Sunday, August 30, 2009

Barn Swallows swarming again

Once again, as they have been doing for at least 12 years to my knowledge (and maybe for decades more), a huge flock of Barn Swallows is gathering here in Yamhill County. For several weeks they scatter out during the day across this part of the Willamette Valley, and then join a multitude of their fellows to roost in a cornfield during the night. This evening I watched as many tens of thousands swirled together just after sunset, and then plunged down to find a perch in the standing corn. A short video clip of a small part of the major flock can be seen at the following link. The big group was too far away to video effectively.

(Unfortunately, I discovered after posting this that it cannot be enlarged for viewing, so you really can't see the birds in motion. Sorry.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

A few days in the Olympics

A few days with the family at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park provided a fun, relaxing time in a spectacular setting, but Barn and Violet-green Swallows were the most common birds over the water. But one day a group of immature Common Mergansers cruised into view, and spent an hour sunning on the boat ramp.

There were some attractive butterflies near the lake, including this Pine White, even though I did not see any pine trees in the thousands of acres of conifer forest covering the hills.

One day we drove west about an hour to the northwestern-most point of the U.S. lower 48. A trail led through lush rainforest to the viewpoint at Cape Flattery, where there was another spectacular view, and also a flock of about 90 Black Oystercatchers, the largest group of these birds I've ever seen.

Tatoosh Island, about a half mile off the point, was like a tantalizing glimpse of another world. I'm sure it would be a wonderful place for a birder to visit, and would be a great vantage point from which to watch for passing shearwaters, kittiwakes, and alcids.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brown Pelican adult in flight

Last weekend I spent part of a sunny afternoon on the beach near Tillamook. I was entertained by the many Brown Pelicans diving for fish in the channel between the jetties, and also by a small beetle that landed on my hand. From illustrations I've found by Googling "beetles," I believe it is one of the world's 3,500 species of Soldier Beetles. Apparently they are good to have in your garden, since they are known to dine on aphids.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Robber Fly with prey

I had heard of Robber Flies before, but not until yesterday had I seen one in action. In a forested area in the Coast Range foothills of Yamhill Co., this one landed nearby with a Yellowjacket in her grasp. At any rate, according to one internet source I found, this one appears to be a female Laphria flavicollis. The Yellowjacket was still moving slightly, but the "neurotoxins" that it was receiving appeared to be effectively paralyzing it, and presumably the"proteolytic enzymes" that will dissolve its innards were beginning to work. Not a pretty picture, but not much sympathy for the Yellowjacket, either, I suppose.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Gray Flycatcher in Central Oregon

I went camping with my 5-yr-old grandson near Lake Billy Chinook in Central Oregon. As the morning sun began to warm the juniper/sage habitat around our tent, several Gray Flycatchers appeared to be finding many active insects. Just as the book says, the rounded head of this species is a good field mark distinguishing it from the similar species in the Empidonax group of small flycatchers.