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