Monday, November 30, 2009

Dawson Creek Field Trip

My big birding weekend continued on Sunday as I led a field trip for the Audubon Society of Portland at Dawson Creek Corporate Park. At least eight participants met at the Hillsboro Library parking lot ready for a chilly but dry morning. During introductions, I announced that the bird I most hoped to find was a White-breasted Nuthatch because I regularly see or hear them among the large oaks, but I had never shown them to others on a field trip.

We walked along the ponds and found the usual crowd-pleasing species such as Acorn Woodpeckers, Wood Ducks, and Great Blue Herons. The day's best find was probably a Wilson's Snipe resting along the edge of a pond, spotted by a sharp-eyed participant.

As we neared the large oaks that mark the end of the loop, I heard the scream-like call of a White-breasted Nuthatch. After a little searching, we found a pair of nuthatches creeping up and down the trunks. This and other great sightings made for a successful field trip that probably will be my last at Dawson Creek, as Sarah and I plan to move to Portland at the end of the year. We have a few hurdles to clear before the move becomes a reality, but I may soon need to change this blog's title.

Here are the birds seen and heard during the field trip.

Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Cackling Goose
American Wigeon
Green-winged Teal
Wood Duck
American Kestrel
Wilson's Snipe
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Northern Flicker
Acorn Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Western Scrub Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Bewick's Wren
Winter Wren
American Robin
White-breasted Nuthatch
Spotted Towhee
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Brewer's Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Birding Washington

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Sarah and I met with two birding friends and crossed the Columbia to visit two wildlife refuges in Washington.

Our first stop was Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which was recently opened to the public.

We took the Gibbons Creek Trail to a slough where we quickly found the best bird of the day.

It was an American Bittern, hunting frogs or other animals in the canary grass. We had seen and heard plenty of bitterns before, but this was the first time we had an unobstructed view of bittern behavior. As the bittern moved slowly and silently through the water, we saw its tail protract past the primary tips of its folded wings, then quickly retract and disappear. We had never seen this strange tail behavior before, perhaps it helps maintain bittern balance.

The bittern's legs were yellowish-green and nicely matched the lower blades of canary grass. The brown streaks on its neck matched the dried upper portions of grass.

We ended the day at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. As usual, we saw plenty of Tundra Swans and Red-tailed Hawks, a pair of Rough-legged Hawks, and a few Bald Eagles. As we approached the end of the auto loop, one of the eagles plucked a bird (a duck or coot) right out of the main pond and carried off to a tree. The view of the predation event was a great way to end an excellent birding trip.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Killin Wetlands in Fall

Yesterday I visited my summer Willow Flycatcher study sites to record some GPS data and see the wetlands in their fall colors.

Recent rains have added plenty of water to the basin.

A stream was flowing through an area that is usually dry.

The invasive reed canary grass (foreground) does not grow well when flooded, so this extra water could help the native species compete.

This Geyer willow sapling still has a few yellow leaves attached.

Most of the other shrubs and trees have lost their leaves, revealing things I had not noticed during the summer such as the smooth, tan bark of these madrone trunks.

Beaked hazels still had green leaves and catkins. In a few months, the catkins will open up and add some bright yellow color to the wintry landscape. I will definitely return to the wetland to see what is going on then.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beach Storms and Birds

Sarah and I spent a long weekend at the beach, which was getting hammered by storms each day. On Friday the skies were mostly sunny, but heavy surf battered Cape Kiawanda and covered the beach with a thick foam that wiggled in the wind.

With all the foam, surf, and fog, it was hard to see the boundaries between the sand, water, and sky.

On Sunday, we left for home reluctantly as always. Along the way, we stopped at the Nehalem Treatment Plant to look for some birds. Upon arriving, Sarah spotted a Black Phoebe, a rare coastal flycatcher.

A well-known Portland birder was visiting the area as well. He pointed us to a Northern Mockingbird perched on the sprinkler above. The coast is frequently visited by birds, such as this mockingbird, that venture out of there normal range. I rarely see these rarities myself, however, so it was nice to have a little help.

We also found pairs of White-tailed Kites, Northern Harriers, and Bald Eagles. Once again, the Nehalem Plant did not disapoint.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Painting Again

During the last few days, I worked on some painting projects.

On Halloween Day, I woke up and painted the University of Oregon logo on a small green pumpkin. I became a Duck fan through marriage, so I had spent much of the week looking forward to the Oregon-USC football game that night. Oregon won the game easily, so we will keep the pumpkin around as a good-luck charm.

Yesterday I finished my annual contribution to the Wild Arts Festival, a fundraiser for the Audubon Society of Portland. We have seen a lot of Black Oystercatchers during our beach trips this year, so I was inspired to put one on a 6 x 6 canvas.

This oystercatcher is contemplating a limpet, one of their favorite foods.
Soon it will be time to carve and paint holiday ornaments!