Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tour of the North Oregon Coast - Day Three

Nehalem Bay State Park
Nehalem Spit
We spent the morning walking south through the campgrounds and out the spit to the bay.  It was a good morning, lots of sunshine and we were able to find a fair diversity of birds.  You can check out our bird list here.  We only saw two other people on the spit, they also had a dog and were from Salem, in fact West Salem.  Small world. 

At lunch back at the van, we realized that we needed to change sites for our second night here.  Our neighbors accross the way had a parrot type bird that was a very annoying.  We couldn't tell if its owner or the bird that kept yelling about something.  Particularly annoying for us as birders was the fact that the bird had a wistle that sounded almost the same as the "weep" call of a Hermit Thrush.  We were constantly checking ourselves not to look for a thrush.  After lunch we unplugged and moved to a new site, # E-2.  Peace and quiet reigns. 

Campsite # E-2

Tour of the North Oregon Coast - Day Two

Fort Stevens State Park to Nehalem State Park

We spent the morning at Fort Stevens Park exploring the Clatsop Spit area and doing some birding.  Jeanette is shown on the viewing tower at the South Jetty.  From the tower we had good views accross the Columbia River to Cape Disapointment on the Washington side. On the beach to the south of us we could see lots of people busy claming on the beach on the receading tide.

We were treated to a ship, the "Pacific Basin" coming into the Columbia River. 

The best bird photo of the morning was this immature Bald Eagle, one of three we saw plus a mature adult. The eagles and many more birds where seen at the beach access from parking lot D.  Here is a link to our bird list. We spent the afternoon working our way south to Nehalem Bay State Park, stopping in Seaside for groceries, and lunch at Del Ray Beach State Recreation Site. Leaving Del Ray we spotted a male Northern Harrier flying with a snake.  He was being chased by a female Harrier. We couldn't help but wonder if more was going on here, was these part of a breeding behavior? Arriving at Nehalem Bay State Park we again had the problem of too many sites to choose from.

Actually our largest problem of the day is related to this photo.  Besides testing out our new van, we are trying to get up to speed on a new radio.  This is what the screen looks like in the Car Play mode, when connected to our iPhone.  From this touch screen we select Maps, which is a mirrored image of the phone, and becomes our navigation system.  Which is all pretty trick, but for the last two days we have put up with a lot of frustration because the Apple Maps do not seem to jive with the Oregon State Parks signs.  So twice now we have found ourselves winding through strange neighborhoods trying to get to a simple destination of an Oregon State Park. It appears that Apple thinks it's a better idea to take short cuts using side roads than follow the signed main routes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tour of the North Oregon Coast - Day One

 Fort Stevens State Park
We have been eager for a string of days with good weather to take our Free Spirit on it's maiden voyage. The weather forecast for this week is excellent so we are taking a week to enjoy the North Oregon Coast.  Yesterday's destination was Fort Stevens State Park with a stop for birding at Little Beach in Gearhart.

There are no signs to identify Little Beach, but thanks to modern technology with the aid of Google Maps and eBird I was able to pinpoint the location.  We had a good stroll out the Necanicum Spit counting birds and keeping a close lookout for Western Snowy Plover, as this is a location that we may volunteer for Plover Patrol. No plovers but we did get a list of 15 species.

After lunch in Seaside we journeyed on to Fort Stevens State Park and selected a campsite from the hundreds available.  Although we had alread hiked several miles in the morning, Buster was begging for another walk.  We indulged him and where able to find our way to Coffenberry Lake, and of course make another bird list.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Birds of Prey from our Backyard

The Merlin in the above photo was spotted yesterday in a neighborhood tree while we were taking our dog Buster for a late afternoon walk.  If you look closely will notice she has a small bird in her talons. Merlins are members of the Falcon Family, and we have enjoyed watching this bird or similar bird on this tree from our living room for the past three winters.  Merlins breed in the far north, but winter here.  I noticed when looking at my recond in eBird that we see them from our back yard from October through March.  We are paying close attention now because any day she will be gone for the season.

This is a an adult Cooper's Hawk, a year around bird here in Salemtowne. They are able to make a good living by visiting the numerous feeders in the backyards of our community.  This photo was taken this past week.  I was busy counting the birds that we in our backyard at the seed and suet feeders when this hawk flew past.  Suddently all twelve species disappeared, not a single little bird could be seen. I provide food for the small birds and they provide food for the larger birds.  I can live with that, it is the natural order of things.

Monday, March 21, 2016

First Osprey of the Year!

Jeanette spotted our first Osprey of the year yesterday. It was at the nest site on Murlark Ave in West Salem.  We have been keeping an eye out for them because we knew they were due anyday.  The first one of the season last year was spotted at this same location on the 24th of March.  After taking me to the location so I could see it too, we then made a tour of the other known nesting locations in West Salem, six in all.  We found another Osprey on the nest site on River Bend Road, and then in late afternoon while walking with my daughter through Wallace Marine Park we spotted a third bird flying.  I am assuming that all are males as they are the first to show up and claim a nest for a female.  It's great to have them back. The last Osprey we saw in the Willamette area was this past fall in October. We are excited to again have the opportunity to watch them using their nesting sites with all the activity envolved in raising their young.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The New Nesting Box

I have a rule that I only publish at the most, one post a day.  However, this is too good not to share today.  At first light this morning I was out taking down the old swallow nesting boxes and putting up the new improved version.  The new slot design is to keep the hated House Sparrows out.  The slot is only 7/8" by 3", instead of the traditional larger circle. At 8:05 AM we had our first visitors, and it was not the hoped for Swallows, but the demon House Sparrows.

 Hey, a new nesting box!

Looks empty!

Ugh, too tight

"What did you do, to my house?"
The design appeared to work, only time will tell if it keeps the Sparrows out. 

The Swallows are Back!

male Violet-green Swallow

Yesterday when we returned home from volunteering with the Salem Audubon Society at the Salem Yard & Garden Show, we were just setting down to lunch on our patio,  when I noticed that there were a pair of Violet-green Swallows in our neighbors tree.  These are the first swallows of the year for our back yard.  A few minutes later there were more swallows and a great distubance centered around our swallow nesting box.  I then realized we also had Tree Swallows.  Typically the Tree Swallows arrive weeks before the Violet-green Swallows. But the real irony was that I had just purchased new nesting boxes at the Yard & Garden Show.  I had hoped to get the new nesting boxes up before the swallows arrived, but just missed. I'll get them up this morning and the swallows can sort out which uses what.  Last year the Tree Swallows took the box in the back yard and the Violet Green had to settle for the one in the front yard. The new nesting boxes are a special design to prevent House Sparrows from entering.  The nasty House Sparrows last year killed the baby birds or drove off the parents at all three of the nesting sites in our back and front yards. Hopefull the new slot design will work against the House Sparrows. We are delighted to have the swallows back from their wintering grounds, their graceful flight and friendly chatter bring such joy to our back yard. 

male Tree Swallow

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Old Memories - New Discoveries

We got out and enjoyed the sun yesterday.  One of the places we went was Buell Park, located on Mill Creek in western Polk County.  It took me back in time because many years ago when I was just getting started fly fishing I took my family and went fishing here.  I think my daughter Lisa would have been two years old and my son Michael would have been four.  The drive-way parking and restrooms looked about the same, but I couldn't really recognize Mill Creek, it was high of course with the recent rain, but it seems that over the years the stream has made new cuts in the bank and taken on a different character altogether. Yesterday as Jeanette and Buster and I roamed the park looking for birds we heard some faint calls across the river, which after some concentration we decided were Wild Turkeys.  We could hear them but not see them.  Jeanette got out her iPhone and used an App that has recorded bird sounds.  Turkeys are curious birds and shortly these huge birds came flying overhead from accross the river and landed in some tall fir trees.  It completely made our day.  We needed Wild Turkeys for our county list, and here we were rewarded with such a great discovery.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Rare Eurasian Teal

Eurasian Teal

The Eurasian Teal also know as a Common Teal is a subspecies of the Green-winged Teal. It is considered to be a very rare bird for our West Coast. A few people have reported seeing one at the Fairview Wetlands here in Salem, and  Jeanette and I have made several failed attempts to try find it. Yesterday we fianlly got lucky.  The reason I say "lucky" is there are only slight differences in this Teal compared to the more numerous Green-winged Teal. There are approxamately 60 Green-winged Teals swimming around in and out of view on the ponds at Fairview Wetlands, which means you have to check out a lot of Green-winged Teals to find the single Eurasian Teal. You can see in the above photo the Eurasian Teal lacks a vertical white bar at the shoulder and has a horizonal white stripe on the wing  as compared to the Green-winged Teal in the lower photo.

 Green-winged Teal

Saturday, March 5, 2016

First Nest of the Season

Yesterday we saw our first nesting birds of the season.  Jeanette spotted the nest as we were driving on Hawthorne Street. From the car it was hard to tell what kind of bird it was, perhaps a hawk of some kind.  I even entertained the idea of a Great Horned Owl.  After parking in the closest parking lot, which was Geer Community Park, we got out the binoculars, relocated the site, and relized it was a Great Blue Heron on the nest. I took a couple of photos that were not very good, but after looking at them at home on the computer closely I realized we had a pair of herons.  I went back this morning to get a better photo which is the one above.  Only one bird was there, perhaps a proud male, maybe the female was off fetching some breakfast.  This always brings up the question, "when will we see babies?" According to my research, incubation takes 28 days.  But there is a number before that we need, the time between conception and the laying of the eggs, which is called gestation.  This is were I get driven crazy.  Gestation is not mentioned in any of the bird books I have, and believe me I have a few.  But wouldn't you know it, that information is only a few key clicks away now-days on the Internet.  What I found is that the gestation period vaires depending on the size of the bird, big birds more days, little birds less days.  But an over all average is 30 days.  Based on the post coidal preening that was going on yesterday, I would guess we should be seeing heron chicks around the middle of May. You can bet we will be checking back.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Test Flight of the Free Spirit

We recently sold our 2010 Winnebago View that we have used for the past four and a half years, and purchased a 2013 Liesure Travel Vans Free Spirit. Our desire is to have a smaller, simpler, more manuvable RV to facilitate our free spirit for short trips and birding adventures. 

Down sizing into a smaller RV required quite a bit of inginuity. After a week of moving into the van and checking all systems, on Thursday we took it on a test flight. Jeanette and Buster are shown here boarding the Free Spirit for take off.

The monthly challenge by eBird for this month is to turn in 15 observation lists from new locations. This means searching out locations we have never birded before.  This became our routing guide for our test flight.  Our first stop was Gentle Woods Park in Monmouth, where we enjoyed some wonderful sunshine and a short list of birds.

Our second stop was Winegar Park, also in Monmouth. Again more sunshine and a few birds. We had expected our third stop to be the Main Street Park, but it was totally torn apart with new construction, so we opted to use a coupon for lunch at Subway.  It was easy to park the van on the street, and we had our first meal curbside enjoying the sites of Monmouth with no one aware of what we were doing behind the tinted glass, eating lunch.

Our third stop was at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge at the Eagle Marsh Overlook.  Incidentally this site is where the Salem Audubon Society is going to build a new visitor and education center. Our forth stop was for an appointment Jeanette had at Keizer Skyline.  While she met with a doctor, I stretched out on the couch and worked on my computer. We were jazzed about our first use of the Free Spirit.  It is so much fun to explore with all the comforts of home.