To describe my lifelong fascination with flight and with creatures that fly I like to echo the words of John James Audubon who in 1839 wrote of himself as "...one who never can cease to admire and to study with zeal and the most heartfelt reverence, the wonderful productions of an Almighty Creator."
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Western Kingbird nest in Western Oregon
On May 27 I joined two birding friends to do a "Big Day" expedition within Marion County, a 17-hr. effort to see how many species we could find in one day. South of the town of Turner we found a pair of Western Kingbirds out in the open fields, and since this species is not easy to find in northwestern Oregon, it was a very satisfying find. But it became even more satisfying when one of my teammates saw one of the birds enter the narrow opening under an insulator on the top of a utility pole, suggesting the even less likely possibility that they were nesting there. The photo of the tell-tale tail confirms the fact that it does occasionally happen here. (We identified at least 110 species for the day, but a few other brief sightings or "hearings" had to be left as unidentified.)
Today I happened to be in Pacific City, Oregon, and noticed a small flock of Red Crossbills working on the cones in some young Lodgepole Pine trees growing just a few hundred yards from the beach. Of the eight different forms of Red Crossbill identified in North America, I assume that this one is of the Type 3 group, also designated by some experts as the Sitka Crossbill. It is found mainly between the Cascade Mts. and the coast. Since this one is so yellow, rather than red, it must be a female or perhaps a young male.
Another few days of vacation provided another chance to visit the wide open spaces of Lake County, Oregon. Summer Lake National Wildlife Refuge never disappoints. I actually started the day (May 14) at the coast, and ended it by crawling into my sleeping bag under the open, starry sky 15 hours and 300-plus miles later. Starting in a hazy drizzle at Oceanside meant that I missed many species at the coast, but still ended the day (with a calling Virginia Rail after dark) with 117 species. During the following two days, I added about 15 species more before returning home to western Oregon.
American Avocet on the nest (Remember to click on the photo for an enlarged view.)
My campsite at Summer Lake NWR American Bittern Yellow-headed Blackbird Killdeer nest Forster's TernSandhill Crane Dawn comes over Summer Lake Fences are a problem for Pronghorn Antelope in Oregon's High Desert
The spring North American Migration Count (NAMC) was conducted today nationwide, and I was a member of the team here in my home county (Yamhill) counting all the species of birds and numbers of individuals we could find. One of the 74 species I found was a Rufous Hummingbird that was very nervous about me being so close to her nest. As soon as I moved away, she settled down again on the two pure white eggs in the nest cup that measured not much more than 1 inch in diameter. As is typical, she had decorated/disguised the outside by attaching pieces of lichen all around.
In early afternoon, near the Willamette River, this Golden-crowned Sparrow seemed about as interested in me as I was in him. It's always a little surprising to find Golden-crowns here this late in the season since he is still perhaps several hundred miles south of where he will be nesting in a few weeks. In late afternoon along a dirt road through open, flat fields, I found several Horned Larks. I'm not sure if they are the threatened "Streaked" subspecies, which is found here in the Willamette Valley. They did not appear to be very "streaked."
Today I found the nest of a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos on the campus of Linfield College in McMinnville. The nest was on the ground, but hidden from view by the low vegetation seen in the photo below. The chicks appear to be within a day or two of fledging. The adults were busy bring food to them, and by clicking on the photo above to enlarge it, a bug expert might almost be able to identify the specific menu item with the long antennae.
The offshore rocks along the Oregon Coast are almost all included in the National Wildlife Refuge system. Along with the many capes and cliffs of the coastline, they are excellent places for observing tens of thousands of birds, and not only seabirds, during the nesting and migration seasons. Yesterday, in addition to the Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Western Gulls and Pelagic Cormorants that are returning to the rocks to lay their eggs, I watched Scoters and Loons passing by, Brown Pelicans relaxing here in the north after completing their nesting in Mexico, and several Bald Eagles looking for easy prey in the shallow waters of Tillamook Bay. A Peregrine Falcon was keeping eggs warm on a protected ledge 200 ft. above the crashing surf. For a birder on the loose, it doesn't get much better than that!
With an unexpected day of vacation to "spend" today, I headed for the coast. It had been months since I'd had a chance to do this. It was a beautiful day -- I don't know what happened to the 60% rain that was in the forecast.
Harlequin Ducks at Barview Jetty
Greater Yellowlegs fishing, and a Belted Kingfisher thinking about it.