Monday, March 17, 2014

The Wonderful World of the Willamette Valley

On Friday we drove south from Portland in search of woodpeckers and owls.

We found our woodpeckers in some big oaks outside of Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge.

 A Lewis's Woodpecker flew from this club-shaped branch before we could take a picture.

This Acorn Woodpeckers was much shyer than the ones we know in Washington County.

After Ankeny, we walked the dog through Willamette Park in Corvallis. This big, lovely park had an active Great-blue Heron Rookery in the tall cottonwoods across the river.

We then paused for happy hour on the third floor of Sky High Brewing in Corvallis. The views and beers were terrific.

Our last, and best, stop of the day was off a road by the Bald Eagle roost near Tangent. The eagles roost in this stand cottonwoods during the winter and we counted at least 25 adult and immature eagles perching for the night. The real attraction, however, was the abundance of Short-eared Owls working the fields on both sides of the road.

We've never seen so many owls doing so many things! They rested on the ground, hunted from the air, and communicated by clapping their wings together beneath their bellies and making hoarse, cat-like calls. We counted six short-eareds at one time, but there were probably more. We also heard a Great-horned Owl and a Western Screech-Owl calling in the distance.

We watched and listened to the owls until the sun set behind the coast range and the moon rose over the Cascades.

This early evening show was easily one of the best birding experiences we've ever had in Oregon.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Motorless March

A few months ago, our blogging friend Jen inspired us to start a motorless birding list for 2014. This is list will include all of the bird species we see while traveling from our house without the aid of an internal combustion engine. These lists have been the rage of eco-minded birders for several years, but we'd resisted the idea because of the geography of our neighborhood. We have plenty of trees and songbirds, but there is not much water or wetlands around here to attract waterfowl and fish-eating birds. We have only one bike between the two of us, so we figured that building a good motorless list would require some long hikes.

We took our first big motorless hike on Tuesday afternoon. We left Multnomah Village and headed west down Vermont Road, crossed Oleson Blvd, and continued on to the Oregon Episcopal School Wetlands in Beaverton.

This pond, two miles from us as the Merlin flies, is the closest that we know of and it did not disappoint.

We found dabbling and diving ducks, a kingfisher, a heron, and the first Turkey Vulture and Tree Swallows of the year. The biggest surprise was a White-breasted Nuthatch, a species we usually only see near large oak trees.

We added 17 species to our motorless list, so the hike was a big success. Next, we'll see if we can find the Willamette River.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Slow February

I haven't updated the much because February was a pretty quiet month of birding. At the start of the month, we were trapped in our neighborhood by a snow storm, but we had lots of fun slipping and sliding around the neighborhood.

The snow eventually melted and we ventured out and found some signs of bird life:

A pair of Bald Eagles near their nest on Sauvie Island.

A Harris's Hawk near Highway 79 (work trip to Arizona)
A tiny Bufflehead swimming near a pier in Astoria

Last week, we toasted the end of February with stouts from Fort George Brewery in Astoria

 Here's to a March that will be birdier than February!