Saturday, February 25, 2017

Smock Prairie 2-25-17

I took advantage of the nice sunny day and headed over to my favorite part of Wasco County, the White River Wildlife Management Area  (WRWMA).  Funny thing was, I was thinking it would be great to spot a Gyrfalcon or some odd predator while I was over there.  The Gyr decided to show up in the Willamette Valley, but I got my share of predators.

I wanted to explore the Smock Prairie portion of the WRWMA.  It is south of where I usually go, but the area north of FR 27 is closed this winter.  So I looked around at the map and noticed this gem of an area.  Below is a map of where I went, I walked the yellow path counter-clockwise today, about 9 miles.

On the way to Smock Prairie, I went by way of the White River Crossing.  No car should try this route this winter.  Not until the snow is gone and road is dry.  Only a good four-wheel drive should attempt this, and probably only when snow is frozen, not in the afternoon.  I made it, but I was thinking it was a bad idea.

I was wondering if I would see any birds up on the prairie.  As soon as I started down the road past the gate I saw a group of black birds on the road.  They turned out to be a flock of Lewis's Woodpeckers, a great start to the day. 

Lewis's Woodpeckers never cooperate with my camera.  I saw about 2 dozen today, none let me get very close or stayed put very long.

The open ground on the prairie was very damp in most places.  American Robins were out in the sun enjoying the day.

I saw a number of Red-winged Blackbirds and a few Starling.

A few shots of the road I walked out.

This is looking back toward where you park.  Spring birding along this road could be very interesting.

Lots of meadows to scan for bluebirds.

Mt Hood was looking nice.

There is a small wetland area here, I am going to check this spot out come spring.

I worked my way up into the snow and promptly lost the road I was trying to follow.  I cut over to a drainage ditch and followed it uphill.

There was ice on this ditch, it was cracking down the center.  Every time it cracked it sounded like a tree was coming down on Huck and myself,  it would give me a start every time. 

I did find a few mixed flocks of birds.  I scanned every bird I could for something rare,  I was really hoping to stumble across some Redpolls mixed in with these birds.  

I never tire of Mountain Chickadees, one of my favorites.

Lots of Pine Siskins.  Note the very pointed bill.

At one point I was walking through a small woods.  I was walking on pine needles and not making a sound, Huck was behind me.  I came within three paces of stepping on the tail of a Mountain Lion.  It was stretched out on the pine needles, relaxing in a sunny spot.  It must have been sleeping in the sun.  I startled it just as much as it startled me.  It jumped up and landed just like a startled house cat.  Its front shoulders were down, head close to the ground, hips and tail up in the air.  It was about 8 feet in front of me when we saw each other. It landed about 15 feet from me.  

It was huge, 9-10 feet from head to tail tip, I thought it weighed 200 lbs.  Three feet at the shoulder.  At that point I heard Huck barking, He got up in front of me, at the same time the cat  sprinted away. It went back the same way I had come, I do not know how it got past Huck, either dodged him or jumped over him. I think it went on the other side of a tree to me. 

I do not remember taking this picture.

Nor this one.

Nor this one.

These I remember. 

And it was gone.

Lots of cat food were seen..

I did run into a small group of White-breasted Nuthatch.

A young Northern Shrike was in the area of a wetland.

I like exploring new areas in February so I can return in spring.  I will certainly bird this area when the Gray Flycatchers and Nashville Warblers return. I am interested in seeing what these wetland areas are like come spring and what birds will be there. It should be great for woodpeckers as well.   If you bird out Smock Road way, stop and walk in the road a bit, you will need the same parking pass as Sauvie or Fern Ridge.

My eBird list for the day ( and the only one I could find for this spot)  on the WRWMA:

Smock Prairie (WRWMA), Wasco, Oregon, US
Feb 25, 2017 8:40 AM - 2:40 PM
Protocol: Traveling
9.0 mile(s)
Comments:     sunny, started out at 25 degrees, warmed to 35.  Snow on ground in places, muddy in others.  Wind 5-10 mph, stronger if afternoon.
24 species

Golden Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Lewis's Woodpecker  25
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
American Kestrel  1
Northern Shrike  1
California Scrub-Jay  6
American Crow  2
Common Raven  1
Mountain Chickadee  15
Red-breasted Nuthatch  10
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
Brown Creeper  2
Western Bluebird  8
American Robin  30
European Starling  1
Dark-eyed Junco  6
Spotted Towhee  3
Red-winged Blackbird  30
Western Meadowlark  3
House Finch  15
Purple Finch  6
Pine Siskin  40

Thanks for the visit!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Birding Westport

It has been awhile since I have posted a report.  I have been birding around Portland most of the last few months.  I have ventured to Fern Ridge and Tillamook.  I completed three CBC's.  So I have been busy.  One trip I was hoping for was a pelagic trip.  My Jan 28 trip out of Newport was cancelled.  Last Saturday (2/4) I was in Westport, WA.  for a pelagic trip, the weather deteriorated in the morning. I learned that trip was cancelled when I stepped on the boat.  I did not mind at all, it rained all day; it would have been a wet cold trip.  Nothing is more miserable than trying to bird on a pelagic trip in the rain.  So I moved my trip to their March 18th venture.

The point of this report is to describe what to do in Westport when your pelagic trip is cancelled. I tagged along with the guides at breakfast and joined them on a jaunt around the area to see what birds were in town. As Gene described to me, dump twelve or so avid birders in a town, and good birds tend to show up.

Here is a map of the spots we hit.

We started out searching the marina.  The Westport Marina is worth a visit even if not going on a pelagic.  If you want to see the boat we use, it is Monte Carlo on Dock 10.

A large, and I do mean large , flock of Marbled Godwits  winter in the marina.  They roost there at high tide.  We saw them from the mouth of the marina (see map).  Dunlin are in front.

Most guesses were in the 700 range for a total count.

A Peregrine Falcon on a nearby tower kept the godwits nervous.

But they would always return after a fly out over the bay and back.

The marina provides easy views of many birds.  Western Grebe.

Eared Grebe are not common in the marina.

Common Loon are very common in area.

No Velvet or Stejneger's Scoter seen, tried my best.  Most scoter were Surf Scoter.  I did see a few White-winged.

The California Sea Lions should not be pestered.  They allow close approach, but I do not want to see if I can out-run one down the dock.

An eBird list for marina:

Westport -- Coast Guard Station/spit, Grays Harbor, Washington, US
Feb 4, 2017 8:30 AM - 9:15 AM
Protocol: Traveling
0.3 mile(s)
32 species (+1 other taxa)

Brant  2
Greater Scaup  6
Harlequin Duck  5
Surf Scoter  12
White-winged Scoter  3
Bufflehead  4
Common Goldeneye  1
Red-breasted Merganser  6
Common Loon  6
Western Grebe  12
Pelagic Cormorant  12
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Northern Harrier  1
Marbled Godwit  700
Dunlin  30
Least Sandpiper  4
Wilson's Snipe  1
Mew Gull  6
Thayer's Gull  1
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  50
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  20
Peregrine Falcon  1     on radio tower, kept godwit nervous
Northern Shrike  1     distant view, assumed Northern
American Crow  12
American Robin  1
European Starling  20
White-crowned Sparrow  5
Golden-crowned Sparrow  12
Song Sparrow  2
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Brewer's Blackbird  10
House Finch  3

After the marina we went to Neddie Rose Drive to look for Rock Pipers (see map).  They were easy to spot from the nice viewing deck.  Note the smaller bird in the group.

The Surfbird is the larger one on the rock.  The Rock Sandpiper is the smaller one on the right. When the flock flew it was easy to spot two small Rock Sandpipers.

An eBird list for site:

Overlook at Neddie Rose, Grays Harbor, Washington, US
Feb 4, 2017 9:20 AM - 9:35 AM
Protocol: Stationary
12 species (+1 other taxa)

Surf Scoter  10
White-winged Scoter  12
Common Loon  2
Horned Grebe  1
Western Grebe  12
Pelagic Cormorant  8
Double-crested Cormorant  4
Bald Eagle  1
Black Turnstone  10
Surfbird  15
Rock Sandpiper  2     Smaller bird next to Surfbird
Least Sandpiper  3
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  40

We worked our way out to the south jetty.  At one stop we spotted a distant group of gulls, not sure who noticed the bird first.  Perhaps we all did at once, but there was an obviously dark-backed gull we wanted to check out.  We parked at Westhaven St Park and checked out the small flock sitting on beach at what birders call Halfmoon Bay.

I was having a tough time seeing the eye with my binoculars in the rain.  I could see the straw colored bill, it was not school bus yellow.  The bill looked long and straight edged.  I wanted to get closer, fortunately others had scopes and  we quickly realized we were looking at a Slaty-backed Gull. It had pale eye and very fine brownish streaks on its head.  It had bright pink legs. The bird was huge compared to the various versions of mostly Western Gulls near it.

Note the pale eye, bright pink legs, bill color and structure and blotch around eye.  I saw what appeared to be the pearls on the wings when it opened its wings a bit.  Bird never flew.

After alerting other birders in the area the gang checked out the ocean beaches, lots of Sanderlings and a few Black-bellied Plover.

Ebird list:

Westhaven SP, Grays Harbor, Washington, US
Feb 4, 2017 9:40 AM - 10:25 AM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments:     rain  45 degrees
12 species (+1 other taxa)

Surf Scoter  10
Bufflehead  3
Red-breasted Merganser  1
Common Loon  1
Horned Grebe  1
Red-necked Grebe  1
Black-bellied Plover  3
Sanderling  30
Mew Gull  4
Western Gull  4
Thayer's Gull  6
Slaty-backed Gull  1     sitting on beach just inside jetty
Western/Glaucous-winged Gull  40

We then went down to Tokeland (see map).  There was a report of a Long-billed Curlew and a Whimbrel along the shore.  The tide had gone out some more and we could not locate those birds. We did get a brief look at a Palm Warbler that was hiding along Emerson Ave and area.  A Willet was in mud at the Tokeland Harbor.

After saying goodbye to the Washington birders, I went home via Astoria, I drove the beach on my way to Seaside, a Black-legged Kittiwake was in a group along the storm-blown beach.

Sanderling were everywhere, picking away at all the chunks of crab on the beach.

If you have a free weekend check out Westport and Tokeland this winter. Thanks to Bruce, Bill and Gene for the tour!

Thanks for the visit.