Christmas Bird Counts have been going on in North America since the year 1900, but this is this first year for it to be done in Douglas County in the Reedsport circle, thanks to the efforts of Matt Hunter. Matt asked us to participate and do a section of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area because of our experience with the coastal locations, and after some discussion we settled on the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail. We enlisted the help of our friend and fellow volunteer Glenn Pannier to help us. After a meet-up breakfast in Winchester Bay with a number of other counters we drove to the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area to begin our hike. Although at 8:30 we had cold temps still in the 30's, it was a dry day. We were out for four and a half hours and hiked six miles, counting 22 species. You can see our observation list and photos here.
Friday, December 25, 2015
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Mourning DoveWhen I paused this morning to do a quick two minute stationary bird count in our back yard there were only two species. Two Mourning Doves and three Northern Flickers. It's unusual to only see two species, I can usually spot close to half a dozen at a time. The Mourning Doves were on the ground, fluffed up to keep warm, and the Northern Flickers were up in a tree trying to dry out their feathers from the last rain shower. The astute reader of this blog will no doubt recognize that an unusual high number of photos and posts come from my backyard. There may be a number of reasons, any place from laziness to convenience. The startling thing to me is how all these little observations I record add up. November began the third winter we have been at this location in Salemtowne, and during this time Jeanette and I have identified 59 different species of birds from our back yard. Which says to me that our backyard is a legitimate birding location even if it is easy.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Thursday, December 10, 2015
here. One of our winter favorites is the Merlin in the above photo that I took yesterday. This is a small bird, about the size of a Morning Dove, but do not be fooled by its size, it is a member of the falcon family and a fierce competitor that is capable of taking a sparrow in mid-air. This is the third winter we have seen a Merlin in Salemtowne where we live. Looking at my eBird records, I notice we see it arrive in October and is gone by the end of February to travel to the far north to breed. We have watched it enough that we know three different trees that it prefers to use that we can spot it most days.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Monday, December 7, 2015
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Rain is the main component of the next 15 days of weather, but a window of sunshine was in the forecast for nine o'clock this morning, so we planned accordingly. We arrived at one of our favorites, Fairview Wetlands, at nine o'clock sharp, dressed for cold and wind. I think it was a good plan and we got in a nice walk and identified 22 different species of birds. You can see our observation list here. Below are three species I was able to photograph.
One of the little sparrows we see consistently here at the Fairview Wetlands is the White-crowned Sparrow. This photo seemed appropriate for the Christmas Season with the Sparrow possed with the bright red rose hips.
Red-winged Blackbirds are a common staple here too. Noisy creatures, they are usually heard several times before being seen. Only the males have the bright red and yellow patch, which they are able to flash to show their assertiveness.
We can also always count on hearing and seeing the Spotted Towee. They are usually to be found on the ground scratching for tidbits, or hiding in the bushes. The rusty breast, white spotted wings, and bright red eyes, are to be enjoyed in any season.
Monday, November 30, 2015
Sunday, November 29, 2015
It's hard to see from this photo taken at the south end of Huddleston Pond, but the far north end of the pond is completely covered in ice. We came here yesterday morning hoping for enough warmth from the sun to keep us warm from the freezing temperature. The pond, located in Hampton Park in the small town of Willamina is becoming a favorite of ours for winter birding this year. This community and former logging pond are tucked up next to the coast range, leaving their south-east side exposed to the morning sun. With half of the pond covered with a sheet of ice, the ducks were crowded up on this south end. Although not a large variety, there were large numbers of American Wigeons and American Coots. The observation list and photos can be seen here.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Downey Woodpecker - 1
Western Scrub-Jay - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
Dark-eyed Junco - 3
Song Sparrow - 1
House Finch - 3
Pine Siskin - 4
House Sparrow - 1
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Entrance Parking Lot
Of the three birding stops we made on Monday, I was most interested in returning to the Sheridan South Side Park. Despite "Sheridan South Side Park" being the official name of this location, I think it is more commonly known as the Sheridan Pond or simply the fish pond. It's claim to fame may actually reside with the fishing population, but we are looking at it through the lens of birding. My interest in returning was basically I felt that we could do a better job of birding with nicer weather, and although today the temperature was nearly the same we did have sunshine which made it seem warmer, and we did actually get a larger variety of birds. You can look at the observation list and photos here.
Fishing dock at far end
Monday, November 16, 2015
Our first stop was an unplanned one at the Brigittine Monastery, the result of a mis-turn. The temperature was a frigid 39 degrees with a bitter wind from the south. We only lasted a short 18 minutes at one of ponds scoping out water fowl, but we did make a list. The Monastery seemed rather quiet, I suppose the brothers were still at morning prayer, so we missed sampling their famous chocolate. Continuing on we were still cold so we pulled over in Ballston at the Ballston Park with a quaint pioneer school house (shown above) for some hot chocolate in the bird mobile.
Our second birding stop was at the Sheridan South Side Park. Temperature here was a balmy 47 degrees, perhaps in part because of it's location, protected to the west by a hill top cemetery, and to the south by a large federal prison complex. In spite of this unique almost hidden location, it was the best birding location of the day, producing this list.
Our third birding stop was at the Huddleston Fish Pond in Willamina. I made a brief circle of the pond here in between rain storms, and made this list.
We spent the remainder of the day on couch and recliner, enjoying having a furnace, TV, and a bathroom. Oh yes, also hot coffee, tea, and chili. I think there are many more trips to be made this winter in the bird mobile.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
We are always on the look out for new locations to walk and watch birds. Yesterday morning we went exploring to check out Grand Island Access, It's a part of the Willamette River Greenway, a concept born in the late 60's and administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. This particular parcel, which incidentally we just learned contains the states largest continual Black Cottonwood forest, is located along Lambert Slough on Grand Island just north of the Weatland Ferry. Primarily a canoe and kayak access point at river mile 70, it has the amenities of a port-potty, a picnic table, a couple of fire pits, and large flat areas that would work for camping. We were more interested in the informal trails that wander through the cottonwood forest to different access points to Lambert Slough. It was a cold quiet morning for birds, but will be worthy of future trips in spring and summer.
A tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet bathes in a mud puddle.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Once again we took advantage of the best part of the day to get in a bird walk. Based on the weather forecast for rain that was moving in, it looked like the best window of opportunity would be in the morning to the south-east of Salem. It was just starting to sprinkle when we left Salem and we drove into dry weather before we got to Lyons and our destination the Lyons City Park. The skies stayed clear for an hour and we almost made it back to the car before it started raining.
The Lyons City Park is a favorite of ours for birding, but beyond that it is a perfect place to observe nature in harmony. Busy beavers continue work on dams that have resulted in a series of ponds that provide the perfect habitat for water birds like ducks and geese. On this trip we saw newly arrived migrants of Ring-necked Ducks and Gadwalls, augmenting the resident Mallards, Canada Geese, Mergansers and Wood Ducks. Additional birds that like to hang out around the water were Kingfishers and Herons.
At first glance you may assume this photo of a beaver is taken looking down directly above him. If so, your eyes are playing a trick on you. The photo was taken from the side and the reflection in the water is making an almost perfect second image. I didn't realize I had a reflection in the water until I got home and downloaded the photo into the computer. While walking the trails around the many ponds, we spotted this beaver up against the bank holding very still, I think he assumed he might be unnoticed if he held very still. These ponds used to have a large population of Nutria when we started birding there in 2013, but at some point someone did something, which is a good thing, and yesterday we only saw beaver and their handiwork. They have constructed some amazing dams that well are worth the trip to the park just to marvel at their expertise.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Huddleston Pond in Willamina. Serious readers of this blog will remember we were just there the Saturday before last on our way home from the Tillamook area. I was delighted with the suggestion to return to Huddleston because Jeanette and I both felt that we could do better than the 13 birds we found that day. We hit the pond this morning just before 9:00 with the resolve to find more birds. Although the temperature was rather cool, we had bright sunshine and a whole raft of waterfowl. We ended an hour later with a list of 21 species. Our observation list and photos can be seen here. Interesting, we left Salem in sunshine, endured rain on the drive which stopped when we arrived in Willamina, and then started raining again just as we finished birding. The rains seemed more like spring showers than real fall rain.
Monday, November 2, 2015
This morning while birding at Wallace Marine Park in West Salem a walker stopped to tell us he thought he had just seen Swans in Salem's Riverfront Park. We finished up our observation list at Wallace and went in search, hoping he wasn't confused with perhaps Great Egrets. We found two swans, which turned out to be Mute Swans not the Tundra Swans we were hoping for. These may possibly be the two we found last year at Stone Quarry Lake by the airport. Those were considered to be released pets and not countable on eBird. Mute Swans are not native to North America. The thing is, last winter we found Mute Swans in Anderson California, see blog post here, and they are an accepted species there I think because their numbers are large enough. I guess these bear watching to see if there are any more. Maybe with Global Warming the California birds will eventually find their way north to Oregon.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Jeanette with umbrella at lower pond
Mallards in flight from upper pond
Saturday, October 31, 2015
This spider web photo, taken on the first of October at Willamette Mission State Park perhaps symbolizes the month of October for us. October was basically a month we stayed home, that is to say we weren't off some where volunteering, but for the most part stayed close to home. Despite saying that, we still did a fair amount of coming and going in birding. Looking at eBird I can see we birded in 8 different counties, turned in 42 observation lists, visiting 25 different eBird Hot Spots, and identified 90 different species. I love using eBird, it is so easy to keep track off all kinds of numbers. In addition, I took around 300 photos, and my camera just rolled past 9,999 photos and started counting over from zero. Before some one thinks we are a little crazy, let me put some perspective to our little web of weaving. Our species total for the year through October is 217 birds. Noah Striker, a young man from Cresswell who also posts to eBird, just passed his 5,000th species for this year in his trip around the globe. Proof positive we are not THAT obsessed.
October also saw the completion of Phase 1 of the City of Salem's new park, Eola Ridge in West Salem, which I am proud to say is now an eBird Hot Spot.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
here. Ironically, even though we saw a record number of birds, my best photo of the day was not a bird but a turtle. However, seeing a Western Pond Turtle always puts a smile on my face. This native turtle is having a tough time being crowded out of its natural habitat by the invasive Red-Eared Slider.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
We stopped yesterday on our way home at the Huddleston Fish Pond in Willamina for one last bird walk. This is a fine example of what can be done with an old log pond, develop it into a nice park that attracts fisherman, walkers and birders.
All in all we had a great three day escape in our RV to the coast for some camping and birding. We are so fortunate to have an RV that enables us at the drop of the hat to take off for an adventure with all the comforts of home. Besides visiting the Kilchis Point Reserve in Bay City as I posted earlier, we spent two nights at Nehalem Bay State Park walking at birding the trails there.
We feel like this is a good working model for our winter; watch for a window of good weather, then pack-up the RV and head out for a few days.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Kilchis Point Reserve is a place reserved for you.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
This is the sign that greeted us when we stopped to go birding today at the Kilchis Point Reserve just north of the town of Tillamook. Notice the forth line in the "Go ahead" block, "Let your dog explore". Are you kidding me???? What ever happened to "No Dogs Allowed" or the most common, "All Dogs Must Be On A Leash"? I almost dropped my camera. I unhooked Buster's leash and let him roam. Actually he likes to stay right with us. This turned out to be an unbelievable park, I will write more tomorrow and post more photos. This is just sort of a teaser. But I will reveal that we saw a record number of birds which you can see on our observation list here. The dogs? Well, they were all very well behaved. Even the black lab that chased sticks in the bay did not seem to cause much concern with the water fowl. It was a peaceful place, everyone just got along.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Anna's Hummingbird. The thing is, she wasn't even picked in the photo draft, but is simply a walk-on. Now my concern is that I may be relegated permanently to the bench, oops, I mean the couch.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
White-throated Sparrow yesterday during our bird walk at Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area. We were in the South Unit, also known on eBird as the Vanderpool Tract. As sparrows go, I think this is one of the more colorful ones. He appears to be ready to voice his disapproval of me taking his photograph. None the less we were quite pleased to see him. White-throated Sparrows are winter birds here in the Willamette Valley, arriving in October and hanging around until May. This is our first one for this season and special after seeing so many common Song Sparrows. You can see our bird list for the morning here.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Eastern Gray Squirrel, which is a non-native squirrel that has been introduced and is very common in the urban areas of the Willamette Valley. You can bet in future bird walks at Brush College we will be keeping an eye out for this particular and unusual squirrel.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Sharp-shinned Hawks belong to a small group of hawks in the genus Accipiter. Another member of this genus is the Coopers Hawk. Both are very similar in size and looks, which always leads to taking a closer look. I believe this hawk has the characteristics of a squarer tail, smaller head, broader breast stripes, and thinner legs compared to a Cooper's Hawk. The beauty of this problem is all the observations, photographs and research of guide books all take place in the comfort of my own home.