Monday, June 25, 2012

Townsend's Solitaire

My daughter graduated from the Univ. of Oregon this past Monday, so I took that day off from work as well as Tuesday. Since my wife and daughter were pretty tuckered out, I decided to slip in some birding Tuesday morning.
I decided to try my luck at Trillium Lake up on Mt Hood. While the hike around the lake was gorgeous, the birding was a little slow. I got glimpses of a couple of possible interesting birds, but was never able to get a clear view to identify them.
Feeling a little frustrated, I decided to make a quick stop at Tamanawas Falls Trail before heading home. I've made two stops there in the past and both times had multiple looks of American Dippers.  This time was no different, as there were both adult and juveniles along the rapidly flowing stream.
As I sat on the bank watching an adult Dipper feeding a juvenile, a rather nondescript grayish bird landed on a branch across the stream. I watched it, rather puzzled as to what it was, when it flew across the stream and landed on a branch about twelve feet away from me.
I started shooting away as it sat there keeping an eye on me, but not too concerned with my presence. Then it flew back to the other side of the stream only to return to the same branch beside me a minute later. It must have done this three or four times allowing me to get shots from the front, side and rear.

I had a hunch that the bird was a Townsend's Solitaire and sure enough, that's what it turned out to be. My first sighting of this species. Distinguishing characteristics beside the gray coloring is the obvious white eye ring, the white outer tail feathers and a broad creamy wing bar which stands out when the bird is in flight as seen above.

As I was on my way back to the parking area along Highway 35, I saw a couple of interesting birds on the ground among the picnic tables.  Before I could get a good look, they flew off back towards the stream. I went looking for them and while I'm not sure if I found what I'd seen, I did find an adult Townsend's Solitaire feeding a juvenile on a log across the stream.
Tamanawas Falls Trail continues to a great stop when up on Mount Hood.   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Red-eyed Vireo

On Sunday afternoon, my wife and I went for a walk as has been our habit of late. The walk is mostly to get out, get a little exercise and spend some time together, but I typically bring my camera along just in case. We usually don't see much as we typically go mid-afternoon when bird activity is at its slowest. No big deal as my wife isn't a birder, but she is starting to get a little interested since I typically point out birds as we walk.
Our favorite walks have been the loop around Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and Tryon Creek State Park, but this Sunday she wanted to do something different, so I suggested Wapato Access Greenway State Park on Sauvie Island.
As usual we didn't see a lot of birds, but we did hear quite a few. One in particular was fairly high on a branch and was singing up a storm. I wasn't sure what it was, finely deciding on a Warbling Vireo, but not totally convinced. I've started to carry an audio recorder with me and had it in my camera bag, so I decided to record the bird, hoping that it would help me determine its identity based on it's song.
I'm glad I did as when I compared the recording to those I found on the web, it was pretty obvious that what I saw was not a Warbling Vireo. The song I recorded was to broken up.  Warbling Vireos sing in much longer phrases. My recording was of 2 or 3 notes separated with a pause.
Press play to hear the recording I made of the Red-eyed Vireo:
So if it wasn't a Warbling Vireo, what was it? It certainly had the look of a Vireo. That's when I took a closer look at the photos I had taken. Not the best as the bird quite a ways off and I was shooting against a bright, hazy sky, but upon closer scrutiny, I could see there was a dark line through its eye and another dark line above the eye separated by white. That is a better fit for a Red-eyed Vireo. Zooming in, I could see a faint red coloring to the eye and listening to recording of Red-eyed Vireos, my recording was a much better match. 

The image above shows the darker, bluish-gray crown, outlined with darker lines above a whitish supercilium

My first Red-eyed Vireo sighting in Oregon.  Not a bad Sunday afternoon walk.

Here's the song of a bird I couldn't find up in the dense trees along the path.  If anyone knows what it is, let me know.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cinnamon Teal

I've been saving for a large prime lens for a few months now. I'm torn between the Nikkor 400mm f2.8, the 500mm f4 or the 600mm f4.  All are fabulous lenses, each with its own pluses (and a few minuses).
To help me make up my mind, I occasionally rent either the 400mm f2.8 or the 600mm F4 from Pro Photo Supplies in Portland. They have a nice weekend deal.
The weekend of April 20 (how time flies) I rented the 600mm and spent some time at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to the lens, I rented a 1.7x teleconverter which upped it to 1000mm. Multiply that by the 1.5 increase gained by my D90's smaller APS-C image sensor and I was packing a 1500mm telescope.
It's really amazing to look through the view finder and see, with such clarity, birds that are quite far off in the distant. But it requires a lot of care to keep the camera steady.  The least movement and your picture is ruined.
The image of the male Cinnamon Teal above was taken in the canal between North and South Quigley Lakes.  This is a full frame shot (no cropping). While the ability to get in this close is amazing, it can be hard to fit birds (especially larger ones) into a frame if they are too close.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Brown Creeper

I haven't seen a Brown Creeper in quite a while and it has been noticeable absent from my 2012 list. Well, add a check, as a walk through the woodlands along the Kiwa Trail at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge filled that empty square.
I saw several as I neared the end of the trail in the east woods. The whole trail was quite birdie yesterday morning, with Virginia Rails scampering across the trail ahead of me and sneaking among the grasses along the edge of the ponds. 
While the images at the top of this post are the closest I've taken to date, the image directly above is more typical of sightings, as the bird steadily works itself up the trunk of a tree, blending in very well with tree's bark.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Common Raven

As I climbed the sandy hills at Fort Funston in San Francisco this past May 23, I heard the gurgling croak of a Common  Raven.  I found it first, hiding up in a pine bough, then followed it when flew off to an open branch.
I was surprised to see quite a few Ravens there and on the beach.

The pair above, shot from the beach looking back up at the sandy cliff, appear to be putting together a nest, but the materials are very strange. Normally, Common Ravens make their nest from branches, so perhaps this is something else, but as can be seen in the bottom image, they definitely were gathering items at this spot.

Later, I came upon a small flock of Ravens rooting around in the sand. This one in particular didn't seem to mind having its picture taken. 
An interesting behavior I noticed was their tendency to hop. A bird this large typically walks, and they did do that most of the time, but every once in a while they would move about with a couple quick hoops.  It didn't seem quite right. :-)