Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Marathon Mother's Day Weekend

 After the scare last week from son Steve's sudden excruciating abdominal pain that landed him in the hospital for two days down in California, I was ready for some stress relief. Steve and Munazza called Friday night and Steve seemed to be recovering, although the cause of his pain was never diagnosed. We continued with our weekend plans, cell phones with us.

The North American Migration Count is always the second weekend in May: Mother's Day weekend. I look forward to birding our farm for the Yamhill County portion of the count, plus up Agency Creek. We combine the count with surveying Dippers along the six mile stretch that I've adopted for my survey.

I walked around the farm at first light, listening to the dawn chorus of bird songs and trying to separate them out. The Ruffed Grouse drumming in our woods was obvious. I also tried to get a few photos of birds on our farm in the early morning, but it was foggy and the birds not terribly cooperative. Later, when the sun came out, this American Goldfinch insisted on hiding behind branches.

A very rufous Rufous Hummingbird was up in plain sight, but the lighting was difficult.

After morning chores we headed up Agency Creek Rd. and our first Dipper nest site, which entails a long hike through the woods. In the deep, damp shade we found these Western Coral Roots, a native orchid.

Spotted Coral Root:  Corallorhiza maculata
We didn't find Dippers at that first site, but we did hear two different Ruffed Grouse drumming. And lots of warblers. I was calling some of them Black-throated Gray Warblers but wondering if I was correct. Then one came into view and as I watched, opened its bill and sang the song that I'd been hearing: "busy busy busy busy WE saw". At least, that's what the Black-throated Gray Warbler's migration song sounds like to me.

Black-throated Gray Warbler

We saw a Spotted Sandpiper at the gravel quarry ponds. They are said to be common around streams and lakes everywhere but I rarely see them. It was too far for a photo but we came back after the weekend: the bird was still there and I managed this photo.

Spotted Sandpiper
At the second Dipper nest site on Saturday, we lucked into seeing a pair of Dipper fledglings being fed by a parent.

American Dipper fledglings waiting for food

Parent Dipper delivering food to open-mouthed fledgling

Calling and batting its wings for food
 Although we saw a total of seven Dippers on count day, those were the only ones we photographed. Mostly, the flowers stood still better.

Aquilegia canadensis   
Wild columbine
Maianthemum racemosum  False Soloman's Seal

Polk County migration count is on the same day as Yamhill county, so after leaving Agency Creek, we drove to nearby Shenk's Wetlands in Polk county and counted birds there, including two White-tailed Kites. By then we were hungry, so went to Willamina's Wildwood Cafe for supper.

The next day, Sunday, was the Tillamook county migration count. We combined our Black Oystercatcher survey at Cape Kiwanda with that count. Those wonderful black birds with the long orange bills were right where they usually are at high tide, resting on the side of a cliff.

Johnny hiked on out to the very end of the cape and peered over the edge at the rocky ledge below. He spotted two Ruddy Turnstones. (No, he didn't know what they were but he found them in our bird book.) I eventually worked up the courage to go out to see them and take photos. They were a long way away and well camouflaged at times. Believe it or not, both Turnstones are in this photo.

Here is one visible. The second is just below it and to the right. Look for the orange leg.

Once in awhile, a Turnstone cooperated by choosing a contrasting background.

Two Black Oystercatchers were down on these rocks, too. We were not sure if they are the same two that might have flown from the cliff or a different pair. There are two pair that nest on Haystack Rock and feed on Cape Kiwanda.

On the north side of the cape, a hang glider was enjoying the lovely weather in his own way.

From Cape Kiwanda we drove to Whelan Island to add birds to the Tillamook count. It was a beautiful walk through a forest of blooming rhododendrons.

The butterflies were enjoying the rhododendron flowers, too.

Western Tiger Swallowtail   Papilio rutulus

A Rufous Hummingbird showed off his brilliant gorget.

We did not want to go back to crowded-on-Mother's-Day Cape Kiwanda for supper, so we drove home via Cloverdale, where all the cafes were closed, finally settling for an ice cream cone in Hebo and supper at home.

It was an exhausting weekend, but fun, greatly enhanced by hearing from Steve on Mother's Day morning that he was feeling fine.

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