Sunday, September 26, 2010

White-fronted Geese migrating

This evening many observers, both east and west of the Oregon Cascades, are reporting White-fronted Geese moving southward. In the last hour before sunset, from a location near the Willamette River here in Yamhill Co., I counted approximately 1,300 in about 10 flocks, all flying very high and heading southeast. The book says their nesting ground is in Alaska, and they winter in the central valley of California and in western Mexico.

Beach Birds at Salishan

The American Golden Plover, according to the Birds of Oregon book, is considered an "occasional to uncommon migrant" in western Oregon, and it's always a treat to see one. Yesterday this one was associating with a group of 16 Black-bellied Plovers on the ocean side of the Salishan spit at Siletz Bay.

The Golden with a Black-bellied Plover

When the beach got wider I moved higher into the drier sand, hoping to find Snowy Plovers. I did not find them, but I did have a close encounter with this Whimbrel resting among the driftwood logs.

Semi-palmated Plovers were numerous along a half-mile stretch of the beach, but difficult to see when they were not in motion.

The handsome Heerman's Gulls come north with the Brown Pelicans after their nesting season is finished in Mexico, adding some nice variety to the gull scene here.

A few dozen Western Sanpipers were scattered along the northern-most mile of the beach, picking up things around standing water, and occasionally bathing and preening.

Back on the bay side of the spit, in the marsh at the south end of Siletz Bay, a Great Blue Heron was stalking small critters in shallow pools.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Birds against the moon

This is the time of the year when it's possible to watch birds at night -- that is, if the sky is fairly clear, and the moon is somewhere close to full. Millions of birds are migrating southward at this time, and many of them fly at night. Tonight I watched for about 10 minutes through my spotting 'scope at about 30x magnification. During that time I saw seven or eight birds fly across the face of the moon, and depending on their height above ground and distance from me, it took more or less time to make the crossing. Some went by in a split second, while others took perhaps three seconds. I think most of them were Robins or other thrushes, and one flew like a Flicker. Unfortunately, I didn't capture any of them with my camera, but the moon was worth looking at just for it's own beauty.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Counting birds in Yamhill County

The Fall North American Migration Count is happening this weekend, and I spent part of this day counting birds here in Yamhill County. I've been participating in this event for many years, and this was the "rainiest" NAMC I have experienced. But the birds are still here, and I had some interesting close encounters with some of them. For example, this Common Yellowthroat came up to investigate my "pishing" noises.

There are still at least tens of thousands of Barn Swallows in this area, and I saw about 70 or 80 thousand of them this evening during heavy rain preparing to go to roost in the corn fields near the Willamette River.

A video of the activity can be seen at:

This Turkey Vulture watched me for a few minutes from his perch on the pole, but finally got too nervous, and launched. Or maybe he just got hungry for more roadkill 'Possum.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Evening Barn Swallow swarm

This evening the Barn Swallow flock chose to roost in a much more accessible corn field. It was still very near the Willamette River, but also next to a county road a few miles south of Dayton, Oregon. It was impossible to count, and the flock was much smaller than it has sometimes been, but there were certainly many 10's of thousands. Still a spectacular event.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Barn Swallows' annual show

The Barn Swallows are gathering once again (as they do every year) in large numbers at their staging area along the Willamette River in Yamhill County, Oregon. In past years the number has appeared to reach at least several hundred thousand, and on clear mornings can even be detected by the weather radar installation near Portland. Below is an image from a short loop recorded a few days ago on the morning of Sept. 4, 2010. The bright green, small "bubble" near the lower center of the frame is the radar "picture" of thousands of birds dispersing from their nighttime roost in a cornfield. The flock apparently moved eastward as the birds left the field, which is west of the river. The radar did not detect them until they had gained some altitude.

To read more about this phenomenon in an account published by biologist and researcher, Bruce Cousens, please go to the following link:

Back on September 12, 2006, I photographed part of the Barn Swallow flock as it ascended from the cornfield on Grand Island in Yamhill County just as dawn was breaking. It took only a minute or two for the entire flock to disappear from sight. Click on the photo below for an enlarged view, and you should be able to see the thousands of small specks against the morning light.