Thursday, February 25, 2010

Local Plants in February

Thanks to milder-than-normal weather, it has felt more like mid-spring than late-winter this February. Many trees and shrubs are flowering now, brightening our neighborhood and forests.

We did not know that we had a plum tree in our backyard until it bloomed last week. It is currently attracting many honeybees.

This indian plum at the forest's edge has many white flowers but few leaves.

These plants in the interior, however, are much greener. I'm guessing that light availability determines whether these plants devote resources to flowers or leaves.

Monday, February 22, 2010

February Beach Weekend

Last weekend, we took our monthly trip to the coast and our biannual trip to the town of Newport.

As usual, we birded several locations around town and sampled the local food and beer.

We found plenty of birds, but the only one I managed to photograph was carved into a bronze pillar by local artist Frank Boyden.

The weather could not have been nicer. As the sun set, we drove north to Pacific City.

The next day, we surveyed the beach of Bob Straub State Park for dead seabirds.

We did not find any dead birds, but we did encounter a gigantic black cottonwood

and some shiner surfperches that had washed ashore.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

One Hundred Winter Birds

As the new year started last month, Sarah and I decided to record each bird species we see in 2010. We are not trying too hard to maximize the size of the list, but record the number of species we would typically see during our travels.

As the list grew, we thought it would be cool if we encountered, between the two of us, 100 species in western Oregon during the 2010 winter months. While birding the coast this weekend, we reached that milestone.

Here is the list in the approximate order that each species was encountered:

1.Cackling Goose
2.Canada Goose
3.Pie-billed Grebe
4.Double-crested Cormorant
5.Great-blue Heron
7.American Wigeon
8.Ring-necked Duck
10.Wood Duck
11.Bald Eagle
12.American Coot
13.Glaucous-winged Gull
14.Mourning Dove
15.Anna's Hummingbird
16.Acorn Woodpecker
17.Western Scrub Jay
18.American Robin
19.American Goldfinch
20.Red-winged Blackbird
21.American Crow
22.Dark-eyed junco
23.Lesser Scaup
24.Black-capped Chickadee
26.Red-breasted Sapsucker
27.Green-winged Teal
28.Spotted Towhee
29.Brown Creeper
30.Golden-crowned Kinglet
31.Red-tailed Hawk
32.Song Sparrow
33.Varied Thrush
34.Chestnut-backed Chickadee
35.Rock Dove
36.Hairy Woodpecker
37.American Kestrel
39.Golden-crowned Sparrow
40.House Finch
41.Northern Flicker
42.Tundra Swan
43.Northern Shoveler
44.Hooded Merganser
45.Cooper's Hawk
46.Red-breasted Nuthatch
47.Bewick's Wren
48.Common Merganser
49.Peregrine Falcon
50.Northern Pintail
52.Wilson's Snipe
53.Steller's Jay
54.Brewer's Blackbird
55.Common Loon
56.Horned Grebe
57.Eared Grebe
58.Brown Pelican
59.Pelagic Cormorant
60.Great Egret
61.Greater Scaup
62.Surf Scoter
63.Common Goldeneye
64.Red-breasted Merganser
65.Mew Gull
66.California Gull
67.Thayer's Gull
68.Western Gull
69.Common Raven
70.Winter Wren
71.White-breasted Nuthatch
72.Snow Goose
73.Northern Harrier
74.Sandhill Crane
76.Belted Kingfisher
77.Downy Woodpecker
79.Black Turnstone
80.White-tailed Kite
81.Ruddy Duck
82.Western Grebe
83.Black Oystercatcher
84.Hermit Thrush
85.Pine Siskin
86.Lesser Goldfinch
87.Ring-billed Gull
88.Western Meadowlark
89.Eurasian Collared Dove
90.Fox Sparrow
92.Harlequin Duck
93.Red-throated Loon
94.Red-necked Grebe
96.Yellow-rumped Warbler
97.Marsh Wren
99.Townsend's Warbler
100. European Starling
101. House Sparrow
102. Clark's Grebe
103. American Dipper

It will be interesting to see how far the list has progressed by the end of the year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mid-month Birds

We are halfway through our first full month in the new house and there have been plenty of birds to keep me entertained and distracted from work.

We have seen at least 20 species in or from our yard and at least 30 species in the neighborhood.

The previous occupants of the house left us a nice hanging platform feeder, which we hung from a weeping birch in the backyard. So far, the feeder has been visited by Scrub Jays, American Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, Spotted Towhees, Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, House Finches, House Sparrows, and an obese fox squirrel.

I also hung a hummingbird feeder, which the abundant Anna's Hummingbirds have so far ignored. I expect it will receive more attention when the Rufous Hummingbird migration begins next month.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Raptor Road Trip 2010

On Saturday morning, we arrived at Sauvie Island at sunrise to help the Audubon Society of Portland, Metro, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife prepare for the annual Raptor Road Trip event.

At 9 am, we set up shop at Coon Point, one of three birdwatching sites staffed by naturalists.

Good publicity and dry weather made for a great turnout from the public. At least 1600 people came to look at the birds while enjoying coffee and doughnuts.

After we packed up at 2 pm, a crowd remained to watch the eagles and herons perched in trees above large flocks of swans, geese, and cranes.

Coon Point Birds:

Western Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Tundra Swan
Canada Goose
Cackling Goose
Northern Pintail
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Common Merganser
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Glaucous-winged Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Eurasian Collared Dove
Rock Pigeon
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Brown Creeper
American Robin
Song Sparrow
Western Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird

Friday, February 5, 2010

Getting to know the watershed

Though we have changed cities and counties, we remain in the Tualatin River Basin, but now live in the Fanno Creek Watershed.

A few blocks from our house, several drainages converge in a forested section of a city park, forming Vermont Creek.

Water from this stream eventually enters Fanno Creek, which flows southwest out of Multnomah County into Washington County, where it enters the Tualatin River. Eventually, the Tualatin flows into the Willamette River in Clackamas County near Oregon City.

The water from our neighborhood re-enters enters Multnomah County as the Willamette flows north and joins the Columbia River at Kelly Point Park, pictured above. From there, of course, our water travels to the Pacific Ocean, providing a medium for passage of anadromous fish and huge shipping containers along the way.