Notes, birds, nature, meanderings.

Musings about birds, nature, and our meanderings on the Central Oregon Coast

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2013 Dancing Grebe Trip - Day 4

In preparation for our trip to Klamath Basin, I emailed the folks on Oregon Birders Online (OBOL) to get local advice and also purchased a copy of the Klamath Basin Birding Trail guide.  Additionally, some friends in Tillamook loaned us a copy of another Klamath Basin booklet, A Birder's Guide to the Klamath Basin. We also referenced Oregon Birding Information website.  There's no way that we can visit all of the recommended sites in just four days, so we asked for "not-to-be-missed" places.

Today we visited one of them - Stukel Mountain.  One of the locals came with us to guide us up the mountain road, spending the entire morning showing us around. The weather was cold, drizzling, and visibility poor (my photos are all blurry and grainy).  But we saw some great birds and had a very good time.
House Wren
As we climbed, the habitat varied quite a bit - we got out of the car several times to look and listen.  The first birds we saw were some California Quail and a little House Wren.
Gray Flycatcher

Further up, we started seeing many Gray and Dusky Flycatchers.
Mountain Bluebird
And I was delighted when we spotted the brilliant blue male Mountain Bluebird! We took off on a side road to a small pond, where we spotted Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Cassin's Finch and Lesser Goldfinch. Then on to a wooded area where four Red-breasted Sapsuckers and a pair of Downy Woodpeckers were hanging out in the trees.
Red-breasted Sapsucker

All along the upper roads we could hear the loud calls of Mountain Quail, but we never spotted them. Little  little chipmunks were everywhere, as were Chipping Sparrows - nearly 30 of them by the time we reached the top.

View from Stukel Mountain
Stukel Mountain is a maze of dirt roads and trails, and even finding the entry is tricky, but definitely worth the trouble - especially when you have a great guide!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2013 Dancing Grebe Trip - Day 3

Howard Prairie Lake is midway between Ashland and Klamath Falls off of Dead Indian Memorial Road.  We had seen reports of a Great Grey Owl, plus it was listed as a good birding spot, so we changed our planned route and headed that way. It's a beautiful, winding drive - worth taking.  We drove up and down looking for the owl, with no luck.  Then pulled into the main Resort area and purchased our day pass.  At the marina, we saw a few birds, including this merganser.
Common Merganser
It was cold and raining, so we got back in the car to drive around the lake.
Ring-billed Gull

A stop in one of the campgrounds yielded the most birds.  I was getting drenched while I took these few pictures though.

Spotted Sandpiper
An Audubon's Warbler, Hermit Warbler, Killdeer and a couple of American White Pelicans were in the same area but I was getting too wet so headed back to the car. We drove once more along the road looking for the Owl, but again had no luck.

Siskiyou Monument

Yellow Warbler

Resuming our trek to Klamath Basin, we made a few stops along the way - stopped and walked around Buck Nordic Track, drove up a dirt road at Siskiyou Monument, and a few waysides where we just stopped and listened and looked.

One of them yielded some several Yellow Warblers, a Common Yellowthroat and a couple of Warbling Vireo as well as several Red-winged Blackbirds. Dark-eyed Juncos were the bird of the day - we saw dozens on the drive over until we reached Klamath County.

At the Welcome to County sign, we debated about which bird would be our first county bird.  I picked Dark-eyed Junco, while Desi chose American Robin.  He was right, as one flew across the road in front of us. I don't remember the second one, but the third was a majestic Bald Eagle overhead.

We pulled in to Howard's Bay at about 4pm, where we got our first look at lovely Klamath Lake and lots of  Western Grebes (none dancing yet).  Across the highway, we noticed lots of gulls wheeling above the water so we stopped..
Franklin's Gull

... dozens of Forster's Terns and Franklin Gulls - both new birds for me!   A couple of Bonaparte's Gulls were floating in the water, along with a flock of Western Grebes with a couple of Clark's Grebes, and a small flock of Ruddy Ducks.

A truck pulled into the wayside behind us, and the guy asked, "Hey, do you know what kind of birds those are?"  I turned around to answer and laughed - it was my Tillamook County Raptor Survey partner and his wife.  We enjoyed watching the spectacle and chatted for awhile (they're on their way to Malheur).  Finally, we headed on to our stay for this leg of the trip,  the Lodge at Running Y Ranch.  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

2013 Dancing Grebe Trip - Day 2

Second day in Ashland, Oregon. After our bonanza day yesterday, we decided to stick around Ashland and revisit some places we birded last fall.  Ashland Ponds was our first stop.  Our first bird was a female LESSER GOLDFINCH gathering spider webs.

Two young girls were playing at the water's edge, and two adults were walking dogs (the dogs were in and out of the water).  
Wood Ducks

Still, we saw a female WOOD DUCK with good-sized ducklings, and a mama MALLARD with tiny ones.

Acorn Woodpecker

There were ACORN WOODPECKERS in the same place as last fall, but they were less willing to pose for photos. 

An unknown snake was sunning himself on a manhole cover in the alley that leads to the pond. 

Next stop was the North Mountain Nature Center, a large complex with a beautiful nature preserve as well as a sports complex and playground.  The preserve was full of bird activity...
Downy Woodpecker

Mallard youngster

Yellow Warbler
But we found plenty of wildlife in the sports complex...
Black Phoebe

Western Wood Pewee
Swainson's Thrush

Black-tailed Deer
We had a few new Ashland spots we wanted to try, so from there we headed to Oredson Todd Woods. We followed the instructions in the Birding Oregon guide - the asphalt road (Park Street) that you have to walk is a steep grade, one that we couldn't do. (If you go, we recommend that you follow Google Maps instead and park at the south end off Lupine Drive).We walked on a dirt trail next to the road, but discovered after we got to the top we had been on private property. 
View from the trail
We saw very few birds, but that may have been because we didn't venture far on the trail.  
Lazuli Bunting

The gorgeous views and a beautiful LAZULI BUNTING made the walk worthwhile.

Last stop of the day was Emigrant Lake - we took the scenic route, winding down Old Siskiyou Highway - a stop at a pullout yielded a PILEATED WOODPECKER. At Emigrant Lake, we drove around the lake, made a few stops, but the holiday weekend and beautiful weather had brought out lots of people!  Our best bird was actually a couple of baby  EUROPEAN STARLINGS poking their heads out of a tree. 
Baby Starlings
Stay tuned for Day 3, travelling to Klamath Basin...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

2013 Dancing Grebe Trip - Day 1, Part 2

I can tell that it's going to be tough trying to blog while we're on vacation!  Another great day, a little more relaxed.  The weather is gorgeous - cool, a little cloudy.  But, we were talking about 7 new life birds yesterday...

At Lithia Springs Inn, we had our first two - BULLOCK'S ORIOLE and WESTERN KINGBIRD (see Part 1).

The first of our three stops yesterday was Agate Lake County Park.  There we picked up our 3rd new bird, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER.
Ash-throated Flycatcher
It was an amazing place - CANADA GEESE swam the lake followed by dozens of goslings.  A few DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS rested on logs, while a pair of RING-NECKED PHEASANTS walked the shore.  

Western Bluebird
In the oaks, WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, WESTERN KINGBIRDS, and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS chased each other from tree to tree.  And in the air, OSPREY and CASPIAN TERNS fished the lake.  
Next stop was the Ken Denman Wildlife Management Area - we weren't sure what to expect when we got out of the car at the parking area in the middle of a big deserted field.  But a few hundred yards down the trail was a marsh full of Swallows (wish I were better at ID'ing them), ducks and blackbirds.  
Straw Nest Boxes?

We were intrigued by the cylindrical straw nest boxes.

American Bittern

An AMERICAN BITTERN flushed and flew across the marsh, giving us our 4th new bird!

Our last stop for the day was Lower Table Rock Trail. We didn't complete the route, but were quite proud of our 1.2 mile climb (for a 2.4 mile total walk)!  And the birds - wow.  We netted: 
California Towhee
Oak Titmouse

Not one, but two little OAK TITMICE intent on gathering nesting material!

But my personal favorite was this tiny BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, yelling his lungs off at us!
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

And, even though we didn't make it to the top, the views were breathtaking!  But of course, there's more...

2013 Dancing Grebe Trip - Day 1, Part 1

Seven new birds on the first day!  We arrived at Lithia Springs Inn (Ashland Oregon) Thursday evening -- this Lesser Goldfinch was on the ugly fountain as we entered the grounds, seemingly right where we left him last fall!
Lesser Goldfinch
Family dinner in Medford took up the evening, but I got up early Friday morning and walked the grounds with my camera.
Walkway to our bungalow

My favorite spot - the pond

This arched gate leads to a large lawn area complete with a gazebo.

Macgillivray's Warbler

I walked back to the farthest corner, where this MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER was singing in the brush.

BULLOCK'S ORIOLES, mostly brilliant orange males, are everywhere.  This was my first peak at one of the noisy birds.
Bullock's Oriole 
Western Kingbird
Mourning Dove

Working my way to the front, I found a pair of WESTERN KINGBIRDS building a nest - not sure about their choice of location, but it was fun to watch.  I have a fun sequence of photos of her efforts.

A MOURNING DOVE perched nearby.  Fun to see all the doves!

After breakfast, we drove to Agate Lake County Park.  Our first impression was not so great, a few swallows and not much else - and the guy fishing on the shore with the unleashed Pit Bull (he kept telling the dog to "stay, stay, stay") made us nervous.  But I had been reading about the area on the Birding Oregon Information website, so we hopped back in the car and drove to the other side.  And it was awesome (continued on next blog - stay tuned!)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Schooner Creek American Dipper

Today was yard work day - hauled truckloads of yard debris to Schooner Creek Transfer Station.  After the last load of the day, I decided to run up Schooner Creek Road to see what I could see.  I drove up past the end of the paved road, stopping along the creek at the turnouts.  

At my second stop, I heard, and then saw, a hungry AMERICAN DIPPER being fed by his very busy father.

American Dipper Fledgling

Calling for Lunch!
Daddy Dipper Delivers

It was fascinating watching the parent feed the youngster (I assume it was the father, who is, from what I understand, the chief care-taker). He made trip after trip, dive after dive, repeatedly bringing food to the impatient young one.

They were nowhere near a bridge, but there was a nice bank on the opposite shore.  I never saw the nest.

Here's the spot in the creek where I found them.
Schooner Creek
By the way, Schooner Creek Transfer Station is situated on a hill with a 360 degree view. I asked permission to come up there and watch birds sometime and was told birders are welcome, although no one has ever asked before. You can only come during business hours, and need to be sure to stay out of the way. Hours are 7:00am to 4:00pm Monday through Saturday. I hope to go back and check it out soon!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A bird or two at Boiler Bay

Decided to drive down to Yaquina Bay yesterday morning to see the shorebirds that were being reported.  Passing Boiler Bay, hundreds of specs in the water caught my eye -- I quickly pulled over and turned into the south entrance.

And stayed... for three hours...  Never did get to Newport!

Specs in the water caught my eye
There were dozens of very noisy rafts of birds - mixed species, as far as you could see.  And hundreds of birds - I probably could identify maybe half.  Plus, there were thousands of birds flying by without stopping (the resident expert estimated over 200,000 birds in the 3 or so hours he counted).

Pacific Loon

PACIFIC LOONS were plentiful and glorious.  There were probably 1,000 in the water and thousands more that flew by.

Brandt's Cormorant
Common Murre

I expect the hundreds of COMMON MURRE accounted for some of the noise.  Along with the many PIGEON GUILLEMOT.

I spent most of my time studying the rafts - leaving the waves of passing migrants to the experts (I get frustrated trying to figure out who those flying birds are).
Mixed Raft of Birds

The water was so clear, and the raft so near the rocky shore, that you could see the birds underwater as they dove (front, just to the right of center).

Double-crested Cormorants

Some of the fly-bys were familiar regulars, like this line of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS.


Or distinctive like the groups of WHIMBRELS that flew by.... (well ok, not always distinctive, like when they're right above the water).

But most were small and medium shorebirds, or PEEPS (Western Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Dunlin, etc.).   You can see some of the PEEPS that flew by in the foreground here...

I started noticing that some of the little birds were joining the rafts -- their flight made me think of Phalaropes -- sure enough, there were dozens, and then hundreds of RED-NECKED PHALAROPES!
Red-necked Phalaropes

California Gulls
Pacific Loon, Common Murre and Red-necked Phalarope

This was a nice shot showing the size difference - look how tiny the Phalaropes are!

A line of SURF SCOTERS flew by - a little too far to get a camera shot, but here's a fuzzy pic:
Surf Scoters

Ring-billed Gull?

And, of course, there were the ever-challenging gulls (can you help me ID any of them?):

California Gull?
Glaucous-winged Gull (center)

I'm told the all-white gull is a GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL in a weird molt. 

And just as I was about to leave, a pair of BROWN PELICANS gracefully joined the raft...
Brown Pelicans
It was a wonderful experience watching the birds arrive and depart, picking out the familiar movements and colorations.  Studying differences with so many birds side-by-side.  Truly awe-inspiring!

Common Murre

Common Murre

Common Murres arrive....

and splash down to join the raft.

Wish you could've been there with me!