5MR booms and busts

It’s fall! The air is cooler, the leaves are changing colors, and shorebirds are on their way back south. There are only three months left to find 5MR birds this year. Since I’ve last checked in, I’ve had a few hits and misses. Many of the hits were at a place in Portland with terrible visibility, Vanport Wetlands.

Dear City of Portland, please install a viewing platform. Love, birders.

Sometimes you have to take what you can get. Here, I’ve gotten poor looks at Lesser Yellowlegs, a Solitary Sandpiper, and a Sora foraging in the open about 100 yards away.

Sora or Sasquatch?

The best bird of the bad looks club here was a Ruff! First Vanport record, this one was found and kindly shared by Colby Neuman.

So Ruff

I’ve also gotten bad looks of good birds at Broughton, like this Whimbrel found by Jay Withgott. To the right of the Whimbrel is a Sanderling, believe it or not.

Bird pixels

On a whole I have been very lucky in my 5MR and I’m really appreciating that lately, especially when it starts pouring rain as I move closer in to take a photo of a Red-necked Grebe.

And a Common Tern floats down to the beach right in front of me.

When it rains, it pours

And three cheers for cooperative peeps that stick around like this amazing American Golden-Plover found by Aaron Beerman.

Aaron also pointed out a small flock of Horned Lark, I’ve been waiting all year to see these! They were all Streaked Horned Lark, a subspecies of Horned Lark, endemic to the Pacific Northwest and under threatened status.

Banded! – stay tuned to hear back about this one

So many booms! Where are the busts, you ask? Well, there were more than a few birds reported in my 5MR that I didn’t see in time: Baird’s Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Hermit Warbler, Red-necked Phalarope, Common Nighthawk. To name a few. There’s always next year? But, honestly I can’t complain because I’ve found many other great birds, including a Parasitic Jaeger at Broughton Beach.

Boom

No wait, not just one jaeger. THERE. WERE. TWO!

Boom Boom! Who needs a boat?

This was on the same day I saw a Merlin, a Wilson’s Snipe, and I got the best looks of a Common Tern.

For the most part, we birders are at the mercy of luck, timing, and making choices. Hopefully good ones because we can’t be everywhere at once. It feels nice to be in the right place at the right time and be rewarded with jaegers, terns, and plovers (oh, my!). Last I looked I was at 189 species in my 5MR, it’ll be pretty tough to make it to my imaginary goal of 200 by the end of the year, but either way I’m pretty happy with the birds I’ve seen so far.

Still missing: Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Pygmy-Owl, American Dipper, Sandhill Crane, White-winged Scoter, Eared Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, some wintering rarities (?)

Booms and busts,

Audrey

A Sunny Oregon Pelagic

Barely a month back from my California pelagic trip, it was time to set sail again. This time from my favorite place, Newport, OR, and this time with friends, because boat trips are even better with barf-buddies.

All aboard

Lucky for us, it was a calm day at sea and we had some good drugs and good distractions. Past the jetties we found Marbled Murrelets, White-winged Scoters, and Red-necked Phalaropes.

Further along we saw Cassin’s Auklets and Rhinoceros Auklets, a couple still sporting some breeding plumage.

Once in the open seas we found a quartet of shearwaters including:

Sooty Shearwater
Pink-footed Shearwater
Buller’s Shearwater

And perhaps the “rarest” bird of the trip, a single Flesh-footed Shearwater.

Around here is where I saw my best bird of the trip, a new state bird, Arctic Tern.

There were many of these tiny terns flitting around the sky and diving down to the water.

They have less black in the wings and smaller bill and leg proportions than Common Terns, which we also saw on this trip (but I didn’t get photos of). It takes a well-trained eye to tell those two apart in the skies, I will leave that to the experts.

It was easy to recognize Sabine’s Gulls coming in for a popcorn landing.

And everyone’s favorite friend, Black-footed Albatross.

We missed skuas, but saw many jaegers, including two individual Long-tailed Jaegers.

I managed a craptastic photo of a Parasitic Jaeger.

And we had one very cooperative Pomarine Jaeger.

That put on the best show when it went after a gull with food.

Brutal! And surprisingly, the gull didn’t drop the food. Pretty incredible.

On the return trip, we spent some time on the water by the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

Watching Gray Whales feed close to shore.

Humans for scale

It was a great day at sea! Boat trips are better with friends and even better when we all make it out alive without getting sick!

Turning into an “old salt.”

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

California- Half Moon Bay

Ahh, California. Home to sunshine, fog, the Golden-gate Bridge, and life-birds I can’t see anywhere else. I’ve wanted to try an out-of-state pelagic for a while, and when I heard Debi Shearwater (of Shearwater Journeys) was retiring at the end of this year, I had to sign up.

A destination-pelagic adds another element of risk, but I hoped I could push through the anxiety to see some birds. We landed early in San Francisco and wasted no time before going to Golden Gate Park. Part nature park and amusement-botanical garden-ice-cream-conservatory-museum, it’s crowded but the birds don’t seem to mind. Here I found a female Nuttall’s Woodpecker, my first lifer of the trip.

San Francisco parks are ruled by Pygmy Nuthatches, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Black Phoebes. It was nice to see these guys in their natural habitat.

I fought a mean water sprinkler for a potential lifer Allen’s Hummingbird, but they’re not a slam dunk I.D. since the habitat and timing overlaps with look-alike Rufous Hummingbirds. I got lucky with a tail shot, the best way to separate the two, but the hummingbird I saw has the diagnostic “notched” R2 feather diagnostic of Rufous (vs the narrow “lanceolate” shape of Allen’s). No lifer hummingbird this time.

We stayed in Pacifica since it was about equal distance from Half Moon Bay (pelagic #1) and Sausalito (pelagic #2). It also had a nice beach where we witnessed Heermann’s Gulls in their natural habitat.

After checking in to the Airbnb I went to bed early because I had to board a boat early the next morning.

Debi introduced herself, told us what to expect and we set off to sea shortly after.

I was nervous but the ocean and I kept our calm all day. It was a little too calm. The lack of wind made it foggier limiting viewing distance and many birds like Tufted Puffins just sat on the water.

Occasionally sea life just popped out of the water.

I was okay with that. Do you know who was not sitting on the water? Ashy Storm-Petrels! Foggy little life birds.

This was one of my main targets of the trip.

Ashy-fog Petrel

California seas did not disappoint.

The fog cleared up for a couple of jaeger fly-bys, we saw both Long-tailed and Pomarine Jaeger Parasitic Jaeger.

Black-footed Albatross sat nicely for us on the water.

Hello, friend

As did Red-necked Phalaropes, Sooty Shearwaters, Pink-footed Shearwaters, and Sabin’s Gulls.

Adult and juvenile

I got distant but diagnostic looks at Arctic Terns, my other lifer of the trip.

We saw Humpback Whales, Fur Seals, a Blue Shark, and occasionally a pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins and Northern Right Whale Dolphins joined us at the bow of the boat.

I made it back to shore with two new birds, a whole lot of sea life, and no puking! And I was lucky enough to get to do it all over again the next day.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey