alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

Month: November 2016

Klamath Basin Birding

This is another area of Oregon (and Northern California) that I love for birding.  Lots of great places to see and visit.  And the birds…..  In fact there are six national wildlife refuges and 200,000 acres of bird habitat in the area:  Klamath Marsh NWR, Upper Klamath NWR, Lower Klamath NWR, Tule Lake NWR, Clear Lake NWR, and Bear Valley NWR.

You can’t go wrong at the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake NWRs and we scored an impressive 55 bird species on an overcast, windy day.  Granted many of the species observed were waterfowl and raptors, but still a great productive day.  I just love this area (can’t say it enough).  Come visit and spend some time checking out the birds.  Any season is great.  You won’t be disappointed.

We arrived in the Klamath Falls area (Jack’s sister lives nearby) on Tuesday, November 15th.  The route we took (Highway141) skirts Klamath Lake.  This lake is host to large numbers of grebes and pelicans during the summer months, and plenty of diving ducks during the winter, plus a few grebes and gulls as well.

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Upper Klamath Lake

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Bonaparte Gull – migrating through. These birds are listed as rare for the area at this time of year.

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Hatch year Western Grebe

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

Several days after arriving in the region we decided to visit the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.  This refuge was the first national waterfowl refuge established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt.  And the refuge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark.

During the spring and fall, the 50,092 acre refuge plays host to approximately 40 percent of the Pacific Fly-way’s migrating waterfowl.   Peak waterfowl populations have reached an estimated 1.8 million birds.  Imagine.  Wow!!!  And everywhere we went a lake or pond had thousands of waterfowl.

According to the refuge’s website, 500 Bald Eagles and 30,000 Tundra Swans make the refuge their home during the winter.   An estimated 20-30% of the Pacific Flyway population of Sandhill Cranes (including some of the Homer cranes) use the refuge during migration.  From 20,000 to 100,000 shorebirds use refuge wetlands during spring migration.  During the spring and summer, nesting birds include many colonial waterbirds such as white-faced ibis, Clark’s and Western Grebes, Herons and Egrets, American White Pelicans, and Gulls.

This is one very important bird area

The refuge has a 10.2 mile auto tour loop.  We drove only a portion of the loop.  We heard a number of shotgun blasts so people were out hunting on the refuge.  We wanted to avoid these people if possible.  Plus we also wanted to get to the nearby Tule Lake NWR before nasty weather set in.

Before reaching the refuge we stopped at a lake located on private property.  From the road we were able to scope the lake.  At first glance (with the naked eye) it didn’t look like many birds were on the lake, but once I got my spotting scope out we must have seen several thousands Canvasbacks hugging the far shoreline.  Mixed in with the Canvasbacks were  American Coots and Ruddy Ducks.

Once back on Highway 161, which leads to the refuge, we flushed a Bald Eagle, several Black-billed Magpies, and a Common Raven alongside the road.  We stopped to investigate and discovered they were feasting on a dead coyote.  Based on the intact body, the coyote had probably been dead less than 12 hours.  Highway 161 is a busy road – lots of large semi-trucks (hauling onions and such) – so the birds are continually interrupted in their food fest on the coyote.  Watching it all was a Golden Eagle on a nearby power pole.

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Private lake. We always stop here because the lake is popular with waterfowl, and an occasional Killdeer along the shoreline.

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Dead Coyote – 🙁

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Up close view

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This Golden Eagle was watching the action

Further along the road we found a dead Great Horned Owl.  Poor thing must have been hit by a car.

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Dead Great Horned Owl

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Close up view

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Refuge sign

The refuge consists of a number of lakes, sloughs, and wetlands.  These water bodies were loaded with waterfowl – primarily ducks.   Lots of Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, Ruddy Ducks, Gadwalls, Canvasbacks, Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal.  What we didn’t see were a lot of were Mallards, and only one Cinnamon Teal.  Also lots of American Coots.

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Thought I would throw a black and white photo in the mix to capture the raw beauty.

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Marsh Wren – boy this guy was hard to photograph.  They don’t want to stand still for very long.

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I decided to count the number of Red-tailed Hawks we saw during our bird outing – 34, and in all different plumage colors too.   No Rough-legged Hawks here yet – or at least we didn’t see any.   Today we also counted 9 Northern Harriers (this number seems low based on previous observations at the refuge), 2 Golden Eagles, 1 Cooper’s Hawk, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 3 American Kestrels, and 6 Bald Eagles.

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Two Red-tailed Hawks in a  tree

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Ruddy Duck – ole stiff tail

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Coots everywhere

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One of the 500+ Bald Eagles making the Klamath Basin home during the winter months

When you have hundreds of thousands of waterfowl is it any wonder the area attracts 500 Bald Eagles, and many other raptor species.

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This water pipe gets a lot of use

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Up close view.

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This juvenile Peregrine Falcon flew in while I was photographing the coated pipe

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Northern Shovelers

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Cinnamon Teal – the only one we saw

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Lots of hunters out trying to bag some of the many waterfowl and pheasants on the refuge

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Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge

After completing a portion of the auto tour route we headed to Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge  – about 20 miles away.  We stopped first at refuge headquarters to get a bird list and map.   Then the winds picked up.  Luckily we spent most of our time in the van.

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In 1928, the Tule Lake NWR was established by President Calvin Coolidge “as a preserve and breeding ground for wild birds and animals”.  The 39,116 acre refuge is mostly open water and  crop land.  A ten-mile auto tour route takes you by both the open water and crop lands.

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Dave Menke Educational Center

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Speckled belly or Greater White-fronted Goose

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Song Sparrow

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American Kestrel

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Stiff-tail (aka Ruddy Duck)  –  Jack’s favorite

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Bald Eagle having a bad hair day – very windy out

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Saw something on the ground or  merely lowering his head as he was getting ready to fly off

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Snow and Ross’ Geese

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Snow Geese, at least one Ross’ Goose, Canada Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese were in this plowed field

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We watched the Snow Geese take off from the lake, swirl around in the sky for several minutes, before landing in this field. Synchronized fliers.

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Kestrel box or a nest box for waterfowl?

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Loved the cloud pattern

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Western Grebe

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Bonaparte’s Gull

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Northern Shoveler. Most of the ducks were very skittish when we stopped the van to check them out or photograph them. The shovelers were the least skittish of the waterfowl.

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Red-winged Blackbird females holding on in the wind.

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I think this guy has something wrong with his left foot (Brewer’s Blackbird)

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Love the way these Brewer Blackbirds are leaning due to the wind – holding on for dear life

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Almost looks like waves on the lake

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Canvasback and American Coot

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Male Canvasback

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All in all we saw or heard 55 different species:

  • Eared Grebe
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Western Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Canada Goose
  • Greater White-fronted Goose
  • Snow Goose
  • Ross’ Goose
  • Tundra Swan
  • Mallard
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Northern Pintail
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Gadwall
  • Canvasback
  • American Wigeon
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck
  • American Coot
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Bald Eagle
  • Golden Eagle
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • American Kestrel
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Raven
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Robin
  • Horned Lark
  • European Starling
  • Song Sparrow
  • Marsh Wren
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Brown Cowbird
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • House Finch

Oh but it was a “Great Day to Bird”

Central Oregon and the North Oregon Coast

November 4, 2016

Time to head out again.  Can’t stay in one place too long, right?  Actually the longer I stay in Portland the more I want to return to Oregon so best not dawdle.

Northern Oregon coast here we come.  NOT.  Well we had good intentions but the weather forecast for Saturday (tomorrow) was for heavy rain and breezy (i.e. 17-24 miles per hour, with gusts to 30+ mph).  So we headed to the Central Oregon sunshine instead.  We are equal opportunity adventurers in Oregon.  We love it everywhere – Willamette Valley, Cascade Mountains, High Desert, and the Coast.  So many great places to see and so many things to do.

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Mt. Hood

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I think this is Mt. Jefferson

Our destination tonight is a BLM campground along the Crooked River south of Prineville.  We’ve stayed at other places nearby (mainly pull offs along the side of the road).  The BLM has nine small campgrounds along the river – used primarily by fishermen.  We chose the first campground since we couldn’t quite remember how many there were (I thought 6) nor how good they were.  The first campground – Castle Rock – had only six sites, but we found one we liked.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

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The view from our campground site

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Townsend’s Solitaire – they really do seem to be everywhere

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Dried Teasle

I could not believe how many American Robins were at the campground.  When they left to roost for the night I estimated over 100 robins.  They were busy flitting about making that dash for food before dusk settled in.  Another surprise was two Townsend’s Solitaire.  I think I’ve seen more Townsend’s Solitaire in Oregon this trip than in all my previous sightings together – anywhere.  Good year for being Solitaire.

Birds Species Seen or Heard at Castle Rock Campground

  • American Robin
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Northern Flicker

November 5, 2016

Woke up to partly cloudy skies and a cold wind.  We broke camp after breakfast and headed south.  Destination for the night – LaPine State Park.  This state park is located south of Bend, Oregon.

We continued along Highway 27 searching the adjacent lands for Mountain Bluebirds, which we’ve seen in this area before.  We weren’t disappointed, although we only saw three whereas in the past we’ve seen much larger flocks.  I suspect it is the time of year – most Mountain Bluebirds migrate a little further south for the winter (according to Sibley’s).

I did see two blue birds and at first though Mountain Bluebirds, but they were too large in size and the shape of their bill was more jay like than bluebird.  Turns out they were Pinyon Jays – FOYs (First of Year – first time we’ve seen them in 2016).  Woohoo!!!  We were hoping to see these birds further south at Cabin Lake campground.  I’m so glad we saw them here because they were absent from the Cabin Lake area.

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Cooper’s Hawk

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I believe this is a Northern Shrike, rather than a Loggerhead Shrike, based on coloring. The Northern Shrike does overwinter in Oregon.

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Spotted Towhee

We took back roads to get to Fort Rock State Natural Area (SNA).  From Fort Rock we were going to head to the Cabin Lake campground and several bird blinds.  Turns out the road we took to Fort Rock SNA was the same one to Cabin Lake campground – only Cabin Lake campground came first.  So we stopped at the campground.  They have a volunteer who maintains two bird blinds.  Turns out he turned off the water on October 29th so no birds – not a single one.  This area is suppose to have a high concentration of bird life due to the intersection of two ecosystems – Ponderosa Pine and desert scrub-shrub.  We did see a couple Mule Deer and a squirrel.

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Golden-mantled Squirrel. I know it looks like a chipmunk  However, if this were a chipmunk it would have a strip on its face.  No stripe, thus a squirrel.

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Mule Deer

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One of the bird blinds

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The other bird blind …

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… viewed from another direction.

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Sign stating the importance of the area to birds

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On the way from Cabin Lake campground to Fort Rock SNA we saw THREE Golden Eagles.  A very pleasant surprise after finding no bird life at the watering holes/bird blinds.

We did a short hike at Fort Rock SNA.  This area was used by Native Americans in the past – over 70 pairs of sandals were discovered at the site.

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Fort Rock

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Fort Rock

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Trail at Fort Rock State Natural Area

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View of the surrounding area from Fort Rock SNA

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View of Fort Rock from another direction

Next stop – LaPine State Park.  We are staying here one night.  We had originally intended to stay two nights but they charge $26.00 per night for a full hookup regardless of whether you want those amenities or not – we don’t.  So will find a nearby U.S. Forest Service campground costing us about $4.00-$8.00 per night.   Does that make us cheap?

Once at the campground we did a short hike along the Deschutes River.  We didn’t see much in the way of bird life – a Northern Flicker, Common Raven, Mallards feeding in the river, and a contingent of Steller’s Jays.  We heard chickadees but I wasn’t sure which ones – just know they weren’t Black-capped.  Their song I know.  The “chickadee dee dee is so clear, where for the other chickadees it sounds nasally.  I suspect the chickadees are mountain chickadees.

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Deshutes River as seen from the Deschutes Trail at LaPine State Park

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Douglas Squirrel

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Mallard flock in the Deschutes River feeding

November 6, 2016

Cold this morning when we got up and to think we gained an hour too due to the change from daylight savings time to regular time (or whatever they call it).  We did a short 3.0-mile hike (Deschutes Trail) around the park before heading to a campground northwest of Bend, Oregon.  The trail was nice and flat, and along the way we observed a Red-tailed Hawk and a flock of Red Crossbills.  I was able to confirm the chickadee sightings as Mountain Chickadees, which is what I expected.

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Deschutes Trail in LaPine State Park

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Douglas Squirrel munching on a pine cone

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Deschutes River closer to its headwaters

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Looked like a monster’s face or an alligator

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I wonder how much longer this tree will be standing here

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Before reaching our destination for the night – Indian Ford Campground near Black Butte Ranch just northwest of Sisters, Oregon – we decided to take a detour and check out Smith Rock.  Smith Rock is  a premier rock climbing location in Oregon and, I suspect, the entire United States.  The day was cool, but the sun was shining – always a plus in central Oregon.  Probably a plus for climbers too.

We weren’t the only ones who decided to spend the day or even an hour or so at Smith Rock.  I stopped counting vehicles at 149 and there were at least another 100 in the parking lots.  They even have expanded the parking area since we were here several years ago.  Smith Rock is managed by the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation.  If you have never been to this area before, come.  This area is beautiful.  Smith Rock juts up in the middle of the high desert – truly amazing geologically.  There are a number of trails for those who don’t want to climb the rock faces.

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Smith Rock – a climber’s paradise

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One of the trails leading to the top of Smith Rock

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Love these rocks

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Townsend’s Solitaire – yet again.  Will be interesting to see if I find these birds west of the Cascades Mountains.

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After Smith Rock we drove to Indian Ford Campground.  We’ve stayed here before and it is a favorite.  However, the U.S. Forest Service has decided to close the campground for the winter.  What winter?  Temperatures were in the high 50s today and are expected to be in the 60s tomorrow.  Needless to say we were disappointed.  We continued on Highway 20 towards Salem, Oregon stopping off at the Lone Pine campground along Shuttle Lake.  This is another U.S. Forest Service campground.  Of the three forest service campgrounds along the lake, this was the only one open.  And then there are only four campers here, including us.  Not high traffic this time of year, although there were several people on the lake fishing.  Some good birds too.  We did a short hike along the lake.  What a difference a lake makes – ducks, coots, and grebes.

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Shuttle Lake

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Eared Grebe

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Eared Grebe

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Woodpecker tree

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Those are some heavy duty holes

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Pacific Wren. This little guy could move. I was lucky to get a photo showing this much of the bird.

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Surf Scoter

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Female Bufflehead

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He has chipmunk cheeks – and as you can see a stripe on his face (and thus a chipmunk)

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More female Buffleheads

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This Douglas Squirrel was trying to haul this huge fungus up a tree.

Tomorrow our intention is to head to the coast.  However,  since we haven’t really stuck to our original schedule yet, it will be interesting to see where we end up.

Birds Species Observed or Heard at LaPine State Park

  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Northern Flicker
  • Red Crossbill
  • Finch sp.
  • Steller’s Jay
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Common Raven
  • Red-tailed Hawk

Birds Species Observed or Heard at Lone Pine Campground – Deschutes National Forest

  • Great Blue Heron
  • American Coot
  • Bufflehead
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Western Grebe
  • Eared Grebe
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Gray Jay
  • Pacific Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Surf Scoter
  • Great Horned Owl

 November 7, 2016

Woke to a beautiful sunrise – red sky at morn sailors be warn, red sky at night sailors delight.  Probably true if you are on the ocean, not so much when you are on land?  We get some beautiful sunrises in the Homer in the fall and winter and they do not portend bad weather.thumb_img_0913_1024

We left our campsite early – around 7:30 am – and headed to the coast.  The weather there the next several days is supposed to be good so we are going to take advantage of it.  Of course in western Oregon they say if you want to know what the weather is – look out the window.  Hard to predict the weather here for more than a day or two ahead of time, and even then it is only accurate about 50% of the time.  Maybe NOAA’s forecasting has improved over the last ten years.

We drove through some beautiful, wild country – rain forests – on our way to the coast.  The moss on the trees was heavy, and the trees looked like something out of Lord of the Rings – Middle Earth.

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Moss laden trees

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South Santiam River

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Short Covered Bridge

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Steller’s Jay

We stopped for lunch in Newport – the Thai Elephant Restaurant (very good, give it  4+ stars).  After lunch we stopped off at the South Jetty to check out the birds – always a ‘must do’ when you come to Newport.  The surprise for me were the Harlequin Ducks.  You don’t see them too often in Oregon – at least not that I recall.

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Male Surf Scoter

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Harlequin Duck- Male

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Here’s looking at you …

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Common Loon

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This gull was just sitting in a pond of water in a pull off area along the South Jetty road

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Western Gull – Tree Pose

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Surf Scoter – preening

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Western Grebe

This gull was lucky enough to capture lunch – a sea star.  Now eating it is a whole other story.  We never did see the gull consume the sea star.

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From Newport we continued north along Highway 101 with stops at Nestucca National Wildlife Refuge (closed for maintenance – really???) and Clay Meyers State Natural Area.  Nestucca National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for Canada and Cackling Geese, and especially the Dusky Canada Goose.  And, as billed, the geese were here by the hundreds, if not close to a thousand or more.  The nearby Clay Meyers State Natural Area has a nice trail, which we hiked.

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Great informative sign at Nestucca NWR explaining the difference between the various geese subspecies.

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Mushrooms

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Found this dead bird on the beach at Clay Meyers State Natural Area.

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This bat box is in need of a little TLC.

With the change in daylight savings time it gets darker sooner than we are used to, so we made a last minute dash – luckily we had less than 20 miles to go – to our campsite at Cape Lookout State Park.  This state park is located along the coast near Tillamook – famous for its cheeses and ice cream.  We got a site and then hastily made dinner before it got too dark to see.  We have d-lights  (solar powered lights) to read by, but we don’t have a light for outside – except flashlights.  They don’t work so well when you are trying to cook or clean up afterwards.

The nearby hillsides (mountains really) have been clearcut – very ugly – and they are burning the slag.  The area is a little hazy, but luckily doesn’t smell too bad.  We got an occasional whiff of smoke now and then.   After dinner Jack went to take a shower.  I was sitting in the van working on this blog  when I heard what sounded like someone getting into our dish tub outside.  I called out to Jack, but got no answer.  So I pulled out the flash light – it does get dark here by 5:30 pm – and looked outside.  On top of our dish tub (where we store dishes etc.) was a raccoon. The wiley raccoon had gotten the tub’s lid off and was scrounging around for food.  Other than coffee, the raccoon wasn’t going to find any food stuff in that container.  So I tried scaring them off (there were three of them in the campsite) – not an easy feat.  I then grabbed the tub, packed what had spilled out, and put it in the van.  They are cute creatures, but can be dangerous.

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Looking down onto Cape Lookout State Park. The spit is approximately six miles long. I love the beautiful, wild Oregon coast.

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This is the hillside adjacent to the park. This I don’t like at all.

Birds Species Seen or Heard at South Jetty, Newport Bay, Oregon

  • Surf Scoter
  • Harlequin Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • Western Grebe
  • Western Gull
  • Glaucous-winged Gull
  • Eurasian Starling (they are everywhere)
  • Red-necked Grebe
  • American Crow
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Common Loon
  • Cormorant sp.

Birds Species Seen or Heard at Clay Meyers State Natural Area

  • Surf Scoter
  • Bufflehead
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Western Gull
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Northern Flicker
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Great Egret
  • Western Grebe
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee

November 8, 2016

This morning was delightfully warm.  Skies were mostly cloudy, and we even saw a morning rainbow.  Is that good luck?  As I was cleaning up from breakfast (doing dishes) several hundred Cackling Geese flew by heading south – probably for Nestucca National Wildlife Refuge.

We were going to walk the beach at Cape Lookout this morning on an outgoing tide (high tide was about 20 minutes earlier), but there wasn’t much beach to walk.  So off we went to Cape Mears NWR/State Park to check out the ocean birds there – unfortunately not much.  Didn’t see a single Common Murre.  To the south of Cape Mears is Three Arch Rocks, which has the highest breeding colony of Common Murres outside of Alaska – 500,000 nest on three small rock islands (see photo).  You can see Three Arch Rocks from Cape Mears.  Every time I’ve been to Cape Mears I’ve seen Common Murres, so to see none was surprising.  I hope the murres aren’t experiencing the same problems as Alaska’s Gulf Coast murre population, which was significantly impacted this past winter.

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More Steller’s Jays. They are now more numerous than Northern Flickers – at least on the coast.

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View from Cape Mears

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Cape Mears Lighthouse

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Three Arch Rocks – land of Common Murres (generally)

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Nice ‘welcome’ sign

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Looking south towards Cape Lookout State Park. As you can see it wants to rain.

From Cape Mears we back tracked about ten miles and headed towards Tillamook – land of cheese and ice cream.  Well we all know where cheese comes from right? COWS.  Lots of cows and does it ever stink in Tillamook – at least one farm we passed.  I don’t have a great sense of smell, but I nearly gagged on the smell as we drove by.  And believe it or not, there was an RV camper park adjacent to the dairy farm.  I don’t think they could have paid me any money (think in the millions) to stay there.

We went to the city of Bayocean – okay it really doesn’t exist, but the land was platted and the lots sold and occupied for a brief period of time – back in the early 1900s.  It is known as “the town that fell into the sea”.  The area  abuts Tillamook Bay and we must have seen several thousand American Wigeons, among a  single Eurasian Wigeon (oh wait, that’s the other way around).  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many wigeons in one place before.  Where the Great Salt Lake has Northern Shovelers; Tillamook Bay has American Wigeons.  Amazing!!!

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More geese. Are they on their way to Nestucca National Wildlife Refuge?

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We liked this water fountain – whale’s tail

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American Wigeons – fly away from me, American Wigeons going to set you free (sung to American Woman). There were so many wigeons.

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Here are a few of them

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Tillamook Bay

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The sun did come out finally – Woohoo!!! Tillamook Bay with the tide receding.

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This area generally has (Black) Brant in the winter, but we didn’t see any this time.  We did get to see a small flock (9 or so) of Black-bellied Plovers.  When they were on the ground I couldn’t quite tell what plover they were (too far away), but when they flew their black arm pit was unmistakable.  Seems a little late for plovers, but then they winter along the Pacific coast.

Watched a Western Grebe with a fish in its mouth evading a gull trying to steal its catch.  Luckily, the grebe could dive under water to escape the gull.  We gave up watching the two before the gull gave up trying to steal the fish from the grebe.  I wonder who won?

Upon our return to Cape Lookout State Park we thought we might go for a walk on the beach, but again the tide was just too high for me to feel comfortable about having dry feet.  And, gotta watch out for those sneaker waves.  So instead we took a short upland hike.  Along the trail we kept flushing 3-4 Northern Flickers.  They were busy eating grub on the ground, along the trail.

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Although the beach looks wide, we did have one wave come all the way up to the rocks. Luckily we had only gone about 50 feet so we could turn back and exit from the beach.  Since the tide was coming in, it seemed prudent…

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Northern Flicker

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Northern Flicker

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Guess what – you got it – a Northern Flicker

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And this Steller’s Jay was waiting at our campsite hoping we would leave it some food. Not gonna happen buddy. Such beautiful birds.

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Cape Lookout State Park

  • Steller’s Jay
  • European Starling
  • Cackling Goose
  • Northern Flicker
  • Bald Eagle
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Pacific Wren
  • Song Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Glaucous-winged Gull

Bird Species Seen or Heard between Cape Lookout State Park and Bayocean/Tillamook Bay

  • Northern Flicker
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Pelagic Cormorant
  • American Crow
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Horned Grebe
  • Western Grebe
  • Bald Eagle
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Canada Goose
  • Hummingbird species (believe Anna’s – didn’t see any rufous coloring)
  • Mallard
  • Northern Pintail
  • American Wigeon
  • Eurasian Wigeon
  • American Coot
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Mew Gull
  • Western Gull
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Black-bellied Plover
  • European Starling
  • Surf Scoter
  • Bufflehead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • American Robin

Tomorrow we head north to the Astoria area for the night.  I am hoping the weather will hold for another day or two.

November 9, 2016

All I can say is I woke up a very disappointed person.   The president elect is not what this country needs to move forward.  I feel he will only set us back – way back.  He will not unite us, only further divide us. 

The weather at Cape Lookout this morning when we woke up was miserable – rain, wind, cold – fitting for how I was feeling.  We didn’t even try to make coffee to get us going.  We headed north and sought out a half-way decent restaurant for breakfast.  We stopped at a café in Garibaldi, Oregon located just north of Tillamooooook.  Okay, I couldn’t help the “moo” reference.   The food was decent, but I am still looking for that fabulous breakfast spot.

We continued our drive along Highway 101.  Unfortunately with the rain there was fog.  The Oregon coast is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the United States – not to be missed.  I was looking forward to taking some great scenery shots, especially in the Oswald West corridor, but that was not gonna happen with the fog.

We made it to Fort Stevens State Park around 11:00 am and found a decent campsite.  This park has over 270 spaces, of which only 6 are tent campsites and those are crammed into the same loop as the cabins.  So we opted to get a site with electricity (and pay about $8.00 more) – for the privilege of having a little space between us and our neighbors.  At least the weather was decent here.  No rain.

This park abuts both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River, so we went to both areas to check out the birds.  At a viewing area near Trestle Bay, we saw a couple hundred shorebirds.  I suspect mostly Western Sandpipers based on size and bill shape (too far away to get decent views even with a spotting scope), a smattering of Sanderlings, and a single plover (which based on coloring I suspect is a Black-bellied Plover).  As we were coming back to the parking lot a woman told us about seeing some phalaropes by Lot C, which was our next destination.  Off we went to check out the phalaropes.  We did see several phalaropes on land searching for food (I’ve never seen that before) with a couple of phalaropes in the water doing their circling thing to stir up food.  Along with the phalaropes were several Dunlins and Least Sandpipers.

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Okay the phalaropes were too far away to get a decent photo, but based on views with the scope they looked like Red Phalaropes – in non-breeding plumage of course.  But I’m not 100% sure, let alone 90% sure.  As we were checking out the area for other shorebirds a Peregrine Falcon flew by stirring up the birds.  He went after one phalarope in particular but missed each time – lucky for the phalarope as he could dive underwater, if only briefly.  The other shorebirds scattered but the phalarope being harassed continued to swim on the pond and search for food.

At Fort Stevens we could go for a walk on the beach, so we did.  I don’t think we went too far.  Definitely no more than a mile one way.  On our walk I counted 17 dead birds, of which 11 were Northern Fulmars, three were phalaropes (with only their wings left), one  pelican, and two unidentifiable birds, although I think one was a grebe.  I was surprised to find so many dead birds.  During the walk we also picked up beach debris (aka garbage), and found lots of very small pieces of plastic on the beach.

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Dead Northern Fulmar

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Dead grebe???

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Dead Brown Pelican

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Lots of bull kelp

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This wing belongs to a phalarope – it was about the size of my hand or a little smaller

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Sanderlings along the surf line – preening, resting, and searching for food

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Beach debris Jack was able to carry in his hands. We always forget to bring along a bag to hold all the garbage we collect. I collected a lot of small pieces of plastic, some smaller than the head of a pin. Hard to pick up.

We went to another section of beach to check out what is left of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, which occurred on October 25, 1906 when the captain decided he wanted to take a shorter route and save a few days.  Short cuts are not always a good thing.

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Not much left of the ship

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Not sure what part of the ship this is?

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Pretty rusty

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Jack at the ship’s hull (or what is left of it)

Tomorrow we head back to Portland for several days to dog sit for our friend Jane who graciously lets us stay with her each time we come through Portland.  We then head to Klamath Falls for several weeks to explore for birds and enjoy the comforts of staying at Jack’s sister’s home.

Birds Species Observed or Heard at Fort Stevens State Park

  • Bald Eagle
  • Mallards
  • Western Grebe
  • Bufflehead
  • Surf Scoter
  • Loon sp.
  • Dunlin
  • Phalarope sp. (I think Red Phalarope)
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Sanderlings
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Red-necked Grebe
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Black-bellied Plover
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Ring-billed Gull

November 10, 2016

We broke camp early and headed to Portland.  We made three stops along the way: Trojan Park (formerly a nuclear power plant site, now a great birding site), Graham road (near Trojan Park, with a large pond on the right hand side of the road), and Sauvie Island ODFW wildlife areas – the sites we missed when we rescued the owl.

When we got to Trojan Park we were literally in the fog, but did a short walk around the park grounds (series of ponds)as the fog lifted.  Beautiful morning.  There were lots of Cackling and Canadian Geese, and several domesticated geese (I believe).   And as you can see from the photos, there has been some hybridization going on here.  Maybe it is something in the water.

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Domesticated Geese?

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Mystery Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, and Cackling Geese

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Canadian Goose hydrid or leusistic?

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The trails along the grounds are paved – nice. Of course a lot of the trail is covered in goose poop.

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Red-breasted Sapsucker. We always see a sapsucker when we come here.

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Female Belted Kingfisher

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Great Egret. This bird was chased off by a Great Blue Heron.

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Lots of geese hanging out in the park

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We three geese of Trojan Park …

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Lots of leaves on the ground, and still on the trees. I love the fall colors.

Graham Road is a short road – about 200-300 feet long – but the pond on the right had lots of waterfowl on it, as well as several Great Blue Herons and Double-creasted Cormorants.  Oh, and I cannot forget the ever present coots.

When we got to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife areas on Sauvie Island we found the areas closed unless you had a valid hunting license.  Since we don’t, we left the island and headed in to Portland.

We will be in Portland until Monday morning, November 14, when we head down towards Klamath Falls, with several stops along the way to visit favorite sights and friends.

Bird Species Observed or Heard at Trojan Park and Graham Road

  • American Wigeon
  • Swan sp. (too far away to id beyond species)
  • American Coot
  • Canada Goose
  • Cackling Goose
  • Greater White-fronted Goose
  • Domesticated Goose
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Song Sparrow
  • California Scrub Jay
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker
  • Steller’s Jay
  • American Robin
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Mallard
  • Gadwall
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Bufflehead
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Common Merganser
  • Green-winged Teal
  • American Crow

NOTE:  Take every opportunity you can to enjoy the great outdoors and the wildlife these lands support.  I suspect our public lands and wildlife are under threat – now more than ever.  I hope I am wrong.  Support your public lands.  We birders have a strong voice – let’s use it.  We are an economic force to be reckoned with.

It’s a Great Day to Bird

Sauvie Island – Wapato Greenway

Sauvie Island is a favorite place for Jack and I.  Suavie Island is located about 10-15 minutes northwest of Portland, Oregon.  The Willamette River is on one side – the Columbia River on the other side.  We started visiting the island when we moved to Portland in 1990.  Whenever we come back for a Portland visit a trip to Sauvie Island is always on our to do list.

Wapato Greenway, managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, is a great place to go hiking on the island, and in July/August a great place to go berry picking.  The blackberries are delicious – one in the bucket, five in my mouth.  Took us a while to get several buckets full of berries.  And you had to watch out for the stinging nettle, which I sometimes forgot.

We woke to a morning devoid of rain so we got into the van and headed to the island for a hike.  We had some great birding there too – a very birdy morning.  At one point along the trail we stopped for several birds and 20+ minutes later we counted at least 14 species passing through the trees just off the trail:

  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Song Sparrow
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • House Finch
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker
  • Bushtit

What a joy, what a delight.  And throughout out the walk there was a chorus of Pacific Tree Frogs.  These little guys are hard to see as they are small and green – hiding in plain sight in the green vegetation.

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The geese were enjoying Wapato Lake.  Not much water in the lake however – mostly reed canarygrass.

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This little guy was sitting so quietly – hoping we wouldn’t notice him

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Great Egret

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Lots of fall colors

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Red-breasted Sapsucker

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Golden-crowned Sparrow

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Spotted Towhee

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Song Sparrow

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Jack checking out the birds

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After the hike we decided to check out several Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) wildlife areas on the island.  We took a road I thought might lead us there, but no luck.  However, this road is where we saw and rescued the injured Great Horned Owl.  Needless to say we didn’t get to any of the ODFW sites that day as we had an injured owl to take to the Audubon Society of Portland’s Wild Care Center.  Several days later, when I checked on the owl, I was told its injuries were severe (broken bones, swelling, dehydration) and the bird was euthanized.  So sad.

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Mt. Saint Helen as seen from Sauvie Island

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Most likely an Osprey nest with perching platform.  The Ospreys have left for warmer climes.

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Houseboats along the Willamette River

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I think it might be fun to live in one – says the person who tends to get seasick on the water

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Homer residents aren’t the only ones to use old boats for living quarters. This one, however, if much nicer looking.

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The rescued Great Horned Owl – a juvenile

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Other bird species observed or heard on Sauvie Island

  • Sandhill Crane
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Canada Goose
  • Northern Pintail
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Eurasian Starling
  • Northern Flicker
  • Northern Shoveler
  • American Wigeon
  • American Kestrel
  • Mourning Dove
  • California Scrub Jay
  • Great Horned Owl
  • American Robin
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Merlin
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • House Wren

It was definitely ‘A GREAT DAY TO BIRD’

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is located about 20 minutes north of Portland, but in the state of Washington.  When I first started going to the refuge about 18 years ago there was plenty of farm land nearby, and the city of Ridgefield.  Now many of those farm fields are housing developments with more being built everyday.  Sad to see so much of our farm land now developed into housing or vineyards.  Personally I think we need food more than wine.

The approximately 5,300 acre Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1965 to provide wintering habitat for the dusky subspecies of the Canada goose.   I must confess I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the dusky subspecies at the refuge and I visited this refuge a lot when we lived in Oregon.

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We only visited the River ‘S’ Unit.

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Bridge onto the refuge lands

The refuge has a nice auto route taking you by a number of lakes and a slough.  We saw 27 different species during our tour of the refuge, including several Sandhill Cranes – these are not our cranes (Alaska Pacific Flyway cranes, that is).  I did think we would see more species.  During previous visits to the refuge we’ve gotten almost twice this many species.  But we were still happy to see as many birds as we did.  The real treat of the trip was the Red-shouldered Hawk.  I’ve seen the hawk here before, but only once or twice.

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One of many ponds favored by ducks. Not many on the pond, but if someone was coming after me with a gun I don’t think I would stick around either. Tis hunting season on the refuge.

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This Great Blue Heron had caught and ate a small rodent moments before this photos was taken.  The bulge in its throat is the rodent.

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Male Gadwall …

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… in a slough covered in duck weed

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Mushrooms anyone?  Of course I don’t know if these are poisonous or edible.

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Pied-billed Grebe – my favorite North American grebe species

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Pied-billed Grebe

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Sometimes you feel like a coot or three

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American Coots

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Female duck – so okay which one? I’m thinking female Gadwall.  Any other guesses?

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It is with Great Egret that our tour comes to an end.  Sorry I couldn’t resist.  I can hear the groans now from several friends.

The day was pleasant – partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures, and relatively calm.  A great day to be on the refuge.  And it was busy with birders and non-birders driving the auto tour route, and with hunters.  We were surprised to actually see the hunters and to hear gunshot sounding very close – scary.  In all the times I’ve visited here – and I’ve gone to this refuge during hunting season in previous years – I’ve never actually seen people hunting on the refuge within full view of people on the auto tour route.  A little disconcerting.

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Ridgefield National Wildlife

  • Great Blue Heron
  • American Coot
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Gadwall
  • American Wigeon
  • Canada Goose
  • Red-tailed Hawak
  • Northern Harrier
  • American Wigeon
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Mallard
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Great Egret
  • American Kestrel
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Pacific Scrub Jay
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Lesser Yellowleg
  • Northern Pintail
  • Eurasian Starling
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Bufflehead
  • Hummingbird sp. (Anna’s or Rufous

It was definitely ‘A GREAT DAY TO BIRD’

Eastern Oregon

October 25, 2016

We woke up, got the van packed, and took off – well not before finally posting one of my blogs.  Denio Junction is very remote.  The nearest store is around 100 miles away.  I would count the population of the area in the low hundreds, if that.  A number of large ranches are nearby.  The town of Denio – close to Denio Junction – is on the border of Oregon and Nevada.

While most of the traffic (campers specifically) were heading south to warm climes, we are headed north with our first stop in Oregon at the Page Spring (BLM) campground.  This campground is located adjacent to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  Everyone remembers this refuge, right? – the one right wing crazies took over for months and got away with it.

Tomorrow we will drive the auto tour route and see if the refuge headquarters/visitor center is open.  Today, however, we took a walk on the East Cattail Trail.  Not a lot of birds out and about in the cool, crisp fall afternoon.  Did hear and see several Marsh Wrens.  These birds do not winter here so hope they know to leave soon.

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Stormy morning

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On the way to Page Springs we drove by the Roaring Springs Ranch.  This is one LARGE/BIG ranch.  The ranch has a number of ponds so we stopped along the road (good thing traffic was almost non-existent) and checked them out for birds.  Oh and guess what?  I finally got to see my Golden Eagle.  Woohoo!!!  The bird flew across the highway in front of us and landed on a rock half-way up the mountainside.  We got good looks at the bird and a photo that at least leaves no mistake as to the identify of the bird (but not good enough to post).  It was not a pigeon…..

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Pond on Roaring Springs Ranch

Bird Species Observed or Heard on Roaring Springs Ranch

  • Common Raven
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mallard
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Common Merganser
  • American Coot
  • Eared Grebe
  • Canada Goose
  • Northern Flicker
  • Rock Pigeon
  • American Crow
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Great Blue Heron

We made it to Page Spring Campground mid morning.  We picked a great site and then walked over to the East Canal Trail on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

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We liked the sign about weight restrictions on the bridge ahead although the sign above says vehicles are prohibited. Maybe the sign is for refuge staff members or ranchers who use the refuge for cattle grazing.

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Nest in a tree

Here are some photos of the refuge as seen from the East Canal Trail on the southern end of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

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We did see more than just birds.  A raccoon made its way from the canal across the trail to a stand of trees.  Cute little bugger.

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Mule Deer – Buck

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Another bird’s nest. So much easier to find once leaves have dropped from the trees

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View of the inside of the nest. Not sure what bird made the nest.

In the late afternoon we took it easy at the campground.  There are around 35 sites, but only about 7-8 are occupied – at least at 3:30 pm in the afternoon.  We will spend another night here then head north.  We hope to make it to Portland by Halloween.  The first order of business in Portland is to visit our favorite Indian restaurant – India Oven in the Hawthorne District.  The second order of business is to visit our favorite breakfast spot – Milo’s on Broadway in NE Portland.  I only go there because of their homemade jams.

October 26, 2016

Slept in until 8:00 am this morning, which is very unusual for me.  I generally get up about 6:00-6:30 am, but didn’t get much sleep last night.  Too many things on my mind.  I recently learned my older brother, Larry, has brain cancer.  The doctor is optimistic they caught it early, but the operation only removed 95% of the tumor so now he has to endure radiation and chemotherapy.  He gets to have both treatments at the same time.  The chemo is a pill.  Better than when I had to sit for 1.5 hours while a poison was pumped into my body,  on four separate occasions,  every three weeks.  He lives in Valdez, but luckily his symptoms demonstrated themselves while he was vacationing in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He went to Osborne Medical and was seen by one of the top doctors in neurology.  Send positive energy his way.  As he said, he is taking it one day at a time because that is all we really have.  Wise brother.

We decided to take the 42-mile auto tour route on the Mulheur National Wildlife Refuge.  Yeah, can you believe it – 42 miles.  I wonder if that is the longest refuge auto tour route.  Will have to ask someone.  Inquiring minds want to know – mine.  We started at the south end of the refuge with the intention of ending at the refuge headquarters, which we subsequently learned is temporarily closed.   They haven’t opened since the occupation.   And speaking of occupation, when we were a couple miles south of the refuge headquarters we got not one but two flat tires, at the same time.  What are the odds?  We called Les Schwab, a tire company, and they came out and replaced all four tires – for free.  Just kidding.  We needed new tires anyway so decided to have them bring out four tires to replace the old worn ones we had on the van.  And as the Les Schawb guy was leaving he had a flat tire.  All the flat tires were on the same side of the vehicles – the right side.  One of our tires had a screw in it.  I think the occupiers put out screws to keep anyone not associated with their cause from coming to refuge headquarters during the occupation.  Why else would we both get flat tires, and us two?   That is my theory and I’m sticking to it.  I may even send an email to the refuge manager letting him know that he can add three flat tires to his list of flat tires occurring on that road since the occupation (sent the email).   And we didn’t even see that many birds during that portion of the auto tour route.  We did enjoy the beautiful scenery however.

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Auto Tour Route – start – south end of the refuge

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Rough-legged Hawk

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Doing its business before it gets ready to take off …

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… stretching those wings for take off

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Canada Geese like the meadows

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American Kestrel – holding on in the wind

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Beaver activity – old

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Northern Flicker – this should be Oregon’s state bird. They are everywhere.

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What we did notice along the auto tour route is that many of the ponds used by waterfowl were dry.  I thought Oregon had a wet winter last year, but maybe the snow levels in southeastern Oregon were below normal.  Or maybe at this time of year there isn’t much water in the ponds.  We haven’t been here during late October so we have nothing to compare it to.

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Benson Pond – Dry, Dry, Dry.

And speaking of the refuge, it was established in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt, and contains 187,000 acres – a very linear refuge mostly.  There have been 320 bird species observed on the refuge at one time or another.  Oh, and speaking of Teddy, this refuge was the 19th refuge he established out of the 51 during his tenure as President of the United States.  Go Teddy.  If you ever get a chance to visit this refuge do it.  This is one of my favorite refuges in the national refuge system.

NOTE:  It is only after we left the refuge that we learned a jury of their peers (obviously) acquitted several defendants in the Malheur Occupation Trial.  What a travesty of justice.  While our system of justice is the best in the world, it is far from perfect.  I hope the government appeals the decision, assuming there are grounds for an appeal.

October 27, 2016

Got up this morning to windy conditions, overcast skies and the threat of rain.  But despite the weather, the beauty of southeastern Oregon continued to awe me.  I love it here during the fall.  When we lived in Oregon we visited this area a few times, but never this late in the year.  The grasses are a golden color, the rock cliffs a dark brown/black.  The contrast is breathtaking – at least to me.

Reluctantly, we broke camp and headed north taking the Diamond Loop Route, although we didn’t follow the entire loop because it would have taken us back near the refuge headquarters and after two flat tires and the purchase of four new ones, I didn’t want to take the chance of another flat tire or four.

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Part of the remnants of Diamond Crater. Looks like an old asphalt road that has gone through upheaval.

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Up close view

By the time we got to Burns, Oregon we had seen our share of raptors – Northern Harriers (everywhere flying low to the ground in search of food), a Rough-legged Hawk, two Golden Eagles (on telephone poles no less), a Bald Eagle (rare for this area), a Cooper’s Hawk, three Prairie Falcons, two American Kestrels, and many Red-tailed Hawks (I quit counting after ten).  What we had hoped to see, but didn’t, was a Short-eared Owl.  Maybe next time.  We have seen them here before.

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Rough-legged Hawk or Red-tailed Hawk???

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Cooper’s Hawk

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Golden Eagle

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Prairie Falcon

We stopped off at the Peter French Roundbarn.  Yes, it is actually round.  Why?  Peter French used the barn to train his mules to haul freight.  Guess it is important for horses and mules to go in circles.  There is an outer section and an inside section.  The inside section was to keep foals (baby horses) secure.

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Peter French’s Roundbarn

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The swallows like it

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Something was nesting here – raptor of some sort most likely

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We had an appointment in Burns to get the oil changed in our van.  Before doing that, we decided to go to an area called “The Narrows”.  This is where Malheur and Harney Lakes come together.  Guess what.  These two lakes haven’t come together in several years we were later told.  Both lakes in this area were dry as a bone, as the saying goes.  Malheur Lake does have water in it, but we couldn’t see it from the road, only when we were near the refuge headquarters which sits a few hundred feet higher than the lake bed.  According to the guy at the gas station (where we could not pump our own gas), the lakes didn’t have any water in them all spring and summer.  He says the drought in this area has been going on for at least four years.  Not good news for the birds or the farmers.

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Malheur Lake – while there is some water in the lake itself, just not this section of the lake

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Harney Lake – there are lots of times this lake has little water in it. Now none.

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Pond (with picnic area) near Burns, Oregon. Birds were using the pond.

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Dead Western Grebe. We think the kill was very recent.

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Look at those feet

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Even the eyes on the grebe were still present – indicating to me a fresh kill (or accidental death if hit by a car)

Tonight we are camped at the Idlewild Forest Service Campground, about 17 miles north of Burns.  This campground has 26 or so sites, and we are the only ones here at 5:00 pm. Maybe someone will come in later.  There always seems to be someone who comes to a campground after dark.  I can’t understand these people, especially those that are tent camping.  Hard to set up a tent in the dark.  I like to get settled while there is still daylight, but that’s just me.  Tomorrow we head to a new Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) campground (Cottonwood Canyon) near the Columbia River.

Bird Species Observed or Heard at Page Springs Campground and Malheur NWR

  • American Kestrel
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Northern Harrier
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Marsh Wren
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Mallard
  • Canvasback
  • American Coot
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Robin
  • Common Raven
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Osprey
  • Western Grebe
  • Eurasian Starling
  • Canada Goose
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Ring-necked Duck

Birds Species Seen or Heard in and Around the Burns, Oregon area

  • Golden Eagle
  • Bald Eagle
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Prairie Falcon
  • American Kestrel
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Ruddy Duck
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • American Robin
  • Eurasian Starling
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Western Grebe
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • American Crow
  • Common Raven
  • American Coot
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Canada Goose
  • Northern Pintail

October 28, 2016

Woke to a cold morning at Idelwild campground.  Well no one else showed up at the campground – fine by me,  but a bit spooky.  We walked around the campground, birding,  before heading north for our next destination for the night – Cottonwood Canyon State Park.

The drive between Burns and John Day is one of the most beautiful in eastern Oregon.  However, we missed much of it because we were in a fog – literally.  From John Day we headed northwest towards the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, and specifically, the Painted Hills.  We’ve been here before but it has been sometime ago – maybe 20 years ago –  which is a long time for us, but nothing in terms of geological time.

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Large gathering of Pronghorn Antelope on the hillside. I counted at least 30.

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These shoe trees seem to be popular. This tree had more shoes on it than the ones in Nevada and Utah we saw.

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I’m not sure what the purpose is of the shoe tree. Boredom?

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Doodlebug asleep in the van as we are driving. She has found a nice little nesting spot in the van.

The ‘Painted Hills’ area is spectacular with its hills painted red, golds, and lavender – all dependent upon the type of soil or rock and when they were formed.  If it was wet; (red soils) or dry; (gold or what looks to me like green soils).

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John Day Fossil Bed National Monument – Visitor Center – really well-done.  In fact this is the best National Park Service visitor center that I have visited.

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Piece of petrified wood outside the visitor center

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Up close view of the materials that make up the painted hills – very fragile.

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The red soils

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There are several short hikes in the Painted Hills section of the monument where you can get close views of the ‘painted hills’.

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Some bird life was present – Common Raven

As we traversed the countryside, making our way to our campsite,  we were surprised at how many houses we saw in these remote areas.  As for distance to a decent grocery store, think of living in Homer and having to drive to Soldotna to shop.  I can understand the appeal however as it is a lovely area.  Lots of the houses are associated with ranches, but not all.

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Big Horn Sheep. I did see a ram with a full curl but was unable to get a photo.

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Wheat country the closer you get to the Columbia River

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Lots of wind turbines here too – have been here for 10+ years

In a previous life I thought it would be fun to have been raised on a ranch.  I asked Jack how do you decide which cow is going to give its life to feed your family.  I don’t think I could make that decision – that is, in part, why I don’t eat beef.

Other than California Quail, we didn’t see any new birds than what we’ve seen since entering Oregon.  We saw a covey of about 10 birds alongside the road.  Of note, we did see a lot (20+) Red-tailed Hawks in trees or on poles, and one Rough-legged Hawk that landed hard in a field.  I would have only giving his landing a 2.75 out of 5.  Beautiful birds.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Big Horn Sheep (at least I think they are big horn).  One had a full curl.  He was in a bad location (or was I in the bad location) to get a photo – we were on a highway with very little shoulder.

We finally got to our campground at Cottonwood Canyon State Park around 4:30 pm.  As we were approaching the area we were on high plateaus dotted with wind turbines.  We could see a front coming in from the northeast.  We descended into a canyon, which while it didn’t block the wind, it at least wasn’t as cold as it was up on the plateau.

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The campground is considered primitive.  They have vault toilets, water, picnic tables, and garbage cans, but not much else.  There are a number of trails within the campground – two bordering each side of the John Day River, which runs through the park.  We did take a portion of one trail after dinner, but didn’t get far before it became too dark to go on.  We hope to be able to walk a good portion of this trail tomorrow – weather permitting.  Rain is expected.

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John Day River – view from our campground

29 October 2016

I would love to see this area during a warm, sunny day.  The area is beautiful even when it is windy and raining.   I think we were the only people there that didn’t come  to the park to go fishing.  One guy even had a motorized scooter to get to and from his fishing spots.  His friend had a mountain bike.  Maybe he was physically challenged and could not ride a bike or walk the distance to fish.  I must say though the motorized scooter (think scooters like the kids use but only with a motor) was loud.  Disturbed the peace and quiet of the area.  Luckily we only heard it for a short period of time.

We did a short hike in the morning with Doodlebug.  Parts of the trail were under water from the heavy rain the night before.  Still the walk was pleasant, even when it started to rain again.  I’m always prepared with my rain coat and pants.

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An appropriate sign for hot days especially. I like the last part of the sign – so true, so true.

One bird we saw a lot along the trail was the Northern Flicker.  Probably the most prolific bird around.  Always distinguished by their white tail patch and their call.

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The trail takes you along the canyon walls

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Interesting nesting material. Better a nest than having a bird trying to ingest the monofilament line.

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Pinnacles Trail – as you can see the area had gotten a little rain.

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Lincoln Sparrow (one of my top two favorite – can’t decide if I like it or the Swamp Sparrow more) we saw along the trail.

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Mullen – lots of arms.

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Say’s Phoebe. This bird was being chased by a Loggerhead Shrike who was looking for its next meal. The phoebe got away, but then came back and landed within two feet of the shrike on the same fence line. Crazy bird or maybe a method to its madness.

Later in the afternoon, Jack and I headed out again and walked a short trail leading to the day-use area.  A lot of thought went into this park’s development.  They have some nice interpretive signage.

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Former Ranch Barn

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Lots of interpretive signs about life on the ranch at the turn of the century and I don’t mean the last century.

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Old photos superimposed on wood slats – more interpretive signs

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Nest box

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I like this art work – took old fence wire (or maybe it is new) and made it into a Big Horn Sheep.

We had intended to go Deschutes State Recreation Site for two nights, but decided to stay another night here.  I would definitely come back again to this campground.  And, at $10/night, what a deal for us cheapo retirees.

Bird Species Observed or Heard at Cotton Canyon State Park

  • Bewick’s Wren (my favorite wren species)
  • Song Sparrow
  • Hermit’s Thrush
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Lincoln Sparrow (one of my top two favorite sparrows)
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Kestrel
  • American Robin
  • Spotted Towhee
  • European Starling
  • Rock Pigeon

October 30, 2016

Okay it was COLD, WET, and WINDY when we woke up in the morning.  Hated getting out of my warm bed.  We quickly made coffee and ate our breakfast of granola and fruit before heading west to the Columbia Gorge.  As we ascended out of the canyon we ran into fog.  This is a stark and beautiful high plateau area and was sorry to miss it with all the fog.  Same goes for our passage through the Columbia Gorge, which is especially beautiful this time of year with all the fall colors – reds, yellows, oranges, golds – set against the green backdrop.  The Big Leaf Maples and Oregon Oaks are spectacular at this time of year.  BEAUTIFUL!!!

We decided we would stop at Deschutes SRS – the eastern end of the Columbia Gorge and check out the weather.  We are so close to Portland (about 100 miles) and a warm bed at our friend Jane’s house so we opted to stay the night in Portland.  However, since it wasn’t raining we did go into the SRS and walk the trail (nice and flat – old railroad bed) along the Deschutes River.  The Deschutes River is a world renowned fly fishing stream.  And people where out trying their luck.

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Descutes River near the Columbia Gorge

The walk down an abandoned railroad bed was very pleasant – no wind or rain.  We went two miles out and two miles back.  The trail sits up high from the river, so you get great views of the canyon with the river winding through it.  Several times we had large flocks of Canada Geese fly over.  And in one flock there was actually a Snow Goose.

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American Robin – this birds are so accommodating

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And I thought Alaska had liberal hunting seasons. Luckily we didn’t run into anyone hunting, but we did see a few people fishing.

After completing our hike/walk we drove in to Portland and were greeted by – you guessed it – RAIN, RAIN, RAIN.  But then again, there is a reason Portland is so green.  Another friend told me that Portland had the wettest and grayest October on record (or at least in a long while).  I believe it.  Even Eastern Oregon is much greener than usual.

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Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)

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View from Rowena Point –  Columbia River Gorge

We did stop at our favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch – Aztec Willey’s and Joey Rose – on Broadway and 15th in Northeast Portland.  Yum.  And of course one always needs to pick up a copy of Willamette Weekly to find out what is happening in town.

Birds Species Observed or Heard at Deschutes SRS

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Bufflehead
  • Canada Goose
  • Snow Goose
  • American Robin
  • Cedar Waxwing (hatch year birds)
  • White-crowned Sparrow (I always ask if they are from Alaska, but they never answer)
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Common Raven
  • American Crow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Northern Flicker
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween.  No plans for tonight although there is a lot of weird stuff going on in Portland.  They even have strip club haunted house.  So  instead I will be catching up on emails, blogs, shopping, and laundry.  We do plan to visit a few birding areas – Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Sauvie Island Wapato Greenway.

IT’S ALWAYS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

 

It’s a Great Day to Bird

 

Sauvie Island and the daring rescue

Okay today I am going out of sequence in our travels with this special blog posting.  We spent a week or so in eastern Oregon and I am slowly working on that blog (boy do they take a lot of time).  However, today we went to Sauvie Island and got to rescue a juvenile Great Horned Owl.

Today’s blog will only be about that rescue and not the great birding we experienced on the island before the rescue – that will come later (think a week or two from now).

So what happened?  We were driving along NW Sauvie Island Rd (Sauvie Island is near Portland, located between the Columbia and Willamette Rivers) when I spotted a dark object in the grass – thinking it was a cat.  Driving alongside the object I saw what is a Great Horned Owl.  This bird was small so I suspect a hatch year (Juvenile) bird.  I told Jack to turn around so I could get a photo of the bird in the grass.  We suspected something was wrong because you usually don’t see owls in the grass unless they’ve just killed something and Great Horned Owls hunt at night so ….

We watched the owl for a few minutes.  You could tell it was nervous.  The owl then hopped away from us dragging its right wing.  I decided then to call the Audubon Society of Portland’s (ASP) Wild Care Center.  We drove a short distance away to get off the narrow dike road as there are signs every 100 feet or so telling you not to stop or park along the road.  Once stopped, I called the Wild Care Center.  They wanted us to capture the owl and bring it in.  I wasn’t sure how we were going to do that as the owl was on private property and we didn’t have anything in our van in which to transport an injured owl.  We drove to the house we suspected was associated with the land where the owl was located.  Jack went to the door and talked with Devin, owner of Turnstone Environmental Consultants.  How fortuitous.  Devin agreed to help capture the owl.  He got a tub to put the owl in, a towel to throw over the owl, and gloves to protect his hands – most important.  Thank you Devin.

We walked out to the field where the owl was sitting.  In a matter of minutes (probably no more than 2-3) the owl was captured, but not before trying to hop away.  Devin put the owl into the tub and off we went to the ASP’s Wild Care Center to deliver the owl.  We were given an intake number so we can call and check on the status of the owl.  We will do that tomorrow after the owl has been checked out by volunteers at the center.

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Great Horned Owl

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This was after he moved away from our vehicle. He was not happy with us.

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I used a great app called Theodolite to send an email to the Audubon Society of Portland with the lat/long coordinates for the owl’s location. This is a great tool for notifying the Alaska Sealife Center about dead or stranded sea otters on Alaska’s beaches.

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The owl in the plastic tub.

We hope for a quick and full recovery for the owl.

It’s A Great Day to Bird

 

Nevada – Part II – More Birding and Wildlife Refuges

 October 22, 2016

We left Antelope Island (see Utah Blog post) and headed to Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada.  We have visited this refuge before during our year-long trip around the U.S.   Last time we were here we woke up to snow.  I hope we don’t experience that again.  I suspect it will be cold night, however, being as we are at 6,000 feet in elevation, its October, and we are in the mountains.

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Ruby Mountains

We arrived at our campsite, located adjacent to the refuge (well okay across the road) mid afternoon.  This is a U.S. Forest Service campground.  Not a bad campground for $4.00 per night (with the old geezer pass, as Jack likes to call his Golden Age Pass).  They have two loops, but only one (the smallest) was open.  Without a campground host they keep only the one loop only in the fall.  There were four other campers in the campground with us – I think all hunters.

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View of the refuge from our campsite

Upon arrival, we decided to just hang out around the campsite and head down to the refuge in the morning.

October 23, 2016

We drove the Ruby Lake NWR auto-tour route during the morning.  It was a picture perfect day.  The auto tour is on top of dikes through the northern half of the refuge.  We did walk a short distance (2 miles) of the diked roads.  Good way to see the birds, although vehicles really do serve as bird blinds.  The waterfowl were skittish, even though the area we were in was closed to hunting.

The Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 and consists of 39,926 acres of mixed habitat.  The refuge has been identified as one of 500 Globally Important Bird Areas by the American Bird Conservancy.   It definitely is an oasis for birds, wildlife, and man within the Great Basin Desert.

One of its signature bird species of the refuge is the Canvasback and luckily we saw a few.  And why may you ask is it a signature species?  Because the refuge supports the densest breeding population of Canvasback ducks in the lower 48 states, west of the Mississippi River.  Now I wonder what area has the densest breeding population east of the Mississippi River.

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Not all of the refuge looks like these photos.  There is a large part of the refuge that consists of dry scrub-shrub habitat.

During the fall season the refuges plays host to up to 25,000 waterfowl.  I think most have made their way south – maybe to the Pahranagat NWR? – as we didn’t see a lot of waterfowl.   Those waterfowl remaining were very skittish – guess I would be also if someone was shooting at me.

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female Northern Shoveler

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Non-breeding Rudy Duck

The refuge, located in the Ruby Valley, along the eastern portion of the Pacific Flyway, regularly has 220 species of birds.  And during the summer, there are 15 different waterfowl species present on the refuge.

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Common Raven

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American Pipit

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American Coots

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Eating aquatic vegetation or just playing?

Birds Species Observed or Heard on the Ruby Lake NWR or in the South Ruby Campground (adjacent to the refuge):

  • Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Western Meadowlark
  • American Coot
  • Mallard
  • Eurasian Starling
  • Northern Flicker
  • Northern Harrier
  • Common Raven
  • Gadwall
  • Canvasback
  • Marsh Wren
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Canada Goose
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Eared Grebe
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Bufflehead
  • Horned Lark
  • Song Sparrow
  • American Pipit
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Great Horned Owl

We also saw a coyote, but that is it for mammals seen on the refuge.  Not even a single mule deer – again it is hunting season.  Tomorrow we head toward Reno and a visit to the Stillwater NWR.  Was suddenly quiet when all the hooting and yipping stopped – well except for a few cows mooing.

October 24, 2016

We got up before sunrise to the sound of two Great Horned Owls serenading along with a beautiful sunrise reminiscent of the Homer fall/winter sunrises – colorful.  As the sunrise colors faded the owls stopped hooting, but then several coyotes decided to take up where the owls left off – serenading us with their yips.

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We broke camp and headed to Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge near Fallon, Nevada.

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Our route took us over the “loneliest Highway in the U.S.” – Highway 50.  Over this 178 miles we traversed a lot of the Great Basin desert with its many mountain ranges.  A few towns are interspersed along the highway – far and few between.  We enjoyed the ‘lonesome’ drive,  just glad we didn’t have vehicle trouble and became vulture food…

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The sign can’t be wrong, right?

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Eureka Nevada Thrift Store, Antiques, Volunteer Fireman Club House, and more

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The “MAN BUS” in Eureka, Nevada

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Sign above door to Thrift Store

At one spot along this highway we stopped to let Doodlebug (Joey) out for a break.  I saw a bird up on a cliff and excitedly thought –  Golden Eagle!  I had been hoping to see a Golden Eagle since we started the trip.  Of course my mind is telling me the bird is a little too small to be an eagle, but I wanted so bad to believe.  I took a photo of the bird even though it was a fair distance away and I knew my photo would be poor – but better than the naked eye.  Well when I looked at the photo, after zooming it in, I told Jack “the beak looks like a pigeon”.  But I discounted a pigeon because while the bird looked too small for an eagle, it looked too large for a pigeon.  So off down the road we went for all of a couple hundred yards when I asked Jack to turn back so I could look at the bird through the scope.  So back we went, got the scope out, and looked up to see, to my chagrin, a Rock Pigeon on the cliff.   Photos don’t lie.  The mind, however, does.

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Okay once you look closely at the photo you can see a pigeon beak.

We stopped for another break at Sand Mountain, a  600-foot high, 2.5-mile long,  “place” for off-road enthusiasts located near Fallon, Nevada.  As the second photo shows, there were a lot of people camping at the base of the dunes and charging around in their dune buggies.

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Very dry countryside near Sand Mountain

We made it to Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge by mid-afternoon.  This is our first visit to this refuge – life list.  The 163,000-acre refuge was created in 1949 and provides important habitat for resident and migrating birds, especially migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.  The refuge is a Globally Significant Important Bird Area (IBA) and a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) site.

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Cooper’s Hawk eating lunch – some unfortunate bird

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Up close view

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I get to add this National Wildlife Refuge to my life list of refuges. I have visited at least half of the 550+ refuges.

When we got to the refuge most of what we saw was desert.  Taking the auto-tour route through an area that is off-limits to hunters, we eventually found several lakes with water and thousands of waterfowl.  In one lake, the water levels were such that shorebirds could be found feeding away (plovers, peeps, dowitchers, avocets, and willets).  I was a happy person since I love shorebirds.  Also present were a number of American White Pelicans.  I love pelicans too.

As part of the refuge complex, there is an island (Anaho) on nearby Pyramid Lake where 7,000-10,000 American White Pelican PAIRS (yes, pairs) nest, producing around 3,500 young each year.  That would be an amazing site to behold.  The island, however, is off-limits to the public and boaters must stay back 500 feet – which is a good thing.

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Yes, these are refuge lands.

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One of the few cottonwood trees on the refuge – this one is along a slough

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Picnic pavillon

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… that also houses swallows in the summer

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… and hornets in the fall. I would love to see the swallow activity during the summer.

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Boardwalk out to Upper Foxtail Lake

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Upper Foxtail Lake

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Another view of Upper Foxtail Lake. The water was quite low at the northern end of the lake and shorebirds were present.

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American White Pelican in flight

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Tamarisk (aka Salt Cedar) – a nasty invasive.  Quick, eradicate it before it spreads.

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Foxtail Lake. There were thousands of waterfowl on this lake, but off-limits so I needed my spotting scope to get a good look at them.

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Small pond adjacent to Upper Foxtail Lake

The refuge allows camping at two designated locations.  We chose the one on Division Road.  The only amenities are a vault toilet and a trash can.  At least there is a toilet.  Essentially we are camping in a large parking lot.  Luckily we are the only ones here.

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Area near our camp site

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Canal that feeds water from Cattail Lake to other lakes and ponds.  Cattail Lake had lots of waterfowl on it as well.

We had planned to explore more of the refuge the tomorrow, however, most of the lakes are dry so we will drive into Fallon for breakfast and then head up towards Oregon.

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Sunrise on the day we left the refuge

Birds Species Observed and Heard at Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge

  • Rock Pigeon (no Golden Eagle, don’t ask)
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Great Egret
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Northern Flicker
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Great Blue Heron
  • American Coot
  • American Avocet
  • Cooper Hawk (eating a bird it had caught)
  • Marsh Wren
  • American White Pelican
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Redhead
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Northern Pintail
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Canvasback
  • Willet
  • Long-billed Curlew
  • Peeps
  • Plover sp.
  • Song Sparrow
  • Gadwall
  • Clark’s Grebe
  • Eared Grebe
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Common Raven (they were everywhere)
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Eurasian Starling

October 25, 2016

We awoke to a light rain and wind with dark, threatening skies.  With the weather threatening, we went into Fallon Nevada for breakfast (fair weather birders) and ate at the Maine (yes, the state spelling) Street Café.  The food was good, but nothing special.  I keep waiting to find that hole-in-the-wall restaurant with food that is to die for.  Still waiting.  Do I sound like a food snob?  Well breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?

After breakfast we headed north to Denio Junction where we will stay the night in a hotel.  The hotel is clean, but very dated.  The adjacent cafe closed down at 6pm but the bar stayed open late – guess that says something.  They had eight units – four on bottom, four on top.  Tonight only two rooms were rented – ours and the one next door.  Jack and I can never understand why hotel management feels the need, if you only have two rooms booked, to have those rooms be occupied adjacent to one another.  The guy in the room next to us decided to talk to someone on the phone (he had cell phone coverage, whereas we did not – hmmmm) right outside the door.  I could hear the entire conversation.  Not how I wanted to spend my evening.

On our way to the hotel after leaving the refuge we did pass a lot of beautiful countryside.

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Before we settled in for the night we went to the Shelton National Wildlife Refuge located about 12 miles away from our hotel.  We wanted to check out a campground on the refuge – Virgin Valley campground.  The campground has a thermal pool. The side road to the campground had a number of small ponds with waterfowl, including surprisingly a pair of Wood Ducks.  We usually see Wood Ducks on sloughs, rather than lakes.  The sighting was a pleasant surprise.

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This refuge we have visited before, but I didn’t get my photo in front of the sign that time.

The Shelton National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover, and enlarged in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  YAY for presidential authority to establish  national wildlife refuges.  The refuge consists of 572,896 acres as of 2013.    We only saw a small portion of the refuge this visit.

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Northern Harrier in search of dinner – yes not the greatest photo composition wise but those darn birds just don’t sit still

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Old structure at the Virgin Valley campground

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Bufflehead pair

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Northern Shoveler – as you can tell from the pond water the winds were a whipping good

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Yes, all that is refuge lands – hooray!!!

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Bird Species Observed or Heard at Shelton National Wildlife Refuge

  • Wood Duck
  • Common Raven
  • American Coot
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Northern Harrier
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eurasian Starling
  • American Robin
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Song Sparrow
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Northern Pintail
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Northern Shoveler

Next stop – Oregon…

IT’S ALWAYS “A GREAT DAY TO BIRD”

 

 

 

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