Eider to Gyrfalcon in a Day

Last week Jen invited me on a mid-week coast trip to chase rarities. I was thrilled to skip work for a day-trip with the potential for an Eider-Brambling-Costa’s-Thrasher combo.

Rarity rainbow

We left at 4am, but that was fine because we took naps in the car while Ralph did most of the driving. Good boy, Ralph.

Along the way we filled up on coffee, pastries, and new county birds – Wild Turkeys! Until we made it to Fossil Point at low tide just as planned. Jen set the scope up and almost immediately found the King Eider. 20 minutes later scanning through wafts of sea ducks I also had the eider!

Scan, scan, scan – King Eider!

Not a bad looking sea duck. Common in the arctic, they rarely visit south of Alaska. Jen also pointed out a Long-tailed Duck in the crowd which was another first for me. The tide started coming in reminding us we’d better move on but it was hard to leave such a large flock of good birds.

On route to our next destination we made a quick stop at Oregon Dunes Recreation Area to let the dogs out and stretch our legs.

A nice surprise we found creeping in the bushes by the restrooms was a Wrentit! A first for me in Oregon! I haven’t seen one of these cute charismatic birds since my trip to California.

An hour north and an hour and a half later the Brambling was a no-show no thanks to the Peregrine and Cooper’s Hawk that jetted in and out of the neighborhood. It was pretty quiet aside from the occasional Dark-eyed Junco and Fox Sparrow.

Not so pretty perch for a pretty bird

Reluctantly, we accepted defeat and left for the next hour drive north to look for a visiting Costa’s Hummingbird. Just as we turned out of the neighborhood though a FOY Turkey Vulture flew right over the car that made defeat feel so much better. Nothing like a migrating pick-me-up.

A quick stop at Bob Creek Wayside along the way also helped.

Here we found Black Turnstones.

Black Oystercatchers, Surf Scoters, and another new bird for me the Surfbird!

I’m not sure how this bird has flown under my radar thus far but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized.

There were also plenty of gulls at this stop.

Some Herring, mostly California

California Gull

Back on track we made it to the Costa’s site in a neighborhood in Newport, but unfortunately we found out the hummer was visiting less reliably.

Right place, wrong time

The gracious homeowner let us watch the feeder anyways where we did see “Piglet” a wintering Orange-crowned Warbler that has a habit of feeding at the hummingbird feeder. We also saw a Hairy Woodpecker, more Fox Sparrows, and a glimpse of a White-throated Sparrow. But no Costa’s.

While in Newport we decided to check out the herring spawning event in Yaquina Bay where we watched loads of sea lions and birds drunk on fish.

Red-necked Grebe

Pelagic Cormorant

Looking closer at my photos I also found a Long-tailed Duck in the long line of sea birds that were far in the distance.

Barely diagnostic photo

It was late afternoon at this point and we realized we had a big decision to make. The Brown Thrasher was the last target species we’d originally anticipated, but there was also a report of a Gyrfalcon an hour and a half east near Eugene that was now tempting us. Which rare bird to chase next?? Birder problems.

Since it would be a life bird for both of us and a rarer opportunity we opted for the Gyrfalcon. Unlike that time I almost saw a Gyrflacon, with about an hour of sunlight left, we found the bird.

Is something on fire? “Our birding skills!” (- Jen)

Along with two other birders we watched and admired this amazing creature from afar (maybe silently wishing it was closer). It turned around and re-positioned itself and I noticed that Gyrfalcons wear pantaloons.

Or at least the feathered legs make it look that way. And not obvious in my photos, but Gyrfalcons are the largest falcons in the world. And seeing one was a great way to end an amazing birding trip. We watched until it flew off into the sunset.

Not a bad day for an Eider-Long-tailed-Surfbird-Gyrfalcon combo!

Of course I enjoyed all the birds we saw. Even the Mallards.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Commonwealth Lake Park and Cedar Mill Wetlands

Aside from Moody’s bill, my trip to Commonwealth Lake Park last weekend was fantastic. Bird-word on the street is that Green Herons nest here, plus, this spot is close to Cedar Mill Wetlands where the BirdsEye app shows a Rufous Hummingbird visited two days prior (!!).

The first bird I saw though, was a warbler!

Orange-crowned Warbler

The uniform yellow-green color, sharp pointy bill, and invisible orange crown leads to Orange-crowned Warbler! Super cute in a non-descript sort of way.

The park was thriving with Yellow-rumped Warblers as well, and now I realize, as my birder-mentor and friend, Laura Whittemore, pointed out, some are a little different than others I’ve seen before this trip.

Yellow-throat:

Yellow-rumped Warbler Audubon's

Not yellow throat!

Yellow-rumped Warbler Myrtle

Yellow-rumped Warbler Myrtle

Yellow-rumped Warbler Myrtle

All are Yellow-rumped Warblers, however there are two varieties: Audubon’s Warbler that has the yellow throat, and the Myrtle Warbler that has a white throat, white eye-stripe, and contrasting cheek. According to Wikipedia, the two populations likely diverged during the last ice age. Nowadays, these abundant warblers are considered “conspecific” or belonging to the same species. Who doesn’t love challenging warbler identification?

An easy ID was this Green Heron. So dang thrilling.

Green Heron

few other birds I saw at Commonwealth Lake Park included Barn Swallows (that nested under the small lake dock!), Great Egret, and Mallard (with a chick!).

I then traveled to Cedar Mill Wetlands with the hopes of a Rufous encounter – spoiler alert, while I was flashed briefly by what I think was an orange-red gorget of the Rufous Hummingbird, I didn’t get another look or photo to confirm.

I did, however, get pictures of Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Spotted Towhee, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Song Sparrow, lovey-dovey Mourning Doves, and a few other birds.

Acutally I think the lovey-doves deserve more attention. Maybe put on some soft music, light some candles, viewer discretion advised, kids.

Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves

So Tweet!

Audrey

Steigerwald and Warblers!

A week ago, my boyfriend Tomas joined me on one of my best birding trips yet.

I was hesitant to try out Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge before the seasonal trails open (May-Nov), but it was totally worth going. The park is a picturesque 1,049 acre setting of pastures, woodlands, and wetlands along the Columbia River with plenty to see and explore without the seasonal spur.

Upon entering the trail system, we got a great look at a Northern Harrier. Who can resist that charming flat owl-like face?

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Following the trail, we came across a flash of feathers near the water’s edge. I investigated further to find an American Bittern!

American Bittern

Moving slowly and steadily, the bittern was on the prowl for a tasty bite of breakfast.

American Bittern

Not long after this, I saw my first migratory warbler! A Common Yellowthroat!

Common Yellowthroat

And after that, I saw a bunch more!

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

So dang cute. They were up, down, flying all around, singing, and “warbling” adorably. It took patience to get photos, but I even managed a single shot of a female.

Common Yellowthroat female

Later, a passerby alerted me to this handsome fella dabbling in the pond.

Cinnamon Teal

A Cinnamon Teal, what a treat!

Cinnamon Teal

Stigerwald turned up plentiful wildlife for us to see.

One of my favorite pictures of the day is of this Ring-necked Pheasant. He has a beautiful sunset-colored chest. A much better view than my first encounter on Sauvie Island. This bird was cackling loudly and making a fuss.

Ring-necked Pheasant

Perhaps he was displaying for his nearby lady friend.

Ring-necked Pheasant

We left Steigerwald grateful for such a fulfilling visit. Even so, on the drive home I yelled for Tomas to pull over so we could get a look at Osprey nesting aside Highway 14, because why not?

Osprey

Later, this same day, my dad emailed me a picture of an Osprey he saw in his hometown of Largo, Florida. While seen only in summer in Oregon, these fierce beauties frequent his neighborhood ponds year-round. What a charismatic shot!

Osprey

April birding is off to a great start!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey