Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yellow-breasted Chat

The Yellow-breasted Chat is not common in my neighborhood, and the few that are here seem to stay in the low foothills of the Coast Range. This one I found today was far from the hills, and just a hundred yards from the Willamette River. I suspect he chose this particular spot because it's in an area that is being restored to natural habitat after being farmed for many years; just the combination of brushy tangles and young trees that this noisy, but hard to see skulker prefers. When I chatted back at him today, he popped out just long enough for me to get a quick look, and then disappeared among the leaves again. But I could still hear him... Chuh, chuh, chuh, chuh, chuh... tsew, tsew, tsew, tsew...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Violet-green Swallow and beetles, again

Yesterday I saw (by means of the camera in the nestbox) a beetle crawling around in the grass that the Violet-green Swallow has collected in her nest-building efforts, so I immediately suspected a repeat of what I've observed during each of the past two nesting seasons. Then today, while I was watching closely, I clearly saw the female Swallow enter the nestbox holding something small and dark in her bill. She quickly settled on the nest, and then deliberately lowered her face into the grass and released the object she was holding. She soon left the nestbox, and I continued watching for the next 15 minutes as that "object" moved around in that spot, and eventually emerged and began climbing up the side of the box. I hurried outside and waited for whatever it was to appear. When it did, I captured and photographed it. One of the beetle's wings had apparently been damaged during its capture and transport by the Swallow. I don't know what type of beetle this is, but whatever it is, this event strongly suggests (again) that the Swallow is doing something intended to clean up the nest in some way. More about similar things that happened during the past three seasons can be found at the "Swallow nestbox camera" link listed in the column to the right of the photos.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A few sightings in Lake County, Oregon

Golden Eagle


Rock Wren

Birding in foreign places temporarily recreates the excitement of early birding experiences when everything is new and unknown, and I thoroughly enjoyed the "discoveries" of my recent week in Europe. But for me it also enhances the pleasure of coming home to familiar birds, so my Memorial Day outing to the high desert of south-central Oregon was very enjoyable. Rock Wrens, Canyon Wrens, Prairie Falcons, Golden Eagles, Brewer's Sparrows, Willets, White-throated Swifts, Black Terns... every birder who has a chance to visit Oregon should spend some time in Lake County exploring Fort Rock, Paulina Marsh, and Summer Lake.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Yellow-legged Gull in Istanbul

The only gull I saw well enough to identify on my trip to Europe was the Yellow-legged Gull which I saw in Turkey. There were many patrolling the part of Istanbul where we stayed, and on a rooftop just below our hotel window a pair was caring for a downy chick. Their eternal vigilance seemed to be the price for that chick's survival, considering the numbers of Hooded Crows that were constantly nearby.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Northern Wheatear in Turkey

On my recent trip to Eastern Europe, I was privileged to spend about 24 hours in Turkey. Along the way to Istanbul we stopped at a service plaza along the freeway through wide open agricultural land. I soon heard a tumbling cascade of musical notes from near the edge of the nearby field, and discovered a Northern Wheatear apparently doing territorial or courtship flights, and then landing on fencepost to watch for insect prey. This brought to mind my only previous encounter with this species on the tundra a little northeast of Nome, Alaska.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bulgaria Butterflies

Birds were not the only flying beauties I found in Bulgaria. I don't know their exact names, but it seems likely that the top one here is a Fritillary and the second one down is possibly a Checkerspot. For the third one I don't have a clue, but the bottom one is obviously one of the world's many species of Blues. Even a brief look at Bulgaria suggests that the environment is in good shape, and the variety of birds and butterflies confirms that. Hopefully the economic progress that is happening there will not change that.

Monday, May 19, 2008

White Storks in Bulgaria

Just back from 10 days of traveling in Europe, and seriously sleep-deprived, I'm beginning to review the many encounters with fascinating birds in Bulgaria, Turkey, Switzerland and France. On one early morning walk on my friends' farm in France, I unknowingly crossed the border into a patch of forest in Switzerland. The border guards that came driving through seemed quite surprised to find me there with binoculars, but my bird book served as a convincing passport, and they drove away smiling. I saw White Storks in Basel, Switzerland, but wasn't able to get decent photos until a few days later in Bulgaria.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Alpine Chough on Niederhorn

Last weekend, during a brief stop with some friends in France near Basel, Switzerland, I found a few birds I'd never seen before. On the top of the Niederhorn above Interlaken we were entertained by an active group of Alpine Choughs riding the updrafts along the edge of the cliffs, and sneaking in among the tourists to pick up crumbs that fell from the picnic tables.

A few birds seen today in Sofia, Bulgaria

This week I'm in Sofia, Bulgaria. The birding is pretty good in the large park near our apartment, but the new leaves on the trees make it challenging to spot the birds that can be heard singing all around and above us. However, I have managed to photograph a couple of them, including a Nightingale (a species I'd never seen before) and a Great Tit carrying food to the young in its nest in the base of a lamp post. Looking forward to some expeditions outside the city in the coming days.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sandpipers on the move

This afternoon along the beaches and bays of Tillamook County I watched Western Sandpipers and Dunlin frantically refueling just ahead of the incoming tide, and also having to take flight occasionally to escape from a Peregrine Falcon that came slashing through. The Least Sandpiper in the lower photo was feeding in a more protected wet spot in a cow pasture. They all will probably be burning that fuel tonight or tomorrow when they take off on the next leg of their migration north to the Arctic. Only a couple of thousand miles to go, and then they'll be able to work around the clock in 24-hour daylight nesting and raising their chicks. I guess it's not surprising that their average life expectancy is only about 7 or 8 years.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Hummingbird and Swallow colors

One of the most striking features of many birds is iridescence . Today I happened to have two opportunities to appreciate that colorful effect. In late evening sunlight I had a close encounter with Tree Swallows as they were checking out nestboxes. On my doorstep when I came home there was a small paper bag containing a dead female Rufous Hummingbird a friend had found.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Violet-green Swallows begin building

Thanks to my remote cam (which I have mounted outside near the nestbox) and the other camera inside the box, I can now observe a little more of the behavior of this pair of Violet-green Swallows. I didn't see the feather or the piece of vegetation inside today, but tonight when I downloaded the photos taken outside I discovered that the female had begun the nest-building process. Now I can worry a little less that they will decide to move across the street to my neighbor's birdhouse.