November 19, 2018

Tufted Duck take two!

The Tufted Duck was still being seen at “The Hook” in Hood River, so on Monday, November 19, I last-minute asked for the afternoon off, checked in on all of my projects to make sure I could work on them later on that evening, and off I went back up to Hood River with my birding sister Lindsay.

We got to The Hook at around 2:30 pm and knew we had ~2 hours to bird before the lighting would get tricky. We spent nearly those entire 2 hours sifting through hundreds of mostly Lesser Scaups in a few discrete rafts.


Sifting through hundreds of Lesser Scaup looking for the one Tufted Duck; The Hook, Hood River, Oregon; November 19, 2018; photograph by Lindsay Willrick.


A beautiful, cold afternoon at The Hook in Hood River, Oregon; November 19, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Tufted Ducks look similar to Lesser Scaups. There are important distinctions of course, but both species are sharp-looking black and white ducks. I focused on looking for the one duck with a black back instead of a grey-ish back. I was also looking for the head tuft. Mixed in with these ducks was also a handful of Ring-necked Ducks, too. Ring-necked Ducks are ALSO sharp-looking black and white ducks, and they have black backs! To make matters even trickier, the duck rafts kept shifting, merging, flying, and re-sorting. It was getting cold. We were hungry. Beer and burgers were down the street. We were ready to give up until we decided to take one final look, with our binoculars, at a smaller raft that flew in near shore.

Why not, right?



Tufted Duck and Lesser Scaups; The Hook, Hood River, Oregon; November 19, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.


Tufted Duck; The Hook, Hood River, Oregon; November 19, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

After 2 hours of eye-straining scoping, we saw him with our frigging binoculars, and then we proceeded to celebrate by jumping up and down and cheering. We called this our happy Tufted Duck dance. We even included this in our eBird notes. Unfortunately these shenanigans of ours scared all of the ducks away.


Lesser Scaups not putting up with our Tufted Duck dance; The Hook, Hood River, Oregon; November 19, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Thankfully, this little nearshore raft came back. I ran to get my camera out of the car while Lindsay relocated Tufty, and as luck would have it, I actually got some shots.

And, finally, we got to celebrate this fine sighting with mugs of hot water followed by beer and burgers at pFriem Brewery.


Lindsay and Linda post-Tufted Duck dance; pFriem Brewery, Hood River, Oregon; November 19, 2018.

New Birds for 2018: 1
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 252



November 17, 2018

The Oregon Birding Association holds a handful of high-quality field trips throughout the year. I attended one on November 17 in and near The Dalles, Oregon, birding in Wasco County and part of Sherman County.

Our birding began at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, an interpretive center and history museum about the Columbia River Gorge. The center’s grounds have some ponds and shrubby areas, making it a pretty birdy spot. I got bird 251 here, a Swamp Sparrow. Unfortunately he was too quick for my point-and-shoot camera, so instead, here are photos from the day of the Swamp Sparrow’s pond, a fetching and cooperative Golden-crowned Sparrow, and a Horned Grebe and some coots.


The Swamp Sparrow’s pond; November 17, 2018; Columbia Gorge Discovery Center;  photograph by Linda Burfitt.


Golden-crowned Sparrow; November 17, 2018; Columbia Gorge Discovery Center;  photograph by Linda Burfitt.


Horned Grebe and American Coots; November 17, 2018; Celilo Park, Wasco County, Oregon, photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Before heading back to Salem, we headed to “The Hook” in Hood River, Oregon, to see if we could find the Tufted Duck that had been seen for a few consecutive days. We sifted through the hundreds of Lesser Scaups before we finally had to call it a day because it was getting dark out. I would love to have seen this duck 😦

New Birds for 2018: 1
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 251

October 28, 2018

Oregon gets snow buntings, but they are not common and I think always trigger a rare bird alert. In fact, right now (November 29), there’s a whole pile of snow buntings on the on Del Rey Beach, Clatsop County. I’m not there right now chasing them because a) it’s dark out, and b) I got a snow bunting on October 28, 2018, on Marys Peak in Benton County!

Admittedly, I would love to have chased this pile of buntings today. My time and energy though, at least until December 31, must be reserved to finish this big year strong.

My snow bunting on Marys Peak on October 28  stuck around for a few days, allowing me to get up there with my friend Lindsey on the weekend. The bunting was just hanging out there on the gravel road next to the weather station. The wing flicks were spectacular. My photos are not unfortunately. The lighting was low and fog was around us.


After a quick trip to the Philomath Sewage Ponds to stalk the seeded sparrow area (hoping for a white-throated sparrow), we called it a day and headed back to our meeting spot in Corvallis. BUT FIRST …. turkeys in a field of the side of the road! Bird 250. Please don’t ask me why it’s take me so long to see wild turkeys. Just don’t.

New Birds for 2018: 2
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 250

October 20–21, 2018

Despite knowing we really couldn’t beat the sewage pond experience from a few days ago, we took my Dad to the Oregon Coast. Ho hum ;(

On Saturday, October 20, we hiked Cascade Head just north of Lincoln City. I wasn’t expecting to get any new species during this hike, but a Hermit Thrush surprised me! Did you know there’s a Canadian band called Thursh Hermit? Now you do. I saw them a few times way back in the late 90s when I was running around chasing bands instead of birds (actually, I did both!).

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The next day, my Dad opted for a solo visit to the Newport aquarium, and Clint and I birded the area around the aquarium, specifically the South Jetty, to see if the Great Pacific Ocean could grant me a new species or two. It did! I saw four Red-necked Grebes. I also saw a a handful of Common Loons, a species I didn’t think I’d even see this year but have seen a handful of times.


The Clailborne Pell Bridge (aka the Newport Bridge); east of the South Jetty; Newport, Oregon; October 21, 2018.


Common Loon; South Jetty; Newport, Oregon; October 21, 2018.


Common Loon; South Jetty; Newport, Oregon; October 21, 2018.


Red-necked Grebe; South Jetty; Newport, Oregon; October 21, 2018.


Red-necked Grebes; South Jetty; Newport, Oregon; October 21, 2018.

New Birds for 2018: 2
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 248



October 17, 2018

My Dad was in town visiting last month. My Dad is not a birder, but he likes hiking. So a day of “hiking” was planned.

Our schedule for the day included the following:

  1. Hiking Alsea Falls Trail and Green Peak Falls, Trail near Alsea, Oregon.
  2. Stopping by Finley to look for White-tailed Kites.
  3. Stopping by the Philomath Sewage Ponds because who doesn’t take their Dad to the local sewage treatment facility when he visits?

Alsea and Green Peak Falls were beautiful, but the birding was quiet.

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Finley delivered as always. We saw TWO White-tailed Kites  from the Prairie Overlook. While at Finley, I checked my email to see if there were any recent rare bird alerts for Oregon in our area. A Dickcissel had been spotted at the Philomath Sewage Ponds earlier that morning! Record scratch! The Dickcissel is not a western bird at all. We cut our Finley visit short and headed straight to the poo ponds to see the Dickcissel. It took a good hour before she popped out of the grasses, but my Dad, I, and another group of birders got great looks at this little beauty.


My dad, Tom, taking over scope duty; Philomath Sewage Pond; October 17, 2018.


Dickcissel; Philomath Sewage Pond; October 17, 2018.


Dickcissel; Philomath Sewage Pond; October 17, 2018.

New Birds for 2018: 2
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 246

October 1, 2018

Today, my nephew turned 1 and one Palm Warbler showed up at the OSU campus in Corvallis. Common in the east, the Palm Warbler, at least the “western” variety, has a small population in southern Oregon near the coast. The western variety is also less yellow and more white than the eastern “yellow” variety. Assuming this little guy was heading south and was pit stopping at OSU for a snack.

Palm Warblers are unique in that they tend to hang near the ground (whereas most other warblers are found higher up in trees). Palm Warblers also bob (wag) their tail a lot.

I met my friend Lindsey to see the Palm Warbler (who graciously stuck around until I was finished work) and to celebrate with beer and pizza.


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New Birds for 2018: 1
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 244


September 29, 2018

Seeing more than 300 bird species in Oregon in a calendar year is really only feasible if the birder is willing to go on a pelagic birding tour.

Pelagic = related to the open sea.

Because my target was 300 bird species, earlier this year I signed up for an 8-hour pelagic tour that was part of the Oregon Birding Association’s AGM in Garibaldi, Oregon.

I have a strong history of motion sickness, but Dramamine usually does the trick. Yes, it makes me drowsy, affects my breathing and heart rate, and generally gives me a case of the pending malaise, but I can usually power through it if I’m occupied.

Well occupied I was! For the first three hours of the tour, we birded and birded, and as we got further out to sea, the waves got bigger and bigger. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, but it was such fun. So many birds, and countable looks at Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmar, Pink-footed Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Red Phalarope, Pomarine Jaeger, Rhinoceros Auklet, and Mew Gull. I remember thinking at one point that I would most certainly do many other pelagic tours because, great heavens, wasn’t this fun?!

UNTIL IT WAS NOT FUN ANYMORE. Until the waves shot a strong middle finger to the Dramamine, and the feeling of death came on strong. From that point, I either forced myself to stay outside staring with great intent at the horizon (and holding on for dear life as the boat went up and down several feet) or dashing into the cabin and rapidly putting my head down on the table and holding onto a pole so I wouldn’t get thrown about. This went on for hours.

One hour before the tour ended, as we were heading back to shore, the surf became calm, and my sickness passed. I felt alive again and it felt incredible to surface onto the deck, use words out loud, and look at other things but the horizon.

Looking back, I may sign up for another pelagic tour, but not for 8 hours. Maybe 5. Maybe.

New Birds for 2018: 8
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 243


September 23, 2018 (afternoon)

Fern Ridge Wildlife Management Area, Lane County, Oregon

This was a follow-up visit from the day before, an attempt to find the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, with great success.


Sharp-tailed Sandpiper; Fern Ridge Wildlife Management Area; Lane County, Oregon; September 23, 2018.


Pectoral Sandpipers; Fern Ridge Wildlife Management Area; Lane County, Oregon; September 23, 2018.

New Birds for 2018: 1
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 234