Smith and Bybee with Angela

A few weeks ago, my cousin, Angela, from Seattle expressed an interest in birding together. I was tickled. She is currently earning her Master of Arts degree in Museology from University of Washington, and is also a talented science illustrator focusing on “microhabitats” such as slime molds, mosses, and ferns. She’s pretty kick-ass.

We met at Smith and Bybee wetlands to see what we could find.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle eating a catfish

Juvenile Bald Eagle eating a catfish

Tree Swallows

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Cooperative Tree Swallow

Eurasian-collared Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian-collared Dove..."koo-KOO-kook"

Eurasian Collared-Dove…”koo-KOO-kook”

 

From Bald Eagles to Eurasian Collared-Doves, Smith and Bybee did not disappoint. Overall, we saw (and/or heard) 23 bird species. Angela’s favorite sighting was this Anna’s Hummingbird flittering from flower to flower in the Red-flowering Currant.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Angela also pointed out a Bombus melanopygus, the Western bumblebee on the currant I hadn’t noticed (and failed to get a picture of).

My favorite point of the trip was when she rolled over a log on the forest floor, uncovering a Long-toed Salamander.

Long-toed Salamander

Long-toed Salamander

Long-toed Salamander

Long-toed Salamander

 

It was fun birding with Angela. She’s a naturalist at heart who takes interest in learning about the world around her. Just earlier in the month she’d been on a nature walk with an entire class of biologists, graduate students, and nature-nerds identifying the full spectrum of flora and fauna of the woods. This was a fun way to explore Smith and Bybee too.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Beginning Birding I

I recently completed Audubon’s Beginning Birding class taught by the kind and patient Laura Whittemore. She is the author of Laura Goes Birding blog, and a longtime experienced teacher and birder. The course includes one classroom session and two guided field trips and is excellent for beginners looking to learn basic birding skills such as identifying subtle differences between seemingly identical little brown birds.

After these sessions, I’m still a beginner, but now I’m a beginner who knows to judge size and shape of the birds, decipher what it’s doing, recognize habitat, listen closely to songs, and pay attention to what type of bird it is – raptor? finch? sparrow? plover? I’ve learned to pay attention to field marks and other identification clues. These are skills that Laura makes look easy but for me will take practice and hopefully some day become second nature.

It was especially fun to meet other new birders to share the experience with. The classroom was held at Audubon’s satellite East-side Branch at Leach Botanical Garden and the field trips took us to Smith and Bybee Lakes and Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge. Overall we saw (and/or heard) 32 species at Smith and Bybee and 33 species at Tualatin NWR including 4 new-to-me spices: Ruddy Duck, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Tree Swallow, and Green-winged Teal.

Some highlights:

I felt the class was beneficial enough that I’ve signed up for another in the series: Waterfowl I.D. for Beginners. It starts next week and I look forward to it!

Tweets, chirps, and quacks,

Audrey

Find more pictures from the Smith and Bybee trip here, and Tualatin NWR here.

Shillapoo-Ridgefield Trip

What. A. Day. Many highs and lows.

Highs: President’s day! A day off to go birding! It’s 60 degrees and sunny in Portland!

I decided to check out Shillapoo Wildlife Area in Washington because it’s a 2370-acre wildlife area and because it has a funny sounding name. “Silly-poo.”

I took off early for the long drive and arrived at the parking area to discover…oops, I need a Discover Pass to park. Low.

IMG_0771

Washington State Parks allow some free days on holidays, but President’s Day isn’t one of them. I sat in my car and debated. I got out of my car walked a little bit, felt guilty and quickly exited to hunt down a pass. I want to support the parks system, plus I want to avoid getting fined.

Since my pass-purchase-detour took me farther north, and Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge a well-known birding hotpot, was only 20 minutes even more north, I decided to go there instead. Pass in hand, I arrived to find this park doesn’t require a Discover Pass, only $3 admission, but today- free for President’s Day. Go figure. It pays to do park-fee homework before heading out.

I have mixed feelings about my Ridgefield experience. I’d only visited once before about 8 years ago, and I was reminded this time that the park requires visitors to stay in their vehicles along the 4.2 mile gravel loop from October 1 to April 30. Which is understandable to protect the migrating birds.

Next time, I’ll probably wait to visit when the park is open to foot traffic as walking is part of the fun of birding for me and there are some great trails in the area. Plus, it can be awkward driving on the roads navigating and stopping, sticking your head and camera out the windows, feeling pressure to move forward so others can drive around you to see the same birds. It felt more like a Disney ride than a nature outing.

Despite this, I still saw some cool birds:

Upon leaving Ridgefield, the sun was high in the sky well past the golden hour for birding in my mind. At 1pm the bright sun creates a back-lit sky and it’s often only possible to see silhouettes of birds, challenging for ID purposes, impossible for quality photos. But still, I’d been cooped up in the car all morning and craved a walk. And the afternoon is a good time to see raptors soaring in the sky hunting prey. So I returned to Shillapoo, since I had gone through the trouble to acquire the pass after all.

This time I confidently exited my vehicle, knowing I was legally parked. Just as I suspected though, late in the day many birds were hunkered down conserving energy and the skies were pretty quiet. I did hear the call of a bald eagle though, and saw adult and juvenile pair up in the trees.

BAEA

An appropriate sighting on President’s Day.

As the lighting conditions worsened I decided to leave and was feeling kind of bummed, since I hadn’t been able to spend time at Shillapoo in optimal conditions. Silly, I know but I had made the lengthy drive there twice. But as I was leaving something caught my eye… that’s funny, that log looks like it has cat ears…I took a closer look in the binoculars, omg the cat ears moved – THAT’S AN OWL.

IMG_0791

I circled around to get a better look, and found what I think is the same Great Horned Owl perched higher in the branches. It’s possible this was a second owl because I didn’t see any movement of flight from the first, but the log perch was obscured by bushes from all other angles so it’s probably the same individual just relocated.

I watched until the owl flew higher and further obscured by branches.

Now I’d seen some really cool species that day even a few new ones, but that owl made my day. It definitely made it worth visiting Shillapoo twice, and I’ll definitely make many a return visit to this wildlife area.

Thanks for reading,

Audrey