October-November yard birds

Who’s excited about Downy Woodpeckers in their yard? This gal!

Confirmed male.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

And female.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

 

Downy Woodpecker

Pretty exciting news. I hope they stick around. And I hope they make little downy chicks in the spring for cuteness’ sake.

This week has been all about gobs of Pine Siskins eating gobs of sunflower seeds.

Pine Siskin

(and a House Finch amidst the drama)

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

I still find the Pine Siskin entertaining. They were, after all, one of the first new-to-me birds I identified at home when I put the feeders up in January. It’s neat to realize how far I’ve come since then. A couple of weeks ago, there was an exciting day when I counted 14 bird different species in the yard. Including a Western Tanager (Yellow Warbler).

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Other highlights from that day:

Bewick’s Wren

Bewick's Wren

Bewick's Wren

Black-capped Chickadee.

Black-capped Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

House Finch

House Finch

House Finch

I also saw this Swainson’s Thrush that looks to have a puncture on its side. Though I’ve not heard it from the house, I have a soft spot for these birds because of their beautiful song. I hope this one recovers okay.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush

The Western Scrub-Jays were also nearby.

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

And one of my all time favorite yard friends, the Anna’s Hummingbird in all of its amusing postures. Narwhal or hummingbird?

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

So much personality in a tiny feathered package.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

One surprise in the neighborhood was this Red-tailed Hawk perched and looking around while crows mobbed it.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

I’m curious if this apex predator is just passing through or looking for a more permanent residence. I’ll keep an eye out.

This morning, I walked outside to Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco flocks, a Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrows, and a Varied Thrush! This was the first time I’ve seen a Varied Thrush in the yard. I startled it and it flew away before I could get a photo. Hopefully next time!

It’s a bird-iful day in the neighborhood!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

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Crescent City. Redwoods. Birthday Birds Part II

The last day of my birthday weekend spent exploring California’s redwood coast was a sensational treat. Mostly thanks to two pygmy owls.

Redwoods

But before the owls.

On the way to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park I stopped at a small pond, Lagoon Pond, and found a Black Phoebe!

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

This chatty, energetic flycatcher is common in this area, but rare near Portland. I was happy I got the chance to see one.

Continuing along Highway 101 we passed herds of elk.

Elk

Staredown

Elk

Lawn ornaments

Elk

Elk moons rising

They weren’t in Elk Meadow like they’re supposed to be. Instead, I found an American Kestrel.

American Kestrel

Turning onto Davison Road, we continued past Gold Bluffs Beach, and proceeded toward Fern Canyon for a hike. Until we came across a small stream crossing in the road.

Puddle

Undeterred, we walked the remaining distance to the trailhead. This was a good call, because moments later we encountered two bull elk grazing by the road. Reminded of the moose in Alaska, we followed the same guidelines for the elk. We gave them space, and spoke loudly and calmly so as not to startle the animals, and we passed without incident.

Elk

Watching elk

Further down the road, I noticed a chubby song bird silhouette in the distance. Oh wait, I recognize that silhouette!

Northern Pygmy-Owl

A Northern Pygmy-Owl! The above picture is pretty much only good for perspective (the owl is about the same size as the Doug-fir cones on the tree to the right). So here are some better pictures.

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

What a cutie. The last occurrence of a NOPO I had was during Birdathon this summer. Our team heard and briefly caught a glimpse of one in flight high above the trees in an urban park.

I haven’t had this intimate a sighting since my first “official” day birding at Stubb Stewart State Park almost a year ago. In fact, because of that first encounter, I consider the Northern Pygmy-Owl the “spark bird” that ignited my passion for birding. It was thrilling to find another, especially in this beautiful setting.

Perspective

And we hadn’t even gotten to the trailhead yet. Honestly, I could have gone back to the car and been perfectly content, but I’m glad we continued on.

Fern Canyon

Fern canyon is awesome. Canyon walls covered in five types of ferns tower overhead while the trail meanders along the stream.

Ferns

It feels prehistoric. In fact, this was a film location for a scene in Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. Tiny Compsognathus dinosaurs attack and eat bad-guy hunter Dieter Stark. See that excellent film clip here.

No dinosaurs this time. But there was an American Dipper!

American Dipper

American Dipper

Ferocious if you’re a worm or aquatic insect.

We returned to the car via the beach where we passed flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the swampy bits.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

And found bird bones.

What bird

And yet another elk.

Elk

But that’s not how the story ends.

Driving back on 101, I spotted another Northern Pygmy-Owl on a small Douglas-fir as we whizzed by. Owl! I shouted. Tomas asked, Are you sure? Yes, of course I was sure. So he cautiously made a U-turn on the highway to get to the shoulder where we could get a better look and not be smashed by semis.

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

I couldn’t believe it. What luck to run into two pygmy owls in one day. As if I needed another reason to love the redwood forests. Now I had two more.

Happy bird-day to me.

Birthday Owl

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Crescent City. Redwoods. Birthday Birds Part I

The redwood forests are my favorite. There’s nothing like giant, 2000 yr old trees to make a person feel small and young. An appropriate destination to celebrate another revolution around the sun, see some birds, and hug some trees. I drove down to Crescent City, California, to first visit Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

Redwoods

Boy Scout Tree Trail

Redwoods

Magic fairly land

Skyscrapers

The original skyscrapers

Boy Scout Tree, maple leaf for scale

Boy Scout Tree, maple leaf for scale

The park is gorgeous, surreal, and amazing. And quiet this day for birds aside from the occasional squawking Common Raven or twittering Pacific Wren.

I didn't step on this Rough-skinned Newt

I did not step on this Rough-skinned Newt.

 

From the forest to the sea. The next day, I checked out Crescent City’s coastline. The quiet seaside town has a few good birding spots. I had the best luck at the Crescent City Harbor.

Crescent City Harbor

Marbled Godwit! What a stunner.

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

It would be fun to check out Godwit Days in Arcata next year.

Less stunning perhaps, but still cool, (especially in flight), were the Black Turnstones.

Black Turnstone

I also found Black-bellied Plovers (with deceptive “not black belllies,” their non-breeding plumage).

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

I spotted a Sanderling in the mix of Black-bellied Plovers.

Sanderling

Too cute.

Sanderling

There were way more Sanderlings on the beach moments before something spooked them.

Sanderlings, plovers, gulls

Not guilty.

Sanderlings, plovers

Certainly elegant were the Elegant Terns.

Elegant Tern

I find the shape of their curves pleasant and I think they pull off the spikey feathered head look pretty well.

Elegant Tern

Elegant Tern

I did my best identifying the gulls.

I watched Brown Pelicans bathe in the bay.

Brown Pelican

While Black Oystercatchers scouted the shore.

Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher

A variety of birds were visible in the distance from the dock at Lighthouse and Anchor Way:

Red-throated Loon

Red-throated Loons

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant, Heermann's Gulls

Double-crested Cormorant, Heermann’s Gulls

Harbor cats.

Harbor Cats

Harbor cats

And Harbor Seals with faces I’m programmed to love.

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals

It was pretty thrilling to explore a new place surrounded by so many new-to-me birds. I think I need more of that in my life.

Sunset at Castle Rock

Next day, back to the forest!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Broughton Beach

All the cool kids headed to Broughton Beach recently to check out Lapland Longspurs. The beach is a quick drive from my house, so I thought I’d try my luck too.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a Least Sandpiper.

Least Sandpiper

A Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron

An American Pipit.

American Pipit

A Savannah Sparrow taking a mud bath.

Savannah Sparrow

A Savannah Sparrow hiding in a shrub.

Savannah Sparrow

A talkative gull (“Olympic Gull“?) protecting its catch.

Gul

Gull

And a Lapland Longspur!

Lapland Longspur

This one camouflaged itself nicely among the flocks of Horned Larks and Savannah Sparrows. I only got a brief look at the longspur and I missed its infamous flight-song display.

I had the most fun on this trip watching a flock of Horned Larks.

Horned Lark

I love the way they waddle along. Sibley calls it a “shuffling gait.”

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

Horned Larks are found in wide open areas with sparse vegetation and they breed in the high arctic tundra. Eremophila alpestris is Greek origin, eremos, a lonely place, and philia, meaning love. They are named for their “love of lonely places in the mountains.”   

Cool birds.

Horns and spurs!

Audrey

Perpetua Bank Pelagic Tour

This fall, I spent a day out in the Pacific Ocean with Oregon Pelagic Tours, in search of pelagic birds. Or as I like to call it, a day in the life of a bulimic.

The trip started out great.

Newport

I couldn’t be more excited at the chance to see skuas, albatross, and maybe even whales. I did everything right. I slept great the night before, I ate a bland breakfast, I even got a Scopolamine prescription. I stayed on the stern (back) of the boat in fresh air, and focused on the horizon. I thought: I feel good, I feel good, I feel good, I feel good, I’m not going to get sick. Then I proceeded to become incredibly ill.

Bridge sunrise

About five miles past the jetties, the sea swells really picked up. Past the Steller Sea Lions and the Marbled Murrelets (the birds that nest in coastal old growth trees!), and just before the Humpback Whale. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep it together for the whale sighting.

Steller Sea Lion

After the first incident, I thought maybe I’d recover. Nope. I was sick for the next four and a half hours. Ginger snap cookie? Threw it up. Dramamine? Too little, too late, threw it up. I couldn’t hold down ginger ale or even water. My stomach refused everything. Luckily, (or unluckily?) I was in good company. It became almost comical after the nth time over the rails. Almost.

We reached the turnaround point about 50 miles out to sea. This was actually my small turnaround point too. For about an hour, the water calmed and so did my insides. I could finally enjoy the birds!

Pelagic birds

And there were many to enjoy! (See the albatross in the middle? So big!) It was here we came across two fishing vessels swarming with thousands of birds.

Vessel

Fishing vessel

For the second time that day, but the first time I could watch, our boat chummed the water with fish oil and popcorn. It attracted a few birds like this Northern Fulmar.

Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar

And this other Northern Fulmar. Sinister-looking and unattractive, but at this point, I took what I could get.

Northern Fulmar

Side note: Speaking of vomit, check out this nutty but informative video about fulmar chicks using their vomit to deter predators like skuas and rock climbers.

Back to Black-footed Albatross.

Black-footed Albatross

Black-footed Albatross

There were so many other birds sighted on this trip. According to the trip list, we even saw 20 South Polar Skuas (!). I saw a few. I did not get any pictures.

After the turnaround point, we had a 5 hour return journey back to Newport against the sea swells. I felt weak and dehydrated and alternated between staying dry and ill in the cabin, and being ill outside and getting soaked by waves.

While a small part of me wanted to die on this trip, most of me was incredibly thankful for the experience. I gained immense compassion for others who have felt the torture of seasickness. And hats off to those who kept their stomach together this day. It took something beyond my capabilities. Here’s a more complete trip report from Tim Shelmerdine, one of the superhero guides. And here’s a link to better pictures from the trip (including many birds I missed), thanks to Nagi Aboulenein.

Ten seconds of swell:
 

 

It’s funny where birding will take you. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Tweets and chum!

Audrey