Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden II

What do you do when you have a couple of extra hours in the morning before Barre class? Go birding, of course!

This second trip to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden revealed what it looks like when it’s not pouring rain – spoiler alert!- it’s exceptionally gorgeous.

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I took some decent photos, I think. How kindly of the birds to pose for me.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow singing its heart out

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

American Crow

American Crow

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

This one puzzled me...turns out it's a Hybrid Canada Goose! According to Whatbird, it's a Domestic X Canada Goose - yep, that happens.

This one puzzled me…turns out it’s a Hybrid Canada Goose! According to Whatbird, it’s a Domestic X Canada Goose – yep, that happens.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

Wood Duck in a tree

Wood Duck in a tree

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

I can’t wait for baby Wood Ducks! (in May?)

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens

Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks!

Okay, that’s not exactly how the day started yesterday morning…it sounded more akin to me whining about birding in the rain. I signed up for one of Audubon’s free birding outings, a chance to learn more about  local wintering waterfowl at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens. I thought surely they would cancel due to the 2-3″ of rain predicted, but it was a rain or shine event, so I pulled my gear on and my butt out of the house and I’m glad I did!

The outing was led by Ron Escano, a birder of 40 years – he knows his stuff! He provided bird ID handouts, specifically on how to identify waterfowl using identification markers other than color field marks. This is important in low-lighted, cloudy, or rainy areas – basically anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll follow-up with a more detailed identification post, but for now, some highlights.

The Key Characters Used to Identify Waterfowl are:

  1. Relative Size
  2. Profile and Shape
  3. Behavior
  4. Black and White Field Marks
  5. Vocalizations
  6. Color Field Marks

Feeding behavior is extremely helpful for waterfowl identification.
Ducks can be broken into two groups depending on how they feed:

Dabblers– can walk on land, can launch off the water into flight without a long take off, and they feed with their rear-ends tipped up in the water. Examples: Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Wood Duck.

Divers– cannot walk on land, need a long take-off to fly from water, and they feed by diving under water. Examples: Scaups, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, Canvasback, Goldeneyes, Harlequin Duck, Ruddy Duck, and all other “sea” ducks.

Just observing a waterbird’s feeding behavior can quickly eliminate half of the species for identification. Easy peasy, right?

The park was beautiful. I can only imagine what it looks like in the spring with the flowers blooming. The birds also seem at ease here, providing a wonderful opportunity to see them up-close. I look forward to a return trip!

Oh and of course I saw Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks!

Species to Add to My List: 4

Wood Duck
Lesser Scaup
Pied-billed Grebe
Gadwall

Thanks for following!

Christmas Bird Count 2015

Last weekend I participated in the 115th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. What a treat! Originally I was hesitant because of my beginner skill level, but was assured all skill levels are welcome and I’m happy I participated.

I was shocked when I learned the history of the census. The holiday tradition started in response to what was called a “side hunt” where people went out and shot as many mammals and birds as they could find, and the “winner” was who killed the most. Heartbreaking (and infuriating…).

Bird populations declined, and the concept of conservation emerged. We can thank early Audubon ornithologist Frank Chapman for proposing a “Christmas Bird Census” to count rather than kill birds beginning on Christmas day 1900. More about this fascinating bit of history here. And here.

On January 3, 2015 our group of 12 volunteers spotted 71 different species in Area 1; the entire Columbian riparian area totaled 108 species.

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Image credits: http://audubonportland.org/local-birding/cbc

Portland’s 89th Christmas count is still being tallied (I’ll update), but per my insider information from Wink Gross, CBC compiler:

“The 89th Portland CBC was held today in chilly weather under overcast skies (i.e., “fog that you walk under”).    Over 230 field observers found 118 species, significantly below our 5-year running average of 124 and change.  The best bird was a PELAGIC CORMORANT, which is a new species for the Count and earned Adrian Hinkle the coveted “Eagle Eye Award”.  (Adrian also shared the award with his brother Christopher in 2009 for a Black-billed Magpie.)  Congratulations, Adrian!

Other good birds were, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, RED-NECKED GREBE, COMMON TEAL (aka “Eurasian Green-winged Teal”), GLAUCOUS GULL, and BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD.  There were no howling misses, but many of the species that “could go either way” went the wrong way.”

Wink mentions Adrian and Christopher Hinkle, who I met on the bird count. They are twins who are celebrities in the birder community. Their eye-sight, speed, attention to detail is incredible. According to an Oregonian article the boys have had an interest in birding since they were 5. They’re ~18 now and have evolved into birding savants.

Birding with experts blew my mind, and it was also exhilarating (to have the answers to the puzzles right next to you!). I saw way more birds than I would have on my own and I learned so much. To share the joy of birding with others who feel the same passion was refreshing and I look forward to joining more group birding experiences.

I didn’t take as many pictures as I normally would (busy counting birds!):

Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of the TWO GREAT HORNED OWLS we saw! A major highlight of my day. As a consolation, I have this video of a great blue heron ice-skating on a frozen pond:

Total new-to-me species I personally witnessed during the CBC:

Cackling Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bushtit
Brown Creeper
Bewick’s Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Lincoln Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Anna’s Hummingbird
Red-winged Blackbird

 

So thankful to be a part of this awesome event. Here is an Audubon Magazine article with highlights: 7 Surprises from the Christmas Bird Count