Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I was going through some pictures of Bushtits I took back on the 12th at TRNWR. Most were the inevitable blurred feathers and empty branches as I tried to keep up with the birds.
The picture above caught my attention, not so much because it is such a good picture, but for the interesting look in the Bushtit's eye. Kind of sinister. Probably due more to the angle that its attitude, but she does have a look of "don't mess with me" about her.

Northern Pintail

When I started birding last March I saw very few Northern Pintails. Recently, however, I find them in high numbers in virtually all areas where water fowl hang out. It will be interesting to see if their numbers reduce as this coming March approaches.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ring-billed Gull

A more obvious Ring-billed Gull than what I posted in the past. Though I've only visited it once, Westmoreland Park appears to be a great place to get close shots of a variety of gulls.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hooded Merganser - Female

I found this female Hooded Merganser at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on Friday just past the blind in the stream on the right side of the road. I had to maneuver my car a bit to get a clear shot through the branches.
I've never seen a Hooded Merganser out of the water. I am surprised at the size of the body, legs and feet. They seem so much smaller and sleeker in the water.

Great Egret

Another dreary day in the Pacific Northwest. I spent the morning at Fernhill Wetlands. The activity was a pretty good, but the Common Mergansers drove me crazy. Try I as I did, I could not figure out a way to get in close to them to get good pictures. It's wide open at Fernhill and the ducks see you coming from a ways off. As soon as you start towards them they just start swimming to the center of the pond or to the other side. Very frustrating. I considered crawling on the ground, but I decided to hold on to what dignity I still have left. :-)
All was not lost however as I did get some good pictures of some Golden-crowned Sparrows, some Lesser Goldfinches and the Great Egret seen above. This Egret has been perching in the trees in this same area for a few weeks and seems less afraid up there allowing for some reasonable pictures.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Western Meadowlark

I visited Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge today in hope of seeing the Snow Bunting reported there. Unfortunately, after two trips around the auto tour, I did not see it.
On a positive note, I did get a chance to photograph my first Western Meadowlarks. They were located on the berm opposite the canal along the same stretch of the route where the Snow Bunting had been hanging out.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Red-headed Woodpecker

So, the bird's in the oven and the guests have not arrived yet; just enough time to post. :-)
Like the Brown Thrasher, this Red-headed Woodpecker I saw in Atlanta at Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a bird that I had seen as a youth, but would be extremely rare to see here in Oregon.
I was confused as to what it was as I could not recall seeing a picture of a woodpecker that looked like this bird. I assumed that it was a female of some variety and once I got a good look at the large white patches on its wings I started recalling the Red-headed Woodpecker. It wasn't until I looked it up in my Sibley field guide that I realized that it was a juvenile.
I'm not quite sure what it was up to, but it had a lot of energy and kept flying back and forth across the trail. I followed it for quite some time as it flew from tree to tree, but still found it hard to get a close, clear shot.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Great Blue Heron - Ritual

Taken from the west shelter at Fernhill Wetlands, these two Great Blue Herons appear to be performing some type of ritual. I would assume a mating ritual, but it seems a little early as these pictures were taken on November 7th. They started out by pointing their heads skyward and slowly moving about. Eventually they started opening their wings and ruffling their feathers on their back.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Not a new bird for me, but I got the best views and pictures of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on my last trip to Atlanta. Woodpeckers (as well as Brown Creepers) can be difficult to shoot as they are typically working their up a tree truck or branch. It hard to keep up with them and hard to get a good look at their face.
The Sapsucker in the images above is a female as it lacks red feathers on its throat.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Red-bellied Woodpecker

During my last trip to Atlanta I got a better picture of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

House Sparrow

While watching the ducks on the Columbia River from Hayden Island, I came across a small flock of House Sparrows in some shrubs. I've never shot a House Sparrow yet even though they are very common. I guess it's because they typically hang out in cities around here and I usually bird in more rural areas.
Anyway, they were quite close so I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures. The male's face and breast where not as black as they would be during the breeding months. They're really rather pretty birds, but get overlooked because of they are so common and are considered somewhat of a pest.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Eurasian Wigeon

I'm on vacation this week, so I thought I'd get some birding in this morning before the bad weather settles in. I went to Hayden Island for the first time to see if I could see the White-winged Scoters that had been reported. I found them, but they weren't very close to shore, so my pictures didn't turn out very well. Same goes for the Surf Scoters, Western Grebes, Lesser Scaups and a Common Loon.
I then decided to go to Westmoreland Park for the first time. Fellow blogger Jen had seen some Eurasian Wigeons there about a week ago and since my only sighting was from quite a distance I thought I'd try my luck. My luck turned out good as I found a male and female pair among many American Wigeons. They are a very pretty birds.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brown Thrasher

Coincidentally, I made my second business trip in four weeks to Atlanta this past week. Last time, I had a free day and visited Olmsted Park and Fernbank Forest. This time I spent some time at Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area—Cochran Shoals Unit.
It was a very nice day and the trail along the river was very active with birds even though it was heavily used by joggers and walkers. The trail was actually a light-use gravel road used by service vehicles, so there was plenty of room for everyone and the birds didn't seem to mind all the people. Interestingly enough, when I left this trail and ventured into the more forested areas of the park, my bird sightings went way down.
I saw many of the same birds I saw last time; Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals. New birds this time included a Brown Thrasher and a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker.
The Brown Thrasher above is the first I've seen since I was young back in Minnesota. Most of the time it was foraging on the ground in among the brush where I could only get glimpses of it. At one point though, it did come out and spend a little time on a branch above me so I could get a few pictures of it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Caspian Tern

A couple of images of some Caspian Terns on the beach at South Jetty in Fort Stevens State Park back in late August on a 'sunny' day.
My son taught me how to use the clone tool in my image editor a few weeks ago. I used it on both of these images to clean them up a little. I took out 3 birds (2 gulls and a tern) in the top image and a single tern and some shadows in the bottom image. It works well with water and sand. Not so well with vegetation. Let me know if it is noticeable.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fox Sparrow

While waiting for the Painted Bunting to show itself at Seaside this past Sunday, I saw my first Fox Sparrow. That's right, I've never seen one before. I always thought it odd that I wasn't seeing any as I don't think they are uncommon here. So while I struck out on the Painted Bunting, I did see a new bird while trying which is always a thrill.

Delma Ann

I found this rigging rope from the Delma Ann laying on the beach while birding on Sunday at South Jetty in Fort Stevens State Park. Think they want it back? :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bonaparte's Gull

I decided several months ago that cloudy weather wasn't going to stop me from taking pictures of birds. You often end up with less than ideal photos, but you sometimes get some great ones (soft lighting has its advantages). And besides, when you live in the Pacific Northwest, you'd be missing a lot of days if you waited for sunlight, especially in the Winter.
Such was the case this past Sunday. A cloudy, foggy, gloomy, misty day. But I was able to get some pictures of a new life bird; the Bonaparte's Gull seen above. This was an especially bad day, but I've found that if I underexpose by as much as a full stop that I gain a couple of advantages. One, I gain a stop in shutter speed which helps with focus. And two, my camera's metering system tends to overexpose in these lighting conditions. The pictures will turn out somewhat dark, but that can be corrected in post. The pictures still aren't as good as they would be with full sunlight, but usable.
The top image is of an adult and a 1st Winter Bonaparte's. The adult is in the lead and is determined by the white outer primaries and white tail. The trailing 1st Winter is determined by the dark outer primaries, dark patches on upper wing and black tips on its tail feathers. This is one gull that is fairly easy to identify, however I briefly thought it might be a Black-headed Gull which would have been very cool as it is very rare, but its reddish bill and dark under wings did not match this bird.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Herring Gull

I have a terrible time identifying gulls. I'm not alone as they are very difficult to ID since there are many that are very similar and some that cross-breed.
I spent some time at the coast on Sunday. I stopped for about an hour and a half at Seaside in hopes of seeing the Painted Bunting that has been reported on OBOL, but did not have any luck. I then spent a couple of hours at South Jetty in Fort Stevens State Park.
It was cloudy, foggy and gloomy and the birds scarce, but I did see a new bird; the Bonaparte's Gull. I also am 90% I saw a Western Meadow Lark.
The Bonaparte's Gulls were among a flock of gulls on the beach. The flock appeared to be made up of mostly Westerns, however the one above looked different. I have incorrectly identified a Western and a Western x Glaucous-winged as Herring Gulls in a couple of past posts, however I think I got it right this time. Please feel free to let me know one way or the other if you agree.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Golden-crowned Sparrow

It's interesting. TRNWR has been relatively quite for some time. It's still been a great place for birding, but once Summer came, activity went way done. Then we moved into the Fall I had hopes of seeing a lot of migrants, but that didn't seem to be the case. Now, in the last week, the place seems to be coming alive again.
I found the Golden-crowned Sparrow above in the same Blackberry bushes as the House Finch I posted yesterday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

House Finch

It was a gloomy day at TRNWR over lunch today, but the birding was pretty good. There was a large flock of House Finches just before the grove with the first bridge. The one above broke away from the group and landed not far from me on some Blackberry bushes.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Since seeing my first Golden-crowned Kinglet on Sept 30th, I have been seeing them regularly. It's interesting as they are listed at TRNWR as year-round uncommon visitors.
Regardless, trying to get a descent picture of them can be great sport. They are small, constantly moving and like to hangout in among branches so they are regularly obstructed.
But today I got lucky. Not only did one land in some branches very close to me, but it hung around long enough for me to take several pictures and held still long enough for me to take the image above. Most of the pictures were blurry as getting good focus is difficult as there is usually a nearby branch that my camera's auto-focus system decides is the subject. Luckily, my camera has a mode that does an initial auto-focus and then allows me to make manual adjustments. That works reasonably well, but you have to be quick.
Anyway, this is a very pretty bird and is fun to watch. Many times while jumping around from branch to branch it will hover in the air similar to a hummingbird. That would make a great picture.