The 300 Club
It’s been my goal to see 300 species this year in Oregon since I realized in September I’d already seen 292. If you’re thinking, “how the hell did she do that?” I wondered the same thing. My total Oregon life list is 337 and I had ankle surgery in February. But then I remembered birding like a maniac in January. I saw a Virginia’s Warbler, Northern Mockingbird, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker all on January 1.
And my awesome friends took me to see a Sabine’s Gull in Salem while I was on crutches, and on a trip east for Wasco County birding. Post surgery there was that trip south to Summer Lake. Then local rarities showed up; Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Ruff, and Sharptailed Sandpiper. And now two pelagic trips. It all starts to add up. Maybe some day I’ll do a real Oregon Big Year, but for now unintentional is good. Birds have been my therapy this year while recovering. Apparently I’ve needed a lot of therapy!
Now on the mend I was also on a post-pelagic high Sunday sitting at 299 birds with an entire day to bird on the coast. What would be #300?! What was even left? Well, there’s a lot of grouse (of course); Ruffed Grouse, Mountain Quail, but I’d have a better shot at Pygmy Owl, Rock Sandpiper, or Tropical Kingbird. All excellent candidates.
It was too dark to hang around Newport when I got up, so instead I drove to Nestucca Bay NWR. Luckily the gate was open pre-dawn when I arrived. Still no geese yet in the lower farm fields, so I took the gravel road to the top. No grouse on the way (of course). I walked along Two Rivers Nature Trail for a short ways remembering not to overdo it.
It didn’t take long to find birds. There were Pacific Wren, kinglets, and a Northern Harrier but the best birds were a small group of Canada Jays!
Friends without borders.
Not a year bird, but a fun Tillamook County bird and a great species to find on the coast.
I decided to look for rockpipers next at Barview Jetty Park. But blowing wind and rain didn’t keep me there long. It was time to head inland to the Nehalem Wastewater Treatment Plant. The facilities are closed to birders on weekends, but pro-tip you can scope the ponds from the top of the driveway!
I picked up a couple more county birds here, including Ruddy Duck.
And an Eared Grebe.
In a far pond I saw a tiny gull with a black “ear” spot, a Bonaparte’s Gull!
Another solid county bird. From here I drove along random farm roads in the area hoping to see a kingbird reported several days prior. It started pouring rain when I spotted it. No way. Oregon year bird #300! Tropical Kingbird!
It is a large flycatcher, with a big bill and yellow up to the throat. It lacks white outer tail feathers that Western Kingbirds have. Eventually I got a photo of this bird’s lemon belly.
I parked off the road to watch it flycatch for a while letting the experience sink in. So much love. A pair of Black Phoebes were much less appreciative of the kingbird than I.
Occasionally the bird flew into the trees and disappeared which probably explains why I’ve missed them before.
They’re much easier to see when perched on wires.
The sun came out blinding any more good looks and backlighting the bird so I took a break back to the water treatment ponds. I didn’t make it far before a flock of geese stopped me.
Most were Cackling Geese, but I did see a few Greater White-fronted Geese mixed in.
And I noticed some of a the cacklers had a white neck-ring suggesting they might be of the (once endangered now recovering) Aleutian variety.
But I’ve learned not all cacklers with white collars are Aleutian subspecies. The bird with the dark glossy breast is likely Ridgway’s and the right bird could be Aleutian but the head shape isn’t quite right (thanks to Dave Irons for his geesepertise). So kind of like gulls, there’s some geese that don’t fit neatly into categories. Cackling sp. it is.
Back at the ponds there were even fewer birds than before probably due to the pair of Bald Eagles in the trees above. So I took a victory lap back to the kingbird to see if it was in better light but I wasn’t able to refind it. So long #300 be well.
I started home and met up with Sarah and Max along the way for victory beers and pizza and Sarah gave me the best gift!
Cheers to 300 amazing Oregon birds!
Tweets and chirps,