I’ve waited so long to post about my yard birds, I’m afraid most of those sightings have expired. Remember that time it snowed? Yeah, well, we had Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Dark-eyed Junco, Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Townsend’s Warbler, Anna’s Hummingbird…and a first for the yard, a Varied Thrush!
Varied Thrush doesn’t care, he’s long gone by now.
Since winter, I’ve upgraded the suet and bird feeder to Squirrel Buster designs saving me a ton of money on seed.
And disappointing the hairy seed snatchers.
While making the birds and I very happy.
Lesser Goldfinch and Pine Siskin
Red-breasted Nuthatch and Bushtits
See the chew marks on the cage? And the smiling Red-breasted Nuthatch? Squirrel Busters FTW.
And tonight! – I was rewarded for taking the compost outside, because I opened the front door to this!
Woah! The birds were calling, “alarm! alarm!” I quickly set down the compost bin and grabbed my camera that was thankfully nearby, locked and loaded.
I got a sense from the size and thinner legs that it’s an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk. Here’s a better picture to get a sense of the size of the bird.
I’d say smaller than a crow, slightly larger than a robin. But as we all know, size lies, so I’m open to interpretation. Anyways, the bird hopped down on the fence and continued the hunt.
I sat on the floor at my front door admiring its ferocity (with just a hint of guilt knowing that it’s probably there because of the bird feeders). Fortunately, a group of brave chickadees chased it away before anyone got hurt. In my yard at least. Whew, exciting! Glad I forced myself out of the hammock to do a little cleaning. Totally worth it.
Last weekend I went on a solo-trip to Bend that started at 2:30 am. I would have started at 2 am but I thought I’d sleep in a little.
Sounds like a good idea, right? I thought so. I wanted to get the three hour drive from Portland over with and hoped to arrive at Shevlin Park near sunrise to maximize birding time. Bonus was seeing the Great Horned Owl from the car on the drive there (sadly, no pics).
What a great park! It’s Bend’s largest park at 647 acres with miles of hiking through beautiful pine forests. I read up on the many woodpeckers that call the park home, and was excited to start the morning with a sapsucker.
I thought I would get better views of the bird, but this was all I got before it flew away and turned invisible. The messy black and white barring on back and red patch on the nape makes me want to call it a Red-naped Sapsucker, but I didn’t get a good look at the throat, and where is the white stripe on the side? I feel more comfortable just calling it Generic John-Doe Sapsucker.
Thankfully other woodpeckers like Lewis’s Woodpeckers abound in this park, and there is no mistaking this bird.
So easy to identify
And the star of the park in my opinion, and one of the reasons I put it at the top of my list, is the Pygmy Nuthatch!
Yay tiny nuthatch! New bird! Not the easiest to take photos of, but so fun to watch. It was hopping in,on, and around a snag shared with a pair of Lewis’s Woodpeckers.
Calliope Hummingbirds were sighted at the park recently, but I only found Anna’s. Still stunning.
I listened to Wilson’s and MacGillivray’s Warblers that I never saw, but I did see one flycatcher.
If you’re lucky, you see a bird. If you’re really lucky, you see a bird sing. If you’re really really really lucky, birds will give you a little something extra. This one gave me a tail-wag. I have never been so happy to see a wagging tail because that is the diagnostic move of the Gray Flycatcher. Empidonax identified!
I got a few other birds including Black-headed Grosbeak and House Wren, both delightful year birds.
I wrapped up hiking at the park when it became too bright and late in the afternoon, and after I started turning Eurasian Collared-Doves into Clark’s Nutcrackers (one of the birds I really wanted to see).
Right colors, wrong bird
I set up camp at Cold Springs Campground in Sisters, took a quick nap to recharge, then set off again to find a particular woodpecker. I walked through the thick Ponderosa Pine at the campground while listening to Mountain Chickadees and Chipping Sparrows when I heard tapping. I adhered to the good advice from Jen’s blog and followed the pecking sound.
Huzzah! White-headed Woodpecker!
Oh how I love this bird. It’s like something out of a fairy tale. Birds like these don’t exist. No, but they do! Here’s an exciting video of this one excavating:
I slept soundly that night. But when I woke up the next morning, I had nutcrackers on the brain. It’s funny how that works. See one good bird and you want to see another. I checked eBird and saw recent Clark’s Nutcracker sightings at Black Butte and it looked like the perfect four mile round-trip hike.
When I drove towards the butte it looked like this:
After driving another 10 miles (5 miles up a narrow gravel road), I got to the trailhead at 6 am. Too late for sunrise, and as it turns out I too late for any sun at all. As soon as I ascended the trail, clouds moved in and I could barely see the trail.
Through the haze I found foggy FoxSparrowsand heard many others singing their lovely song.
About this time, I heard a noise behind me and a man walked up the trail. He asked if I had heard him blow his whistle. He had no hiking gear but he did have a safety whistle around his neck. I told him I thought I’d heard something, and he told me he blows his whistle to let the little critters know he’s coming through. Okay then.
I didn’t reply and he hiked on. It was too early in the morning for crazy people, right? Or at least dangerous crazy people? I considered turning around and returning to my car. But…nutcrackers. So I hiked on.
The clouds continued to roll in. If I waited long enough I got very brief looks at the mountains in the distance. It would be a beautiful hike on a clear day.
No so much this day. It rained. I pushed on. The wind blew harder. I kept going. Slowly. So slowly that I saw Whistle Man returning back down the trail. Oh boy.
He said he’d wondered what happened to me. Then he explained he carries a whistle because he’s scared of mountain lions and bears. We chatted about hiking, birds, the terrible weather. He said his name was Jerry. It got colder and he moved on down the trail while I continued upward. Dodged that one.
I made it to the top of the butte but the wind was blowing even harder by then and there were no birds in sight. I could barely even see the fire lookout.
I returned down the trail, nutcrackerless and defeated, passing more people hiking up the trail along the way. The lower down the butte I went, the sunnier it became.
I got back to my car and found a note on the windshield.
Hilarious. Instead of a Clark’s Nutcracker I found a Jerry.
What better way to end Godwit Days than with a Shorebird Spectacle at the marsh?
Not a bad idea. Led by David Fix, author of Birds of Northern California, the spectacle trip started at the mudflats at Humboldt Bay. Unfortunately, the tide didn’t cooperate and most of the birds were pretty far in the distance.
Poor attempt at digiscoping
The view was challenging especially for someone with limited shorebird experience, but I managed to at least identify a few Black-bellied Plovers in the faraway mix.
We moved to the nearby marsh for closer shorebird views.
Two godwits and a willet
And Semipalmated Plovers were a nice surprise! I wish I had gotten closer views, they’re so freakin cute.
I’m learning shorebirds, slowly but surely. Okay, way more slowly than anything. Their subtleties are overwhelming. I thought if I left this trip learning one new thing, I’d be happy.
So, the thing I picked up was that as with many birds, a trick to distinguishing Long-billed vs Short-billed Dowitchers, is with their distinctive calls. Long-billed has a short flight call (high-pitched keek), Short-billed has a long flight call (mellow tu tu tu). Here’s a video from the trip of those calls in action:
Whew, that’s tough. Taking it one peep at a time.
After my last official Godwit Days trip, Tomas and I had an entire afternoon free and we made the most of it. We first went to the North Jetty to look for Black Turnstones. We picked them out easily. Pretty bird.
We crossed Humboldt Bay to King Salmon and watched Pelagic Cormorant, Brant, Surf Scoter, and Red-breasted Merganser feed in the bay.
We also watched crabs battle on the rocks. Just as fun as you think.
It was around this time that I realized I hadn’t seen a Wrentit yet. It was one target speices I’d hoped to see while in California. So, we left to try our luck at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
On the drive there I read up on the bird, “common but difficult to see in dense brushy habitats,” the song an accelerating “bouncing ball.” I was excited to meet this bird. We turned onto the visitor center access road, drove slowly with the windows rolled down, and almost immediately, as if we’d somehow summoned the bird, we heard the bouncing ball!
Named appropriately, this bird looks like a mashup of a wren and a bushtit. And it’s just as energetic as both. I was stoked when I finally got a look at this sneaky little bird.
The rest of our mid-day walk consisted of Song Sparrows, Barn Swallows, Black Phoebe, and I even got a quick look at a Merlin!
A little later, I mentioned to Tomas that I hadn’t seen a hummingbird yet on this trip. To which he replied, you mean like that one there? And pointed to an Anna’s Hummingbird right next to us.
Well, hello there
Poof, just like that. Hummingbird, check!
We walked and birded until the blazing heat forced us to retreat back to the local brewery where we toasted to all the fun times we had exploring Arcata. Cheers to a fantastic trip! Spotted owl, Sibley, Wrentit!…and of course godwits!