Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Black-throated Gray Warbler

On Sunday, I visited Sauvie Island. In the 23+ years I have lived in the Portland area, I have never spent any time on Suave Island. I had read on the local Audubon Society website that the Wapato Access Greenway located on the island was an important bird area, so I thought I would start there.
It's a beautiful area, but things were a little slow until I neared completion of the trail loop. Suddenly there were Black-capped Chickadees, Wilson's Warblers and Black-throated Gray Warblers all around me. I tried to be still and get as many pictures as possible, but these small birds in among the tree branches and leaves where nearly constantly moving. Then, one of the Black-throated Gray Warblers landed on a branch very near me. The lighting wasn't that good, but I did manage to get this one picture that didn't turn out too bad.

Black-bellied Plover

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I went to Fort Stevens State Park hoping to see some migrating shorebirds. Unfortunately, I was either too late in the day, (I arrived at 8:30 AM), or chose the wrong site, as I didn't see many shore birds.
One that I did see, however, was a new life bird for me, the Black-bellied Plover. I saw two, or maybe the same one in two different places. The first time I saw it was from the observation deck at South Jetty. It was right below us on the sandy beach at the base of the jetty rocks. I may have missed it as I was busy watching a mixture of gulls, pelicans and terns through my camera further out on the shore if my daughter hadn't pointed it out.
Luckily, this was an easy shore bird to identify. Many of those I have seen lately have been a challenge to identify. Unlike this Plover, it doesn't help that many are either juveniles or transitioning into winter, non-breeding plumage. Then again, it makes this hobby more interesting and challenging.

Monday, August 30, 2010

California Sea Lion

This California Sea Lion was basking solo on the beach at South Jetty in Fort Stevens State Park on Saturday morning. At first my we thought it may be injured or dead, but then we saw it looking around and acting alright.
We approached it slowly making sure not to get too close. When we got a little too close for its comfort, it raised up on its front flippers and held its head up to the sky. I assume this was an attempt to look threatening. It convinced me. We took a few pictures and then backed off.

Brown Pelican

With things being a little slow inland, I decided to take another trip to the coast. This time my daughter and I visited Fort Stevens State Park with the target being the South Jetty. I was hoping to see some migrant shore birds. That turned out to be a bust other than a couple of Black-bellied Plovers.
The day was far from a disappointment however as the shore was filled with Gulls, Terns, Pelicans and even a Sea Lion.
While I had seen Brown Pelicans for the first time during the last trip to the coast, this trip was exceptional. There must have been at least a hundred Pelicans flying up and down the jetty.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Another post from the Albuquerque trip. I saw these Broad-tailed Hummingbirds at the Crest House deck feeders atop Sandia Crest in the Sandia Mountains. This is the same deck that you can see all three Rosy Finches during Winter months (click for more information). I wouldn't mind making a special trip to Albuquerque just see them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Semipalmated Plover

Along with the Red-necked Phalarope I saw at Fernhill on Sunday were two or three Semipalmated Plovers. I got a couple of very poor pictures of one the week before, but not good enough to be confident in its identification. These pictures would have been even better had the Plover been closer, but it didn't wander as close to me as the Phalarope. There were Killdeers mixed in with the Plovers much of the time and it was hard to tell them apart from the distance they were at most of the time. Other than being smaller, the Plovers also have a single band across their chest rather than the Killdeer's two. So if they have their back to you (which they did a lot) it's a little difficult to be sure which you are looking at.
Another thing of interest is that this is either a juvenile or an adult transitioned to its non-breeding, winter plumage. During breeding season, the adult's chest band and head are much darker.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Belted Kingfisher

Last night I was looking through some old pictures and ran across the Belted Kingfisher I shot from the bird blind back on April 10th. I was so excited about getting pictures of it eating a frog, I kinda ignored the ones after it had swallowed the frog.
The image above is the best of the lot from a sharpness standpoint. It's also a very nice picture. This was taken with the 400mm f2.8 I've rented from Pro Photo in Portland a couple of times. It sure is a nice lens. Its sharpness, reach and bokeh are all better than my lens. I think I'll start saving my pennies. :-)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Western Tanager

Since I posted a female Western Tanager yesterday I thought I would post images of males today. Neither image is very good, but they are good enough to clearly identify the birds.
The top image was taken on my trip to Albuquerque, NM in late June. On the way to the Sandia Crest with the local Audubon Society, we stopped at historical church garden where we saw a few Western Tanager males at a distance. They had full mating season coloration.
The bottom image was taken last weekend at Jackson Bottom. This male has lost most of its red coloration on its face and looks a bit beat up and possibly molting as Autumn approaches.

Western Tanager - Female

A female Western Tanager at Mount Tabor Park.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Red-necked Phalarope

Today was an interesting day. I didn't get out until about 1:00 and decided to visit Mount Tabor Park. It was cloudy and dark and the birds were scarce. I only spent about an hour and a half there. I did run across a tree that was loaded with Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Bushtits and a female Western Tanager, but that was about the only excitement.
After Tabor, I decided to swing by Fernhill Wetlands. Things were a little slow there too, but the sun came out brightening things up. When I got to the mud flat on the north side of the main pond, I saw what I think were a couple of Western Sandpipers. I hung out there for a while taking pictures of the Sandpipers when I noticed something different heading my way along the edge of the flat. It turned out to be a Juvenile Red-necked Phalarope.
This bird was constant motion, both its body and its beak. It kept moving along the shore in water just deep enough to keep its legs submerged. I'm not sure if it was walking or swimming. I assume walking, but it was interesting how it seemed to be in the same depth of water at all times. As it moved along it was continuously poking its beak at the waters surface, side to side, apparently trying to catch bugs on the surface.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pied-billed Grebe

I took this picture back on April 10 from the bird blind at TRNWR. This Pied-billed Grebe spent more time under water than it did above. It popped up a few times right in front of the blind. I hadn't learned how to adjust exposure yet at that time, so it was somewhat luck that this one turned out well as it did what with the bright water all around.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Herring Gull

If I go by the brochure given out at the entrance to the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, I would identify this gull as either a Western or a Glaucous-winged. I can't justify either choice however, as the Glaucous-winged Gull has a darker brown eye and the Western Gull has a peak above the eye on its head. This gull has a yellow eye and no peak. It also has a orange-yellow orbital ring around it eye just like Sibley points out. Therefore, I'm fairly confident this is a Herring Gull.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Barn Swallow - Juvenile

As the sun was setting on a cloudy, foggy day at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area my daughter and I decided to check out the Salal Hill Trail. It offers great views of the surrounding area, except that today the fog put a damper on that.
It was still a great time and along the way I saw a few birds with the best picture opportunities being juveniles as tends to be the case this time of the year.
As we followed the switch backs up the hill, I saw some Barn Swallows perched on dead branches. I tried to approach slowly, but by the time I got close enough to get descent pictures the only bird left was a juvenile. This juvenile was very trusting and allowed me to get plenty of closeups. Having the bright cloudy sky behind it made getting a good exposure a challenge, but I have gotten pretty good at knowing how much exposure compensation I have to use in these situations. The result are pictures with a rather soft feeling that I find interesting.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Harbor Seal

Harbor Seals lounging on a rock in the tide pool at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Common Murre & Brandt's Cormorant

Yesterday, from mid-afternoon through early evening, my daughter Caitlin and I spent time at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon. It was one of the only nearby coastal areas that the local Audubon Society recommended for viewing birds during the Summer. They couldn't have been more spot on. This place is teaming with wildlife, especially birds. While I have been here before, it was before I resumed my childhood hobby of birding and I didn't have near the appreciation for what I was seeing.
This place was a Common Murre paradise. The noise they made filled the air with an energy that couldn't be ignored. Along with the Murres, we saw Brandt's Cormorants, Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, Herring Gulls, Brown Pelicans and a Bald Eagle just looking out on Colony Rock from the light house viewing area.
The image above is the top of a near by rock filled with Common Murres with a sprinkling of Brandt's Cormorants and perhaps some Pelagic Cormorants (I still have trouble identifying them).
We also spent a little time at the tide pool before we left and saw some Harbor Seals lounging at close range.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Barn Swallow - Juvenile

It's a hot weekend, highs in the mid 90's, so I got an early start before the heat got too bad. Since things are pretty dry around here, I decided I would make the trek to Hillboro and visit Fernhill and Jackson Bottom. Turned out both we pretty slow, as slow as I have ever seen them, but there were still birds to be seen.
As approached the bridge near Kingfisher Pond at Jackson Bottom, I noticed several Barn Swallows flying up and down the creek. This is a common area for a variety of Swallows, especially Barn Swallows. I also noticed that there were juveniles flying amongst them. Since it is not uncommon to see swallows and other birds perched on the railings of the bridge, I decided to hang out for awhile and see if I could catch one perching.
While none perched on the railing, this juvenile perched on a nearby branch long enough for me to get some close shots. While it could fly quite well, you can see from the fact that it still has some down that it is quite young.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Song Sparrow - Juvenile

A juvenile Song Sparrow in a grove of trees at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spotted Sandpiper

"The more you learn, the less you know" the old saying goes and it easily applies to birding. Just when you think you getting a handle on things, you run across something that makes you realize how much you have to learn.
A week ago last Sunday, I ran across this sandpiper along the pond at Fernhill Wetland. It was savaging in the rocks along the shore. There was enough tall grass between the path and the shore to make for a bit of a hide-and-seek game between me and the bird. With enough patience I was able to get a few good pictures.
I did not recognize it so I was expecting to identify it as a new lifetime bird for me. Unfortunately, I could not find a sandpiper in any of my guides or on the web that looked quite like it. I hate it when that happens. I tried to convince myself that it was a Lesser Yellowlegs, but its legs just weren't long enough.
As I sat perplexed, I thought to myself, "When I run into this kind of problem, what ultimately is the usual answer?" Well, the answer lately has been that it is a juvenile of some familiar bird. As it turns out that could be the answer in this case. To test the theory I decided to search for "juvenile Spotted Sandpiper" on Google as that is what it most looked like, sans breast spots. As it turns out, the juvenile Spotted Sandpiper does not have spots on its breast. However, I also discovered that it is also true that mature birds loose their spots when not breeding. I'm guessing that is what this bird is as other than the missing spots, it looks like other Spotted Sandpipers I have seen and it looks fully mature.
Well, I'm bummed that it isn't a new bird for me, but I have learned something new and that is almost as good.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I walked the full loop around TRNWR on Sunday afternoon for the first time in a few weeks. Things tend to be a little slow along the Western side and that was the case again. But as I approached the Southwest corner, I noticed a large bird land on a utility pole on the other side of the canal. As I got a little closer, I could see through my lens that it was an Osprey. It's the first Osprey I've seen at TRNWR.
As I approached the Southern leg of the loop, I was a bit surprised that the Osprey hadn't flown off. But once I positioned myself to get a better view of the bird, I could see that it was eating a fish that it had caught.
I stood there for almost 15 minutes watching it eat that fish all the way down to its tail. And once the fish was gone, the Osprey flew off.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Western Bluebird

I posted a couple of pictures of a male Western Bluebird back on June 11 with the promise that I would post a picture of the female. Well it took me awhile, but tonight I was looking for an old picture of a Gadwall and ran across that day I spent at Champoeg State Park.
I had taken a lot of pictures of those Bluebirds and was excited to post some. As it turned out the first two pictures I looked at where great, so I just posted them and never did get back to look at the others.
Well, when I opened up the first image file at random, it turned out to be a female and it was a great picture, so I posted it above. So now I've looked at three of the approximately 150 pictures I took of them. :-)

Cassin's Finch

Like I said Saturday, the birds were scarce up near Timberline Lodge. However, besides the occational Mountain Bluebird, I did see some Cassin's Finches. I did not see any males, but that doesn't mean there weren't any as it was hard to get near them.
The female in the image above was sitting on a rock along a service road leading up the mountain. It was much more trusting that most of the others and I was able to creep in pretty close allowing me to get some pretty good pictures of it. There's quite a bit of contrast in the scenery around the birds in the images taken up on the volcanic mountain compared to those at the wetlands near Portland.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

I saw several of these Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels scampering around the mountain while hiking up Mount Hood on Saturday.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

American Goldfinch

What with travel, schedule and weather I hadn't been to TRNWR since July 13. It's been too warm for lunch time walks and when I have a block of time on the weekend, I typically go to Fernhill or Jackson Bottom as both still have a fair amount of water making birding more productive.
Today I had some time in the afternoon, so I decided it would be a good day to see what was happening a TRNWR, since I didn't want to make the long drive out to Hillsboro.
All-in-all it was pretty slow as I expected, but I get to watch an Osprey eating a fish atop a utility pole and this American Goldfinch feasting on one of its favorite seed.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mountain Bluebird

I've been wanting to get back up to Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood since last being there during the 4th of July weekend. At that time there was quite a lot of low lying snow making walking around a bit challenging. Today, about a month later, most of that snow has melted away. You have to climb a bit now to find snow.
I'd like to see a Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch and I've read that they can be found along the edges of melting snow. So while I was hoping that there would be less snow, I could see that meeting my goal was going to be a challenge.
I started out walking some of the same areas I had last time, but there was hardly any birds. Finally, after climbing higher than I had last time, a few birds flew in nearby. To my surprise, there were a couple that were blue. At least some them were Mountain Bluebirds. It wasn't a bird I was expecting to see. I saw several throughout the day, but never very close. The closest sighting was a female seen in the top image. The bottom image has both a male and female.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Green Heron

Along with the numerous Great Blue Herons at Fernhill Wetland, I have been observing Green Herons regularly also. They tend to be even more elusive than the Great Blues though as they are smaller and tend to lay lower in the tall grasses along the edges of the ponds.
As I walked past the Northeast shelter along the main pond, I heard an occasional load sound kind of like a 'crack'. I didn't know what it was, nor quite where it was coming from as the sound was quite short.
I continued slowly along the service road just past a mid-sized tree when what looked like a Green Heron flew out of the tree, followed by another from along the pond. They both landed near by, so I turned back to see if I could find them.
I first walked along the edge of the pond peeking over the edge to see if I could either of them. Sure enough, one was there, but it flew off before I could spot it. I then looked around a bit when I noticed one standing in the open on the other side of the service road.
It didn't seem to mind me being there so I was able to take several pictures.
Later that night, when I looked at the images on my computer, there seemed to be something not quite right about birds. I have seen Green Herons before, but not a lot and not usually so close. This one seemed slightly different though. For a bit I thought maybe it wasn't a Green Heron and tried to convince myself that it was a Least Bittern, but it's overall features more closely resembled a Green Heron, especially it's back and wing coloration.
One of the things that bothered my is that the front of its neck was more striped than others that I've seen, though during all other sightings of the bird, they not have their neck extended as far as this one. The other thing is that its beak was much bright yellow. Typically Green Heron's beaks are darker.
Then I noticed a few white puffs on its crest. They appeared to be down feathers. It was then that I decided that I must be looking at a juvenile. That would also explain why it was more tolerant of my presence.
Notice that in the center image it has a Dragon or Damsel Fly in its beak.