Sunday, June 29, 2014

Elusive Birds of Fairview

Since Sean has arrived for a visit we have kept pretty busy with work in our front yard, but today we decided to have some fun and go birding. We picked the Fairview Wetlands in South Salem, a favorite of ours for a number of years.  With the seasonal change the wetlands have dried up a lot and lush growth made it difficult to find many of the birds we knew were there. 
 nceng for Illusive Birds
Sean used an iPod to attract some Virginia Rails

One of the elusive Virginia Rails

White-crowned Sparrows could be heard singing, but were difficult to find, like this one hiding in a maple tree.

We discovered this Song Sparrow had a reason to be so elusive, it was feeding young ones.

We almost overlooked this juvenile American Kestrel because he sat so still he looked like part of the snag.

Learning More About Wrens

Yesterday morning John West and I went birding on the Rich Guadagno Trail at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge.  One of the highlights was finding a couple of noisy little House Wrens, one of which is shown above. You can see its bill is partially open and its throat swelled out as it tweets out a song. It is amazing to me what I continue to learn about birds. For some reason that I can’t explain both Jeanette and I have just assumed the House Wrens are a pretty common bird. I’m not sure where that notion came from, perhaps some childhood book on birds, but it is not true.  This one I photographed yesterday was the first for me for Polk County, and looking back at my eBird records I have only seen a House Wren five times in the last two years in Oregon. The other wrens that we see locally; Pacific Wren, Bewick’s Wren, and Marsh Wren are year around residents and we see quite often, but the House Wren is only a summer resident, migrating here to breed and nest from April through September.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hovering Kingfisher

We took Sean to the coast today and met up with friends John & Lorraine to show them Beaver Creek Marsh State Natural Area where we volunteer at the Welcome Center.  We volunteered there last July and August and will be volunteering there again this September. After a picnic lunch we also gave them a tour of Ona Beach where Beaver Creek flows into the ocean.  The most amazing bird sighting was this Belted Kingfisher hovering over Beaver Creek in search of a fish or something.  I have seen several species of birds do this kind of hunting, notably American Kestrels, and Northern Harriers, but this is the first time I can recall seeing a Belted Kingfisher behave this way.  We watched it for some time, and I picked up a photo tip from John and used the sports setting on my camera that allowed me to take a burst of frames at a time.  I ended up with 40 photos in a very short period of time.  Notice in the middle photo the bird appears to be taking a glance at me all the while hovering in place. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Backyard Birds

I was delighted to have this pair of House Finches show up at my backyard feeder this morning. I had every intention of taking a morning bird walk through Salemtowne and check out the pond on the ninth hole of the golf course.  But as I was in the kitchen getting my morning coffee, a Cooper’s Hawk making a quick stop on our backyard fence caught my attention. As I gathered up my binoculars and camera I began to notice more bird activity, the normal House Sparrows were at the feeder, an Anna’s Hummingbird stopped for a sip of juice, some Goldfinches appeared at the thistle seed feeder. Hmmm, maybe I should make up a bird list while I eat my breakfast. A Scrub Jay flew in, a juvenile Spotted Towhee worked the ground, a Mourning Dove glided in to look for left overs. Before I knew it I had thirteen birds tallied. And I couldn’t resist taking this lower photo a Song Sparrow in the hydrangea flowers.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Video Test

My sister-in-law Patty Blair gave me the idea of trying a video so that she could hear the sounds on some of the birds I photograph.  So here is my first crude attempt of a Black-headed Grosbeak from this morning at Minto-Brown Island Park. Going to have to get a little steadier looks like.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Special Sparrow

This Song Sparrow that I photographed this morning is special to me because it is the first Song Sparrow I have observed at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve in West Salem.  I started volunteering at the Reserve in December and have reported to, 41 checklists, with 35 different species of birds. Until this morning there were only two species that others have reported that I had not seen; a Varied Thrush and a Song Sparrow. The Varied Thrush is a winter visitor to the Valley and was reported in March, and although reported by a very competent birder, I myself have only been tempted to make such an identification by the squeaking car brakes coming down Eola Drive. A Song Sparrow on the other hand, is a very common year around resident, but somehow I had failed to see one until this morning.  It was one of the first few birds I heard when I arrived at the parking lot and I was able to find it and even photograph it as it sang.    

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Wood Duck Day

I went birding at Minto-Brown Island Park today.  It’s a huge Salem city park of almost nine hundred acres, so you have to kind of pick an area to cover.  In this case I parked at parking lot number four and made a big loop around a large slough. Wood Ducks were the item of the day; all told with four different groups I counted seventeen.  This mother was the first one I spotted trying to round up her five fleeing ducklings. The second group I spotted involved a mother having a show down on a log with a turtle. The third group was a rather unusual scene, a mother with five large juveniles being accompanied by a male Mallard. Male Wood Ducks do not hang around to help raise the young, but male Mallards often do, so my take on the situation was that the male Mallard had kind of adopted the Wood Duck family. The forth group was made up on two females and one male, the only male Wood Duck of the day. On the way back to the car I noticed the mother had her family all back together.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Fledging Update

To give an update on the Black-capped Chickadees in our backyard, it still appears that the parents have not been able to lure the young ones out of the nesting box. I took this photo of a young one looking out of the bird house.  He appears to be checking out how far it is to the ground if he decides to leave the nest.
 In other news in our back yard, this photo shows a good comparison of the recently fledged House Finch on the left, with its mom on the right.
This last photo shows a juvenile Spotted Towhee.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fledging Day

The term “fledging” applied loosely refers to the time birds learn to fly.  In the case of Black-capped Chickadees it coincides with when they leave the nest. We think this is what is happening in our back yard today with our Black-capped Chickadees.
Jeanette noticed a change in pattern this morning when she observed that the adults were not actually feeding the young ones.  An adult would arrive at the bird house with an insect, enter the box, and then leave again still hold the insect in its bill.  She interpreted this to mean, “follow me if you want to be fed”.  When I got home I started taking photos, and this photo seems to show an adult peering into the entrance hole of the bird house and trying to coax the young ones out.

We had to leave mid-day to run some errands, and we imagined the birds would be gone when we got back, but checking the box they are still here.  No sign of the parents. Not sure if they have given up for the day, or will try again later today, or tomorrow.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Feeding Bushtits

Back on April 17th I did a post on a Nesting Surprise we discovered at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve. The volunteer weeding crew found a strange hanging nest, and I recognized it and photographed a pair of Bushtits. In the days and weeks afterward after not seeing any activity I became convinced that the nest had been abandoned. Then today as John West and I were seeking out birds at the Reserve we spotted some Bushtits.  We continued to try and get some photos, and in the process I realized that we were in the very area of the nest I assumed was abandoned. I took John to see the nest, and much to our surprise and good fortune we got to observe the Bushtits coming and going from the nest in the process of feeding young ones. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Return to Stahlman Point

This morning I made a return trip to Stahlman Point above Detroit Lake.  Last week John West and I went there on a Chemeketan Hike, today John & I took our wives & Buster there on a morning hike followed up with lunch at Rosie’s in Mill City. Again I left my binoculars at home in an effort to keep the focus on the hike not birding, and I also brought along my old lighter Panasonic Lumix camera, which might not have been the best idea because I’m now unfamiliar with its controls and the battery ran down on me.  However, I’m sharing three of the photos I did take. 

view of Piety Island and Detroit Lake

view up the Santiam Canyon to Mt Jefferson

Douglas Squirrel

Monday, June 9, 2014

Birding with John at Baskett Slough

I took John West on a birding tour of Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge this morning.  We started at the Bald Butte parking lot at 6:15 AM and walked down to the South Slough Pond where we had perfect morning light coming over our shoulders from the east to photograph. We saw a good number of birds, and I took fifty-four photos. It’s probable that John took ten times that, which may in part explain why he gets so many outstanding photos, overlooking, experience, equipment, and of course talent. We also made stops at Cottonwood Pond, and Morgan Lake, making a circle of the refuge. Although we had many interesting sightings and photographs, one of the favorites of mine was this mother Pied-billed Grebe and her three chicks as shown below. (click on images to enlarge)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Hiking & Birding at Luckiamute Landing

My sister Susan joined Jeanette and I and our friends John & Lorraine for a birding hike at Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area this morning. We are in the process of trying to show John & Loraine as many great places as we can during their three month stay in Salem this summer.  We hiked the road/trail down to the campsite on the Willamette River, a site of the Willamette River Trail. Although not a great day for birds, as so many hid out in the tall cottonwood trees, we did manage to hear and recognize a Great Horned Owl.  Probably the most common bird we frequently heard and occasionally saw was the appropriately named Common Yellowthroat, shown below.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Tumble Creek Trail Hike

This was an early morning spur-of-the-moment hike on Friday Morning, and we were out of the house and down the road at 6:30AM.  There were many benefits; we beat the morning commute traffic bottle neck across the bridge and we beat the heat of the day and enjoyed a morning hike in comfortable temperature.  For more information and photos check out the Trip Journal.

Friday, June 6, 2014

MInto-Brown Park Potpourri

Yesterday we took our friends from Arizona, John West and his wife Lorraine, on a walking and birding tour of Minto-Brown Island Park.  We walked about three miles, and identified around 30 different species of birds, but we also enjoyed seeing a couple of other life forms as well.

Black-tailed Deer

Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly 

Red-tailed Hawk

Savannah Sparrow

Spotted Towhee 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nesting Worries

Right now the birding season is all about nesting, and particularly feeding of the young ones.  This Black-capped Chickadee photo taken in our back yard yesterday shows a very worn looking adult bringing some kind of green stuff resembling miniature grapes to the bird house. As it turns out I have three nests that I am keeping close tabs on, all with Black-capped Chickadees.  The first nest to have babies was a nest at my daughter’s house in Dallas, then a nest in our backyard here in Salemtowne, and now a nest at the Salem Audubon Reserve.  I thought it would be an exciting time, but it has turned out to be a time of great angst and worry, at least for the nest in our back yard.  Yesterday, Jeanette had to chase off a pair of Western Bluebirds that where trying to enter our chickadees bird house.  When I got home I inspected the nest and it appeared that the three babies were lifeless.  We watched closely as an adult appeared to be unsuccessful in rousing the babies to feed. It would arrive at the fence and cry out its chickadee-dee-dee several times, then enter the nest and immediately leave again with the food still in its beak. We left to do some shopping with sad hearts thinking the babies were dead; perhaps a single mother was not able to bring enough food. Several hours later we returned and attempts at feeding appeared to still be going on.  I took the bird house down and we re-checked the babies and I could see at least one was still breathing. Stay tunes as we helplessly watch the natural process unfold.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Welcome to Oregon, John

It was a special treat for me to be able to take John West with me yesterday on a Chemeketan hike to Stahlman Point. John and his wife are good friends of ours from Lake Havasu City Arizona who are spending their summer here in Salem. John is an accomplished bird photographer and I am looking forward to sharing lots of hikes and bird trips with him.  Click here to see more photos of the hike in the Trip Journal. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Beware of Spotted Knapweed

I responded to an identification request on Facebook yesterday of this plant, Spotted Knapweed.  I knew it was a terrible invasive plant, but I hadn't paid that much attention.  The person with the question was talking about pulling it up to remove it from their property.  I checked a little closer, and was jolted out of my stupor with a warning about handling it.  It strikes me as important enough to pass on.  There is some evidence that simple contact with your skin, for example hands, can cause tumors. So, if you are working to remove it, be sure and wear gloves.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Marys Peak Hike

Lunch break was on the summit of Marys Peak, highest point in the Oregon Coast Range at 4097 feet.  Our start was at the Conner’s Camp parking lot at 2560 feet where a young man asked me as we were assembling if this was some kind of club outing.  I replied, yes we were a hiking group from the Chemeketans in Salem.  As politely as possible he asked if it was just for elderly people. Looking over our group I tried to explain, “No it was not, but yes we all are”. Wild flowers were one of the high points of our hike, but I didn’t get many photos, it’s a little hard to stop for photos when you’re in a line of twelve elderly people marching up the trail. 

Vanilla Leaf

Spreading Phlox

Field Chickweed