Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Really Fun Raptor Run

It was a really fun Grand Ronde raptor run on Tuesday, February 3... with really bad photos. When we found a Red-shouldered Hawk right alongside the road early on our route, I took a photo through the curved windshield. A few miles farther on (still in Grand Ronde), a Northern Harrier landed right in front of us with prey, so I took a photo through the windshield and between the crossbars of a gate. This led me to want to take photos of more of the birds we saw on the route, so I did. Most were taken through the streaked windows or curved windshield or from very far away. But it's fun to have a photo record of some of the birds we saw.

First, that Red-shouldered Hawk on McPherson Road in Grand Ronde...

Then the Harrier along Hwy 18 west of Grand Ronde...  (Yes, it was a pink metal gate). That little bird in its talons was still fluttering when the Harrier landed.

 Next, we stopped to take a photo of White Wing, the lovely Red-tailed Hawk that has lived along the river in Grand Ronde for many years. He was a long way away.

Near the private Shenk Wetlands, between Fort Hill and Willamina, we saw a flock of Wild Turkeys. This was one of two flocks we saw. The other hangs out near Valley Junction.

 We could find only one White-tailed Kite all day and it was here at Shenk Wetlands where they have raised young for the last several years. As usual, it was sitting on a bush in the very distant hedgerow. Johnny managed this shot through the scope.

We were excited to find the oddly splotched with white (from the back) light phase Rough-legged Hawk in a shrub beside the South Yamhill River Road. It did not stay long enough for a photo so we stopped farther along at a place where we can look across the fields between the Yamhill River Road and Hwy 18/22. That's where we've seen the Rough-leg in the past. I spotted a bird on a distant tree... but it turned out to be a Peregrine Falcon! This was as zoomed in as my camera would go.

 Cropped, it looks a bit more like a Peregrine. Unfortunately, it didn't stay long enough for Johnny to get a photo through the scope.

Then I spotted a tiny dot that looked like the Rough-leg. From the front this bird looks like a normal light phase. Here he is all the way zoomed in on my camera!

Fortunately, the hawk sat still for Johnny to get it in the scope and take a photo, blurry but recognizable.

We found nothing else exciting enough to photograph before our lunch stop except this first-of-the-year for us Turkey Vulture in Corbett Acres along Tenbush Lane.

The restaurant we used to stop at for lunch on our route changed hands and the new folks are very slow so we are experimenting with other choices. This day we bought food at the deli in the market in Willamina and drove to Huddleston Pond to eat. The food was not good but the view of waterfowl was. We were hoping for the eagle that sometimes haunts this Willamina pond or an osprey back on its nest early but neither showed up. However we had a ringside view of a Eurasian Wigeon, along with plenty of American Wigeons and American Coots. Here's the Eurasian (with a Coot buddy)...

And one of the American Wigeon... windshield blurry.

 After lunch it was east out of Willamina to the Sheridan area where we saw our second Peregrine of the day! Although it was closer, it was behind trees and I did not get a usable photo. We found the usual Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels between Sheridan and Harmony Rd. On Harmony, we found our second Cooper's Hawk of the day. The first had been along Hwy 22 west of Grand Ronde. This one flew from the power line to a tree full of blackbirds. The birds left but many came back immediately. Neither hawk nor birds seemed interested in each other. I think the hawk was digesting a meal and not in the mood for a chase.

Hawk is on far right, returning blackbirds on far left.

Here is the Cooper's from the back, ignoring us as well as the blackbirds.

That accipiter was on a private farm that we survey each month where there are always zillions of Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbirds. A nearby tree on this farm was loaded with those birds.

Thanks to all our photo stops, we were running late so we hurried on to Ridgeway where we often see a Rough-legged Hawk, but did not this day. Ridgeway turns a corner to head south and friend Velta reported a Turkey Vulture flying over. Friends all along my route are alerted to the day I survey and report their sightings to me, bless their hearts. Barb on Harmony Rd. checks for owls that night and usually hears Great Horned Owls although this night she only heard a Barred Owl. Surprisingly, we had also heard a Barred Owl from our farm the night before. One of our Barn Owls was apparently unhappy about the Barred Owl because it chattered its irritated call just before the Barred Owl sounded off.

Ridgeway Road soon hits Hwy 22 where we head west again. We used to see Kites and Harriers galore in the fields where Hwy 22 and 18 are joined together by Old Wallace Bridge Rd. But since the "improvements" in those fields, we find almost nothing. Fortunately, Oregon Wildlife, at the end of Steel Bridge Road behind those fields still has birds, including nesting (and roosting) Barn Owls and nesting Bluebirds. I took this fuzzy, dark photo of a Western Bluebird out the car window.

One of Oregon Wildlife's ponds is a favorite of Wood Ducks and there were plenty of them this trip, along with Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Mallards, a pair of Hooded Mergansers and a pair of Common Mergansers. I took very blurry photos of a few.

Wood Ducks

Hooded Merganser

While I was watching and photographing ducks this late, gray afternoon, I heard a Great Horned Owl begin calling. It called and called for as long as I listened. Once a higher-pitched call joined in: I presume it was a female answering.
We had to push on but before leaving their property, we found another bird to photograph. Not all the birds here are wild. An Emu posed for me.

On the way back to the highway, we spotted the bright rump of a bull elk in the brush. That's a first for us in that area.

We had done so well photographing the less usual birds on this raptor run that I thought we should have the most common ones as well. So I took really bad photos of an ordinary (not white-winged) Red-tailed Hawk and an American Kestrel.

 I probably should not have bothered.

Thanks to all those photo delays, our 79 mile route took us 7 1/2 hours (including lunch). But it was worth it. My only regret (other than the food) was that our friend Dawn could not join us again this month. She would have shared our excitement at the Red-shouldered Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk and Peregrine Falcons. And, of course, "White Wing". It's always fun to share the "good" bird finds with another avid birder.

No comments:

Post a Comment