The best day in 5MR birding

It might be premature to call it, but I might have had my best 5MR birding day. It started early on Mt Tabor Park where I met up with Sarah, Eric, Laura, Dick, and a couple of Dick’s friend’s who were all up for finding some spring migrants. We barely got started when we heard a sharp “pip-pip-pip” that Sarah and Laura identified as Red Crossbills. Sweet, a new 5MR bird already!

We continued walking up the trail when Sarah looked up and said “What the hell is that?” You know it has to be good when that happens – indeed it was! There was a Short-eared Owl circling over Mt Tabor!!!

Unbelievable. The park is much more forest than grassland so this was highly unexpected. Maybe migrating over? It had a meal in its talons and looked like it was looking for a place to land. We never saw it land, but it circled around in the sky for quite some time.

This was not a new 5MR bird (I’d seen one near the airport in February), but it was a new park bird for me and one of the coolest things I’ve seen there. Everyone loves owls and this was a great start. We followed up by checking on the Great Horned Owl nest in the park that has a confirmed set of three (!) owlets! Tomas met up with us and took this great family portrait:

Other highlights were nesting Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Lesser Goldfinch, Bushtits and multiple warblers including Black-throated Gray, Orange-crowned, Townsend’s, and Nashville Warblers. They are the reason for the season.

We missed MacGillivray’s Warbler and Chipping Sparrow. I’d spent about 6 hours and 9 miles the day before birding Tabor hoping to bump into a Chipping Sparrow but no dice. So it was surprising to me when I got home to read someone had found one at the Fire Station near Broughton Beach. Birdmergency! I was tired but able so I went to look and surprisingly Tomas was game to join.

It was so easy. Right along the fence line, past the Killdeer and mixed in with Savannah Sparrows was a bright and appropriately chipper Chipping Sparrow.

Occasionally it hopped up and perched on the fence. I was so relieved (little did I know I’d find one in the park outside my work office a couple of weeks later).

We then got a text from a friend that the Tabor owlets were waking up, flapping and looking around and Tomas had only one more day with his rented 100-400mm lens so since there was still daylight left we returned to Tabor for a sunset with the owlets.

Not even dark yet, a parent brought in a large rat (!). Tomas captured the special moment:

The owlets fed, fat and happy settled down while we chatted with an older couple watching nearby. They asked us if we’d seen the screech owls in the neighborhood and mentioned there were “loads of them.” Outside I said “Oh, no I haven’t, that’s cute” while inside I was “WHAT?! WHERE!?!

Inspired by the day, Tomas and I decided to follow the lead and poke around the nearby neighborhood. One thing led to another and we ended up looking at whitewash under a suspect cedar tree. A couple of older ladies walked by noticing us and asked if we’d seen the owl yet. The lead got hotter. They pointed to a hole in a pergola to pay attention to and we waited.

Just after 8pm I saw an owl fly out of the cedar tree!!! I (silently) lost my mind and motioned to Tomas to look at a branch where it sat perched in an alder tree in someone’s backyard.

No freakin way. Then we heard a “bouncy ball” call and a second owl flew out of the hole!!!

What’s better than one owl? Loads of owls. Tomas took all the screech owl photos.

While I died and went to owl heaven. It has been my (4-year long) dream to find a Western Screech Owl on Tabor (which these owls were not exactly on), but close enough (for now). And it is positively in my 5MR leaving me jumping for joy. I’m so happy they are here.

Tomas and I visited them a second night and witnessed a prey exchange between the two owls leaving me hopeful they’ll raise another generation of adorable murder-muppets. Time will tell, but we’ll be sure to give the owls their space.

It’s the penultimate of 5MR birding! I think I can retire now.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

6 Lincoln County Birds

One of my goals this year was to bring my Lincoln county species list from 194 to 200. This would be challenging as I’ve seen a lot of birds in this county (many from a boat) and it was early in the season for major migration, but I wanted to pay the ocean and my dad (a new resident of Newport) a visit. I needed to get out of the house and (bonus) the forecast promised sunny weather.

Lies

As per usual, the coast had other ideas and the day started off with drizzly fog. My dad and I wiped our binoculars (I dried my tears) and we carried on. We started in a clearcut with recent Mountain Quail reports (not a county bird, but always fun too look and listen for), but no “quarks” were heard. It was time for my backup plan already. We moved to another clearcut farther east where I heard my first Mountain Quail two years ago. The area was quiet and slow, but right after we’d given up (and before the logging trucks barreled through) we saw them!

Just in time

There were three, two hurled themselves up the hillside, while one male stayed defending the roadside. So cool knowing they actually exist.

From here it started raining harder so we decided to look for ducks at Devil’s Lake State Recreation Area in Lincoln City. We walked the boardwalk to the boatramp and immediately saw one of my targets. Wood Duck! #195

This was one species I thought would be harder to find, but they were nice and cooperative. I waded through a huge puddle out to the end to scope for a Lesser Scaup or Gadwall, but none were around.

The things we do for ducks

I ended up picking out a small brown swallow, later confirmed in photos as Northern Rough-winged Swallow #196. A nice reward for braving the puddles.

We continued looking for Eared Grebe at Boiler Bay, a (rare) Rough-legged Hawk at Siletz Bay, or anything new to add but we found more enjoyment from exploring new Lincoln County hotspots (like the Alder Island Nature Trail in Siletz Bay NWR) than having any luck finding new birds. By late afternoon, the sun finally came out so we decided to drive back to the originally rained out logging road spot.

So much better

We heard the same Wrentit, White-crowned Sparrows, and Orange-crowned Warblers as before, but just as we were about to leave the magic happened.

Time stopped and my brain melted as I stuttered “there’s a pygmy owl, there’s a pygmy owl, THERE’S A PYGMY OWL!” I backed away, but this Northern Pygmy-Owl (#197) did not care about us.

It sat perched looking around for a long while, barely glancing our direction before flying to another slightly farther spot very much alert scanning for a snack.

It was hard to leave, but eventually I pulled myself away. It would have been cool to watch it hunt, or see if it would call, but I felt lucky to just have seen it and left it to do its owl job. It was solid Mountain Quail-Pygmy Owl day and the trip was already worth it.

The next morning was even more encouraging with more sun, less rain, and we were excited to see what we’d find next. We tried a few new spots before succumbing to the clearcut again. No owls this time, but lo and behold were a pair of Western Bluebirds!

After this, we retried an earlier spot at S Gorton Rd recommended by Phil Pickering a local birder, where I found Wilson’s Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and one Black-throated Gray Warbler #199! that did not want its photo taken, so here’s a White-throated Black-and-White cookie instead.

Photo by Flickr user Bill: https://www.flickr.com/photos/swerz/

We made a few more stops; at the South Jetty we saw handsome Red-necked Grebes and Hatfield Marine Science Center Whimbrels and peeps flew over the bay, before I said my goodbyes and headed home. We’d done an excellent job at finding 91 species, including 5 new Lincoln County birds for me, and a few of life birds for my dad.

On my drive back to Portland, there was one more surprise in store. I stopped at the Van Duzer Rest Area (just inside the county boundary) and wished an American Dipper into existence!

Lucky #200!

I’d done it! I’d found 6 new Lincoln County birds in two days. Such an incredible time!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Tabor Times

As I recover from surgery and gradually regain my freedom, I find myself continually balancing birding with not overdoing it. Not an easy task. Especially during spring migration. Which is how I’ve ended up visiting Mt Tabor Park three times in one week.

Too much? Probably, but it’s also how I saw someone’s lost Gyrfalcon.

Say what?! Yep. More about that story in this news report here. The bird has not been refound and may still be heading north.

I’d been up at Tabor for the warblers, of which there’s been a nice mix.

Townsend’s Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

And even a Nashville Warbler.

Busy looking for insects.

Show them how it’s done Black-throated Gray Warbler.

Nice. It’s such a thrill to see these bright colorful birds. Not just warblers, there was also my FOY Warbling Vireo.

Warbling Vireo

And heaps of adorable Hermit Thrushes.

And everybody’s favorite to I.D. headless-tailless-silent flycatchers!

Name that bird

Angry owl is unamused

Okay, how about now.

Long primary projection (wings) in relation to the (notched) tail, small dark bill, and slight eye-ring = Hammond’s Flycatcher!

Compared to:

Peaked head, oval eye-ring, shorter wings, and yellow lower mandible, and luckily this one called its high-pitched hoo-WEET (ascending dog-whistle), confirming Pacific-slope Flycatcher. Every year it’s only slightly easier.

Besides finding migrants, it’s been amusing to see the resident birds building nests.

Awkward

Oh hello there, Red-breasted Sapsucker.

And another cool find was a Brown Creeper nest behind the bark of a large, living Douglas-fir tree. It was fun watching it gather tiny fibers and even spiderwebs to build the nest.

This will do nicely

I look forward to checking in on these guys in the upcoming weeks. There’s much to look forward to as spring healing continues.

Happy as a hummer catching insects.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey