Friday, April 29, 2016

Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeaks have been arriving in the Willamette Valley and reported by a number of people, but we have not been able to find any yet.  In fact, we spent and hour and a half this morning birding at Wallace Marine Park, hoping to find them as well as a few other species we needed for this years Polk County list.  Then, just as we were finishing lunch I looked up and noticed this pair of Evening Grosbeaks, first at the feeder and then at the bird bath. Some times I wonder why I even bother to leave the house!



Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Perfect Birding Blind

We are currently on another trip to the coast for a training session tomorrow at Nehalem Bay State Park for the Plover Patrol.  We spent today traveling, stopping to bird at several locations.  Our Free Spirt van is shown here overlooking Nehalem Bay in the tiny town of Wheeler.  We are parked in the Wheeler Wildlife Viewing Area, which resembles more of a city park.  It's very nicely landscaped with plants, paths, picnic tables, benches, and a small parking lot that will hold less then ten cars. We discovered, kind of by defalt, the value of using the van as a birding blind.  We had originally gotten out of the van and walked the paths and scanned the bay for birds, coming up rather short with 3 House Sparrows and a Crow.  The weather turned threatening and started to sprinkle, so we got back in the van, and then the birds started appearing.  First a couple of Least Sandpipers appeared at the waters endge which grew to a total of 31 busy little birds.  A couple of Pelagic Cormmants started fishing. I set up a scope on a table mount tripod on the gally counter to get better looks at 8 Common Mergansers on the far side, plus a couple of nesting Canada Geese. Before we knew it we had 15 different species on our list.  I'm convinced the secret was that we were invisible to the birds behind the darkened glass in the van.   We were warm and dry in the van and possed no threat to the birds coming and going.  We look forward to repeating this scene again for sure, using the van as a birding blind.
Least Sandpipers

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fooled by a European Starling

European Starling at our suet feeder  - January 3, 2016

Matt Hunter recently wrote about the perplexing problem of bird identification when a species mimics another species.  I have often witnessed Stellars Jays imitating a Red-tailed Hawk, so I know it happens.  Matt's discusion lead me to speculate on an experience I had recently in my back yard, that of hearing a California Quail while sitting on my back porch.  I identified the quail on the 8th of this month. I did not see a quail, in fact the only bird within sight was a European Starling.  I got to thinking about  this has happened to me before.  I have not seen the quail, but several times in the last couple of years I have heard them.  I saw Matt this past week and I asked him about Startlings and what birds they can mimic.  The first bird he mentioned was a California Quail!  I went back into my eBird records this afternoon an removed my observations of California Quail from my backyard.  Interesting enough they have happened in the same month, the month of April for the past two years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Questions on Hummingbirds

One of the places we stoped during our last travel was the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area to spend some time with our friend Glenn.  I spent an afternoon with him during his volunteer time on the Oregon Dunes Overlook Loop Trail.  He showed me a place along the trail where the Rufus Hummingbirds could be seen everyday.  The above photo is a female Rufus at that very location.  We saw three birds there twice during our hike.  What they come to pick up on the trail there is a mystery. You can see small pieces in her bill.  Is it grains of sand?  If it is, what would be the purpose?  I don't think it would be used in nest construction, nor can I imagine its use in their diet. Is is small seeds?  Glen sees them every day and only in this location.  If any readers out there have an idea, please leave a comment.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Eastwood Nature Trail

Matt Hunter, shown on the left, led this bird listening trip yesterday morning on the Eastwood Nature Trail.  Jeanette and I made the trip to Roseburg especially to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more bird songs from Matt who is beyond any birder we know in his knowledge of bird songs and behavior.  The Eastwood Nature Trail is located next to the Eastwood Elementary School. The trail and park, although completely unknown to us, is an outstanding area to enjoy walking and birding.

The group found Yellow-rumped Warblers too numerous and active to accurately count.

Matt idendified this early Western Kingbird by sound before we even left the parking lot and were close enough to see.

This Northern Rough-winged Swallow was hanging out with a pair of Violet-green Swallows.

The spotting of one Acorn Woodpecker led to the discovery of two more in the same tree.

This pair of Canada Geese high in a tree appear to be gawking at us.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Birding from the Birdmobile

This morning we tried out birding from our new to us Free Spirit made by Leisure Travel Vans.  We stopped at Finley National Wildlife Refuge south of Corvallis.  Because they do not allow dogs on the Refuge we were confined to the inside of our van and we birded as we drove down the refuge road.  We got to see a fair number of birds as Jeanette drove and I sat on the passenger side and tried identifing, counting and photographing. This is the view of my birding office.  As I was deeply engrosed in looking for birds and munching on crackers I got to thinking about the no dog situation.  The signs say in order to protect the wild life no dogs are allowed. OK, but then why are humans allowed to kill the protected wildlife? It struck me as kind of a strange situation. Our local newpaper recently had an article pointing out jogging was not allowed on the National Wildlife Refuges in in the Willamette Valley because it could tramatize the birds.  But I guess if you show up with your shotgun you could shoot and kill some of these birds that have been protected from the dangers of dogs and joggers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Osprey in Action

This photo was taken today at the Audubon Nature Reserve in West Salem.  It's two Osprey, a female on the pilot perch at the nest site, and the male coming in.  The male continued down to the nest where it looked like for the next ten minutes he worked on arranging some of sticks.  It's early in their season and there will be a lot of jocking around on the nest.  He will probably bring her special gifts of green branches or other treasures.  Once the chicks hatch he will be the soul provider bringing fish to her to feed the babies. This marks my third season of observing and photographing at the Audubon Nature Reserve.  It's a volunteer job, and in the past three years I have participated in a number of different projects.  English Ivy removal was big on the list at one time, artificial cavity nests was another big project. and there has always been trail work and litter removal.  But recently my main responsibility has boiled down to photography birds, wildflowers and the working events at the Reserve.  The photographs are now displayed on a Facebook page that I started and maintain. Click here to visit the page.  It's rewarding work and hopefully helpful to the community, the Audubon Society, and the birds and animals that call the few acres of the Audubon Nature Reserve their home. In the coming months there will be lots of action to document until the Osprey take thier leave south for the winter.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Plover Patrol Orientation

Jeanette & Vanessa
Today we spent the morning with Oregon State Parks biologist Vanessa Blackstone hiking the Nehalem Spit to train for our summer volunteer position on the Plover Patrol.  Each month we will be returning to survey this beach for Western Snowy Plover.  The Western Snowy Plover was found on this beach last summer for the first time in 30 years.  State Parks is committed to keeping a close watch on this state and federally threatened species, and has five different beaches that will be surveyed this summer for plover. Although the little plover have been seen twice this year on this beach, disappointingly we did not find any today.  We did see some of their predators, several Crows, a Raven, a Northern Harrier, and even a Peregrine Falcon.  In all, it was a quiet day for birds. The best bird photo I had for the day was the Orange-crowned Warbler below.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Backyard Birding Bonaza

This is a great time of year for watching birds; some wintering birds are still hanging around, and some of the summer arrivals are just getting here, which makes for a short period of time where there is a greater variety of species to be seen.  This was very evident in our back yard this morning.  In less than an hour we had 20 different species, many of which were pairing up for the season.  You can see our list here. The most surprising and unexpected bird was this colorful male Western Bluebird.  We have been cautioned by experts not to put up nesting boxes with entrance holes large enough for Western Bluebirds, because we live in an urban area, and the larger hole will allow the unwanted House Sparrows to nest.  I have dutifully made sure that all of our nesting boxes have smaller entrances.  What should show up this morning but this male Western Blue Bird trying to get into both of the nesting boxes in the back yard! He then settled for a visit to the sunflower feeder. We had all this birding activity in the comfort of our home this morning without having to brave the cold and rain outside.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Tour of the North Oregon Coast - Day Four

Our plan for the day was to drive from Nehalem Bay State Park to Cape Lookout State Park, with some stops along the way to do some birding.  It was cold and foggy so we were in more of an exploring mode. As we crossed the Nehalem River, Jeanette noticed a sign pointing to a dump station.  We decided to explore, and were surprised to find it located at a water treatment plant.

I have a distaste for water treatment plants, aka sewage treatment plants, especially for birding.  And they can be difficult to bird because of fencing and locked gates. So when I saw this sign "Bird Watchers Welcome", I had to take a look.
Buster was all game to go, but after about 10 minutes we had all had enough of the cold and retreated to the RV for some hot tea.  We did see hundreds of birds but a low diversity of only thirteen species.
We were kind of turned off with the fog and cold, and aware that the temps in land were forecasted for the 70s, we decided to drive in that direction and make our overnight stop the parking lot at Spirit Mountain Casino, which is free.  It will be an opportunity to test our new van with an overnight stay without hook-ups. The only money we spent in the Casino was for a hamgurger and fries.