Little Birds

These busy little non-descript birds are Bushtits. They have been visiting our suet feeder and shrubbery in small flocks of six to eight birds.  You have to be quick to see them, as they are constantly on the move individually and as a group. They are very small, about the same size as a hummingbird. They always bring some joy to our day when we spot them busily working on our feeder or shrubbery. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bath Anyone?

A Robin observes with caution while a  Starling engages in a robust bath this afternoon.  My first thought was that the Starling was rather stupid or at least fool hearted, but then I reflected that the water was probably warmer than the air.  The air temp was 27, and the water had to be above freezing and possibly twenty degrees warmer than the air as Jeanette adds hot water several times a day to the birdbath.  So, maybe the Starling wasn’t as dumb as I thought.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Birding from my Window

I’m beginning to feel that I’m addicted to this matter of birding from the comfort of our warm house looking out through the patio doors to the back yard.  In fact, I may never venture out into the cold hard world again. Just kidding, I’m sure I can quit anytime, just don’t know at the moment why I would ever want to. -- Below are a few birds I have seen today.  Nineteen different species were identified.  I don’t believe we made it to thirty degrees. 

A cold female Anna's Hummingbird from this morning.

An uncommon White-throated Sparrow.

A first winter Golden-crowned Sparrow.

A tiny male Downy Woodpecker

Morning Fix

Because of the extreme cold weather we have been taking the hummingbird feeder inside the house at night to prevent freezing.  This morning when I hung the feeder outside in the grey dawn around seven o’clock; it was only a few seconds before the hummers were on it. The feeder hangs in the protected area of out patio where the thermometer read 14 degrees this morning.  Many of us humans depend on coffee to get us going in the morning, but I am convinced that hummers get their fix from the sugar water, and this morning they seemed desperate. I only noticed the one bird feeding when I took this photo, but after downloading into the computer and I noticed the tail of a second bird on the far side.  Most of the time they battle over the feeder, only allowing one bird to feed at a time, however this morning I think they were too desperate for their fix to fight.   

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Birds of the Day

We confined ourselves to the house yesterday due to the extreme cold and snow, which meant I did all my birding from the comfort of our kitchen looking out through the sliding doors to our backyard feeders.  I took ninety photos, but here is a selection of possibly the top three. Click on photos to enlarge. 

A male House Sparrow puffed-up against the cold.

A young male Red-wing Blackbird, an unusual visitor.

A female Northern Flicker who spent most of the day turning over leaves on the ground, took a turn at the suet feeder.

Friday, December 6, 2013

And It's Still Cold!

This pair of Lesser Goldfinches came to our birdbath around noon yesterday.  The male seems to display surprise and shock at the slippery semi-solid surface, while the female appears to be holding back waiting to see how it plays out. The water had already been thawed out several times as my wife Jeanette packs out hot water many times a day trying to make it possible for the birds to get a drink of water.  Her sister referred to her yesterday as “Saint Francis of the Bird Bath”, and as a matter of fact Jeanette’s middle name is “Frances”.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Salem Audubon Nature Reserve

I got to work with this motley crew of volunteers yesterday removing invasive English Ivy at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve. Lee Slatum, shown on the left, heads up a cooperative effort of the Chemeketans and the SalemAudubon Society to work every Wednesday morning at the reserve in West Salem. This nature reserve is only about ten minutes from my new home in Salemtowne, so I am looking forward to more volunteering and visiting the reserve to hike and bird. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Frozen Bird Bath

This little Lesser Goldfinch looks uncomfortably cold as it appears to ponder its options upon encountering a frozen birdbath. Temperatures in the twenties this morning were the reason for the solid surface that thwarted its opportunity for a drink of water.  Jeanette soon remedied the situation by adding hot water.  The first bird to take advantage of the non-frozen surface was a House Finch who I noticed taking small sips.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cold Weather Protection

The forecast is for very cold weather later this week, and besides taking precautions to protect water pipes from freezing, I would suggest we all consider our fine feathered friends.  Putting up suet feeders is a good way to provide extra fat for their diet, which in turn they will burn to keep warm. We put up ours a couple days ago and had immediate interest.  First to find it were the juncos, but this sparrow has become a regular.  As a side note; we have seen this sparrow almost daily since we have moved here, and we think it’s the same one because of the unusual white feathers at the back of the neck. I think it is the common Song Sparrow and just anomaly in the plumage. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

...and don't forget the Hummers

Hummingbirds are another bird we see daily, specifically the Anna’s Hummingbird.  They wiz across our back yard searching for flowers or feeders would be my guess. Many people take down their feeders in the winter, presuming the hummingbirds have gone south.  This is true for some species, like the Rufus Hummingbird, but the Anna’s, which is the primary species here in the Willamette Valley, are year around residents, which means that in winter they have an extra need for nectar, natural or artificial, to keep warm.  We just got up juice feeder hung this past week and already we are seeing more hummers like this female Anna’s Hummingbird in the above photo. So my words of wisdom for the day are; if you feed hummingbirds in the summer don’t neglect to continue feeding in the winter.    

Friday, November 29, 2013

Consistent Juncos

The most common birds that visit our back yard are juncos.  They are one of the easier birds to spot and identify and come consistently every day to scrounge the ground at the base of our feeder and drink and bathe in our bird bath.  As I think back, they are one of the more consistent birds in my birding life too.  Last winter I posted on Juncos in the Snow, which was about one of my earliest recollections and must have happened when I was around six years old.  I have enjoyed them through the years on mountain trails as well as suburban neighborhoods.  I usually refer to them simply as Juncos, although technically they are now called Dark-eyed Juncos, and this one to be most specific is an Oregon Dark-eyed Junco. I do not need to travel to some distant location to find them, they are consistently available for me to observe and enjoy and consistently bring a smile of recognition to my face. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Northern Flicker

This morning while I was outside on the patio putting up some Christmas Lights I noticed a pair of Northern Flickers in my neighbor’s tree.  We hear flickers daily, but don’t always get a chance to see them.  This photo reveals several things, the red “moustache” indicates it is a male, and also that it belongs to the Red-shafted race of Northern Flickers.  Of course the red-shafted tail feathers would be another indicator of its race. The other race of Northern Flickers is the Yellow-shafted, which is predominantly on the East Coast, but some are seen in Oregon, and just to complicate matters, from what I had read they do inter breed. Anyway, I love their bright colors which today reminded me of Christmas, and although this is Thanksgiving, we are all on our way to Christmas for sure starting tomorrow.   

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Greater Yellowlegs

One of the most productive birding spots for me in Salemtowne is turning out to be a pond on the ninth hole of the golf course.  I’ve gotten some nice shots of a Great Blue Heron there, have seen a King Fisher several times, and I can always see some Mallards.  In fact, a small Green-winged Teal is currently hanging out with the Mallards. This small pond has been formed by damning up Gibson Creek, and recently the maintenance people have drained the pond for winter I presume. The shallow water level has produced some good wading area which has attracted three to four Greater Yellowlegs.  These are interesting birds, and from what I have read for the most part they are not residents, but migrants passing through Oregon in the spring for breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska, and passing back in the fall to winter in California and Mexico. It will be interesting to see how long these birds hang around. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Closer Second Look

Here is second closer look at the bird I posted yesterday. Turns out I miss-identified it as a Copper’s Hawk when it is actually a Merlin, which technically is not a hawk but a falcon.  Elva Paulson, a very talented nature artist and blogger, who lives in the Roseburg area, noticed my mistake and very graciously e-mailed me to clue me in.  Here is a link to her blog, , which I highly recommend.

It’s always encouraging to discover people read my blog, but it’s a double plus  to find they looked at it close enough to notice a mistake and then take the time and effort to let me know. I was thrilled to be wrong as it means a new Critter --- a Merlin, for my collection in Cascade Ramblings.  Thank you Elva.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Birding

One of the advantages of birding in winter is that birds are much easier to see once the trees have lost their leaves. I spotted this juvenile Cooper's Hawk perched in a Red Alder tree on Oakcrest Drive during my morning walk in Salemtowne yesterday.  If the tree had all it’s leaves I probably wouldn’t have noticed the hawk, but as you can see it was pretty obvious.  Seconds after I took this photo the hawk took off to confront a harassing American Crow.  The Cooper’s Hawk was totally unexpected as I walked along the busy street, and that’s another thing I enjoy about birding, pleasant surprises.
EDITING NOTE:  It has been pointed out to me that this is a Merlin, not a Cooper's Hawk.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trail at Spring Valley

I went searching for birding opportunities yesterday afternoon and discovered this gem of a trail, lined with fungi and ferns, literally minutes away from my home in Salemtowne.  Spring Valley is managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department as an access point on the Willamette River Greenway. But what caught my attention was this obscure trail that appears to be receiving attention and improvements by the Salem Area Trail Alliance. The area is thick with a variety of trees, oak, maple, ash and fir, and winds pleasantly through the flora giving me the impression of being deep in the woods. In fact it brought to mind a story I read years ago about “the near-by far-away”.  This describes this trail perfectly; less than six miles out Wallace Road from my home, yet far enough away to isolate me from cars, roads, and houses and allow only the sights of nature to fill my experience. The afternoon was quiet and birds where a little scarce, but a group of busy little Golden-crowned Kinglets topped off my time here, and I’m sure I will be back. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Improved Feeding Station

We had hung the previous owners’ bird feeder from the eve above the patio, but it has proven to be too close of a location to the patio which gets covered with sunflower seed shells.  I have wanted to get it mounted on a post further out in the yard, and today that was accomplished.  I would like to say that my brother-in-law Bill Dye helped me, but to be honest he actually did all the work.  With his post hole digger he dug the hole, put in an old fence post of his, mixed the concrete in his wheelbarrow and made sure the post was level.  One of the reasons we moved back to the Salem area was to be close to family, and it paid off big time today.  Now we will have a great feeding station to for our little song birds and based on Jeanette’s sighting of the Sharp-shinned Hawk again today, a good hunting spot for the hawk.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Hunter & The Hunted

This Sharp-shinned Hawk showed up in our neighborhood this morning in Salemtowne. Jeanette spotted it in a neighbors tree across the common area. Sharp-shinned Hawks are members of a group of hawks called Accipiters that feed on other birds.  This is a small group with only three species found in North America, the Sharp-shinned, the Cooper’s, and the Northern Goshawk.  This Sharp-shinned was not interested in the sunflower seeds in our feeder, but in the birds that would be at our feeder. This hawk is a hunter, and the pretty little song birds that I have written about of late, the Finches and the Juncos are the hunted. I believe this was a female, and she left after a short time as our yard was empty of any little song birds, and it was afternoon before any brave ones appeared.    

Friday, November 15, 2013

Brightness to the Day

It’s cold and overcast here in the Willamette Valley, a rather dreary winter day. But the bright red coloring of the male House Finch catches my attention, and lifts my spirits. The Finches are daily visitors to feed and bathe in our backyard here in Salemtowne.  They come to feed on black sunflower seeds I’ve put in a home crafted feeder I found in the garage left by Hans the former owner whose Swiss craftsmanship is apparent in the design of the wooden feeder. The Finches also bathe in the birdbath, another left over, that’s sits on the ground and is filled with rain water.  The crowd of little song birds grows; the Finches are joined by Oregon Dark-eyed Juncos, American Goldfinches, and a Song Sparrow or two. I no longer notice the oppressive grey skies; the world is alive with color and activity. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pic of the Day

We took a little time off this afternoon from all remodeling work on our “new-to-us” home in Salemtowne and went for a short bird walk.  Although short and not a big number of birds, we did have this one very interesting experience of watching a Great Blue Heron catch and eat a Bull Frog.  It happened at the pond on the 9th hole of the golf course. If you have ever watched Great Blue Herons standing still for long periods of time, and wondered what they were stalking, you can definitely add frogs to the list of possibilities. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Neighbors

The past four days have been jam-packed with all the details of moving, making decisions and arrangements on changes that need to be made on our new-to-us house in West Salem. It has been very taxing, but we are making progress, and today we paused long enough to meet some of our new neighbors. Mrs. Junco came around early this morning, checking out the back yard.  Juncos are the perfect bird to remind me of winter in Oregon.

In the afternoon we caught Mr. and Mrs. House Finch taking a bath. It seems cold for a bath to me, but they seemed to be enjoying it.

We like our new neighbors, the juncos and the finches, but then again they may have already been here for a while and consider us as the “new” neighbors.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Final Birding Blitz

Yesterday afternoon we did a quick birding blitz to a couple of our favorite locations, Cooper Creek Reservoir and Plat I Reservoir, fully aware that this was probably our last birding effort while residents of Douglas County. We were particulary curious to find out if our White Pelican that we have been keeping tabs of at Plat I was still there, and it was.  At Cooper Creek we found the greatest concentration of birds, huge numbers of American Coots and Canada Geese congested the south-east end of the reservoir.  But, you never want to assume that because at first glance they all appear to be coots or geese, that that is all there is.  We managed to sort out some Mallards, American Wigeon, Northern Shovelers, and some Green-wing Teals. After finishing our count and walking back to the car I took one last look and noticed a little spec we might have overlooked.  Checking with my binoculars I discovered this small male Wood Duck making his was along the camouflaged edge of the cattails. His brilliant colors made a fine parting gift for our last big effort in Douglas County. Next week we move to West Salem and our birding efforts will switch to Polk County.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Startling Starlings

At a distance European Starlings look to be totally black, so it’s always startling to see them up close, or with the aid of binoculars, and notice their striking colors. I also might point out that these three birds are in their dullest non-breeding plumage of fall/winter. I photographed them yesterday during my walk out Mehl Creek Road.  There were a dozen of them all lined up on some power lines, and while I was taking the photo, another twelve came in.  I wrote down their numbers in my note book and started to walk on when at least double that number, in other words over fifty more flew in. Nationally their population number and geographical spread are quite startling too.  They were originally brought over from Europe in 1890 and released in New York’s Central Park by the local Shakespeare society in an effort to duplicate the birds of the famous author’s time.  In spite of their attractive iridescent plumage, they are basically unwanted guests because of their competition with native species, their messy nesting habits, and their crop damaging feeding practices.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

False Spring

My current routine is to hang around the house on these cold foggy mornings, packing up boxes for our move to Salem. When the fog starts to clear by the middle of the day, I bolt down some lunch and dash out the door to catch the best birding of the day.  There is that magical time each day when the sun warms everything up to a certain point and all the bird life seems to enliven the world. Today was such a day, and as I walked out Mehl Canyon Road, the Western Meadowlarks started up their melodious song.  Their song always reminds me of Spring, and mid-day today it seemed like spring, the temperature was almost sixty degrees, the fields were greening up from summer browns, and the meadowlarks were singing. Hard to beat. Buster walked with me the couple of miles out until we got to the old orchard that is my turn around point.  As we turned back to retrace our route the wind picked up and the leaves began cascading down.  It was a reminder, that this is not Spring but Fall. But then, the meadowlarks seemed confused too.   

Friday, October 25, 2013

Afternoon Light

I made a quick visit to Baskett Slough National WildlifeRefuge yesterday afternoon.  This female Northern Pintail is one of the photos I took in the late afternoon light of 4:30. I have read that good photographs are all about light.  I seem to be a little slow on catching on to the important points of good photography, but this image helps me understand the concept. This female is one of several Northern Pintails I saw yesterday, all of which I presume are recent arriving migrants from the north. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Hiding Sparrow

I photographed this Lincoln’s Sparrow yesterday afternoon while walking on Mehl Creek Road. He appears to be keeping a close watch on me as he attempts to conceal himself behind some blackberry leaves.  As my birding knowledge continues to grow, and I learn to notice subtle differences, I am pleased to be able to identify different sparrows. In other words, early on, nine out of ten sparrows I would see I would proclaim as Song Sparrows.  As I become familiar with little details, I able to differentiate between a number of different sparrows.  In fact, in Cascade Ramblings, I know have photos and details of twelve different species of sparrows.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Beauty

This weekend while birding at Marie Lake, fall mushrooms caught my attention and I couldn’t help but stop and take a photo of this beauty.  I think it probably belongs to the Amanita genus, and possibly is poisonous, but it doesn’t have to be edible to be appreciated, it can be enjoyed just for its own beauty.  I have always said that in the fall, colorful mushrooms can kind of fill in and take the place of summer flowers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Differing Ducks

We have spent the last two nights at the Winchester Bay RV Resort on a “buy one, get one free” promotion, with an opportunity to watch the U of O Ducks play football on the big screen TV in the Marine Activity Center. Of course the Ducks won, 62 to 38!

We have also spent a good amount of time walking around the harbor  looking for other ducks. With out a doubt the most interesting looking ducks were the male Surf Scoters as shown in the above photo.  I almost feel guilty or a little ashamed at staring at their ugliness, and I also find myself on the point of laughter at their unique coloring. They don’t seem much affected and tolerate human stares pretty well.