Sunday, July 31, 2011

Savannah Sparrow

I saw this Savannah Sparrow at Fernhill Wetlands today. Their numbers sure seem to be off from last year. Other than when they first started showing up this spring, I rarely see them. Last year they were always flushing up from the grass as I walked both Fernhill and TRNWR.

Common Yellowthroat - Juvenile

I spent the late morning and early afternoon at Fernhill Wetlands today. Birding was relatively slow for this hot spot, but there was still interesting things to see. I saw one of the three Clark's Grebes that had been common here this Spring and some shore birds are starting to show up now that the water levels are starting to lower leaving some nice mud flats.
The most numerous birds, though, wasn't a species, but an age. There were plenty of juveniles to be seen.
I found this juvenile Common Yellowthroat near Dabbler's Marsh. That area was probably the busiest, with juvenile Song Sparrows, American Robins, House Finches and Tree Swallows. Also a few I haven't figured out yet.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Northern Harrier

Only my second sighting of an adult male Northern Harrier, this raptor approached me from behind, just to my left, as I started my walk around Fernhill Lake last Saturday. I was lucky that I happened to look back and saw it coming before it had passed me, so I was able to get some decent pictures of it.
I see female and young Northern Harriers fairly regularly, but few males. This topic was brought up on the Portland Area Birds Google Group back in January. Group owner Greg Gillson had this to say:

"Here's what I found on a web search....

Males breed with more than one female and the sex ratio is not even, according to multiple studies. There were 1.8 females for every 1 male on average in one frequently-quoted study.
There was a similar nesting success, something like 1.8 young fledging per nest on average.
So, females and juveniles ("brown" harriers) outnumber males in early winter by about 3.25 to 1. There was about a 60% mortality rate of first-year birds.
Complicating the apparent ratio, males may not winter in the same locations as female and juveniles. Males are smaller than females and may migrate farther south in winter. Age/sex groups do not migrate at the same time. Adults precede juveniles back to the breeding territory and males precede females."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

American White Pelican

The American White Pelicans are back for the summer. I've seen them now the last few times out both at Fernhill Wetlands and for the first time at RNWR. Just past marker 11, out in a mostly dry South Big Lake I saw a flock of about 100 of them huddled together. They looked somewhat restless so I took a quick shot of them, then stopped my car and jumped out to get a clearer shot over the tall grasses. But, by the time I got them in view, they were in flight.
They flew right over me a few times, circling as they do, slowly gaining altitude.
During the breeding season the upper mandible develops a fibrous plate called a nuptial tubercle as can be seen in the image above. It is between 1 to 3 inches in diameter. This nuptial tubercle falls off when mating season is over and is unique to the American White Pelican.
They are really magnificent birds and a wonder to watch!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pied-billed Grebe - Juvenile

Last Friday along the auto tour at RNWR, as I passed marker 12 at the beginning of the last canal, I was hopeful that I would find something interesting. It's not uncommon to see American Bitterns along this stretch, though the occurrences have tapered off with the coming of summer. No luck with Bitterns, but I did get some good looks at my first juvenile Pied-billed Grebe.
This Grebe was dining on minnows. It didn't completely dive under the water like an adult. Instead, it would point its head straight down as if looking deep into the water and then plunge its head in, many times successfully retrieving one of the small fish. I have never seen an adult stare down into the water like this juvenile did.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ruddy Duck - Ducklings

I made another trip to the auto tour at RNWR on Friday. The drive is fairly slow this time of year, but it still serves up something special with each trip.
The first treat I got on this trip was finding this family of Ruddy Ducks. They were swimming in one of the canals on the Kiwa Trail. Most female ducks gather their ducklings and swim off when confronted with someone and though she showed concern at my presence, they broke up several times. Sometimes the mother would be by herself while the ducklings broke into two or three groups and while the mother stayed afloat the whole time the ducklings spent a lot of time diving.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cedar Waxwing

I found these Cedar Waxwings flycatching over Cedar Perch Pond at Fernhill Wetlands a couple of weeks ago. They would fly for a while then land to rest or eat their catch for a bit then go at it again. The one in the third image could use a bib. :-)
They are such a pretty bird!


Chicory are one of my favorite wildflower. Check out those crazy stamen!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bullock's Oriole - Nest

During the spring of 2010, I saw my first Bullock's Oriole. It was at TRNWR and I got some pretty good looks as it harvested spider nests off the visitor's center. It would gather and then fly off into the giant Oaks only to return a few minutes later. I saw it one more time at the very top of one of the Oaks a few weeks later.
Back on June 29th of this year, I saw both a female, like last year, and a male in the Oaks. They were very active and I noticed that they were focused on one area. After some careful observation, I finally found the nest they were tending. The lighting was difficult, the birds somewhat elusive and I was out of time so the pictures I got were just average. I returned a couple of days later and saw them again briefly, but was shut out of any pictures. What with all my travel, I never did get a chance to take advantage of this find, but I learned from one of the staff there that they have been nesting there for seven years now, so maybe I'll get another chance next year.
Anyway, notice the interesting variety of yarn and string woven in the nest.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beach Creature

Found on the beach at Bandon. Not sure what it is, but it kind of looks like a little Lobster. Anyone know what it is?

Update: Identified it as a California Beach Hopper (Orchestoidea californiana)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pelagic Cormorant

Brandt's Cormorants were the predominant Cormorant at Bandon over the 4th, but there were a fair number of Pelagics too. Normally all black, most were displaying breeding colors with red at their cheeks and white on their flanks.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

American Coot - Juvenile

With all the traveling I did this Spring, I missed a lot of opportunities I had looked forward to having just started birding last Spring. One of those was to get some good looks and pictures of American Coot chicks. They have the craziest red and gold frizz over their black down.
While I did see a few from a distant on one trip to RNWR I squeezed in, I never got an opportunity for any decent photos. Now in mid-July, the chicks have lost the crazy kid stuff and have transitioned into a drab gray. I got some good looks at a few yesterday at RNWR's auto tour. Check out the foot of the one in the bottom image. Rail's have some of the coolest feet. I found this passage on 10,000 Birds written by Mike:
"Coots flaunt remarkable fissipalmate feet, which means their toes are lobed. This adaptation, shared with other waterbirds like grebes and phalaropes, is useful both to propel the swimming bird and to facilitate passage over matted floating vegetation. Fissipalmation is also instrumental to coots’ noted hardiness, helping the birds hold up in high temperatures by dissipating excess body heat."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Virginia Rail

I made a trip to RNWR today. It had been a while since I had visited and I was hoping to see some juvenile Yellow-headed Blackbirds. I did see some, but I wasn't able to get any decent pictures.
I walked the Kiwa Hiking Trail for the first time since last year. It was actually just the second time for me.
As I walked along the small stream that the trail loops back on, I heard some loud chatter in the tall grass that is growing along the waters edge. I suspected Virginia Rails, but of course, they wouldn't show themselves. They were on the my side of the stream and were literally at my feet.
Then I got the idea that if I looped around maybe I could see them from the other side. This worked out only marginally. I saw one adult creeping along the through the grass and another moving in the grass, but couldn't get a clear view. I was hoping to see a juvenile.
I squatted down and waited a bit and eventually the adult crossed over some matted grass and I got a clear view, but only for a moment and too quick to get a shot off.
Eventually I gave up and wandered back to the other side and then heard another Rail on the other side of the path. They began to call to each other from both sides. This, I decided, was my opportunity. I positioned myself on the path so I was just back a bit from the line that led between them, squatted down and waited, camera ready to shoot. Sure enough, it didn't take too long and the other adult crossed over not far from me. I lucked out as it stopped momentarily and I was able to get some pretty good shots of it. Even the sun was well positioned!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Purple Finch? - Juvenile

On our way back home from Bandon over the 4th weekend, we stopped at Shore Acres State Park to walk through the wonderful garden they have there. Other than at my feeder, I got my first sighting of a Purple Finch. It was singing up a storm on a pine branch along the edge of the garden. It seems odd to me that while I see Purple Finches regularly at my feeder, I had not seen one in the field other up until then.
Tonight I saw a bird at my feeder that I wasn't quite sure of, so I grabbed my camera and took some pictures. It was pretty tolerant of me so I figured it was probably a juvenile and when I got a look at the pictures the gummy corners of its bill confirmed my suspicion.
So the next thing to consider was what species was it? My thought the whole time was a Purple Finch because of the frequency of adults I get (I actually get many more Purple Finches than House Finches). Though it has much less of an eyebrow than a similar looking female, I really think this is a juvenile Purple Finch. Let me know if you know otherwise, or if you know for sure!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brandt's Cormorant - Nests

More pics from Bandon and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. I saw all three Cormorant species common to the area. These Brandt's Cormorants were probably the most common though there were many Pelagic also.
Their buff throats with tinges of blue were quite apparent, especially as they flew overhead. As can be seen in the second image one flew overhead with seaweed in its bill. I assume this was for nest building based on my research as their diet is fish and squid.
Finally, there were a couple of nests visible on the edge of the ledge of the north side of Middle Coquille Point Rock. It would be great to be able to some young Cormorant! I may have to check out Newport's Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area as it is a much shorter drive for me than Bandon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Western Gull - Chicks

I didn't notice the Western Gull chicks at Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge at Bandon on the 4th, but the morning of the 5th they were hard to miss. Especially these two on the north side of Middle Coquille Point Rock. At first I just saw the one with Mom (or Dad) standing watch. Then another waddled up the rock next to the first. Lighting was tough with the brightly side lit white birds against the dark rocks, but the top two turned out pretty good.
Most sightings where much more distant on the top of Elephant Rock where I also saw many Common Murres and nesting Brandt's Cormorants.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Caspian Tern

The first Caspian Tern I saw was at Fernhill Wetlands. On Saturday, I saw two more there. I first saw one fly over early in the morning, but didn't notice it soon enough to get a positive ID. Then I saw them flying on the opposite side of Fernhill Lake as I approached the parking lot much later. They swooped around, but never showed any interest in coming to my side. I had been there for about four hours and was tired so I decided it was time to go.
Then, as I was getting ready to drive out the parking lot to go home, I saw one hovering over the water just a short ways away. Unfortunately, I could not get my window down and camera ready before it moved on. Even after that experience I still was ready to go home, but something told me I should wait a little longer, so I pulled the car up to the west gate and sat there for a bit. Sure enough, it wasn't long and it was back, flying towards me. I stuck my camera out the window and leaned out to get some shots off. It did this two or three times before leaving. Having gotten what I hoped would be some pretty good close shots, I finally did go home.
While the bright top light made the exposure less that ideal, I like the effect and how it captured the look and elegance of it hunting for prey over the water.