An excellent week of birds

It started when I left work early one day to find a rare Snowy Egret in the Vancouver Lake Lowlands that was associating with a Great Egret and Mallard decoy.

Also present were Greater Yellowlegs, a couple of hardy Tree and Barn Swallows, and Purple Finch, a year bird I was happy to see lower in the branches.

On the way out a flash of black and white caught my eye.

Ah, yes. Migration was in full swing as Snow Geese, Cackling Geese, and Sandhill Cranes came and went. I pulled over to take a look.

It was hard to pull myself away.

The following weekend I was excited to join Sarah and Max for some Oregon county birding. We went south on I-5 to Talking Waters Gardens, a place I’ve never birded before located in Linn County.

It was fantastic water treatment-wetland habitat full of American Wigeon, Hooded Merganser, Virginia Rails, and even one vocal Sora (my first Oregon Sora!). No visuals of the Sora, unfortunately, but we did locate three Black Phoebe.

1/3 phoebes

 Several Lincoln Sparrows.

And a moderately cooperative White-throated Sparrow hanging out in a corner of the ponds.

It was still early in the day when we completed the trails so we drove north making a quick stop at Waverly Park where we found a couple of Western Gulls and a FOY Green Heron. Then it was onward to Ankeny National Wildlife to (officially) add birds in Marion County which included distant Dusky Canada Geese with red neck collars.

And muddy-faced swans.

Not making it easy to ID

Luckily there were a couple with visible yellow lores helping to confidently ID them as the more expected, Tundra Swans.

We also stopped at the Rail Trail on the refuge to walk on a boardwalk through Oregon Ash wetlands.

The water was so high it reminded me a bit of Florida’s wetlands but without the moss and humidity. Along the trail we found more Black Phoebe, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, and Max heard a Red-breasted Sapsucker that we eventually spotted right at the water’s edge.

Not something you see every day.

The next morning I got up before dawn to chase a sea duck. There’d been a report of a female Steller’s Eider at Seaside Cove on the Oregon coast but I had an appointment with a tree-trimmer at 12:30pm so I didn’t have any time to waste. I left the house at 5am and arrived at Seaside when it was still dark. Luckily, there were already two birders there making me feel totally normal.

One was Trent Bray, avid birder and shop owner of Bobolink, a birding (disc golf, and beer) supply store in La Grande, Oregon. Trent had left La Grande at 1am that morning but it paid off because he already had the bird in the scope. We watched it dive and ride the waves drifting out farther as more birders arrived on scene.

The bird became harder to locate in the waves and we felt a bit bummed. But then the eider flew right back to us. Hooray!

What a good duck. We all cheered and took hundreds of photos. The blocky head, the pale eye-ring, and two white wing bars were clearly visible on this first-winter female bird. She was cooperative, clearly not minding the attention. Or the surfers.

Surfer, surfer, eider, scoter combo

Steller’s Eiders are listed as threatened and rarely found outside of Alaska. This is only Oregon’s fourth record.

I was giddy and thrilled I’d taken time to come visit her. And because it was so easy, I had at least 10 more minutes to look for a Palm Warbler at a nearby water treatment plant (thanks for the tip, Sarah!).

Success! I found it with minimal difficulty though it didn’t want to be seen. A warbler less cooperative than a rare sea duck, go figure. Running out of time I dashed the two hours home and made it within minutes of meeting the arborist. Winning.

Not far from the house on another day I found the Greater White-fronted Geese frequenting the golf course by Force Lake, and in a tree next to the parking lot a Sharp-shinned Hawk practicing being ferocious.

This one had perfected the stink-eye.

And on another local outing at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge I attempted to find a Red-shouldered Hawk. I’d unknowingly walked right by it until I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk that ignited the fire in the Red-shouldered and it vocalized loudly and chased its competition away.

Birding has been good to me this month. To say the least. Next month might be a different story, but more about that later. Until then, I’m enjoying everything I can get!

And that includes my FOY-yard Townsend’s Warbler!

Back and cute as ever.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Oahu Part 8 – Final Chapter

On our last morning on Oahu, just hours before our plane was to take off, we dared to squeeze in one more hike. Tomas’s legs had healed enough to walk normally and I couldn’t resist another chance for seabirds.

Makapu`u Point Hike on the southeastern point of the island is rumored to have amazing sunrises and good odds of birds from nearby nesting sites. We’d bailed twice before due to large crowds and traffic from another commercial film shoot.

But this morning we arrived so early I thought we might have trouble getting in. It was two hours before the park officially opened and the parking lot is gated. I had read controversy about people parking on roadsides as well as car break-ins and possible police citations. There is (legit) high demand for early entry since often the sun rises well before 7am.

We noticed a police car parked up the road so we figured either the rental car would be well protected or we’d get ticketed. We got out and entered the park under the moonlight and no one approached us. Step 1. complete. Feeling like we got away with something we continued along the path. Not long after, more rebellious souls casually joined along the trail in the dark. Hiking is totally normal.

The views were beautiful and the sunrise lovely.

Even prettier was the view on the opposite side of the lookout.

That’s Moku Manu, or “Bird Islandacross the water. We looked down below and were graced with views of Red-footed and Brown Boobies flying along the water surface.

Friends

They flew in mesmerizing formations over the water, a truly beautiful show.

I wasn’t entirely thrilled with my photos; leave it to Tomas to take the best booby picture.

Yesss. A ranger had mentioned if you get to the point early and are patient enough you might pick out a Masked Booby, but we didn’t on this morning. We were lucky to see more Humpback Whales breaching in the distance though. A nice consolation.

Then droves of tourists approached on the trail, and (to my horror) blasted music on small crappy speakers. The magic was over. We were running out of time and I was coming to terms with the fact I wasn’t going to see every bird species on the island hard as I tried. Shocker.

I missed out on White-tailed Tropicbirds and Shearwaters, and I even missed the mascot of Hawaii Audubon Society, the cute little forest dwelling ‘Elepaio.

Doesn’t count

I ended the trip with a total of 44 bird total species (+1 for the “Hawaiian Duck“). 9 migrants including 2 uncommon – Cackling Goose and White-faced Ibis, 6 indigenous species, 24 introduced species, and 5 endemics: Hawaiian Gallinule, Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Stilt, and the ‘Apapane, and ‘Amakihi.

Minor unfinished business and a great excuse to return to paradise. This trip was so fun. I’ll never forget the first foggy steps off the plane, the Great Frigatebird at Kona Brewery, my first Pacific Golden-Plover

Watching flying crabs at sunset (A’ama or Lightfoot Crabs!)

That crazy-eyed Mongoose at Diamond Head

Cattle Egrets chasing lawn mowers for insects

The unreal scenery

And of course the albatross that completely stole my heart

I have much to be grateful for. It was all worth it and the Makapu’u Hike was no different. We made it back to the car and on our way without incident.

And we enjoyed the last birds along the way.

Red-vented Bulbul

Red-crested Cardinal (for once I was okay with a backlit bird)

Spotted Dove

It was still early, but much brighter and we soaked up the sun’s warmth enjoying our last views before making the long journey home. And I’m glad we savored those moments because as it turns out we flew home to a major snowstorm in Portland…but more about that later.

Cheers to many more tropical adventures! And thanks for reading.

Mahalo,

Audrey

Kennewick, WA

Not long after birding Vancouver Lake, Tomas and I packed up the car for a return trip to southeastern Washington. I felt like there was more to be seen along the Snake River than the weekend before. I was right.

On the drive there (and back) we saw Bighorn Sheep! A first for both of us. My best photo taken from the car going 60 mph along I-84 on the Oregon side.

Bighorn Sheep

The weather was cold, rainy, and windy, so unfortunately camping was out.  Instead, we stayed at Clover Island Inn, which is situated on an island on the Columbia River. I thought it might get me closer to birds on the river, but I’m not sure I would recommend staying there, it’s kind of dumpy. And rather creepy.

Hotel twilight zone captured by Tomas.

Hotel twilight zone captured by Tomas.

The only birds I saw from the hotel were Horned Grebes, American Coots, Canada Geese, Song Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and gulls. The hotel’s most redeeming quality is that it’s within walking distance to Ice Harbor Brewery.

Geese

Geese on way to the pub

The party really picked up along the Snake River. We stopped at every park, from Hood Park to Fishhook Park, and back to McNary National Wildlife Refuge.

We saw Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Killdeer.

Red-tailed Hawk

Bald Eagle

Killdeer

And I met the angriest owl ever.

Murder

Murder

I’m pretty sure this one’s responsible for several deaths. Including that of at least one Barn Owl. So pretty, so sad. R.I.P. Mr Owl.

Barn Owl feather

Barn Owl leg

We also met an owl that I’m sure wouldn’t hurt a fly. Maybe a small mouse, but not a fly.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

My first Northern Saw-whet Owl!!! So cute!

Murder

Murder

Once the owl high wore off, I came to and noticed a few other birds. Including a new finch!

Cassin's Finch

Cassin's Finch

Cassin's Finch

Cassin's Finch

These are tough. They are either Purple or Cassin’s Finch (I am open to suggestions). Even Whatbird couldn’t agree. Female/juvenile Purple Finch have a distinctive face pattern, strong/blurry streaking on sides and chest, and a shorter bill. Cassin’s streaks are crisper, their beaks are longer with straighter sides, and they have a thin white eye ring. Male CAFI are raspberry red on top, PUFI can be rosy below the crown.

To make matters more interesting, in some parts of Washington both species will flock together. And House Finch will join in the fun too.

HOFI on left, CAFI/PUFI on right

HOFI on left, CAFI/PUFI on right

The more I see them the more I know what to look for. One unmistakable species we came across was a flock of California Quail.

California Quail

California Quail

Too bad I couldn’t get better pictures, they’re so pretty! There were at least 20 of them scurrying in the underbrush calling, clucking, and “pit-pit“-ing alarm calls. These birds have some fantastic sounds.

At McNary NWR, we stopped for a reported Black-crowned Night-Heron and American White Pelican. No luck on the night-heron, but while Tomas sat in the warm, comfy car he spotted the pelican sitting below a Great Blue Heron rookery! Great find!

American White Pelican

Meanwhile, I fought the wind and shrubs and came up with a Marsh Wren. Not bad either.

Marsh Wren

What an awesome trip. On the drive home we even made time for a quick hike at Coyote Wall, the land of sunshine, waterfalls, and rainbows.

Coyote Wall

Doggy

Yep, afterwards we were that content.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey