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.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Lake Marie

We are over at the coast for a weekend at Winchester Bay RV Resort. We had great sunshine when we arrived at Winchester Bay this morning, but it was a little breezy so we sought out the protected area of Lake Marie for a short hike, some birding and a picnic lunch. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pelican Update

We made a trip over to Sutherlin to Plat I Reservoir yesterday afternoon to check on the American White Pelican.  Of course we incorporated a number of errands in Sutherlin to justify that much driving for just one bird. It was our first observation in adequate light to get a good photo, as morning fog had hampered visibility on our earlier trips. We first spotted this pelican on October ninth, so he has been around for eight days now.  Not sure if he will hang around or eventually take off. They normally winter much further south. The reason for my intense curiosity is that they are a rare sight in Douglas County, with the last sighting reported to eBird for the county was in 2011.   

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Winter Colors

American Goldfinches in their bright yellow plumage are one of the most recognizable visitors at our feeders, spring through summer. But, when the breeding plumage is gone and the non-breeding drab winter plumage of October through March takes over, then the males in particular can be a little more puzzling to identify.  We saw a number of these non-breeding male Goldfinches while birding at the Yoncalla Log Pond yesterday. (See bird list here.) The pond, no longer used as a log pond, is being reclaimed for recreational use by North Douglas Betterment. It is basically undiscovered yet, but is a great birding spot. Winter water fowl are beginning to arrive, and the winter colors of the non-breeding season will be dominating.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Winter Birding

Yesterday morning’s cold temperatures and lingering fog was a test of our winter birding skills or startling evidence of our birding addiction.  We started at Cooper Creek Reservoir late morning expecting the sun to show up, but it never did.  Jeanette is shown counting Canada Geese coming in to Cooper Creek Reservoir. Her sharp eyes also picked out four busy Wilson’s Snipes feeding along the muddy edge of the cattails, that I not only had over looked, but had great difficulty locating even as she explained where they were.

After an hour at Cooper Creek we went over to Plat I Reservoir where Jeanette’s sharp eyes again located a prize, two Pectoral Sandpipers, not only a new county listing for me, but a new addition to my Life List. They are brief migrants here in route from their breeding grounds in the arctic tundra to winter homes in South America.  Winter birding has its challenges of dealing with cold and moisture, but also presents good opportunities to spot unusual migrating species. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 2 for the Pelican

I couldn’t help myself, my curiosity got the best of me, so I made a return trip yesterday to Plat I reservoir to check on the presence of the American White Pelican.  It was there.  It is pretty hard to miss its massive size in outstanding white shows up pretty easily.  In fact, notice for comparison the Great Blue Heron on the right. I’ve done a little more research on pelicans, and am guessing that this was a migrating bird from possible breeding grounds in Canada, and on its way to wintering in southern California or Mexico, and for whatever reason got dropped from the flock in route.  It will be interesting to see how long it hangs around, I may never know, but I do know it was there for two days at least. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Birding at Plat I Reservoir

Yesterday afternoon the sun came out a little bit and we drove over to Plat I Reservoir, east of Sutherlin, to do some birding. The water level was the lowest I have ever seen, but it is drawn down annually for its purpose of flood and irrigation control.  We spotted large white birds immediately on our arrival, and I was assuming Great Egrets, but the first one I looked at with the binoculars was an American White Pelican.  The rest, fourteen in all, counted by Jeanette, were indeed Great Egrets. I was pleased because I was pretty sure the pelican would be a Douglas County first for this year for me.  I was surprised when I got home and got on eBird that it was classed as a “rare” bird for Douglas County, and not only a first for me for the year in Douglas County, but the first for anybody! In fact for all the years reported in eBird it had only been seen in 2011. I guess I’ll have to be returning to Plat I in the next few days to see if it hangs around. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Savanna Sparrow

On Monday on my way back to Elkton from my weekend of camping at the coast, I stopped at the Smith River Estuary to squeeze in one last hour of birding. I parked as I like to at the truck scales on Smith River Road and then walked the road along the estuary.  The road-side brush of blackberry vines and scotch broom were alive with sparrows, Song Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, and Savanna Sparrows as in the photo.  Savanna Sparrows and Song Sparrows are the same size, but immediately you will notice the lighter coloring of the Savanna.  If with a closer look with the binoculars reveals a yellow hued eyebrow that confirms the Savanna identification. The estuary itself had a smattering of other birds, lots of Mallards, a few Gadwalls, and a couple of Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, a Green Wing Teal, a Marsh Wren, a Black Phoebe, and some Canada Geese.  Three Buffleheads were busy diving and eight or so Hooded Mergansers were involved in bathing. A dozen Double-crested Cormorants lined the limbs of a snag, a Spotted Sandpiper worked the muddy flats, and a Red-tailed Hawk flew in to check out his opportunities. But what seem to get the most of my attention were the small sparrows in the brambles that I spent most of my time photographing and identifying. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Buster the Rescue Dog

Buster is shown here eating his well-earned dinner after successfully guiding me back to the motor home.  This was the last night of our weekend get-away and I had decided to stay at Honeyman State Park, just south of Florence. Because it is late in the season, or was late in the day, the pay station was unmanned and in self-service mode, which means you select your site and then return and pay for it.  I selected a nice site and got set up and then walked back with Buster to pay.  On the return to the motor home I became unable to find the motor home! Bear in mind that this is a large campground with over 300 camping sites strung out in various loops and circles.  Buster had baulked at one of the turns and I had forced him to go straight, only for me to discover a few minutes later that I had chosen wrong.  We retraced out steps back to his baulking point and continued to another junction that he again balked, but I insisted because I had a map, and as I explained to Buster, “you can’t read the map”.  Shortly, I had to admit that I was unable to find the motor home. Even though all the sites are numbered, and all the loops are signed, and I had a map, I could not make any sense how to get back to the motor home.  Imagine how it would look for someone to find a confused old man sitting in the middle of the road bawling like a baby. So in desperation I let Buster lead and about three turns later he had us back to the motor home.  I was ever so grateful and appreciative, and proud to serve him his dinner.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Winchester Bay

My discovery on Friday of National Forest Campground closers ended on a surprisingly good note.  I ended up at a Douglas County Campground at Winchester Bay name Windy Cove.  The name strikes me a bit on a misnomer as it is tucked up under a bluff protected from the wind.  The rate was only thirteen dollars for a site with electricity and cable TV, and the sunshine was abundant with daily temps in the seventies. There are two separate campgrounds at Windy Cove, an “A” and a “B”.  I stayed in “A”, and it was the quietest with “B” being filled with ATV users. 

Buster and I got in a couple of good walks, around Winchester Bay Marina and Winchester Bay RV Resort.  The following photos are a sample of some of the birds I saw.

 Great Blue Heron (adult)


Double-crested Cormorant

Surf Scoter (female)

Surf Scoter (male)

Saturday, October 5, 2013


While Jeanette is in California visiting grandson Bobby and family, Buster and I are batch’n it and have taken off in the motorhome for a few days of camping and birding on the coast.  What I didn’t  take into account was the possibility of closed campgrounds due to government shut-down.  This sign on the restroom at Tahkenitch Creek Trailhead says it all---closed!  I didn’t actually see the sign until after our hike, and it didn’t come to bear on the situation until I left the trailhead to go to a campground.  I was expecting to stay at Lagoon Campground, off of the Siltcoos River, but it and all the other National Forest Campgrounds where closed.  I don’t much care for the taste of Tea! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Row River Nature Park

Yesterday while in route to taking Jeanette to the AMTRAK station in Eugene, we stopped in Cottage Grove for a walk and to do some birding at Row River Nature Park. This is a great place to bird, probably would be in my top ten, but I see almost no reported observations in e-Bird. Admittedly there is a good amount of name confusion with the place.  It used to be called East Regional Park, and a lot of locals, particularly fisherman, simply refer to it as Cottage Grove Ponds. For whatever reasons I don’t think it gets its deserved attention from birders.  It’s one of the most convenient locations to use, and I found it one of the most consistent producers for a nice variety of birds. On yesterday’s visit we saw three Great Blue Herons like this juvenile in the above photo.  We also saw four Green Herons, which are much more allusive and missed by a lot of people but always to be seen here. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Anna's Hummingbird

On the front porch this morning this female Anna’s Hummingbird stretches for some of the last nectar of the season from the fuchsia hanging basket.  The little aggressive Rufous Hummingbirds who dominated the area through the summer have now left for destinations south for the winter, most probable Central America. Now the larger, but more humble Ann’s have the feeders and flowers to themselves, which brings up a point, if you hang a feeder during the summer, consider leaving it up through the winter for our year around residents the Ann’s Hummingbird. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Birding From My Front Porch

I have to admit this rain is starting to depress me.  I stepped out onto the front porch this morning wondering how I was going to survive the day. There was a brief let up in the rain and suddenly a group of eight Eurasian Collard Doves flew up onto the power line across the street, a couple of crows started their cawing, a House Sparrow flew up to a porch pillar, and a couple of jays joined into the conversation. About that point I noticed this Red-breasted Sapsucker on our cherry tree. I ducked back into the house and grabbed my camera; maybe there was a reason to keep on breathing. I snapped off 20 photos and then I got to thinking about a birding program we attended last week in Roseburg at which Dr. Doug Robinson introduced his “Oregon 2020”, a state-wide bird survey. One of the ways in which citizens can participate is by recording daily observations, even as brief as five minutes long from their own yard. Maybe this will work for me, a kind of therapy to survive the rain, birding five to ten minutes from the cover of my front porch.