Gone Birding – Eugene

Fireworks are going off. Summer must be here. It’s hot, birds have slowed down so now I can too. It’s been a busy couple of months! Back in May, Tomas and I took a weekend trip to Eugene for a Night at the Cascades Raptor Center. Wine, snacks, and owl entertainment provided for a small donation to help the birds? Shut up and take my money.

The facilities are great. They are situated on a forested hill much like Forest Park in Portland.

Yes, it was a little hard seeing these beautiful creatures in cages. But things happen, and sometimes animals need help. Like Nike, the Gyrfalcon that was found in 2005 with an infected eye that ultimately had to be removed.

No longer able to hunt, Nike is cared for and works as an education bird.

Same for the resident Northern Goshawk, Newton, who was imprinted when hatched and unable to release in the wild.

The birds here were so cool. Eurasian Eagle-Owl, White-tailed Kites, Barn Owls, a 13-year old Long-eared Owl, American Kestrels, Burrowing Owl, and a freakin Snowy Owl named Archimedes.

Gah. And it was making it’s bark-like hoot.

Kit Lacy, the Education Director led us around the facilities. Here she is with a Burrowing Owl, named Ra.

Later in the evening, we finally heard Ravi, the Western Screech Owl singing her ping-pong song. She was the lone survivor in a nest cut down by logging in 2005 and is now a favorite of the Education Team.

I’m glad we finally made the trip out here, it was definitely worth the visit. All of the animals are “adoptable” with funds going to the support and care of the birds. This visit was also a fun introductory as I’ve joined the Portland Audubon Wildlife Care Center volunteer team for baby bird season this year. It’s been one of the most altruistic experiences. And the most duck poop I’ve ever seen.

Back to Eugene. My local friend, Rachel, recommended checking out a few places including Stewart Pond and Skinner Butte.

At the pond I found Long-billed Dowitcher (based on location).

A surprise Solitary Sandpiper.

And nesting Red-winged Blackbirds stalked by Great Blue Heron.

But I had the best time at Skinner Butte. It’s not terribly big, smaller than Mt Tabor, but I ended up spending almost 6 hours there. Too much fun. It’s a known stopover for migrating warblers.

Warblers indeed. There were Black-throated Gray.

Nashville.

And gobs of Orange-crowned Warblers.

To name a few. I also saw a MacGillivray’s but couldn’t manage a photo. I saw a few other migrating birds including, Cassin’s Vireo and many Warbling Vireo.

And a nice surprise Calliope Hummingbird!

Also, Pacific-slope Flycatcher.

And Turkey Vultures sunning themselves.

And I spent a lot of time watching Black-capped Chickadees collecting nesting material.

At one point I almost left, but then right by the parking lot, I spotted my FOY Western Tanager.

It was near impossible to leave.

You’re not going anywhere.

Eventually, after so many hours, hunger got the best of me and I met back up with Tomas for the best beers and burgers at Coldfire Brewing and its associated food cart Haybaby. Followed by a sunset swift watch at Agate Hall!

Apparently, the Vaux’s Swift population is more active in springtime in Eugene.

Who knew? It was the perfect ending to a fulfilling trip!

I heart Eugene.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Sundial Beach Loop Hike

I had super-fun at a former Superfund clean-up site a couple of weeks ago! A place now called the “Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park” that just so happens to include the Sundial Beach Loop Hike. It’s not much of a hike since most of the trail is a paved levee road that is part of Portland’s 40-mile loop.

The trailhead is next to the Troutdale airport and a sewage treatment plant. Along the trail, huge powerlines loom overhead, and a giant substation sits on one side. Paradoxically, lush riparian forests, wide fields, and vibrant wetlands, including Company Lake, make up the rest of the park.

Power view

I also just noticed on OregonHikers.org: “A note of caution should be added: the wooded areas are sometimes the camping places of transients and some may not feel safe straying from the paved trail, especially when alone.” So, yeah. There’s that. I saw camps on the sandbar at the “beach” (poor access through thickets, not much of a shoreline), but didn’t run into anyone besides dog-walkers and hikers along the trail.

What the heck was I doing here, you ask? Well, I was here for the birds of course! This area includes a confluence of the Sandy River and the Columbia River and is buzzing with wildlife and birds. To be completely honest, I’d seen several Rufous Hummingbird sightings reported on E-bird here and I had to take a look.

I’m glad I did.

Rufous Hummingbird

I love this bird.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Giddy, after watching the Rufous Hummingbird for a bit, I got turned around and ran into these charming birds:

Greater Yellowlegs

Solitary Sandpiper

I had to do a bit of research (gah- shorebirds!), and I came up with the top as a Greater Yellowlegs (extensive dark bars on the flanks), and the bottom as a Solitary Sandpiper (white “spectacles,” short bill, dark breast). For the Solitary ID I triple checked, since most of the maps show this is uncommon or rare even for this region, however, as someone pointed out, “they’re unusual but far from unheard of in that part of the state.” E-bird also had some sightings in the area, so, Solitary Sandpiper it is!

Additional shorebirds, difficult to see, determined to be Least Sandpipers (yellow legs, dark brown on top, and droopy bills).

Least Sandpipers

There were several birds at this park: Wood Duck, Canada Geese (with goslings!), Kingfisher, Orange-crowned Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Goldfinch, Savannah Sparrow, Western Scrub-Jay, Spotted Towhee, Killdeer, and Swallows. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

Spotted Towhee

Western Scrub-Jay

Another bird I happened upon this day was a Great Horned Owl. Some people “chase the dragon,” I chase “cat ears” in the woods. I’m hooked on scanning tree-tops for those telltale “horns.”

Great Horned Owl

And this one had a little owlet.

Great Horned Owl & Owlet

I watched the “owl muppet show” for a while. My boyfriend is convinced they’re muppets because of the way they move their heads in circular motions, even though I know they’ve really got “binocular vision,” and are judging objects shapes and distances, but, yeah muppets are fun. It was this owl enocounter in particular, along with a post on Facebook by Scott Carpenter, that inspired me to join the Put an Owl on It team for Birdathon. Because owls.

And that’s not all! After I’d exhausted myself hiking around the industrial park/bird paradise, I hopped on my bike to ride home and included a bit of birding-by-bike along the way. Here’s a small sample of what I found.

Osprey

Bunny

Savannah Sparrow

An Osprey, a tatter-eared bunny, and my favorite picture so far, of a Savannah Sparrow!

Super-fun!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey