Fink Family Farm Bird List

Fink Family Farm Bird List

The only list I faithfully keep is a list of all the birds seen on our farm since we moved here in 1977. I thought it would be fun to ad...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oregon Birding Association Annual Meeting

Bandon, Oregon, was the site of this year's OBA meeting. I had never gone before but it has always been in June, when I'm heavily involved in the farm and Black Oystercatcher monitoring. This year's September agenda looked tantalizing... and turned out to be as good as it sounded.

I opted to not go on Friday's pelagic trip as I get seasick easily and there were small craft advisories. Reportedly, that was the best pelagic trip ever for number and variety of birds. But I probably would have seen few of them.

Friend Dawn and I drove down on Friday afternoon to arrive in time for registration, get-acquainted happy hour, and an absolutely delicious supper. Of course, we stopped here and there on our way to admire the view and birds.

Black Turnstones at Yachats Ocean Rd.

Seal Rock area Pelicans and Cormorants

Brown Pelicans, Western Gulls, and Cormorants atop the rock pictured above

Dawn surveying the Siltcoos Lagoon (oxbow lake)

What a quiet, beautiful and birdy spot

Siltcoos River Lagoon Trail

Hoodless Hooded Mergansers on the lagoon

We arrived in Bandon in time to check into the hotel and head to the Community Center for registration, a wonderful supper courtesy of the OBA folks, and a fascinating talk/slideshow by Roy Lowe about the history of the coastal national wildlife refuges. Dawn and I plus friend Eugenia from Salem were staying at the Sunset Oceanfront Lodge. Even my economy room (or at least the deck a few steps from my door) had a spectacular view of the ocean and sea stacks. But we had little time to sit and admire the view either day.

The view from "my" deck

The next morning, Dawn, Eugenia and I met the rest of our field trip crew and drove a very long way to Pistol River where we saw lots of birds that I did not get photos of, including Black Phoebe, Red-shouldered Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, one lone Dowitcher, plus lots of treetop birds like American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Bushtits, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Chickadees, etc. I only saw a fraction of the total birds seen. That held true for the next day's field trip as well. However, I missed none of the spectacular scenery.

I did a little better as we worked our way back north. Elegant Terns were flying and calling at the mouth of the river at Gold Beach. I managed to photograph them resting on buoys.

Elegant Terns at Gold Beach

At the Arizona State Recreation Area my sciatica gave me an excuse to sit on a picnic table and just look and listen for birds... plus catch up with an old friend, Tom Shreve. Part of the fun of this weekend was seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Arizona State Recreation Area
 This Great Blue Heron was standing very still at the side of the pond, only visible from the trail by the sluice gate seen above... where only a few of us went.

When the main group returned from their hike, Eugenia (my canoe companion at the Shorebird Festival of a few years ago) asked what we had seen, sitting on our picnic table overlooking the marshy pond. I told her we saw two Northern Waterthrushes, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron that we originally thought was a Bittern but then noticed two nearby Bitterns and realized our mistake... At that point Dawn, who had walked up with Eugenia, said, "You did not!" If Dawn had not called my bluff, I might have been able to add another twenty bogus birds. Eugenia trusts me not to lie. Or did.

Onward we went to Port Orford, where this curious Harbor Seal proved the easiest to photograph.

A couple of winter plumaged Pigeon Guillemots, looking nothing like breeding plumaged Guillemots, except for their red feet, were swimming and diving near the pier.

This Western Grebe was photographed somewhere, either at Port Orford or at a stop between there and our return to Bandon. Someday I'll remember to write down where I take photos. (Dawn says Port Orford dock. She types into her magic phone and pulls up this stuff.)

After another delicious meal and fabulous talk/slideshow by Dan Gleason, we collapsed into our beds.

Early the next morning, we met for a half day field trip to Bandon Marsh and other Bandon area locations. But the marsh was so productive, we spent most of our time there, much to my and my aching leg's relief. Tim Rodenkirk was again our enthusiastic and energetic trip leader, determined to mine every "good bird" in that marsh for everyone to see.

Wayne Weber from Canada came up with the first "good bird", a Red Knot. I never saw it and it soon left. Then Tim found a Pacific Golden Plover. I did see that one and tried to get photos but it was a long way off and hanging out with a flock of Black-bellied Plovers. The bird below may or may not be the "right" bird. Without seeing it next to the Black-bellies, it was impossible to see any difference. It was noticeably smaller when they were side by side.

Here is the crew looking out over the marsh. I mostly stayed up on the viewing platform, where I could lean on the railing to rest my leg... and see thousands of peeps a few miles away that the others could not see. Of course, I could not identify any at that distance.

I loved the colorful Marbled Godwits that worked their way close to us eventually.

My one claim to fame was alerting Tim to a flock of warblers (I had seen a Townsend's) and chickadees up by my viewing platform. Dawn scanned the flitting birds and saw what she thought was an Orange-crowned Warbler, except it had wing bars. Tim became very excited and said, "It has to be a Blackpoll Warbler! That's the only yellow warbler with wingbars that could be here now! There have only been two sightings in this county and neither were accepted!" (Yes, he really does talk with exclamation marks.) And so the search was on and Tim did, eventually, find it again, along with Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and more. I, of course, got photos of none of them. Co-leader Harv went back later that day and refound the warbler. He was going to go again with a camera to document their find. I wish him luck.

Between our morning and afternoon visits to the marsh, we went to the jetty and looked for turnstones, which we found but were very hard to see against the pilings.

We did see a Red-breasted Merganser there but my photos are even more pitiful than the rest of these photos. A Double-crested Cormorant cooperated, however.

We peeled off from the group after lunch and headed home. Naturally, we stopped at a few places, including the Umpqua River Lighthouse and the jetty below.

We had been told that Winchester Bay was a good place for terns and possibly jaegers, which were Dawn's quest, so we went there. Dawn spotted a BJ's Ice Cream sign from the highway so we wheeled in. The ice cream was wonderful. And the birding, too. We found our only Spotted Sandpiper of the trip and more terns and grebes that I did not get photos of. No jaegers, though.

Our next stop was an exploratory one at what was billed as a boardwalk and interpretive center on the Umpqua River at Reedsport. We thought the boardwalk went over a marsh but it did not. It bordered the river. (I guess that makes sense since it was called the Umpqua Riverfront Boardwalk.) An adjoining dock was occupied by a hunting Great Egret and a preening gull. Who would have thought?

It was time to keep moving so we made only one more stop, on our way home, at a lovely overlook, donated to the public by a generous man.

A bit after 5:30 p.m., I dropped Dawn off in Lincoln City and drove home, full of good memories of an amazing weekend. Next year's meeting will be in the Roseburg area, which doesn't hold as much thrill as the Oregon coast. But, if it's in September again, we'll see what speakers and field trips they come up with...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tillamook and Polk County Migration Counts

On Sunday, Sept. 21, friend Joy and I roamed through the closest areas of Tillamook and Polk Counties for their respective migration counts. Mostly, for the Tillamook count, I crawled under bridges looking for Dippers on the Little Nestucca River. And found five of them.

But at the first bridge, I found something I wasn't expecting. Dead salmon. Lots of them. There is a fairly new program in Oregon (and other west coast states) to place dead salmon from hatcheries, fish that would otherwise go to landfills, into coastal rivers to replenish nutrients. In spite of years of efforts to restore salmon stocks, they have not bounced back. It is hoped that giving back some of the nutrients that the thousands of dead spawned-out salmon would have historically returned to the river each fall will help the wild stocks recover. (Both male and female salmon die after spawning.)

The rest of our Tillamook county trip was fish-less and Dipper-full. Here is one of the bridges near where I found a Dipper. They nest under bridges and then declare their territory to be about one-half mile upstream and one-half mile downstream of their nest. And they defend those territories noisily against other Dippers. We witnessed one such chase along the stream on this count day.

Dippers are such cool birds. They are the only songbirds that swim. They also walk on the bottom of fast-moving streams. But mostly they stand on rocks or wade, looking for tiny water creatures to eat, then go underwater to catch them. They are very efficient hunters.

To keep their feathers water repellent, they spend a lot of time preening.

Since I spent most of my time under bridges while Joy, on her first birding outing, stayed near the car scanning the sky, we found a total of only 13 species. But Joy saw her first American Dipper, which she had never even heard of before, plus a beautiful adult Bald Eagle and some mighty pretty scenery.

After returning to the Grand Ronde area, we drove into Polk county and stopped at a few sites to find birds. We didn't spend much time searching but we did find a couple species that I knew the rest of the county might not find: White-tailed Kites and a Rough-legged Hawk, both birds that Joy had never heard of before, much less seen. But I took no photos in Polk county that day.

However, on Monday, the Polk county coordinator put out a plea for count week birds that were missed on Count Day. That list included American Dippers. I'll use any excuse to go looking for Dippers... and I did. On the way to pick up Johnny at the Amtrak station in Salem on Tuesday, I drove up Mill Creek Rd. and stopped at every access point to scramble down the bank and look for Dippers. Finally, at the end of the public portion of the road, I found this one...

Since there was still time before the train arrived, I drove through Baskett Slough to see what might be there. I had no idea what birds were still needed for the Polk county count (and still don't) but I thought this Greater Yellowlegs deserved a photo... along with his tall pal...

Then two White Pelicans flew in. Cool!

The train was due in shortly so I hurried onward to Salem and the Amtrak station. Turned out the train was late and I had plenty of time to stroll back and forth beside the tracks. I noticed a bird in a distant bare branched tree. With binoculars, it turned into an Osprey... with a fish in talons.

Amtrak station and parking lot with bare tree housing Osprey in center of photo.

Not as odd as it seems because a large creek runs through town just on the other side of the station. I have no idea if Marion County "needed" an Osprey for its count week but here was one.

 Johnny and train finally arrived and we headed home... but he spotted a large black bird alongside the highway... on the Polk County side of the Willamette River. A Bald Eagle! We spotted another eagle on the Marion County side of the river.

 Soon Polk County flew to join Marion County and we drove on.

The North American Migration Count is such a nice excuse to go birding. The addition of "Count Week" birds makes the fun last even longer. It is only a matter of time before migration counts everywhere join Oregon in spreading out the fun for a whole week.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Count Day!

Almost the first bird I saw this morning of Count Day was the elusive Green Heron! It flew out from our little creek, across the field, and out of sight. I was so excited to see it, I forgot to try to get a photo.

I didn't take many photos today since I was trying to count all the birds I saw, not just sit around and snap photos. I did get some easy ones like the starlings that took over the big snag, looking colorful in their fall garb.

The Red-breasted Nuthatches I've been hearing constantly for weeks were happy to pose for photos, although far above. They seem to be finding lots to eat in our cone-heavy trees.

This one had taken a seed (or something) to a dead tree nearby and hammered it.

Since I keep track of the Dipper nests on a six mile stretch of Agency Creek, starting with our place, Dippers are special to me. I was happy to find a Dipper on our creek for the migration count. These photos of a different Dipper were taken upstream a few miles.

At the end of a long day birding our farm and nearby areas, I checked on the Barn Owl youngsters in our barn loft nest. One peeked out at me as I climbed the ladder into the loft. It has three fuzzy companions that I could see when I climbed up the viewing ladder.

It has been fun trying to document the highlights of migration count week on our farm in photos.

Maybe next year, I'll manage to get a photo of that elusive Green Heron.

Day Three of Migration Count Week

The juvenile Cooper's hawk that hangs around here hunting rodents instead of birds was sitting in the dead tree in front of the barn this morning, overseeing the area where I throw grain for the birds. I thought perhaps it had reformed and was going to hunt birds instead of rodents.

But later in the day, it went back to what seems to be its favorite hunting strategy...

When this resulted in no success, the hawk jumped up onto the corner post of the pig pen to survey the ground from a bit higher.

To get the full effect of the hawk's perch, here is the pig pen, complete with pig, and the hawk.

When not watching the Cooper's, it was fun to watch the Steller's Jay attempt to get the last of the suet out of one of the suet holders.

Hah! Success!

But, alas, as of this third day of count week, there was still no sign of the Green Heron. I wondered if it would show up tomorrow, count day.