Painted Hills I

They don’t call the Painted Hills one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders for nothing.

Painted Hills

The eight wonder is why I’d never visited before.

Painted Hills

Painted Hills

Truthfully, I never liked the desert. It’s hot, dry, exposed, I’m more of a lush, green forest kind of girl. But that’s what birding does. It opens the world up to possibility even in remote places. Like nomads, Tomas and I spent three days exploring Oregon’s vast east, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, that includes three units: Clarno, Painted Hills, and Sheep Rock.

Highlights included listening to Bullock’s Orioles chatter along the John Day River at our campsite while hanging out with a nesting pair of Osprey.

Osprey

Osprey

And watching the Osprey boldly dive after a Golden Eagle that came too close to the nest perimeter.

Osprey and Eagle

At a random rest area along U.S. Hwy. 97 I found my first Lark Sparrow. What a striking facial pattern!

Lark Sparrow

I hiked along the Blue Basin Rim Trail in the Sheep Rock Unit and saw Say’s Phoebe, Western Kingbird, more Lark Sparrows, and a new hummingbird!

Black-chinned Hummingbird

All hummingbirds are Anna’s to me until proven otherwise, and it wasn’t until I was able to examine the photos more closely that I could see a thin bit of iridescent purple under the black chin, positively ID’ing the Black-chinned Hummingbird!

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Other birds I saw on the hike:

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Gray Flycatcher

Gray Flycatcher

And I met a new-to-me flycatcher, the Ash-throated Flycatcher! Identified by habitat (open, arid areas), the pale grey chest, pale yellow belly, and long rusty tail.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Under the eaves of the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, we got up-close views of nesting Cliff Swallows. Here’s a nice look at the buff-white forehead patch.

Cliff Swallow

At the Painted Hills picnic area I followed a short trail along a creek and heard Yellow Warblers, House Wren, and I got a few looks at these summer visitors.

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Willow Flycatcher

Western Wood-Pewee

And an Admiral Butterfly for good measure.

Admiral Butterfly

We spent one night at higher elevation in the Ochoco National Forest and camped near a magical field of camas.

Blue Camas

Blue Camas

The forest bustled with songs of Mountain Buebird, Cassin’s Finch, Chipping Sparrows, and Lark Sparrows.

Lark Sparrow

In the morning, I followed a buzzing “Zee-zee-zee-zee-dee-du-dee” until I laid eyes on a tiny Townsend’s Warbler.

Townsend's Warbler

On the way out of the campsite, I caught a glimpse of my first of year Western Tanager!

Western Tanager

I didn’t want to leave my new happy place. But we had more desert to see.

Proceed No Further

Tweets,

Audrey

Yard Bird Drama

I’ve waited so long to post about my yard birds, I’m afraid most of those sightings have expired. Remember that time it snowed? Yeah, well, we had Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Dark-eyed Junco, Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Townsend’s Warbler, Anna’s Hummingbird…and a first for the yard, a Varied Thrush!

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush doesn’t care, he’s long gone by now.

Since winter, I’ve upgraded the suet and bird feeder to Squirrel Buster designs saving me a ton of money on seed.

Squirrelbuster

And disappointing the hairy seed snatchers.

Squirrel

While making the birds and I very happy.

Goldfinch and Siskin

Lesser Goldfinch and Pine Siskin

Bushtits

Red-breasted Nuthatch and Bushtits

Nuthatch

See the chew marks on the cage? And the smiling Red-breasted Nuthatch? Squirrel Busters FTW.

And tonight! – I was rewarded for taking the compost outside, because I opened the front door to this!

Sharp-shinned

Woah! The birds were calling, “alarm! alarm!” I quickly set down the compost bin and grabbed my camera that was thankfully nearby, locked and loaded.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I got a sense from the size and thinner legs that it’s an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk. Here’s a better picture to get a sense of the size of the bird.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I’d say smaller than a crow, slightly larger than a robin. But as we all know, size lies, so I’m open to interpretation. Anyways, the bird hopped down on the fence and continued the hunt.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I sat on the floor at my front door admiring its ferocity (with just a hint of guilt knowing that it’s probably there because of the bird feeders). Fortunately, a group of brave chickadees chased it away before anyone got hurt. In my yard at least. Whew, exciting! Glad I forced myself out of the hammock to do a little cleaning. Totally worth it.

In less dramatic news, here are cute Bushtits!

Bushtit

Bushtit

Yard birds are the best.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Warblers and Flycatchers

Oh happy May migration!

In honor of the new birds in town, I took Audubon’s Warblers and Flycatchers class, taught by John Rakestraw, accomplished birder and blogger, instructor, and author of Birding Oregon. I learned that Oregon has 41 species of wood-warblers and 23 species of tyrant flycatchers, and Portland regularly has 11 of each visit during migration.

What makes a warbler a wood-warbler? Wood-warblers, or New World Warblers, are any species in the songbird family, Parulidae. They are usually cute, often colorful, and can cause “warbler’s neck,” a pain in the neck from trying to see them high in the tree-tops. I’m refining my birding stance by keeping my shoulders down. John Rakestraw’s post on warbler’s neck describes the proper way to gaze above at these beauties without injury.

Why are flycatchers “tyrants”? Tyrant is a family name that “reflects the aggressive nature of some species, which drive away much larger birds that venture too near their nests.” Business birds mean business.

We met on a Saturday morning for a field trip to Mt Tabor. We saw a variety of warblers, including: Townsend’s Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and even a Nashville Warbler.

A few pictures.

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

My new favorite, the female Black-throated Gray Warbler which lacks the black throat, so, technically she is a white-throated Black-throated Gray Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler (gray hood, yellow throat, full white eye-ring)

We witnessed a couple of flycatchers perched high atop the Douglas-fir, but were unable to positively identify them. There are subtle differences between flycatchers and the best way to distinguish them is by their song. But these birds didn’t make it that easy.

Birding at Mt Tabor

Birding at Tabor

Here’s a sub-par picture of a flycatcher from a more recent trip to Mt. Tabor that was ID’ed as an Olive-sided Flycatcher, based on the bulky build and dark “vest.”

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

A couple of non-warbler-flycatchers we saw at Mt Tabor:

Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon

Hermit Thrush (cutie!)

Hermit Thrush (cutie!)

A funny thing happened when I returned home from the birding trip. I heard the sound of a warbler I hadn’t seen during the day! The song consisted of a series of fast chatter-like notes, that drop downward in pitch toward the end. It was the song of a Wilson’s Warbler, I was sure of it! I stalked the shrubs in our yard for a good hour, intermittently hearing the song, but only catching a glimpse of movement.

I almost gave up, until I went to show my boyfriend the Raccoon I found curled up sleeping in the tall Douglas-fir along the property.

Sleeping ball of trouble

Sleeping ball of trouble

Immediately after, there it was! Blurry-rocket-smudge-bird!

Bird? Plane? Raccoon minion?

Bird? Plane? Raccoon minion?

I stalked the trees another good half hour, then followed (okay ran) after it towards the back yard. Got it! Yellow warbler with a “bad toupée” – Wilson’s Warbler!

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Oh happy day.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey