Whitaker Ponds Nature Park

One of my favorite parks is Whitaker Ponds Nature Park. Ever since my first time there I knew it was a special place. It’s a small (but productive) park at 24 acres with a 1/2-mile flat loop trail. Completely surrounded by urban land, it is a mini-oasis for birds.

And for myself. Here I saw my first Common Merganser, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Great Egret, and Anna’s Hummingbird. And later in the summer my first Western Tanager and Warbling Vireo. And I’ve once seen a family of river otters in the pond.

Needless to say, I’m sentimental about the place.

In the past year, it’s gone through some changes. Where there once was a gorgeous willow tree and field now is a parking lot. I’m kicking myself for not taking more “before” photos, but I hadn’t known about the project until after it was gone. Danger Garden took one of the best photos of that willow tree I could find on the internet. Here’s a couple I took of the progress.

Of course there’s pros and cons, there’s better parking, which will make people feel more comfortable visiting, and hopefully then more people will care about the park. There’s still a problem of transients living and littering in certain forested areas, but in general it’s getting better.

Better?

I’ve recently started following the Columbia Slough Watershed Council on Instagram, they’ve organized and implemented a ton of restoration work on the park. They also provide updates on water levels and beaver activities. (thanks for keeping the beavers, birds, and me happy!)

I’ve seen 87 species at Whitaker Ponds (it even gave me 40 species in my 5-mile radius). Most recent additions were a Hermit Thrush that surprised me before bulleting away as quick as it could.

A Glaucous-winged Gull flyover (no photos), and a female Barrow’s Goldeneye (more yellow on that bill).

Compared to the female Common Goldeneye below (more black bill with yellow tip) and male (right), also hanging in the slough.

While observing the goldeneyes I heard an enticing “zu-wee, zu-wee, zu-wee” and I turned around to the best looks ever of a Hutton’s Vireo.

Thicker bill than Ruby-crowned Kinglet and gray feet (vs. yellow on RCKI).

There were two singing back and forth. Along with endless Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Townsend’s Warblers.

Also on this trip I saw the reliable Black Phoebe.

And I got a quick glimpse of a Spotted Sandpiper.

Just before I spooked a Cooper’s Hawk.

This park is full of surprises. Even sneaky Great Horned Owls.

I wish I could visit every day. It’s less than a 10-minute drive from my house and now that the construction’s completed really I have no excuse. I’ll make a point to visit more often and make it a goal to find more species. I was going to say 100 (since I’m at 87), but that might be a stretch since the top eBirder at the park (Nick Mrvelj) has 97. But we’ll see!

Cheers to local patches!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

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

Shillapoo and Frenchman’s Bar

As soon as I typed “breakfast burrito” into the search bar, that’s when the magic happened.

Let me back up.

Some time passed since I last visited Shillapoo National Wildlife Refuge so I decided to give it another go. Part of what makes birding fun is visiting regular haunts and seeing different birds each time. Indeed, I saw some newbies this trip.

Like this Lazuli Bunting.

Lazuli Bunting

And from blue head to the Brown-headed Cowbird. A bizarre thing I read about these birds is they lay eggs in other bird’s nests instead of making their own. A strategy known as “brood parasitism.” Some birds, like the Yellow Warbler, evolved to recognize the imposter eggs, but because the bird is too small to remove the eggs it builds a new nest on top, hoping the cowbird doesn’t return. It’s a tough nesting world out there.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Another competitive nester and loud vocalist I saw this day, the House Wren.

House Wren

House Wren

I was entertained for while by this Anna’s Humbingbird. So much so, I took a video. I love that flashy face.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Also fun was watching the Common Yellowthroat twitter around in the cattails.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

The park was alive with yellow birds, like these American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch

How many do you see?

How many do you see?

I’ll be honest, there was one yellow bird I had hoped to find this day, the Yellow Warbler. There are lots of yellow warblers, but there is only one Yellow Warbler. I thought I might see one at Shillapoo, but no luck, so I headed to nearby Frenchman’s Bar Park since I saw a sighting posted on E-bird the day prior. I headed out.

I saw a couple of tricky birds I had to look up.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Broken eye ring, greyish head, drab-yellow underneath = Orange-crowned Warbler

Western Tanager

Drab olive head, dusky grey back, light wing bars = female Western Tanager

Also noteworthy at this sight is the Osprey nest visible from the beach.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

A few other birds I saw.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

This brings me back to my burrito. By this point it was getting late in the morning and I was thinking of leaving. Though I’d seen so much, I was sort of bummed to miss out on the Yellow Warbler. While second-breakfast was on my mind, I glanced up from my phone, and this happened.

Bullock's Oriole

I did a double-take. It’s not yellow, but it’s a bright orange bird! I’ll take it! Squee! My heart raced as I watched and followed the Bullock’s Oriole pair around the park. It was such a great sighting I had trouble pulling myself away. What burrito?

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey