Broughton Beach

All the cool kids headed to Broughton Beach recently to check out Lapland Longspurs. The beach is a quick drive from my house, so I thought I’d try my luck too.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a Least Sandpiper.

Least Sandpiper

A Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron

An American Pipit.

American Pipit

A Savannah Sparrow taking a mud bath.

Savannah Sparrow

A Savannah Sparrow hiding in a shrub.

Savannah Sparrow

A talkative gull (“Olympic Gull“?) protecting its catch.

Gul

Gull

And a Lapland Longspur!

Lapland Longspur

This one camouflaged itself nicely among the flocks of Horned Larks and Savannah Sparrows. I only got a brief look at the longspur and I missed its infamous flight-song display.

I had the most fun on this trip watching a flock of Horned Larks.

Horned Lark

I love the way they waddle along. Sibley calls it a “shuffling gait.”

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

Horned Larks are found in wide open areas with sparse vegetation and they breed in the high arctic tundra. Eremophila alpestris is Greek origin, eremos, a lonely place, and philia, meaning love. They are named for their “love of lonely places in the mountains.”   

Cool birds.

Horns and spurs!

Audrey

Perpetua Bank Pelagic Tour

This fall, I spent a day out in the Pacific Ocean with Oregon Pelagic Tours, in search of pelagic birds. Or as I like to call it, a day in the life of a bulimic.

The trip started out great.

Newport

I couldn’t be more excited at the chance to see skuas, albatross, and maybe even whales. I did everything right. I slept great the night before, I ate a bland breakfast, I even got a Scopolamine prescription. I stayed on the stern (back) of the boat in fresh air, and focused on the horizon. I thought: I feel good, I feel good, I feel good, I feel good, I’m not going to get sick. Then I proceeded to become incredibly ill.

Bridge sunrise

About five miles past the jetties, the sea swells really picked up. Past the Steller Sea Lions and the Marbled Murrelets (the birds that nest in coastal old growth trees!), and just before the Humpback Whale. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep it together for the whale sighting.

Steller Sea Lion

After the first incident, I thought maybe I’d recover. Nope. I was sick for the next four and a half hours. Ginger snap cookie? Threw it up. Dramamine? Too little, too late, threw it up. I couldn’t hold down ginger ale or even water. My stomach refused everything. Luckily, (or unluckily?) I was in good company. It became almost comical after the nth time over the rails. Almost.

We reached the turnaround point about 50 miles out to sea. This was actually my small turnaround point too. For about an hour, the water calmed and so did my insides. I could finally enjoy the birds!

Pelagic birds

And there were many to enjoy! (See the albatross in the middle? So big!) It was here we came across two fishing vessels swarming with thousands of birds.

Vessel

Fishing vessel

For the second time that day, but the first time I could watch, our boat chummed the water with fish oil and popcorn. It attracted a few birds like this Northern Fulmar.

Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar

And this other Northern Fulmar. Sinister-looking and unattractive, but at this point, I took what I could get.

Northern Fulmar

Side note: Speaking of vomit, check out this nutty but informative video about fulmar chicks using their vomit to deter predators like skuas and rock climbers.

Back to Black-footed Albatross.

Black-footed Albatross

Black-footed Albatross

There were so many other birds sighted on this trip. According to the trip list, we even saw 20 South Polar Skuas (!). I saw a few. I did not get any pictures.

After the turnaround point, we had a 5 hour return journey back to Newport against the sea swells. I felt weak and dehydrated and alternated between staying dry and ill in the cabin, and being ill outside and getting soaked by waves.

While a small part of me wanted to die on this trip, most of me was incredibly thankful for the experience. I gained immense compassion for others who have felt the torture of seasickness. And hats off to those who kept their stomach together this day. It took something beyond my capabilities. Here’s a more complete trip report from Tim Shelmerdine, one of the superhero guides. And here’s a link to better pictures from the trip (including many birds I missed), thanks to Nagi Aboulenein.

Ten seconds of swell:
 

 

It’s funny where birding will take you. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Tweets and chum!

Audrey

Bonney Butte and HWI

So, there’s this awesome organization called HawkWatch International.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Their study site in Oregon is at this awesome place called Bonney Butte.

Bonney Butte

There are several HWI monitoring sites across the American west and one in Vera Cruz, Mexico. They’re all open to the public, and visitation is encouraged (!). The sites are set up along optimal raptor migration paths where topography centralizes air thermals or “wind highways” the birds use to sustain energy while covering long distances during migration. Less flapping, more soaring.

A relatively smaller number of birds migrate over Bonney Butte, (2,500-4,500/yr vs. 4 million/yr in Vera Cruz), but it’s still apparently the best hawk-watching location in Oregon in the fall (open Aug 28-Oct 31). The last four miles of forest service road up to the butte is not in the best shape, think 4 miles = 40 min of slow, rocky dips and bumps (still worth it!!). I was happy to go as part of Audubon’s Raptor Identification & Migration class.

Bus ride

The class was led by birder extraordinaire and artist, Shawneen Finnegan and Dave Irons, another exceptional birder. We were in good hands. We arrived, hiked up the short, but steep distance to the top of the butte, and got to work looking for hawks.

Hawkwatching

Hawkwatching

Hawkwatching

Hawkwatching

Eventually, we saw a some. They fly over so fast, I only managed a handful of photos.

Not pictured: the numerous Sharp-shinned Hawks that whizzed by, the Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Merlin, and Red-tailed Hawks.

The highlight by far, was witnessing the trapping, banding, and release process.

Bird blind

Hawkwatching

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

The HWI team traps the birds, then weighs, measures, and bands them, before finally releasing them back on their way south. The above bird is a hatch year male Cooper’s Hawk. During our visit, they also banded an adult Cooper’s Hawk (below).

Cooper's Hawk

And a hatch-year female Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

So damn beautiful and inspiring.

Did I mention Hawkwatch International is awesome? Here’s a video that explains more about their great work.
 

 
Here’s my short video of the sharp-shinned release.
 

 
Watch those talons!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey