Thursday, November 11, 2010

Birding at Finley National Wildlife Refuge

Finley is one of the three Willamette Valley refuges strung in a line from Eugene to Salem that were created as safe wintering grounds for the Dusky Canada Goose, a bird that winters nowhere else. Other birds have benefited from the protection, making these refuges a birder's paradise. Baskett Slough, just west of Salem, is close to where I live and the only one of the three I regularly bird... on my way to and from the feed store in Dallas. That is, it was the only one... until friend Toni was kind enough to move to Albany, not far from Finley, and give me an excuse to pick her up and go birding and hiking at the Corvallis area refuge.

Our first jaunt this fall was in October. The second was yesterday. Both times we hit glorious autumn days with sun and dramatic clouds, colorful leaves and fields greened by rains. This photo of the refuge was taken by Toni yesterday.

On both trips we were able to tour charming country roads we had not intended to tour... because neither of us has any sense of direction and kept getting lost. It's fun to have a birding partner who considers every wrong turn a chance for new adventures.

In October, we saw White-fronted Geese (like the one above), along with Duskies and other forms of Canada and Cackling Geese (presumably, although I can only identify Duskies because they are, well, dusky). On both trips, we walked this wonderful Homer Campbell boardwalk through the lichen-dripping forest to Cabell Marsh.

On yesterday's trip we found all our target birds: Tundra Swan, Western Meadowlark, and Red-shouldered Hawk. (We targeted these because someone else had reported seeing them there recently.) We also saw many other birds, especially geese. Geese in the water, on land, in the air... noisy geese everywhere. I did not manage to get good photos of our target birds, but you can see a couple white swans way in the background on Cabell Marsh, behind hordes of ducks and geese.

Another white bird was closer, as we first entered the refuge. Great Egrets are not shy.

At the refuge headquarters, many Acorn Woodpeckers and Western Bluebirds were flitting about. This bluebird seemed to be mocking my photo taking attempts.

An American Kestrel was more cooperative, perching in plain sight on one of the refuge interpretive signs. But I had to lean way out of the window to take his portrait without flushing him. Toni captured my contortions.

Although the sun was setting, we hated to leave this bird paradise. As Western Meadowlarks sang and a Red-shouldered Hawk sat in the dimming light... too far for a photo but close enough to be identified through the scope... we headed home in a glowing sunset.

Toni and I are both looking forward to our next trip to Finley... likely by yet another unexpected route on some unforeseen, but no doubt charming, country road.

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