Monday, June 5, 2017

Harney County May 31 - June 4, 2017

I took off for Harney County on Wednesday, I stopped briefly at Headquarters and Benson Pond, not much seen except the Catbird at Headquarters.  I wanted to get to Fields for the night.  When I visited the oasis the next morning, the Western Screech-owl was out of its nest and blending in well with the bark of the tree.




The youngster made an appearance later in the day.




This video is the culmination of my research into what baby owls do during the daylight hours.  This video is game changing in the field of animal behavior. Shown here for the first time ever.




Next day featured the parent back in the entry way.







I worried for the success of the parents this year.  This beast was in same area.




While visiting Fields, I camped at Little Cottonwood Creek. A fellow birder had this hummer coming to a feeder.

Based on lots of rufous in the tail and no white lip above the bill, and even primary width, I was thinking it was a Broad-tailed.  But the ID was in debate.  It was too small of a hummer.  I skipped the fact that not all Calliope Hummingbirds have the white lip and these primaries are actually getting slightly broader as they go out the wing, not even, And the tail seems all dark and center tail feather is spade shaped.  So it is a Calliope Hummingbird.  Calliope and Broad-tailed can be very similar birds. I moved up the Hummingbird Learning Curve a few steps, will crash back down my next visit to east-side of state.




I have tried to label the primaries. You can see in this photo they do seem to widen, something I could not see in field.




The little bird got around just fine with what appears to be an injured eye.





Black-chinned Hummingbird.




On any tough hummer, always good to note shapes of the primaries and shapes and pattern on the tail.  I lightened up this photo to show the fairly narrow inner primaries of an Archilochus hummer (Black-chinned and Ruby-throated) 




For some sketches of hummer wings, try this :  Hummingbirds

Black-throated Sparrows were singing just outside the camp area at Cottonwood Creek.




Bullock's Oriole in the early morning light at the oasis.




On Thursday afternoon i went up to Carlson Creek to see what was up this creek along the east-side of Steens Mountain.  A fire had swept through area a few years ago.  Lots of orioles and in a flat area up the trail, numerous Lark Sparrow and Brewer's Sparrow were singing.




A brilliant blue Lazuli Bunting was a nice sight.




This oriole nest was out in the open, I hope the ravens leave it alone.




Friday afternoon I left the Fields area to head to Frenchglen for dinner.  In the pass between Fields and the Catlow Valley, you can often spot Burrowing Owls.  I wondered if those fluffy feathers meant someone was still sitting on eggs.




This one liked the fence post next to the road.




Sage Thrasher are everywhere along these roads and in the refuge.




A pair of Golden Eagles were soaring above Hwy 205 near Roaring Springs Ranch.




I had time to check out the Bobolinks before dinner.




I took me a sec to recall what this was when I looked at the photos, but it is a Bobolink flying away.




A pair of Virginia Rails were taking care of their youngsters at Page Springs.








Dinner at Frenchglen is always fun, I ran into the PAS field trip gang. After dinner I took off for South Steens Campground.  It is always worth driving the South Steens Road at around dusk.  A Greater Sage-Grouse was taking a dust bath.









Short video of the bird.  That annoying noise is the camera auto-focusing.  I can't see the screen well enough to manual focus when taking video.




On Saturday I took off at 6 am for a bird hike to the Big Indian Gorge.  A view back across the plains toward the campground, the area was full of singing Western Meadowlarks and Vesper Sparrows.




The issue is the streams are high with melting snow, one wrong step while crossing and you are swept away.  Other hikers were in area later in day, all turned back.




I chose the obvious alternative, hike cross country for a mile on very steep terrain to go up and over the shoulder that the crossings avoid.  The hike was brutal.  Not for the elevation, but for all the loose rocks, soft soil, some brush and very steep slopes.  It was mentally  and physically exhausting.  At one point I hit a wall of brush, I almost turned back.  I noticed higher up slope it appeared to be more open.  So I scrambled up another forty or so feet and got above all the crap down below.  I went up to right below the rock outcroppings , and in the junipers and grass.  It was still very steep but much easier going.




One small area had these strange brain looking things on the ground, I figured it was all the lost minds of folks who tried this crossing.  That was very funny when I thought of it on the way into the gorge.




The crossing up on the gorge side. A group of horses made it across, but I was the only foot hiker up there that day.




Hermit Thrush were out singing.




Green-tailed Towhees were common.




You pass by several damp areas on your way up.  In one was a Veery. It was in a dark patch of aspen. I tried to pish it out into view for a photo but no luck.




I also thought I heard a Virginia's Warbler singing.  I listen for slow Nashville Warblers, and that is what I heard.  Problem was the river was making tons of noise and I could just barely make out the details of the song.  I had my iphone with me and was comparing the song I heard to the one on my phone, seemed perfect. Not sure enough to file a rare bird report.















I worked my way out of the gorge by staying higher up on the shoulder, just below the rocks and in the juniper and grass.  It is very steep and you need to watch every step you take.  But not that bad, I did rush in one spot and stepped on rocks that were like marbles, a painful fall on my uphill hip was the penalty for rushing things.  No issues and I moved along with lesson learned.

A Gray Flycatcher welcomed me back to camp after a 9 hour 11 mile bird  hike. I was wondering if I would find birds that are usually up on the mountain this time of year.  Fox Sparrows, and White-crowned Sparrows were my main interest.  Saw none, who knows where they are, perhaps lower down on the north road. I think most of the brush up where I usually see them is still buried in snow.



I hit the sleeping bag at about 8 pm.  Long, tiring day was well worth the effort.  In the morning, the drive down the south road was full of singing birds.  Cassin's Finch were at a normal spot along road.  No Long-eared Owls detected, a big miss for me.




Jack is the sabino in the back. Dibs is the pinto in front.  These are wild stallions of the South Steens herd.  Not wanting to start wild horse debate, but these two are beautiful creatures.  Both have suffered leg injuries, they have yet to join up with a herd again, all info gathered from a wild horse Facebook page.




Ducks are at their most photogenic in the early morning.   These Redhead and the Green-winged Teal were near a Glossy Ibis, I think I found the ibis, but I did not have a scope with me. I rarely get to an area where one needs one over there. 







Thanks for the visit, will add a map of some spots and where exactly I heard the Virginia's Warbler tomorrow.




Monday, May 22, 2017

Westport Pelagic May 20, 2017

I went on my third pelagic trip of the year last Saturday (5/20/17) out of  Westport, WA  (Westport Seabirds).  It was by far the most pleasant trip of the year.  On and off sunny skies and a gentle breeze set the stage for a great trip.  Albatross usually show up by 8:30 am on these trips, nothing magical about that time, just leave at 6 am cruise off shore and you hit their home at 8:30.  On Saturday, 8:30 came and went, finally we spotted a Black-footed.  My streak of always seeing an albatross continues.  At one spot we had a Laysan Albatross fly by, it did not stop at our chum, apparently it had a place to go.

It is separated from other black and white albatross by the smaller size, the black back that extends down the back a bit (forming a white U), and..



a variable smudgy underwing and a pink bill with a nice blue tip.




Lots of Red Phalarope were seen.  It is easy to separate these from Red-necked in breeding plumage even at a great distance, Red have dark bellies,








while Red-necked have white bellies and the white cheek.




One very cooperative Tufted Puffin was spotted.



Pink-footed Shearwater were common farther off shore.  They molt their wings Apr-Aug, non breeders molt earlier.  I spent the day trying to see which primaries were being molted. Shearwater, like others, shed their inner primaries all at once. So I think this bird just started its molt since I do not see any new primaries poking out from the coverts yet.



Most of the birds I studied were the thousands of Sooty Shearwater we spotted.  Here I think I see the new inner primaries growing in, those darker feathers on inside of the gap.  Once molt reaches the middle primaries, the coverts are shed.  This creates that bold white wing stripe, those are the bases of exposed feathers.








I think this one just started on the inner primary molt.




When I saw this bird, I thought I had found a bird with no molt, so I was thinking a first-year bird.  But when I looked at the photo, I think I see  new middle primaries?  So this one is well into its molt,  I think I see new coverts growing in as well. If I read things write, a bird this far along might be a non-breeder or a second-year bird?  All this molt stuff might be complete bull, trying to figure it out myself.  In any case there is always lots of  interesting things to look for on these trips.  I thought I saw other birds with no molt, but no good photos obtained.




Two Parasitic Jaegers did a fly-by for us.




My goal on these trips was to find a petrel offshore, none seen this year.  A nice plus on Saturday's trip were all the mammals we saw.  I can't recall when we saw them first, but I would guess from 20ish miles offshore out to 35 miles or so offshore, the ocean was packed with whales and dolphin.  So while scanning the skies for a petrel, the mammal show kept me entertained.

You can see the hump where the dorsal fin sits on this Humpbacked Whale. 




Pacific White-sided Dolphin were everywhere, out enjoying the day. 







I am always amazed at how stream-lined they are, they can come a good ways out of the water without actually breaking the surface.




One of my favorite beasts is the Northern Right Whale Dolphin. they have a beautiful white patch on their underside.




And, like whom they are named after, the Northern Right Whale, they lack a dorsal fin.




At one point I spotted some high dorsal fins in the water, I thought small Orca, but they seemed a tad small.  Risso's Dolphin is the other option.




Some were resting on the surface, they stayed in an eerie pattern, I felt like I was watching a sea monster from Pirates of the Caribbean. 




Their backs and bodies become scarred from their fellow dolphin's teeth or from the squid that they feast upon.  The older they get, the paler they get.  That is an older one in front.




We saw well over 100 of these amazing dolphin. Their dorsal fin usually remain dark.




They always have very striking patterns on their bodies.




Overall the boat (Monte Carlo) traveled 87 miles, I did not see a tern until mile 86.999, just as we were getting back to marina.  Common Tern.




Thanks to the boat, the crew, Phil and Chris, and the spotters, Bill, Bruce, Scott and Mike. Will post ebird results once they are done.  Thanks for the visit.  Ochocos next weekend then Malheur in 9 days!