Monday, May 14, 2012

Marathon Birding Weekend

This entire week, beginning Saturday, May 12, is Black Oystercatcher (BLOY) Survey Week. This past weekend was the North American Migration Count. Johnny and I counted our farm and up Spirit Mtn. Rd. and Agency Creek Rd. for Yamhill County, then combined the BLOY survey at Road's End with birding for the Lincoln County NAMC.

We found 60 species for our Yamhill County NAMC, including 48 on our farm. The swallows that nest in our hanging gourd nests were tough to count. I threw white feathers in the air from friend Velta's geese so the high-flying birds would swarm around me and I could, hopefully, count them. Well, they swarmed but I couldn't count swarming birds. So I made a rough guesstimate. Here are two that sat still properly for counting, Tree and Violet-Green.

In the first video listed below, the swallows are trying to catch feathers that have landed on the ground. Their rules seem to state that they may not land to grab a feather. The second video shows a swallow trying to keep his feather from being stolen by others while attempting to shove it into his nest. After I quit filming, he succeeded. There seems to be a great deal of status involved with how many feathers you have in your nest and how big the feathers are. and

The fast invading Eurasian Collared Doves have reached our farm and this one sat atop the barn for a photo op. I suspect the mate is on a nest somewhere.

This bright jewel of a hummingbird sat up in clear view, too. His colors changed with every change of his position. In flight you can tell why he's called a Rufous Hummingbird.

The two Wrentits that popped out to greet us up Spirit Mtn. Rd. did not stick around long enough for a picture, but I was glad to see they are still in the neighborhood.

Up Agency Creek, I kept to the task at hand and took no bird photos at all. But I couldn't resist one of Three Stumps, the lovely area where our kids spent many a summer hour, jumping into the deep hole in the foreground of this picture from way at the top of a tree... then swimming out of the freezing water as quickly as possible.

At the coast, up on The Thumb, we found one pair of Black Oystercatchers and spent most of our time trying to figure out if they were nesting or not. Best birds for us along the trail were Gray Jays, unphotographed. But, as always, the view from on top was spectacular, made more exciting by a Peregrine Falcon doing aerial maneuvers nearby... too fast for my camera.

Along the Salmon River, we found four lovely Red-necked Phalarope that landed briefly on the river as we watched from under a bridge. Tiny birds, they were far away and the photo, blown-up, is blurry. It's always strange to see shorebirds swimming like some kind of miniature duck. Phalarope are different in other ways, too. The females are the brightly colored members of the family, instead of the males.

At Knight's Park, closer to the mouth of the Salmon River, a sign tells about the importance of estuaries such as this one.

Far across the river was a sub-adult Bald Eagle sitting atop and munching on a dead seal lying in the mud at low tide.

These Western Gulls provided a closer look at some abundant denizens of the Oregon coast. They are scavengers, like the eagle, but they were keeping their distance from the guardian of the seal meal, just in case it might decide to have gull instead of seal for supper.

On the way home, we stopped for a short hike in Polk County, to add whatever species we could to that migration count. (And to let the slow-moving traffic clear out. Everyone was headed home from the coast after a warm, sunny day at the beach.) On that forest road, we found our first-of-the-weekend House Wrens which, in Oregon, hang out in clearcuts with stumps and brush more than they do in housing areas. But the only photo I managed to get was of a Western Tanager. They are lovely birds that have just arrived in Oregon for the breeding season.

Not a bad way to spend a beautiful Mother's Day weekend.

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