Tuesday, February 28, 2017

January-February 2017

As the last few hours of February fade, it seemed like a quick summary of the first couple months of 2017 would be fitting, as it's been a very productive start to the year so far!

January kicked off with a trio of awesome ABA lifers. John Sullivan and I made the trek down to Coos Bay to get the King Eider that Russ Namitz found on the CBC, then headed to Sutton Lake where the Brambling made for a two lifer day! Amazingly, both of these birds are still hanging around!

King Eider
Coos Bay, Coos County, OR

Sutton Lake, Lane County, OR

Continuing my established theme of taking lame photos of awesome birds, I headed down to California and was among the last group of birders to get to see the long staying Common Pochard! It was a tricky bird, half way between the body color of a Canvasback and a Redhead. The distinct blue saddle on the bill is a dead giveaway, but on this particular morning, the Pochard had its head tucked the majority of the time, making it virtually impossible to pick out amongst the hordes of immature and female Canvasbacks. Somehow, one of the times I put my phone up to get some digiscoped shots, it actually pulled its head out from under its wing so I could capture that distinct blue bill. Towards the end of my time there, a couple guys in a boat spooked the large aythya flock. I initially thought the flock relocated elsewhere in the lagoon, but I couldn't find it. And it turns out, no one else did, either. If I had taken off from home just a couple hours later, I would have completely missed this bird!

Common Pochard
Freshwater Lagoon, Humboldt County, CA

But, I did get the bird, and a lot more on that particular day. By all accounts, Humboldt County is not exactly a quality "day trip" from Eugene, but it was my first time birding the famous county, so I tried to make the most of it. The next highlight was this female Tufted Duck, which was special on several accounts: this is the first female of this species I've seen (the only other one was a male long, long ago), the first chance I've had to photograph one, and it capped off an incredible 7 aythya day, which I almost certainly will never do again.

Tufted Duck
Arcata Marsh, Humboldt County, CA

I wound up tallying 93 species for the county, which all happened in basically a half day of birding. The concentration of birds at Arcata Bottoms was absolutely staggering to me. I may have to make a winter trip down there an annual thing.

White-tailed Kite
Arcata Bottoms, Humboldt County, CA

Snowy Egret
Arcata Bottoms, Humboldt County, CA

Back in the Beaver State, there have been plenty of birding goodies to keep us distracted—at least momentarily—from the rather lousy winter weather, which has included not one, but two ice storms. One of the highlights was the long staying Harris's Sparrow on Bond Road. Any day you see a Harris's Sparrow is a good day, but this one was made particularly sweet because it was joined by all of the other members of the zonotrichia family (that we get in the US anyway): White-crowned, Golden-crowned, and White-throated! To top it all off, I even managed to fit all four in a single frame! This is probably one of my favorite photos I've taken: 

Harris's, White-throated, White-crowned, and Golden-crowned Sparrow
Bond Rd, Lane County, OR

At the end of January I had a flurry of county lifers that put me over the 250 mark for Lane County, the best of which was this Say's Phoebe. After trying for this bird on Franklin Road a few hundred times (or maybe just three) and coming up empty, I randomly ran into it a quarter mile north along Alvadore Road while looking at geese and gulls one afternoon.

Say's Phoebe
Alvadore Rd, Lane County, OR

John and I have made a handful of trips to the coast, some more successful than others. We've put in a lot of work trying to pick out a rare gull, but just haven't been able to come up with one yet. It'll come. One particularly good day we had included my state lifer Costa's Hummingbird and Glaucous Gull, plus a few more Lincoln County lifers like Northern Mockingbird and Palm Warbler.

Northern Mockingbird
Newport, Lincoln County, OR

Apparently this guy is growing in more purple gorget feathers, hope it sticks around a little longer!

Costa's Hummingbird
South Beach, Lincoln County, OR

We searched for about an hour for this Palm Warbler with no luck, then arrived back at the parking lot to find it had been waiting there for us all along. It caught, demolished, and devoured a worm right in front of us!

Palm Warbler
HMSC, Lincoln County, OR

An overdue state lifer:

Glaucous Gull
Newport Fishing Pier, Lincoln County, OR

The Siuslaw South Jetty provided some nice looks at a roosting Black-legged Kittiwake one morning, which was also my first chance to photograph one!

Black-legged Kittiwake
Siuslaw South Jetty, Lane County, OR

I have a few birds that I feel compelled to photograph every single time I see them, no matter what. In Illinois, it was Red-headed Woodpeckers. Now, it's White-tailed Kites and Black Oystercatchers.

Black Oystercatcher
Bob Creek Wayside, Lane County, OR

This Brown Thrasher was an awesome state lifer for both of us, though a bigger deal for John's 400+ state list. However, it was not a very obliging specimen, as four hours of wandering a very small portion of the Salishan Nature Trail got us a couple brief looks and this truly crappy photo. On the way home that evening we had a Northern Goshawk fly over us in Philomath, making for another nice day!

Brown Thrasher
Salishan Nature Trail, Lincoln County, OR

My listing goals for the year are 300 for Oregon and 400 for the ABA area, but I've decided to add a bit of a challenge to it for 2017: photographing 400 species. We'll see how it goes. This Prairie Falcon was my 100th photographed bird for the year:

Prairie Falcon
Holmes Rd, Linn County, OR

And the 101st photographed bird of 2017 was Jeff Fleischer's awesome find in the final week of February: a Gyrfalcon!

Lake Creek Dr, Linn County, OR

Lots of adventures still to come for 2017, hopefully the high quality birds keep coming too!

By the numbers:

ABA 2017: 172
Oregon 2017: 158
Lane County, OR: 129

ABA Life: 629
Oregon Life: 335
Lane County, OR Life: 254

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2016 Recap

Better late than never, right? Sure.

2016 provided some incredible birding memories, and some pretty decent numbers. It was my third year in a row of seeing more than 400 species in the ABA area (2014: 511, 2015: 441), and I think I want to make 400 a benchmark goal from here on out. I also saw over 300 in Oregon, which was my second time doing that in a state—though it was quite a bit less effort than doing so in Illinois.

This is a quick collection of the main highlights. To keep from clogging this post with pics, most of the photos below are links to albums showing more photos of a given trip/experience.

A February trip to Texas with my dad netted me 9 ABA lifers, a group including a few RGV I still needed, and highlighted by goodies like Northern Jacana, White-throated Thrush, and Crimson-collared Grosbeak. The trip was also loaded with tons of awesome photo ops.

Texas - February 2016

An April weekend in Bend got me back into the birding swing of things, highlighted by a pair of Spotted Owls, a Great-gray Owl, and Greater Sage Grouse.

April 2016 Weekend - Bend Area

One of the two blogs I wrote last year detailed an awesome early May weekend that I extended all the way from the Klamath basin to the Lane Coast.

Later in May, while Jen was out of town, I took an intense trip that included, in order, the following elements (to give you an idea of the skeletal structure of the adventure): worked 4 10s and getting off work on Thursday with enough time to make it to Klamath NWR by dusk, where the trip began with a Yellow Rail chorus and a Common Poorwill; camping nearby; waking up the next morning to take in and photograph the sunrise at Crater Lake NP; driving from there to Portland to pick up Khanh Tran, then east to meet up with my dad for a weekend of birding; Great-gray Owls at Spring Creek (the same day I woke up in Klamath, mind you); staying Friday night in Enterprise; displaying Spruce Grouse at McCully Creek the next morning; Great-gray and Flammulated Owl that evening in Union County (flat tire included!); staying Saturday night in the thriving metropolis that is Ukiah; displaying Dusky Grouse the next morning, then driving all the way back to Eugene on a donut tire by Sunday evening. By the end of that trip, I was starting to gain an appreciation for the incredible diversity of my new home state.

Oregon Weekend - Crater Lake to the Wallowas, early May 2016

Jen and I travelled to Chicago to see friends and go to a wedding at the end of May. Andrew and I got a day of birding in that was incredibly productive. We put a lot of effort in to hitting the 300 number for our buddy list before I left Chicagoland in the Summer of 2015, but our last couple trips just didn't pan out, and we fell short of the mark by a couple birds. Well, that shortcoming was rectified on May 31 when we snagged Laughing Gull, White-rumped Sandpiper, Piping Plover, and Hudsonian Godwits (a state lifer for me even!) in a single morning! It was with great satisfaction that we finally met our goal, but aside from the numbers, it was great just to be birding together again!

Hudsonian Godwits

Later in June I took another camping trip in which I covered an absurd amount of ground, this time seeing almost all new-to-me sites: Summer Lake, tons of Lake and Klamath Counties, Jedediah Redwoods in northern California, then up through Curry and Coos Counties. I picked up a handful of state and a bunch of county birds, and my lifer Allen's Hummingbirds!

Southern Oregon Camping Trip, June 2016

I logged a lot of miles on Oregon's pristine and picturesque trails, but no hike was as grueling and rewarding as South Sister. I did it on a whim, which is a mistake I won't make again. I don't think I've ever been quite so physically worn out, but I can't wait to get back up there again this Summer! The stunning view from the top is even accompanied by Gray-crowned Rosy Finches on both sides of the Lane/Deschutes County line!

First time up South Sister, July 22 2016

In August, I joined my dad in Ocean Shores and Westport for a couple days of birding, the highlight being my lifer Bar-tailed Godwit! The Elegant Tern photo ops in Astoria on the way home were pretty great, too!

Late August 2016 - Washington/Oregon

Baird's Sandpipers showed up in ridiculous numbers in the Fall, and we were treated to a couple lovely Buff-breasted Sandpipers at Fern Ridge. Two of my favorite shorebirds.

Buff-breasted and Baird's Sandpipers, 8/20/16

I did my first Oregon pelagic in September, highlighted by my lifer South Polar Skuas and Buller's Shearwater, plus the jaeger slam! The trip dipped into Lane County, so it was fun to pick up some pelagic species for the home county. It was a bizarre day though, as we missed fulmar and only saw a lone Black-footed Albatross.

Oregon Pelagic - September 2016

This was my lifer Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, which arrived at Fern Ridge in October, and put on quite the show one perfect morning.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

November storms dumped a ton of Red Phalaropes across the entire western portion of the state, which made for some fun photo ops. Tropical Kingbird, White-winged Dove, and Chestnut-sided Warbler were great state lifers. But that all paled in comparison to the ABA's 2nd Common Scoter, which showed up and stayed in Siletz Bay for a few weeks. My parents made the trip out from Spokane and our first view of the bird actually came from their hotel balcony! Later in the day we got to spend some quality time with the bird while we watched it feeding at close range. Amazing.

November 2016 Highlights

The now long-staying Harris's Sparrow on Bond Road showed up way back in December, my last state lifer of the year. At Christmas, my dad and I had some fun with Long-eared and Northern Saw-whet Owls in eastern Washington.

December 2016 Highlights

Mammal highlights abounded in 2016 as well. I had a confiding Mink at the Skagit Wildlife Area in Washington. Oregon provided a Mountain Goat, a Badger, a Long-tailed Weasel, and by far the most exciting—a pair of my lifer Pine Martens at Benson Lake!

By the numbers, here's how things looked at the end of 2016.

Year lists:

ABA: 433

Oregon: 308
Washington: 190
Texas: 190
Illinois: 102

Lane, OR: 232

Life lists:

ABA life: 626 (added 15)

Oregon: 329 (added 40!)
Washington: 324 (added 2)
Illinois: 324 (added 1)
Texas: 305 (added 40!)

Lane, OR: 247 (added 45)