Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving week birds

Sarah and I have a lot to be thankful for, including a great week of Oregon birding.

On Tuesday we took what will probably be our last trip to eastern Oregon this year. We drove from Portland to La Grande and back to see a Red-bellied Woodpecker, the first confirmed record of this species in the state.

It took about two minutes of searching to find her working her way up a large cottonwood trunk.

We then checked out the small town of Cove to look for another typically eastern bird, a Blue Jay, that had been hanging around. We failed to find the jay, but on our way out of town Sarah spotted a bump on a willow branch and we pulled over to get it in the scope.

 A Great Horned Owl! Sarah won the eagle-eye award for the day.

We had also hoped to see American Tree Sparrows, so we drove along Peach Road to the Ladd Marsh Wildlife area.
We were able to spend  several minutes watching a pair pick through the gravel of a parking area. A great way to end a successful day of birding!

After two days of cooking and eating, we resumed birding on Friday. We didn't need to leave our house to find the first cool bird.

An immature Cooper's Hawk perched near our feeder, keeping it free from songbirds and squirrels.

After watching the hawk, we took a trip to Dawson Creek Park before watching the Oregon vs.Oregon State football game with Sarah's family.

We finally saw the Rusty Blackbird that has been there for nearly a month.

 Also at the park: a Hooded Merganser drake swam with his blurry-headed hen,

a pair of Wood Ducks perched on a rail,

a Great Blue Heron slept in a Doug-fir,

and an Acorn Woodpecker investigated a cavity in a birch tree.

It was nice to spend some time outside before the rain returns.

Go Ducks!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lark Bunting!

 Sarah and I spent a wonderful couple of days birding the farms and coastal areas of Tillamook County. The highlight birds included a Rock Sandpiper, Tropical Kingbirds (perching near the barn above), and a Swamp Sparrow. 

The most unexpected bird, however was this immature male Lark Bunting, a pretty rare species in Oregon, at Bayocean Spit. 

We were following a tip on a Lapland Longspur and it turned out to be a bunting. It perched conspicuously on the branches of shrubs and foraged on the upper and lower spit roads. It was by far the coolest bird we have ever seen in ten years of birding this area.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The pursuit of rustiness

Last Thursday, a Rusty Blackbird was spotted at one of our favorite birding spots, Dawson Creek Park in Hillsboro. Neither Sarah or I had seen this species before, so we hatched a plan to drive out there and find it as soon as we finished work. Since it was Halloween, I also planned to wear a Rusty Blackbird costume that night.
The first plan failed. By the time we got to the park, the bird had moved on for the day.

I wore my Rusty Blackbird costume anyway. I didn't scare any of the trick-or-treaters that came to our house, but I'm sure they all walked away confused.
On Friday morning, we tried Dawson Creek again. Again, we missed the Rusty, as did everyone else who looked that day. Later that night, we learned of a second Rusty hanging out at the Monmouth Sewage Ponds, about an hour south of our house. Decided to try our luck there the next morning.

The treatment plant workers left a gap in the gate for birders to wiggle through and view the main pond. After a few minutes of looking, we finally found our bird!

This female was not as rusty as the one in Hillsboro, but we had a great time watching her just the same. She acted just like a shorebird (which I had been told Rusties do), walking along the edge of the pond from rock to rock, eating whatever it is that lives in a sewage pond. We were eventually joined by other birders, who were delighted to see the Rusty, and a police officer, who had been told we were trespassing. We assured him that we had permission to wiggle through the gate and had not climbed the fence (this was apparently an important distinction), so he left us to our blackbird-watching.
As we drove back to Portland, we learned that the Hillsboro Rusty had returned to Dawson Creek that morning. Of course it did! Maybe we'll look for that one again. Maybe I'll wear my costume.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Osprey watch

During our latest stay at my in-laws' beach house, we enjoyed several days of beautiful weather and the company of one of our favorite fish-eating birds.

We first saw the Osprey on Saturday, when it landed on a nearby snag and we noticed that it was holding a fish. We scoped it through the kitchen window and identified the fish as a cutthroat trout, probably plucked from the Nestucca River just east of the property.
A day later, the Osprey returned to the snag with another fish, on which it dined until a Bald Eagle showed up to collect its daily fish tax. A brief chase ensued, and the Osprey surrendered what was left of its catch before flying off to the south.

A few hours later, the Osprey returned, this time with a starry flounder, a flatfish that she probably captured downstream in the Nestucca Bay estuary. We watched our new friend consume its flounder, bony fins and all, with no trouble from the eagle. We even filmed some footage of her ripping pieces from the fish she gripped tightly in her long, curved talons. After finishing the meal, she spent another hour perched on the snag, digesting and enjoying the view.
As we were packing to leave on Monday morning, the Osprey was back with yet another fish. We could not identify the fish species this time, but we enjoyed watching her grip it and rip it just the same.