Birding in black-and-white
Last weekend the forecast predicted heavy rain and winds on the coast. I believe it read “rain and dangerously windy.” Sounds like perfect birding weather to me. With only the weekends to bird, sometimes I have to take what I can get and this weekend I took it.
It seemed milder than predicted when I arrived at Brian Booth State Park (also known as Beaver Creek Natural Area), located just minutes south of Newport, OR.
I was hoping for a tiny Black-and-white Warbler that had been reported at this site in the weeks prior. As usual I arrived in the pre-dawn hours and began scanning the trees. I welcomed the sight of a Red-shouldered Hawk in the darkness.
I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk picking on nutria road-kill, and heard Bald Eagles calling in the distance. Along the road edges Fox Sparrows scratched in the leaves. I wasn’t sure I was at the right tree patch, but I kept my eyes on the alders hoping.
For a while there was little bird action until all of a sudden dozens of small birds flew in; Pine Siskin, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, it was overwhelming, but eventually I picked out the tiny warbler I’ve only seen before in Florida.
It acts quite like a nuthatch, inching along branches gleaning insects from the moss and bark, often turning upside down. I watched and enjoyed for a long while.
And then it sat on some branches and preened itself.
Such a good little warbler. I’d driven a long way and had set aside two days, but here were great looks at this handsomely streaked bird and it was only 9:30am. What to do next?
With all this time now on my hands I made a stop at the South Jetty, where I found Red-throated Loon, Red-breasted Merganser, Surf Scoters, and the best surprise was a nice look at a (non-breeding female) Long-tailed Duck.
Impossible to misidentify that one. Another unmistakable pair of ducks present on the rocks nearby were this lovely couple of Harlequin Duck.
Farther down at the gull puddle I found my first banded gull!
1A4 looks like a squinty-eyed 2nd winter Western Gull; blocky head, large bill, pink legs, dark primaries. I’m still waiting to hear back on the report, stay tuned for the update.
I looked for Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings but found neither of these. I decided to check for a Ruff, a Eurasian shorebird that sometimes strays to North America, and had been sighted at the coast recently. Now that I had cell coverage again, I learned that the Ruff was down the same road I’d seen the warbler, so back I went. As I left the jetty a flock of Western Meadowlark flew in.
Back on Beaver Creek Rd I drove farther along than before and bumped into a little-advertised Beaver Creek Nature Center.
The place had information, hiking trails, and even bird feeders.
At the feeders were chickadees, towhees, sparrows, and Steller’s Jays on guard.
I took a short and peaceful hike, no other people to be seen.
No birds on the trails either, but it was still really nice. Then farther along the road I heard two Virgina Rails “oinking” at each other in the marshland. No visuals of course, but here’s a visual of their call.
Another mile down the road still not finding any shorebirds, I then heard the loud rapid “tew-tew” of Greater Yellowlegs and I knew I was getting closer. Eventually I found the tiny blurry dots in the distance. I could barely see so I took a bunch of photos.
Light was fading and it was hard to focus on the shorebirds with this gorgeous Red-tailed Hawk in my face.
The hawk screamed over and over and I knew it was my cue to leave.
On the way home I wondered if I might find a spec of Ruff in a photo. Low and behold, I found it.
Small head, porky body, and scaly-patterned back. Not a glamorous sighting at all, but better than nothing.
I made it home by 7:30pm. It had been a long way to go for a day trip, but totally worth it. And now I had an extra day to bird locally. Bonus!
Tweets and chirps,