Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why do Black Phoebes hate us?

So far this year, Sarah and I are 0-2 in our attempts to find Black Phoebes in the Portland area. We have followed up on a few reported sightings because I love flycatchers and a Black Phoebes would make a great addition to our 2013 Oregon bird list.

 Our first attempt was at Fern Hill Wetlands, which was largely iced-over.

 It was pretty quiet out there, but we did see the resident Bald Eagles that are almost always perched in the large cottonwoods above.

 Today, we tried again at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, where a Phoebe was reported at this pond early in the morning.

Though the Phoebe eluded us again, we had a great time watching Western Bluebirds fly among these little oaks.

We also watched a pair of Bald Eagles prepare their nest for the breeding season. We'll get you next time, Black Phoebe!

Friday, January 18, 2013

A few more birds

Thursday was beautiful day to be outside, so Sarah and I chased a few birds.

Our first stop was a Northeast Portland backyard hosting a charming Ovenbird. We waited 15 minutes before the Ovenbird walked into the yard, strutting like a tiny chicken.

This individual must be the most most frequently photographed bird in Oregon this month.

 Next, we drove out to Sauvie Island to search for sparrows. A huge flock of sparrows, most in the genus Zonotrichia feeds at the base of a small apple tree. It took a while, but Sarah and I spotted the rarest of these species, a Harris's Sparrow, perched in the tree.

Most of the sparrows, including the ones in the photo above, were Golden-crowned. We also chased down and spotted a Clay-colored Sparrow, an old favorite of mine, perched in a large ash tree. Now that we've found our share of Portland's rare birds, it's time to stay home and get some work done.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Birds with white bellies at the beach

This week, Sarah and I searched for birds on the Oregon Coast to get a good start on our year list. The temperatures were low and some of our favorite birding sites were quiet, but we managed to find some great species.

This Peregrine Falcon was sitting quietly on the cliff above the Yaquina Head Visitor Center until its mate arrived. The pair made a variety of calls and screams that I have not heard before, circled the parking lot a few times, and then returned to their previous positions. The days are getting longer and love is in the air.

On Monday, we drove out to Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria. Instead of the cold but sunny weather we expected, we were treated to gray skies, wind, and a frigid mist.

We looked for Snowy Owls as long as we could in the morning and then retreated to a local bakery. While drinking coffee, we watched a Townsend's Warbler pick spiders from the edges of the window.

A few hours later, we returned to Fort Stevens, and finally found two Snowies.The owl above flew past the parking lot and landed on a nearby log, but would not look at the camera when we tried to take its picture.


Today we birded the Tillamook area in nicer weather. We birded in the warm sun and found two of the three birds were looking for: a White-tailed Kite and a Northern Shrike. The Palm Warbler will have to wait for another trip.

Winter returned when we crossed the Coast Range on the way home. It isn't raining, but it is much colder and darker than it was on coast. Good weather for working indoors!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Some animal sketches from 2012

I was up early this morning, so I scanned some more images from my 2012 Sketch-A-Day project. I chose some of the interesting animals I encountered during the year:

 In February, I was able to sketch the characteristics of several Snowy Owls at Ocean Shores, WA.

 Like it or not, our backyard is home to several naked-tailed squirrels (my name for Norway rats).

 A cooperative Great Blue Heron held a nice pose outside the kitchen window.

 This tortoise is one of many herps that live at my friend Geoff's house in New Mexico.

 Craneflies love to sneak into our house in the spring and summer.

 I was entertained by the Northern Flicker's reveille. 

 A park in Wenatchee, WA was full of fruit-eating Gray Catbirds

 I found this mussel and and its barnacles on a beach walk during the college football season.

 My father in law caught this Chinook Salmon in November.

Sarah and I saw this Barn Owl apparition in the Tillamook dairy country. 

 In December, we met the newest addition to the Oregon Zoo's elephant herd. 

Of all these encounters, I had the most fun sketching Snowy Owls because they tend to sit still during much of the day. Which animal is your favorite?

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Earlier today, Sarah and I co-lead a group in the North Portland section of the Portland Christmas Bird Count. We searched for birds at Smith and Bybee Lakes (above), St. John's Prairie (formerly St. John's Landfill), and the Pier Park neighborhood (below).

Our group size fluctuated between four and seven and we found 70 species of birds. Among our interesting finds were:

A tree full of Lesser Goldfinches

A fox squirrel recently deceased (or sleeping).

A Sharp-shinned Hawk perched near the fox squirrel. Coincidence?

And a showdown between an immature Cooper's Hawk and another fox squirrel. We think the squirrel won.

Now that our last event of the holiday season is complete, we can take down our lights and resume our normal routines.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sketch-A-Day 2012

In December of 2011 I resolved to sketch something every day in 2012. I bought some sketchbooks and gave myself four rules: 

1. Produce at least one image a day. 
2. Do not use the same media two days in a row. 
3. Include at least one organic element (plant, animal, fungi, etc.) in each image. 
4. Sketches must be started and completed on the same day.

For the most part I followed the rules. By year's end I had filled four notebooks and two binders with images.

Looking back on the sketches, I notice that some images are quite detailed, 

 others were hastily constructed, 

and some are just weird. 

Here is a highlight from each month:

A crab shell I found in January

A view of Mt Jefferson on a windy day in February

 A squirrel's back in March

 A bumblebee carcass I found in April

 Pacific Wren fledglings in May

 Venus's Shadow on the moon above Wenatchee, WA in June

 Cerambycid beetle and beer in July

 August sunrise in Missoula, MT

Dinner ingredients in September

A pie pumpkin in October

 A chum salmon fantasy in November

A Barrow's Goldeneye swimming among yarn I bought in Washington in December (Sarah's favorite).

  2012 was a great year and it is nice to have a record of each day's experiences. I'll post some more after I get them scanned.