Saturday, October 24, 2015

Newport to Florence

Today I was going to head to Coos Bay for a pelagic trip on Sunday, but weather cancelled the trip so I decided to grab the dog and head over to the coast anyway.  I have not birded south of Newport in eons, my plan was to hit any fun looking spot from Newport down to Oregon Dunes near Florence.

A female Brown Booby was spotted in Newport, I decided to look for it as my first stop.  I was looking too far up the bay, some other birders spotted it down on the second set of range markers.

Lots of Common Loons were in various stages of molt.

I stopped at Ten Mile Beach to look at a huge flock of gulls.   A few adorable Mew Gulls were mixed in to the flock.

I explored the deflation plain at the Oregon Dunes National Rec Area.  I had a fun hike around the area.  This Peregrine Falcon was chasing some crows, or they were chasing it, I never did figure out who won.

A first-year Northern Shrike was working its way along  the edge of the plain.

I tried a few brief seawatches, lots of scoter out in the surf, no eider or shearwater were noticed.  The Heceta Head Lighthouse is beautiful.

A nice day, thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Warrior Rock Trail at Sauvie Is

With most of Sauvie Island being shut down for the winter, on the 4th of October I went out to my favorite hike on the island, the always open Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail.  They did some work on a few of the ponds near the trail.  Not sure what they were trying to do, but the result is a few marshy areas to check for shorebirds.

From the parking lot at the very end of Reeder Rd, walk out along the trail, You will see the ponds through the trees.  I take one of the short roads over to the ponds edge.

Mudflats with a few Killdeer and a Northern Flicker.

This Savannah Sparrow refused to turn its head towards me, nice flocks of sparrows were working the small newly planted trees in between the ponds.

I thought this was a Lesser Yellowlegs when I first saw it, but decided bill was too long and head too big.  Seemed in between as to bill length.  Breast was streakier rather than plain, size was hard to judge. More obvious eye-ring. So Greater Yellowlegs.

Wilson's Snipe. As far as I can tell, the best way to tell this bird from a Common Snipe is that Wilson's have darker underwings and a narrower white trailing edge to the secondaries.  Wilson's Snipe have two narrow outer tail feathers and Common Snipe have two fewer tail feathers and the outer feathers are broader, so its winnowing sound is lower. Pin-tailed Snipe are more round, paler, less obvious back streaks with a smaller bill.  Jack Snipe have streaks on the side rather than bars and are smaller with shorter bill.

Sandhill Crane mate for life and the young follow the parents south.  Sandhills take 2.5 years to gain full adult plumage aspect and may not breed until 7 years old.  They live well into their twenties.   So, it is kind of fun to see this new family of Sandhill Cranes arrive on their wintering grounds (or will they keep going south?).

The red on a Sandhill Crane are not feathers but a skin patch.  This is a parent standing next to its feeding non-redheaded  youngsters.  The brown on adult is from mud they use to clean the feathers.  I am not sure if the youngsters are brown from mud or plumage.

The trail has numerous trees with these webs in them.  Are these spiders or moths?  Always hoping to find a cuckoo spot.

Thanks for the visit.

Dowitchers and a pelagic

These dowitchers were hanging out in the same pond in Astoria, Oregon as the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were visiting on Sept 26, 2015.  I, of course, dipped on the Sharp-tailed having arrived just after they left.

The assumption is that Short-billed like saltwater and are on the coast and Long-billed like fresh water in are the valley.

Some of the other birders in the area simply mentioned these as dowitchers.

Here is a close-up of one of the birds.  I think the length of the bill alone is long enough to be diagnostic for a Long-billed Dowitcher.  The plumage looks uniform, the tertials are solid and thinly edged and the over-all coloring is drab. There is also a light buffy color to the underparts. The back has thinly edged dark feathers.  I think this is a juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher, probably female with that long bill.  I also noted the obvious bright white arch under the eye, a minor point but was clear; it is mentioned in The Shorebird Guide, I was looking for it on these birds.  

This bird also shows the long bill.  The bill looks gently arched through the outer half, seems fine-tipped.  Also the rear end looks blunt rather than attenuated with the primaries not sticking past tertials.  All these points are variable, but things to look for on Long-billed.  Also Short-billed tend to molt into basic plumage on the winter grounds rather than at stop-over points like Astoria, Oregon.  So to see a Short-billed with this much gray in the plumage aspect would be unusual this far north and in late September.  

Long-billed Dowitchers are bigger birds, more front-heavy in structure (supposedly).  When they are at rest, they need to sit up at a more upright position than the horizontal body position of a Short-billed.  On the sleeping bird below, I have no idea if that is upright or not. 
Seems a bit upright, but probably only a good point to look for on an odd bird in large sleeping flock.  I can see the obvious under eye arches.  But I see that on some Short-billed and light position probably matters.

Once again, I see finely edged plain tertials of a Long-billed.  I cannot tell if that back bird has some new lower scapulars or if it is just a bright spot.

Long-billed Dowitchers are supposed to look like they swallowed a grapefruit, this point is only good when they are in eating position and are somewhat relaxed.  Note the almost right angle of the head and back on the front bird.  It looks very round and has a body looking like a grapefruit.  Beware of skinny underfed birds.

I was wondering if those gray feathers mixed in with the dark feathers were new basic scapulars.

Long-billed Dowitcher in a salt water pond on the coast.

The same day I wandered around the burned area at Parking Lot C at Ft Stevens State Park.  Lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers were in the area.  This bird shows the low contrast face pattern of an Audubon.

A pair of Downy Woodpeckers were finding something to eat on the burned pines.

I really wish they had let the area burn out a bit more.  It has become overgrown with an introduced species of pine.

Lots of Surfbirds at the cove in Seaside were fun.  I have become very fond of walking way out the rocks toward Tillamook Head; my dog , Huck, does not enjoy working around the rocky path, but sticks with me.

Elegant Terns art Hammond Boat Basin.

On the 3rd of October I did my last pelagic trip of the fall.  We had a few sightings of Flesh-footed Shearwater, but I only got a brief glimpse of one of them.  This is a fulmar in front of one of the large fishing boats we visited.

Thousands of Northern Fulmar and California Gulls.

Pacific White-sided Dolphin.  We also saw Dall Porpoise, Dall Porpoise are the fastest dolphin/porpoise in the sea, they get up to 30 knots, equalled amazingly by the huge Orca.  These Pacific White-sided are quick but not that fast, I think about 25 knots is their top speed. 

I am determined to get some videos of pelagic birds flying, I tried on Saturday with absolute horrible results.  Moved camera way too fast.  Here is the baseline effort I will work to improve next year.  Hold onto your lunches.

Thanks for visiting.