Monday, February 25, 2013

Falconquest!

On Monday we woke to an inch of snow outside of our motel in Joseph, OR. Sarah and I drove here with two friends on Sunday hoping to find some northeast Oregon specialties including Bohemian Waxwings and Gyrfalcons.

After bundling up, we drove to the farm country west of town and quickly found a flock of medium-sized birds.

The light was bad, so it took us a few minutes to determine that they were, in fact, Bohemian based on the light marking on their wings.

After watching the waxwings, we drove by more farms and looked at many Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks.

Eventually, we found a long-tailed gray raptor on a utility pole.

 
Gyrfalcon! A lifer for the four of us. We also found a Prairie Falcon, a Merlin, and a couple of American Kestrels, giving us four falcons for the day.

 
With perfect weather and cooperative birds, our first winter trip to Wallowa County was a great success.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beers, Bridges, and Birds


Our President's Day Weekend began in Pacific City, where Sarah and I had been holed up for the week.

 On Saturday, we took part in Zwickelmania, Oregon's statewide brewery tour event, at Pacific City's own Pelican Brewpub. Our helpful brewer/tour guide explained the production method and poured us some generous samples of their high-caliber beer.

A day later, we drove North to Astoria, where we enjoyed epic stouts at the Fort George Brewery and took in great views from our riverfront motel. I am a total geek for Columbia River infrastructure, so I was sure to take some time to sketch the boat basin and the huge Astoria-Megler bridge, visible from our back deck.

 
I am also fascinated by the massive container ships that sit in Astoria's anchorage while awaiting orders from upstream ports.

It takes about 8 hours to transport their cargo from Astoria to Portland. Seems like a great way to spend a work day.

 
On Monday, we drove across the huge bridge into Washington and explored some new country along highway 4 between Ilwaco and Longview.

We stopped near the tiny village of Grays River to check out their covered bridge. Driving through it felt like visiting a car wash that had been stripped of its scrubbers.

 
Next, we toured the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge, near the town of Cathlamet. This refuge is a splendid mix of sloughs, creeks, spruce forest, and Columbia River beaches. The land was set aside to protect a small population of white-tailed deer.

We didn't see any of these deer, but we did see a lot of waterfowl, as well as our first Eared Grebe of the year.

 This white lumps above are Tundra Swans

The Greater Scaup was the duck of the day. We found large rafts of them in the area's creeks, sloughs, rivers, and ponds.


I could have spent the entire day at this refuge, but we had to return to reality in Portland. We're looking forward to our next wildlife refuge trip, however: a walk we are leading at Tualatin River NWR for Portland Audubon on Saturday.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Yamhill County Birdaversary


On February 1st, 2003, Sarah and I went on our first birding trip together. We drove from Norman, Oklahoma to Sooner Lake, near Stillwater. We didn't find the Smith's Longspur I'd hoped for, but I think I impressed Sarah with my ability to identify Field Sparrows. Ten years later, we continue to chase birds in nice rural settings.


 
Today we celebrated the milestone with a trip to Yamhill County to see a Tufted Duck, a Ferruginous Hawk, and whatever else we could find.


The Tufted Duck was easy to spot swimming with a nice in a mix of Pintails, Wigeons, and Ring-necked Ducks in a wetland along Chehalem Creek.



We next drove up to the Glacial Erratic Rock, deposited by the Missoula Floods, south of McMinnville. We hiked up to the rock and when we returned to the parking lot, the immature Ferrugious Hawk flew right in and landed in a field across the highway.


Two for two!


Before we returned home, we enjoyed some great views from Amity Winery and tried once again to find a Black Phoebe, this time in Dayton.



We struck out on the Phoebe again, but no worries, there are plenty around this winter.