Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Black Oystercatcher pair at Boiler Bay

At Boiler Bay State Park on the Oregon Coast today I spent about 15 minutes watching a pair of Black Oystercatchers. They acted very much like they were nesting, even though (according to the book) this is much later in the season than they are known to do so. The bird down between the boulders seemed to be incubating eggs, since not once in that time did it stand up, even though it occasionally stretched its neck up as far as possible to watch a ground squirrel that was about 10 ft. away. The mate (resting higher on a rock) seemed to be keeping watch, and scolded loudly when the squirrel was moving around nearby. Maybe an earlier nesting attempt had failed, so they are trying again. (?)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Through a small boy's eyes

It's worth repeating that the best way to find interesting "critters" outdoors is to be there with a child. Again this weekend I was in Bend, and I enjoyed exploring with my grandson, Eli, (who took this unintentional self-portrait with my camera.) We found lots of cool bugs.

These tiny insects (I think they are flies) are about 1/4 of an inch long, and were attracted to the leaves on a young birch tree. I'm not sure if they were just resting there or if they were finding something to eat. In any case, the wasp below (I believe it is a European Paper Wasp) appeared to be either depositing something sticky on the leaves, or licking it up.
I did some reading about this wasp, and learned that it was first found in North America in Massachusetts in 1980. It's a native of Eurasia, but apparently is somewhat beneficial here because it preys on some of our insect pests.
Speaking of pests, this Pine Sawyer beetle was also in Bend today. For obvious reasons, some people call it Longhorn Beetle, and it is known to feed on the juicy layers below the bark of pine trees, which probably explains why in lives in Central Oregon.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Western Wood-Pewee nestlings

Today at Tualatin River NWR near Sherwood (Oregon) I found a pair of Western Wood-Pewees feeding three youngsters in a nest that looked barely big enough for one. They must be about ready to fly. I was impressed by how totally silent they all were, compared to young swallows and other cavity nesting birds. I suppose that's due to the fact of their vulnerable situation, which was emphasized by the presence of several crows that flew over less than 100 ft. above the nest. The parents did not come near the nest while the crows were in the area.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Japanese Beetle in Michigan

I suppose if we had to fight the Japanese Beetle in Oregon, I would not admire its beauty like I do when I see it here in Michigan. Anyway, it's another one of the colorful flying creatures I've encountered during my few days here. Wikipedia says it's native to Japan, where its numbers are apparently controlled in natural ways, but since it first showed up here in the U.S. in about 1912 it has been multiplying rapidly and feasting every summer on leafy plants in many parts of the eastern U.S. We might say it's one of the Starlings of the insect world.

Some birds at Michigan State

Finding myself in Michigan for a few days, I immediately began noticing birds I don't see very often, i.e. Chimney Swift, Cardinal, Catbird, etc. I noticed that the young Bluejays that are flying around begging to be fed sound a lot like young piglets squealing quietly; very similar to the sounds the young Scrub Jays make at home in Oregon. It has also been interesting to notice again how different the eastern Song Sparrows are from the western ones I'm familiar with. Here they really do show the "stickpin" breast spot mentioned in some field guides - one of those misleading statements for western birders, since "our" birds rarely show that mark clearly. Other birds here along the Red Cedar River (which runs through the MSU campus) seem to be just as common as in western Oregon: House Finch, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Common Nighthawk, Mourning Dove and the Robin which has been flying against the window disturbing my fellow conference-attendees.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Warbling Vireo nest

Bird songs were at high volume in the riparian forest along the Willamette River today, and that's how I found this Warbling Vireo nest. I watched the bird sing its way through the Cottonwood branches to within a few inches of this clump of leaves. Its sudden silence and disappearance made me take a closer look, and there was the tightly woven cup shielded from sun and rain by a few large leaves.