Friday, January 17, 2014

The year's first chase

Unseasonably warm weather and reports of a wayward eider inspired a mid-week trip to the coast.

We pulled up to a beach on the northern edge of Newport and quickly found a flock of Surf Scoters and Black Scoters that have been associating with the Eider.

A few seconds later, we spotted the female King Eider, the first eider of any sort that Sarah or I had ever seen. That's her to the right of the Surf Scoter in the above photo.

We watched for several minutes as she floated and preened, seemingly oblivious to the waves frequently crashing on top of her. She eventually moved on to another location and we proceeded north to Pacific City.

A few days later, we took a detour along the Tillamook River on our way back to Portland.

The weather was spectacular and we found our first Eurasian Wigeon and Black Phoebe of the year.
 The region could use more rain, but we'll enjoy the sunshine while we can!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Our new favorite bird

The Palm Warbler has been a nemesis of ours for several years now.This species nests nowhere near Oregon and, as its name suggests, most winter in tropical or subtropical locations. A tantalizing few, however winter on the West Coast. The occasional reports of Palm Warblers on the Oregon coast are usually in areas where shrubs and small trees co-occur with barbed wire fences and pieces of unused heavy machinery. Here they seem to have traded palm trees for rusty objects. We visited many of these sites in recent winters, often in the wind and rain, and found plenty of Yellow-rumped Warblers and sparrows, but no Palm Warblers. We had hoped to add this species to our Oregon list this year, but after a bleak trip to Astoria two weeks ago, we had made peace with throwing in the towel for 2013.

Our outlook changed on Saturday night when very precise directions to a Palm Warbler were posted online. We followed the directions to the northeast corner of the Seaside water treatment plant, which had plenty of barbed wire and rusting objects

It was a nice sunny day and songbirds were active, raising hopes that the Palm Warbler would be out and about.

In no time, an energetic little bird flew up to the fence and then perched on a railing, revealing the diagnostic yellow feathers on the underside of its tail. We watched for several minutes as it bobbed its tail and plucked insects from the air. Palm Warblers: they do exist!

A little later in the day, we visited the Nehalem Sewage Ponds to help a friend find a Lincoln's Sparrow for her year list. As I narrowed in on the Lincoln's, Sarah shouted "two Palm Warblers!" Sure enough, a pair called frequently and darted out to capture insects from the wire fence in the photo above.
We saw many great birds in 2013, but Sunday's three Palm Warblers may be the most memorable of all.