Sunday, May 17, 2015

Marathon Birding

May 9 and 10 were the North American Migration Count days... and also the start of the two week Black Oystercatcher monitoring period. Johnny and I have been heavily involved in both.

Saturday, May 9, I birded our farm for the Yamhill County count, then we drove up Agency Creek Rd. to bird up there and also do my occasional American Dipper survey. I'll tell the story in photos.

For two weeks previous, I filled the sunflower seeders daily to attract birds. It worked. American Goldfinches, Evening Grosbeaks and Black-headed Grosbeaks swarmed to the feeders, just waiting to be counted on migration count day.

Black-headed Grosbeak
Up Agency Creek Rd., we watched a Raven tussle with a little snake. The snake wasn't giving up without a fight and the Raven often jumped back out of reach of the striking snake. But eventually, the Raven won and flew off with its prey.

This forlorn little fledgling Dipper kept hoping its parent would feed it. But parent thought it was time for baby to learn to eat so flew by calling several times, but never stopped to feed.

After awhile, baby started picking at whatever it could find on its mossy rock perch.

Little by little, it worked closer to the scary fast-moving water... and thought about jumping in.


Eventually, hunger overcame fear and the little bird dove.

Rewarded with underwater goodies, it perched on a partially submerged log and continued to feed. 

I moved on to find more birds. I'd find more if I didn't spend so much time watching them.  A lovely Western Tanager did what all birds should do on migration count day: it perched in the sun on top of a dead snag where it was plainly visible.

We finished the Yamhill Count by climbing the loft ladder after dark and counting Barn Owl babies. There was one more then (two) than there is now (one). Our Barn Owls are having difficulties this year. Hopefully, they will have a second clutch with better luck.

Sunday, May 10, we hiked up The Thumb at Road's End for our first Black Oystercatcher (BLOY) survey of the season, and also counted birds for the Lincoln County migration count, including this young Bald Eagle that insisted on sitting on one of our BLOY nest rocks. Not surprisingly, we did not see the pair of BLOY that nest on that rock.

We did, however, see the pairs that traditionally nest north and south of that rock. I look forward to monitoring those nests, which gives me an excuse to visit this beautiful site weekly.

One Oystercatcher is in this photo of the south rock, left and below of center

One Oystercatcher is here on the north rock, slightly above and right of center

I left Johnny on top of the Thumb to keep watch on the BLOY, while I headed upward and across to the woods to count birds for the Lincoln County NAMC. A swallowtail butterfly with very worn wings, but still beautiful, attracted my attention first.

The view in every direction was, as usual, stunning.

Red Crossbills were feeding in the spruce cones. These two looked particularly "cross".


Johnny met me down at the car and we headed onward to count birds (and eat our lunches) at Tamara Quays, at the top of the Salmon River estuary, and then onward to pick up a Dipper at the bridge at Rose Lodge for the Lincoln County count. It was very cooperative, taking a bath below the bridge.

After another stop just inside Lincoln County at the Van Duzer Wayside, we entered Tillamook county for a few miles and hiked up a road, finding an Olive-sided Flycatcher atop a snag, and other birds less cooperative for photos.

Then it was Polk County where we made three stops, finding the requisite Dipper for that county by a bridge on Mill Creek, then on to Noble Oaks, formerly Oregon Wildlife, where our friends Nancy and Dick live and have created a private wildlife mecca, now part of the Nature Conservancy's non-public holdings. A few birds posed for pictures. Alas, the lovely and unexpected Lazuli Bunting did not.

Hooded Merganser

Savannah Sparrow
 Also unexpected was this flycatching Black Phoebe.

We ended our day at the Wildwood Cafe in Willamina for supper. It was a fun and full weekend of birding, but that was just the beginning as we had (and still have) many more days of Black Oystercatcher surveying at other sites yet to come... plus my most un-favorite part of these counts: data entry. In between, farm chores continue and the garden waits to be planted. It is a busy and beautiful time of year.


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