Monday, September 17, 2012

NAMC in Three Counties

Last week while I canned pears and tried to keep things watered, I looked forward to a weekend of birding for the North American Migration Count (and a break from canning). On Saturday, Johnny and I birded our section of Yamhill County (mostly our farm). Then on Sunday we drove to the coast and birded the Salmon River Estuary for Lincoln County, stopping at a couple sites in Polk county on our way home to add White-tailed Kites to the Polk County list. 
I love birding our farm. In the early morning, I found an American Dipper having a bath in our section of Agency Creek. Its activity was interrupted by a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The Hawk did not catch the Dipper, but landed on the rocks nearby, then flew a few feet over my head and landed behind me, chirping all the time. It soon flew off to the sound of Steller's Jays screaming in warning. I looked for my Dipper and found two! Both standing absolutely motionless. Here is one.

Later that morning, I wondered why I had not seen the Great Blue Heron that visits daily. Then I noticed a distant fir that had a different-looking top than I remembered.

 I trained my binoculars on the tree top and discovered "our" heron.

 I was not as crazy about driving around other parts of the county in the heat. Usually someone else does those areas but he was busy this year. However, we did have an exciting surprise when we stopped on a bridge over Willamina Creek and caught a glimpse of a Red-shouldered Hawk catching and flying off with something at the edge of the stream. This is the only area in Yamhill County that I know of that has a pair of possibly nesting Red-shoulders. It was there and gone too quickly for a photo but this American Kestrel sat on a post a few miles farther up the road and posed. I took the photo through the windshield to avoid scaring it off.

The most excitement, however, did not happen until the next day, when I uploaded the photos I'd taken of what I thought was a Cooper's Hawk sitting on a wire a mile up the road from our farm. The field next to the road has been recently baled and there were three Red-tailed Hawks sitting on hay stacks. This bird was not a Red-tail. There was no place to pull over and traffic both directions so we stopped briefly and I snapped a photo just as the bird was starting to take off. When I saw the photo, I seriously doubted it was a Cooper's Hawk. But what was it? I wrote to ask the experts on OBOL (Oregon Birders On Line). The unanimous verdict was immature Red-shouldered Hawk. You can read their reasons here:

We ended up with a total of 53 species in Yamhill County including 40 on our farm. I climbed the ladder into the hay loft at night to get species number 40: Barn Owl. Five fluffy yellow and furiously hissing Barn Owl babies protested my presence. Well, I could only see five but six hatched so either one died and became owlet food (as often happens) or was hiding under its bigger siblings.

Sunday we drove to our four sites on the Salmon River: three along the estuary and one upriver to collect a Dipper for Lincoln County. This is a heavy cone year, especially for Sitka Spruce and everywhere we go in Sitka territory, there are Red Crossbills feeding on the cones. And so it was all along the estuary. At Pixieland, our first site, we had a hard time counting them because they were high in the trees and blended in with the cones. Plus they moved around a lot. We did not see any showing red, just the stripey ones that are female or juvenile. However, when I looked at this photo that I thought would show just one dark bird silhouetted against the sky, I was in for a surprise. The more I looked, the more birds I could see, including one very red one! I  eventually found six birds in this photo.

Also at Pixieland  were many of these handsome red dragonflies.

And a wasp nest, an engineering marvel and rather artistic, I thought. From a distance.

 We toured the three estuary sites described on this sign at Knight's Park before heading upriver and finding a Dipper at the Van Duzer wayside, where we always find a Dipper.

And then it was off to two Polk county sites on our way to dinner at our favorite restaurant in Willamina, the Wildwood Cafe. Happily, the pair of Kites that nested near Shenk's Wetlands just off the South Yamhill River were present with their two fledglings, hunting the marshlands, when we arrived. The youngsters were hunting, too, but we noticed the adults were doing the catching and giving their finds to their offspring. Here is one juvenile, blurry and far away, recognizable as a new fledgling by the rusty collar which you can see if you enlarge this photo.

Today I wrote up our species lists for the three county coordinators. Then it was back to canning pears. It didn't seem so tedious today as I had the weekend of birding to remember and relive. But there are lots more pears waiting for me tomorrow. And a thirsty garden waiting to be watered.

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