Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lake County birding



Lake County, Oregon is a beautiful place with over 8,000 square miles, fewer than 8,000 residents, and no stoplights. The county has an incredible variety of vegetation types and birds, making it one of our favorites in the state.

 
Sarah and I made our third annual visit  to the county last week and we found 107 species of birds in three days.

 
On of our favorite sites in the county is Fort Rock, which attracts all sorts of hawks and eagles, as well as cliff-nesting birds such as White-throated Swift and Say's Phoebe.

 
After visiting the rock we drove south through Paulina Marsh, which is really a series of pastures that hold a lot of birds when they're flooded.  

Among the birds in the marsh was a Sandhill Crane that could barely fit on its nest. 

The real hotspot on the trip was Summer Lake Wildlife Area. We stayed in a nice little motel across the road from the headquarters and we drove the tour loop several times while we were there. During each drive, we found crazy numbers of birds that we rarely, if ever see on the western side of the state, including


American Avocets


 and Yellow-headed Blackbirds

In addition to birds we saw:

 
A Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. Beautiful!

A western Fence Lizard

 And a Brown's Peony 

With all of the amazing birds and beautiful vistas, it was hard to leave Lake County, but a storm that brought wind, rain, hail, and freezing temperatures helped. On Wednesday, we left for the milder climate of the coast where we spent a lot of time drinking coffee and wine during a drizzly Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Band-tailed update

 The Band-tailed Pigeon pair is still hard at work nesting in our backyard.

 
One adult is always on the nest and, when it's time to change, the other flies into our birch tree and glares at us until we pick up our drinks and retreat into our house.

Assured that the coast is clear, he or she flies from the birch on the right into the pyrocantha on the left. The switch occurs, and the relieved bird flies off to do its thing.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Birdathon 2013


 

On Saturday, Sarah and I led our seventh Birdathon fundraising trip for the Audubon Society of Portland. Our route took us from Hillsboro to Cannon Beach to Tillamook Bay and back.

One of our best stops was at the Nehalem Bay Sewage ponds, which always turns up good birds. We found an interesting flock of geese that had been reported earlier in the week. The flock contained many Greater White Fronted Geese, a few Cackling Geese, one Ross's Goose, and seven Snow Geese.

It doesn't get much better than this during the month of May!

We also found a flock of American Pipits mingling with Western and Least Sandpipers on the rocks surrounding the ponds.

Another great spot was Bayocean Spit on Tillamook Bay. Here we found an American Avocet and four Red Knots. The Red Knots were life birds for most of the participants, so the trip ended on a very high note.

Thanks to perfect weather and very sharp birders, we ended the day with 121 species, a new record for our group. I'm not sure how we'll top that next year.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Northern New Mexico

Last week I visited New Mexico for a little field work. On Tuesday, I made an epic drive from Albuquerque north to Abiquiu and back. Along the way I saw some cool things.

I made a quick stop at Valles Caldera, a beautiful grassland that was once the interior of a massive volcano.

The Los Conchas wildfire burned much of the forest surrounding Valles Caldera.

This one was a scorcher and it may be centuries before woody vegetation returns to these hillsides.

Among the things I love about the Southwest are roadside shrines like the one above. I don't have a particular religious reason to enjoy them, I just think they look cozy. When I stopped to check out this shrine near the Chama River, I noticed another cozy nook on the cliff in the background.

A Common Raven on a nest. It was a religious experience after all!

There was a second raven nest on a utility pole outside of Abiquiu. This one had downy nestlings begging inside.

My final stop before returning to Albuquerque was the tiny village of Chimayo.

I found some ancient churches with more nooks and bought some red chile, a local specialty, to bring home.

Now that my New Mexico fieldwork is complete, I plan to spend much of May birding around Oregon. Stay tuned!