Fort Myers, Florida, March 7–15 (Part 1 of ?)

My parents are vacationing in Fort Myers, Florida, with a bunch of other retired Ontarians who have just about had it “up to here” with dirty city snow and freezing rain. My Mom would correct me right now and say that she does, actually, enjoy winters in Ontario and loves the snow. Sure you do ; )

I flew down from rainy Oregon to visit them last week, to remind myself of what the sun feels and looks like, and to bird the entire dang time. My sister and her family were also there, so I got some quality time with my 1.5-year-old nephew. Turns out, he really loves birds, or “Ba!” as he calls them right now. Oh my heart.

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My parents’ street; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

I’ve been a birder for a couple of decades now, but I’m usually able to turn down the birding volume. It’s kind of like having to turn down the volume on a song you really love because you have to talk to somebody instead, or because somebody is sleeping. After doing a big year, turning down the birding volume is next to impossible, especially in a new area. Plus … FLORIDA. I warned my family ahead of time. Birding rock and roll, folks.

I flew into Fort Myers late Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, I heard a Northern Mockingbird singing outside my bedroom window. I’ve seen maybe two mockingbirds in my life. Turns out, they are ubiquitous in the Fort Myers area. What a damn treat already. Then, outside on the lawn were two White Ibis—a lifer, and quite possibly the oddest looking bird. Additional highlights from our morning walk in my parents’ neighbourhood were a handful of Palm Warblers (in actual palm trees this time), Myrtle Warblers, Northern Parulas, a gorgeous Yellow-crowed Night-Heron (lifer), and both Turkey and Black Vultures (how nice to compare these for once side-by-side). Oh, and a gator.

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Northern Mockingbird; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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White Ibis; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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The neighbourhood American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) in the pond down the street; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Snowy Egret; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Snowy Egret; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Palm Point; Caloosahatche River; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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My Dad, Tom (a new birder!); Palm Point; Caloosahatche River; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Yellow-crowned Night-Heron; Palm Point; Caloosahatche River; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Yellow-crowned Night-Heron; Palm Point; Caloosahatche River; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Yellow-crowned Night-Heron; Palm Point; Caloosahatche River; North Fort Myers, Florida; March 8, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Of course, this was just the beginning. There are so many more birds and adventures that were seen and had. Hopefully I have time to draft Part 2 of ? later on today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 9, 2019

I’m continuing to find really birdy wetland/ponded areas in my 5MR.

Today’s 5MR birding spot was the Claggett Creek Natural Area. This 42-acre area is in NE Salem and is tucked in between Highway 99E and the railroad. The area is owned by the city.  Claggett Creek runs through the area,  there are two reservoirs, and wood-chipped walking trails provide pedestrian access. Parking appears to only be at the Kroc Center across the street. Very little information about this area is available online. A heads up that the area does have a few homeless camps and associated debris strewn about. We spent a little over an hour here and got 24 species.

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Claggett Creek Natural Area; Salem, Oregon; Imagery 2018 Google, Map data 2018 Google.

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Claggett Creek Natural Area; Salem, Oregon; February 9, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Hooded Merganser (and an American Coot); Claggett Creek Natural Area; Salem, Oregon; February 9, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt. 

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Claggett Creek Natural Area; Salem, Oregon; February 9, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Ruddy Duck; Claggett Creek Natural Area; Salem, Oregon; February 9, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Claggett Creek Natural Area; Salem, Oregon; February 9, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Canvasback; Claggett Creek Natural Area; Salem, Oregon; February 9, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 12, 2019

Working some more in our 5MR, we started our day at  Mirror Pond just north of the Salem Courthouse. Here, our first bird was a Scarlet Macaw (no kidding). There was some type of exotic animal trade show that day at our convention center, and this guy escaped for a tour of the Salem Riverfront. We met his “owner” who did not appear to be too worried.

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Scarlet Macaw; Salem, Oregon; January 12, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

After that, we headed to the north end of our 5MR to check out, for the first time, the Keizer sewage ponds, that is, the Willow Lake Water Pollution Control Facility. I knew this area wasn’t 100% open to the public, which is one of the reasons I’ve never bothered checking it out. Because it’s not open to the public, it’s not birded much, so any birding data from this area pale in comparison to the everyday-it’s-birding-Christmas Philomath Sewage Ponds. It’s also possible that the types of ponds/cells here are not as attractive to birds are other ponds/cells.

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Willow Lake Water Pollution Control Facility; Keizer, Oregon; Imagery 2019 Google, Map data 2019 Google.

But, because it’s in our 5MR, and because of what it is, I’d be remiss to not at least do a drive-by. Maybe there’s a berm outside that I could climb up with my scope? I could have examined the Google imagery more, but it’s within my 5MR. Just drive on up there!

To our surprise, adjacent to the facility are walking paths through a constructed wetland complex. It’s called the “City of Salem Natural Reclamation System” (NRS). Well what the heck does that mean? It means this, from the City of Salem’s website:

NRS is a five-year demonstration used to determine whether a constructed wetland approach can provide reuse water for farming and could provide us with a new way of dealing with treated wastewater, reusing it instead of directly discharging it into the Willamette River. (City of Salem 2017)

I’m slowly learning that my 5MR is chocked full of natural and constructed wetlands, and I could not be happier. Naturally, we spent the rest of the day here and got 25 species in under 2 hours, including a flipping Virginia Rail!. We also met a really nice man named “Bob” who goes for his daily walks here. We could see the actual circular cells from the wetland complex, but it was through a gate. The cells were also full of gulls, and I wasn’t really in a “gull” mood that day.

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City of Salem NRS interpretive signage; January 12, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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City of Salem NRS constructed wetlands; January 12, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Snowy Egret, eh? Hmmm; City of Salem NRS interpretive signage; January 12, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Song Sparrow; City of Salem NRS; January 12, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

 

January 1, 2019

Birding Ctrl+Alt+Delete!

My first bird of 2019 was a Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) followed soon after by my front-yard 9-to-5 suet-cake monitor, this female Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Audubon).

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon), making sure nobirdy is misbehaving in the front-yard magnolia tree; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

I’m a little relieved that my 2018 Oregon Big Year has come to a close. Chasing birds, seeing a handful of lifers, exploring Oregon, and meeting new friends were wonderful, but the disappointment that came with missing chased birds, not being able to chase birds because of other commitments, and things like my failed 8-hour pelagic tour weighed on me too much sometimes.

Onward, and enter two new birding challenges that I think will be a little easier on my well-being:

  1. Participating in the 5MR challenge!
  2. Seeing my truly sought-after, missed Oregon 2019 birds (e.g., both rosy-finches)
My 5MR in Salem, Oregon!
Map data 2019 Google.
Radius generated using https://www.mapdevelopers.com/draw-circle-tool.php

Let’s start with the 5-mile-radius challenge (the 5MR challenge). This isn’t an incredibly new idea, but Jen at http://www.iusedtohatebirds.com/ has given this idea some fresh light and has rallied a handful of birders from across the country (and beyond) to participate, including me.

This challenge for me has three categories:

  1. See as many bird species as I can within 5 miles of my house.
  2. Bird places in my 5MR that I may have overlooked in the past, and discover new potential birding eBird hotspots.
  3. See the highest % of bird species relative to the number of birds seen in your county.

The bonus (and possible hindrance in terms of category #1) for me is that we’ll be moving this year, so I’ll be switching from one radius to another at some point. But I do know that my second 5MR will include the Columbia River, both the OR and WA sides!

Starting with my 5MR here in Salem, OR, we birded all day on January 1, starting with the feeder birds in our yard. Species total: 13.

After, I headed over to Mirror Pond just north of the Salem Courthouse in downtown Salem, because an American Dipper was seen there a few weeks ago. I dipped on the dipper, but if I get an American Dipper in my 5MR, I’ll be truly ecstatic. Species total: 13.

Mirrow Pond; Salem, Oregon; Imagery 2019 Google, Map data 2019 Google.
Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Common Merganser and a pair of Hooded Mergansers; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Common Merganser and a pair of Hooded Mergansers; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Common Merganser; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Downy Woodpecker; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Red-tailed Hawk; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Our next stop was the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve in West Salem. The reserve is a 7-acre woodlot in the middle of a residential area. The Salem Audubon Society (with help from the Rotary Club of Salem) has done incredible work here, including building a pond, putting up feeders, and working on controlling invasive plans species (e.g., English ivy, Himalayan blackberry). Volunteers work every Wednesday at the Reserve to improve it. Our highlight was the Western Bluebirds. They were high up in the Oregon white oaks, feeding on the mistletoe berries. Species total: 8.

Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; West Salem, Oregon; Imagery 2019 Google, Map data 2019 Google.
Western Bluebird; Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Western Bluebird; Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Western Bluebirds; Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Following this, we headed over to Straub Nature Park in West Salem, where the highlights were Townsend Warblers and a Varied Thrush. Overall, it was a quiet and expedited trip. Species total: 6.

From here, we went to the Fairview Wetlands near the Salem Airport. This wetland complex was created in the 1990s to mitigate impacts to natural areas in this same area from the development of an industrial commercial business park. Species total: 19.

Fairview Wetlands; West Salem, Oregon; Imagery 2019 Google, Map data 2019 Google.
FYI: this complex is much more impressive than what this imagery shows.
Scoping Wilson Snipes; Fairview Wetlands; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
American Kestrel; Fairview Wetlands; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt
Fairview Wetlands; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

As you can see from the above picture, the sun was setting, but I knew we could get two more species—Gadwalls and Pied-billed Grebes—at a pond in Minto-Brown. And we did, just in the nick of time before the sun completely set. Species total: 7.

EOD Species Total: 43

December 30, 2018

I ended by big year doing the Yaquina Bay CBC with Clint and my birding sister Lindsay. It was a beautiful day weather-wise, but a tough day because I had the worst sleep of my life the night before. I mean, it was so bad that it’s just worth mentioning here because it coloured my day a bit 😦 But …

The CBC was fruitful! And, my 2018 big year has come to a close!

265!

Honestly, I could have chased another bird on the 31st, but why mess with a number like 265 (plus I had to work). 265 is perfect.

Bird 265 was a FETCHING BLACK-AND-WHITE-WARBLER! A rare bird out here in Oregon, the black-and-white is a mostly eastern warbler that generally winters in Mexico and Central America. This individual has been hanging out for at least a month now in a stand of alders across the street from Ona State Park just south of Newport, OR. Interestingly enough, another (or the same?) black-and-white overwintered in this same spot in Oregon last year.

In Ona State Park I got bird 264, the Magnolia Warbler, another rare warbler for Oregon that’s been seen in this spot almost daily for a couple of months. The Magnolia is also an eastern warbler that generally winters in and near Central America.

I got photos of neither warbler because they were moving pretty fast, and my camera is sub-far for fast-moving birds in poor lighting. The Magnolia, I suspected correctly, would only be in view for a few minutes, so I just enjoyed her with my bins. I attempted to get photos of the black-and-white, but instead I ended up with many photos of moss and lichen growing on alders. Many. If anyone out there is doing a study on moss and lichens growing on alders in the PNW, I have photos for you. Bonus points if you can find a Black-and-White Warbler in these shots. I cannot.

Birds 261 through 263 were a Brandt, Eurasian Wigeon, and an Eared Grebe.

What follows are some out-of-order photos from the day!

For those of you who have made it this far and have followed/read my blog in 2018, holy smokes thank you!

Or, thank you, Dad, for being my one reader!

I have blog posts that will follow this one that detail my next birding adventures and challenges for 2019!

Yaquina Bay Estuary Trail; Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
South Jetty; Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photography by Lindsay Willrick.
Yaquina Bay; Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Oregon Coast; south of Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Yaquina Bay; Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Lindsay Willrick.
Fox Sparrow; Ona State Park; Seal Rock, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Western Grebe; Yaquina Bay; Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Horned Grebe; Yaqhina Bay; Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Surf Scoter; Yaqhina Bay; Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Common Loon; Yaqhina Bay; Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Surf Scoter (look at my cute tail!); Yaqhina Bay; Newport, Oregon; December 30, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

New Birds for 2018: 4
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 265



December 16 and 17, 2018

We birded the Union, Oregon, area for the Union County Christmas bird count. It might have been the windiest day I’ve ever experienced willingly. Our area yielded a total of 24 species, including a Barn Owl. The following day, we birded north of La Grande, Oregon, and I got a few American Tree Sparrows.

New Birds for 2018: 2
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 260!

 

December 1 and 2, 2018

When I grow up, I’m going to establish a local bird “seed area” just outside my town. Here, I’ll regularly distribute high-quality bird seed, and birders will frequent this area and can even bird from their car if they wish (helpful in Oregon when it’s raining). Rare sparrows will visit, and my seed area will become a birding hot spot. Non-birding locals will assume we are up to no good, and that will make us birders feel a little badass for once, outside our birding circle. Nevermind that we are all in Subarus or Priuses.

One of these established seed area hot spots “near” me is in Lane County near the Eugene airport.

After our failed attempt to re-locate the Tundra Bean-Goose at Finley, my birding sister took me to this seed area on December 1, 2018, to see if we could get the recently recorded Harris’s Sparrow. We birded the area for a good 2 hours, and the Harris’s Sparrow did not pop out from the “brambles” (invasive blackberries). My very wonderful consolation prize, though, was a fetching White-throated Sparrow, another “oh you’ll get that species eventually, don’t worry” bird.

Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada!

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The Bond Road seed area; Lane County, Oregon; December 1, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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A White-throated Sparrow and friends (blurry junco and a white-crowned); the Bond Road seed area; Lane County, Oregon; December 1, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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White-crowned Sparrows and a Golden-crowned Sparrow; the Bond Road seed area; Lane County, Oregon; December 1, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Oh sweet White-throated Sparrow; the Bond Road seed area; Lane County, Oregon; December 1, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Song Sparrow; the Bond Road seed area; Lane County, Oregon; December 1, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Amazon Creek near the Bond Road seed  area; Lane County, Oregon; December 1, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Amazon Creek near the Bond Road seed area; Lane County, Oregon; December 1, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Badass birders at the Bond Road seed area; Lane County, Oregon; December 1, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

New Birds for 2018: 2 (including a Sharp-shined Hawk)
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 257

I re-located the Tundra Bean-Goose at Finley the next day, December 2! No photos. I got too excited, shared my scope with other birders, and then a Bald Eagle flew in and shuffled the deck.

New Birds for 2018: 1
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 258

 

November 28, 2018

If you look at the Eastern Bluebird’s range map on eBird, you’ll see lots and lots of purple generally west of Colorado. You’ll now see a little purple square on Oregon, as of November 26, 2018. Two (!) Eastern Bluebirds were first reported by Portland birder Eric Carlson at the Dharma Rain Zen Center in east Portland. As of yesterday (December 25), the pair is still there and being visited almost daily.

I visited them in the pouring rain on November 28, 2018, in their famous Yellow Tree. Prepare your eyes for a feast of EABL photos taken with my phone, through my scope (which was precariously propped up on my car’s passenger seat), through my car’s open window. Did I mention it was pouring rain, too?

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New Birds for 2018: 1
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 255