Dipping highs and lows
Thanksgiving week I spent time with Tomas, called my family, and then I went birding. A Rusty Blackbird was reported on Thanksgiving day at McNary Wildlife Area (but I was just there!). This would be a lifer and a recent rusty stuck around the Bend area for a while so I thought this one would be easy.
Black-billed Magpies can easily find Cooper’s Hawks.
But I saw very few blackbirds. It could have been due to the Merlin.
That was cool to see. As was the Red-shouldered Hawk that appeared right before my eyes.
This is a pretty rare sighting in this part of Oregon. Another treat was finding a pair of Harris’s Sparrows!
Unfortunately most of my photos of both together came out blurry, but they were a pretty cute.
I finally got to see the Black-crowned Night Herons out of the fog.
And in another tree I thought there were more herons but looking closer it was decorated with Wood Ducks!
They weebled and wobbled on the thin branches while a Eurasian Wigeon swam by in the water below.
Down by the dam I picked out some Bonaparte’s Gulls flying over the river just as it started raining.
It was too bad I missed the blackbird but it was fun giving McNary Wildlife Area more attention. If only this great birding spot was a bit closer. On the return trip home I stopped at Philippi Canyon and sat in the car watching a little Rock Wren hop around the rocks then I looked over to my right.
A group of Bighorn Sheep were making their way down the rocky hillside.
I picked my jaw up off the floor and glanced through the windshield just as a Chukar ran across the road!!!
Surprise state year bird #304!!! There were three of them that crossed and slowly hopped up the rocks where the sheep had just been.
It was a pretty magical moment. Dipping on the Rusty Blackbird was turning out okay after all. The next day I went to the coast and tried to find a Yellow-billed Loon that was spotted near Nehalem Bay. I spent two days looking but the loon must have moved on.
At one point during a break I drove to Seaside Cove to see a Rock Sandpiper! #305!
Another afternoon at Nehalem Bay State Park I met James Billstine a local birder and this turned out to be the best luck. With his help we found Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Pacific Wren, Bewick’s Wren, a Fox Sparrow, and he managed to pish up a Hermit Thrush. That never happens.
And a Palm Warbler!
Excellent county birds and so fun to see all at once in one small patch. Another evening I met Courtney Jett from Bend and we dipped on the loon together while watching River Otters scratch themselves on a log.
I stayed overnight in Rockaway at the Surfside Resort that was pretty quiet and comfy. In the morning I gave the loon one more chance but still no luck. It’s not often a Yellow-billed Loon visits Oregon so I was bummed to miss out. But such is the risk of chasing birds and I’d met some great people along the way.
I left the coast and ended up in Corvallis checking out Bald Hill Natural Area looking for Wild Turkeys but instead I found a really late Turkey Vulture.
This is when I learned about a rare Tundra Bean-Goose at Finley National Wildlife Refuge 30 minutes away. I ran back to the car and took off. I made it to the site where other birders were standing in front of thousands of geese. But unfortunately, I looked at the wrong goose. This was not my finest birding moment.
I was probably right in front of the bean goose but my eyes locked onto a Greater White-fronted. Wrong bill color! It was so confusing and before I had a chance to correct the error a Bald Eagle had already spooked the whole flock. The worst! This is one of those moments I’ll replay in my mind a thousand times over hoping for a different outcome. I have good news though. Five days later I got a second chance with the goose!
Thanks to Courtney’s birding stamina and my new friend Lindsay Willrick’s excellent hospitality (I may not have survived gooselessness without them). In the gross cold and rain while taking shelter in the bird blind I picked out the bean goose while scanning the flock in the spotting scope. I may have squealed and jumped up and down like a lunatic. But it’s the goose! We had about 15 minutes enjoying it before it flew off to the south.
This goose is one of only five eBird records in the United States (there is another from 2015 in Oregon, and a 2013 record by the Salton Sea!). So it was worth some drama to see it. And by the way I got a second chance at Wild Turkeys too! #306!
With only a month left this year I’m taking the losses in stride and appreciating what I’m lucky enough to see. It’s a good lesson in letting go. I can put myself in the best place at the best time and I can still miss a bird. And that’s okay.
There’s still time to see (and miss) a few more!
Dips and derps,