Monday, December 31, 2007

Prineville, Oregon, CBC

Today, the last day of 2007, I indulged in another Christmas Bird Count, this time at Prineville in Central Oregon. On a beautiful sunny day, with the temperature below freezing, our group of about 20 counters found 88 species in the 15-mile diameter circle.
In one of those random, totally unexpected coincidences, for the second time during this CBC period (as at Tillamook on Dec. 22) I happened to be in the neighborhood when another vagrant Harris's Sparrow showed up, and was able to capture a quick photo. This bird was hanging out near a cattle feed storage tank. Also in Prineville, we found a group of six or seven Eurasian Collared Doves, a newly arrived species that is spreading rapidly into many areas of North America.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A young Cooper's Hawk feeder-watching

Feeding birds in the backyard sometimes attracts unexpected visitors. This morning as I was walking in my driveway I was startled by a loud bird sound from directly above me. Perched on the utility pole crossbar was this juvenile Cooper's Hawk that was totally ignoring me. The Juncos and Goldfinches at the feeder were much more interesting.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Swans, Geese and Cranes on Sauvie Island

A free day in December -- even if the weather is mostly a mix of rain and snow -- should not be spent indoors when there are so many "good birds" around. Today on Sauvie Island north of Portland, the sun broke through just long enough to create a rainbow above the thousands of Snow Geese and Tundra Swans that were resting on the water, and apparently made the Sandhill Cranes think that the grass might be greener on the other side of the island.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

(Sooty) Fox Sparrow

One of the most common birds (at least for my group of counters) on the Tillamook Christmas Bird Count was the Fox Sparrow. It wasn't the most numerous, but it probably showed up at more of our stops than did any other species. Of course, it usually did NOT show up until we started "pishing" (that is, making a variety of sounds all related to "shhhhh") and then several usually came up out of the blackberry brambles to find the source of that noise.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Harris's Sparrow at Tillamook

For me, as for 57,850 other birders in the U.S., a major part of the fun of the Christmas season every year is the chance to participate in a Christmas Bird Count. Yesterday I joined about 30 others at Tillamook on the Oregon Coast to see what we could find. I happened to be in the right place when the Harris's Sparrow popped out of a willow thicket and was spotted by one of my fellow counters. This was only the third sighting of this species in the 40-plus year history of the Tillamook Count. The Red-shouldered Hawk is also unusual anywhere in northern Oregon, but becoming more common. This one (also seen near Tillamook yesterday) was doing a pretty good job of blending in with his surroundings.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Northern Flicker

Even if a weekend's birding is limited to watching a feeder, it can still be satisfying if visitors to the feeder are dramatic enough. This male Northern Flicker was quite conspicuous among the finches at my daughter's place in Bend this weekend.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Unusual Lesser Goldfinch

Recently a male Lesser Goldfinch not showing the usual green and yellow winter plumage has been coming to my backyard. Yesterday my Wingscapes remote camera was waiting for him when he stopped in for a drink. Now the challenge is to determine if this is just a pigment aberration, or if he has a mixed heritage of some kind. I've never seen the black-backed form in winter (they rarely show up in Oregon), so maybe this is just a normal color phase that is out of the normal geographic range.