Saturday, October 31, 2015

October in Review

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

Western Pond Turtle

I photographed this native Western Pond Turtle sunning its self during a window of sunshine we had yesterday morning at the Row River Nature Park in Cottage Grove.  We stopped to bird at this park while on our way to Henderson's Alignment in Grants Pass to have the rear Sumo springs replaced on our Winnebago View. The park is one of our all time favorites and we make it a point to stop here every time we pass through.  Yesterday was our highest number of observations at 33 different species.  You can see our list 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

Trip Wrap-Up

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

Finding a break in our work schedule around home, and a promising weather forecast for the coast we took off yesterday morning for a three day trip to Tillamook County.  Kilchis Point Reserve has been on my list of places to visit since reading about its dedication this past May.  Located on Tillamook Bay, Kelchis Point has a long history of importance to native Americans and then to early pioneers and later to the logging industry.  It has recently found a new life in the roll of Nature Reserve, thanks to efforts of the Tillamook Pioneer County Museum, the Ford Foundation, and the Spirit Mountain Community Fund. With 200 acres and over 2 miles of trails it is a sanctuary for a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. For us it was a location to look for birds, but place is always paramount in our birding experience, and this reserve has it in spades.  It was actually a little hard to stay focused on birds, the beauty of the trail and the abundance of trees and shrubs kept grabbing our attention. The numerous historical interpretive displays slowed our pace to a crawl.

The western end of the trail leads to this gazebo overlooking Tillamook Bay rich with waterfowl. The amount of work that has gone into the design and implementation of this park is unbelievable. Whether you simple enjoy a walk in the woods, or want to walk your dog, or have an interest in native plants, or want to learn more of the history of the area, Kilchis Point Reserve is a place reserved for you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Let Our Dog Explore???

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

Mid-Day Snack

The middle of the day is normally the slowest time to see birds.  They seem to feed earlier in the morning and then again in early evening.  But today, early afternoon this female Downy Woodpecker stopped by for a snack at our suet feeder.  Seeing her prompted me to grab my camera and pay a little more attention to my back yard.  There were three American Crows, five American Goldfinches, one Morning Dove, a Dark-eyed Junco and a Song Sparrow.  But the one we were the happiest to see, with the aid of binoculars, was the Merlin pictured below.  This is a winter bird for this area, and the third winter in a row are that we have watched a Merlin, perhaps the same one, from our living room window perched on the very tip-top of the very same tree in a neighbors yard a block away.  From that very perch we have witnessed it take a hapless sparrow in mid air. I guess you could assume it was looking for a mid-day snack this afternoon too.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jeanette - Substitute Photographer

This afternoon, while I had my butt firmly planted on the couch watching a football game, Jeanette made an end-run around the couch into the den, snatched up by camera, and made it back to the back yard to score with this winning photo of a brilliant displaying male 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

Jeanette found and I photographed this 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

Albino Squirrel

I put this photo on Facebook a few days ago and asked if anyone had a different idea and no one did so I'm going with Albino Squirrel.  Albinism is a lack of pigment that causes hair, or fur, or feathers to lack any coloring.  We found this guy while birding at nearby Brush College City Park.  We are used to hearing and seeing squirrels in the parks where we bird so don't always pay close attention. But the odd lack of color in this squirrel caught our attention.  I believe it to be a 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

Osprey Proof

During an afternoon stroll through the park at Darrow Bar yesterday I thought I heard an Osprey.  A little later we thought we heard it again and after some searching, (Jeanette is not one to give up), we spotted it fly in with a fish and I got this photo.  I wanted to have proof, because it's getting late in the year for Osprey to still be around. In fact Osprey have never been reported in Polk County to eBird in October. But I say, if it sounds like an Osprey, and looks like an Osprey, and fishes like an Osprey  its probably an Osprey. And, a photo is the ultimate proof.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Best Photo Opportunities

I'm always surprised, amused and delighted to find my own backyard is on many occasions the best location for birding and taking photos.  It just happened again today, I am sitting on our patio having a cup of tea and I look up and see this juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk in our neighbors tree.  This is after just spending numerous days driving to good locations at a number of parks and walking many miles of trails, and essentially not coming up with any good photographs. In terms of time and effort the success ratio is probably highest in my backyard.

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.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Give Us This Day Our Daily Birding

Jeanette and Buster are shown here at a bench overlooking the Willamette River during our morning bird walk yesterday morning at Willamette Mission State Park.

A daily bird walk has become so much a part of our daily life as to be almost as important as our daily bread. It is what we enjoy the most.  We are convinced there is no better medicine.  By walking several miles each day we get in some exercise, which we all three need.  Sunlight, according to medical authorities is helpful by providing needed vitamin D.  The quest to identify birds is always a mental challenge, which medical authorities claim is important to help fend off memory loss in the aging process.  And then there is the intangible good feeling and comfort we feel being out in the natural world. We love the beauty of trees and shrubs, the curve of the trail, the bubble of the stream, the seasonal change of flowers to fruit, the change of leaves from green to yellows and reds. It makes our hearts sing.  We are grateful for each day we are allowed some time for birding.