March 11, 2018

This past Sunday, I set out to hike and bird Mary’s Peak, the highest peak in Oregon’s Coast Range. I planned on hiking the 6-or-so mile hike up through the forest, up up up, back and forth, to the peak. I’ve done this before. It’s a beautiful hike. I knew there would be snow up there, but it’s been so warm that I figured that at least the road would be ok. The road was NOT ok. The drive up the mountain started out fine, but eventually the warm wet road turned into a one-lane snowy-slush road. I was still at least 1 mile from my parking lot, and honestly, I probably could have made it, but considering I could not turn my car around as it was, I grudgingly made the right decision, backed up out of the snowy road, turned around when it was safe to do so, and drove down the mountain, feeling a bit defeated. I really didn’t want to have to be rescued again while birding this year.

I don’t like driving, and I especially don’t like superfluous driving. I don’t mean that I’m not a safe driver or that I’m not comfortable driving; I just find it monotonous. We should seriously be able to apparate by now.

So what was my Plan B? The Philomath Sewage Ponds were tempting, but I really wanted to move (that is, hike). Using my All Trails app, I made a quick decision to bird the Mulkey Creek Trail.

While driving to the trailhead, I saw bird #117: Turkey Vulture! Ok, driving can be tolerable sometimes, even though I continued to see TVs throughout the day as well as today in Salem. They are back folks!

Mulkey Creek Trail is a 4.6-mile out-and-back trail near Corvallis. From what I can tell, it’s partially in the Bald Hill Natural Area, which is managed by the City of Corvallis, and partially on the Bald Hill Farm property, which is managed by the Greenbelt Land Trust. The first mile of trail starts out in an open, bucolic setting but eventually climbs into a Doug-fir forest near the creek and then eventually up into a forest of moss-covered oaks and lovely views.

The birding was quality, as follows. I don’t always include full lists, but as soon as new species begin to show up, I think a comprehensive list is worthwhile.

Turkey Vulture*
Bald Eagle
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestral
Steller’s Jay
California Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Common Raven (building a nest, or up to no good while flying around with sticks)
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Pacific Wren (providing the soundtrack to most of my hike)
Ruby-crowed Kinglet
Western Bluebird*
American Robin
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
House Finch

*New Birds for 2018: 2
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 118

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Mulkey Creek Trail; northwest of Corvallis, Oregon; March 12, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Mulkey Creek Trail; northwest of Corvallis, Oregon; March 12, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Mulkey Creek Trail; northwest of Corvallis, Oregon; March 12, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Mulkey Creek Trail, facing the Three Sisters (I think?); northwest of Corvallis, Oregon; March 12, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Western Bluebird (bird #118!); Mulkey Creek Trail; northwest of Corvallis, Oregon; March 12, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Bluebird box; Mulkey Creek Trail; northwest of Corvallis, Oregon; March 12, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Waning crescent moon this morning during coffee; Salem, Oregon; March 12, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

 

March 2 and 4, 2018

To two younger birders yesterday, I described the male Ring-Necked Ducks at Minto Conservation Area as looking so dapper and so dressed up and put together that it looked like they were  ready to go somewhere special. Oscar-quality red carpet ducks, indeed. I love ducks.

Ring-Necked Ducks; Minto Conservation Area; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

Ring-Necked Ducks; Minto Conservation Area; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Before this weekend, I was holding steady at 115 Oregon birds species until Friday when I saw (finally) a Hairy Woodpecker*. And, not that it was needed, but a Downy flew in and joined the Hairy, and for the first time, I got to see both species side by side. Did I get a photo? I did not. It was a busy place full of excitement and nobody was staying still for that long.

Today, I saw a second Hairy Woodpecker and was able to get one decent photograph.

So where was I this past weekend? I birded in Minto-Brown Island Park on Friday and at Minto Conservation Area on Sunday. The weather hollered “spring!” and I called back by spending as much time outside as possible.

*New Birds for 2018: 1
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 116

Hairy Woodpecker; Minto Conservation Area; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

Hairy Woodpecker; Minto Conservation Area; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Minto-Brown Island Park; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

White-Crowned Sparrow; Minto-Island Brown Park; Salem, Oregon; March 2, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

White-Crowned Sparrow; Minto-Island Brown Park; Salem, Oregon; March 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Song Sparrow; Minto-Island Brown Park; Salem, Oregon; March 2, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

Song Sparrow; Minto-Island Brown Park; Salem, Oregon; March 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Brown Creeper; Minto-Brown Island Park; Salem, Oregon; March 2, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

Brown Creeper; Minto-Brown Island Park; Salem, Oregon; March 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Golden-crowned Sparrows; Minto-Brown Island Park; Salem, Oregon; March 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Western Grebe; Minto Conservation Area; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

Western Grebe; Minto Conservation Area; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Minto Conservation Area; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Spotted Towee; Minto Conservation Area; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

Spotted Towee; Minto Conservation Area; Salem, Oregon; March 4, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

February 17, 2018

The Winter Wings Festival, a fantastic yearly birding festival in Klamath Falls, Oregon, yielded me 26 new species for my 2018 Oregon list! We birded all day this past Saturday, as part of the festival, with some local experts who I believe knew how to summon specific species.

Tour leader: “We often see Ferruginous Hawks in this area. I’m sure we’ll see one today.”

a few minutes later …

Tour leader: “Look, a Ferruginous Hawk.”

The bus quickly slows to a stop, and said hawk lands on the ground for us, and we are able to admire its distinguishing features.

This happened with a few more species, including a Loggerhead Shrike (on the California side of the show, so I can’t count it toward my formal 2018 Oregon list).

We planned on birding this past Sunday, too, as part of the festival, but winter decided to finally visit Oregon, so we hit the road early Sunday morning so that we could get to Salem before dark. We did, but what took us 4 hours on Friday took us nearly 7 on Sunday.

Back to Saturday, and the details of which are as follows (I’ll let the bullets and photos speak for themselves; y’all aren’t actually reading any of this anyway):

What: Big Day Birding Field Trip, Winter Wings Festival, Klamath Falls, Oregon

When: Saturday, February 17, 2018, 7am to 4pm

Where: Lake Ewauna, Putnam’s Point, and Running Y Ranch in Klamath Falls, Oregon; Lower Klamath Lake Road, Klamath Hills, Oregon; Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, California

Why: To bird with local experts and to bag some southern Oregon bird species

Species Total: 71
*New Birds for 2018: 29
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 115

These numbers include the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker I saw near Beaverton, Oregon, earlier in the week; see end of post)

*List of New Birds for 2018 from the Winter Wings Festival

Greater White-fronted Goose
Cackling Goose
Canvasback
Barrow’s Goldeneye
Black-crowned Night-heron
Rough-legged Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Golden Eagle
Eurasian Collared Dove
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Acorn Woodpecker
Prairie Falcon
Say’s Phoebe
Black-billed Magpie
Tree Swallow
Mountain Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Pygmy Nuthatch
Marsh Wren
Townsend’s Solitaire
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Tricolored Blackbird
Red Crossbill
Evening Grosbeak 

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Barrow’s Goldeneye; Running Y Ranch; Klamath Falls, Oregon; February 17, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Black-crowned Night-Heron roost (total individuals estimated at 104!); Klamath River, just north of Lake Ewauna; Klamath Falls, Oregon; February 17, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Barred Owl; Running Y Ranch; Klamath Falls, Oregon; February 17, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Canvasback; Running Y Ranch; Klamath Falls, Oregon; February 17, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Hermit Thrush; Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge visitors’ center; February 17, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt. I can’t count this species because I saw it in California, but look at this guy!

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Loggerhead Shrike; Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge; February 17, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt. I can’t count this species because I saw it in California, but it’s a Loggerhead Shrike!!

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Prairie Falcon; Lower Klamath Lake Road, Klamath Hills; February 17, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Birding Pals; Lower Klamath Lake Road, Klamath Hills; February 17, 2018; photograph by Clint Burfitt

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Me and my K. Falls Birding Pals; Lower Klamath Lake Road, Klamath Hills; February 17, 2018; photograph by Clint Burfitt

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Our drive back to Salem, Oregon, somewhere along Highway 58 near Crescent Lake; February 18, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

 

Earlier that week:

Also, as planned, I stopped by Commonwealth Lake Park this past Tuesday to see if I could find the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker again. I did, or rather some other birders did already, so this was rather effortless.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; Commonwealth Lake Park; Beaverton, Oregon; February 13, 2018.

 

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; Commonwealth Lake Park; Beaverton, Oregon; February 13, 2018.

 

 

 

 

February 12, 2018

This past Saturday, February 10, 2018, C and I headed over to William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge just south of Corvallis to bird for the day and to specifically find the *Lewis’s Woodpecker, a striking western woodpecker who flycatches insects rather than excavated insects from a tree. The Lewis’s Woodpecker nests in tree snags and prefers open woodlands. Because of fire suppression and urban and agriculture encroachment, this habitat is not as common as it once was. To add insult to injury, the European Starling also nests in tree snags and is outcompeting the Lewis’s Woodpecker. For all these reasons, this species is in decline and is rarely found in the Willamette Valley.

After arriving to the refuge, we parked at the Ray Benton overlook, where the woodpecker was being regularly seen hanging out and flycatching in the oaks. Once we arrived, a group from Portland said that they briefly saw him, but that they lost him. They left and drove off, but then they stopped soon after! They stopped and got out of their van. They got out of their van and started looking through their binoculars. Then, somebody busted out their scope. I ran down the street, while they were motioning for me to run toward them. Gosh, I love my fellow birders (where were you in Fort Stevens State Park the other day?!!?).

They found the woodpecker and had him scoped by the time I got there, out of breath. Effortless. I’ve got to admit this was pretty nice after my X3 crossbill failure this past week. I was even able to get a documentable but awful photo of the woodpecker. We also got the woodpecker in our scope and was able to help others spot him much like the Portland group did for us.

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Lewis’s Woodpecker; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; February 10, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt (through a nice scope).

 

We saw 31 species at Finley yesterday, which warranted a nice, worthy eBird post. I got an additional two 2018 birds, too: *Wood Duck and a *Lincoln’s Sparrow.

We ended the day at the Philomath Sewage Ponds where we watched the sunset and looked for Cinnamon Teals (negative).

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Lincoln’s Sparrow being stubborn; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; February 10, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Wood Thrush ;); Philomath Sewage Ponds; February 10, 2018; photograph by Clint Burfitt.

*New Birds for 2018: 3
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 86

February 11, 2018

My birding since Ms. Eider has comprised fits and starts, mostly, but has garnered me a few more species for my list.

This post isn’t very excited, so let’s begin with the full moon on January 31. I was hoping to see the lunar eclipse, which was supposed to be ideal in the west. I woke up at 4:30 AM, walked around my house peering out the windows, and I’m pretty sure it was cloudy, and I went back to bed.

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Full moon; Salem, Oregon; January 31, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

On Sunday, February 4, we headed to Astoria, Oregon, because C had a work conference. En-route, we stopped near Cedar Mill, Oregon, at Commonwealth Lake Park where a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was being seen regularly. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers don’t really occur in the western U.S. I’m pretty sure I caught a quick glimpse of said sapsucker, but then I lost him. I’ll try again this upcoming Tuesday when I’m back up in that area for an eye appointment. I did, however, get two 2018 new birds at this park: a *Red-breasted Sapsucker (lifer!) and a *Redhead duck.

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Red-breasted Sapsucker; Commonwealth Lake Park; Cedar Mill, Oregon; February 4, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Redhead; Commonwealth Lake Park; Cedar Mill, Oregon; February 4, 2018;  photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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American Wigeon; Commonwealth Lake Park; Cedar Mill, Oregon; February 4, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

While in Astoria, I was determined to find the White-Winged Crossbills that are being seen almost daily at Fort Steven State Park hanging with a larger flock of Red Crossbills. The first two times were failures. The third time, I’m almost positive I saw (from a distance) and heard the crossbill flock fly away from one tree and disappear into another dimension. I’m certain of this. Their calls were loud sounded like they were coming from all directions until they just stopped. We sifted and sifted, but no crossbills. Different dimension. Who knew this about crossbills? Fort Stevens State Park did, however, yield me a two new 2018 species: *Raven and *Sanderlings.

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Raven; Fort Stevens State Park; February 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Sanderlings and Dunlin; Fort Stevens State Park; February 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Ring-necked Ducks; Astoria, Oregon; February 8, 2018;  photograph by Linda Burfitt.

While at the hotel in Astoria, I got three new species for 2018: *Glaucous-Winged Gull, *Western Gull, and *Western Grebe.

*New Birds for 2018: 7
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 84

January 28, 2018

When not surprisingly showing up along the Oregon coast, the Steller’s Eider, a wee sea duck, spends its time much further north, breeding in freshwater tundra ponds and spending its non-breeding hours in nearshore, shallow marine waters. Their worldwide range is coastal Alaska, northern Russia, and northeastern Europe. Sadly, the species is in decline, and the Steller’s Eider is federally listed as threatened.

From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game[1]:

Almost all Steller’s eiders nest in northeastern Siberia, with less than 1% of the population breeding in North America … In the winter, most of the world’s Steller’s eiders are found in the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands.

This winter 2018, a female Steller’s Eider showed up in Seaside Cove, Oregon, in nearshore waters. This is the fourth time in birding-recorded history[2] that this species has shown up in Oregon. Looking back at my rarebird emails, Ms. Eider was first recorded at Seaside this year on or near January 13, 2018. She has been sticking around this area for weeks now and has been very cooperative for birders. Few if any days have gone by since January 13 where the eider doesn’t show up on the daily rare birds reports.

For various reasons, I did not get out to see Ms. Eider until this past weekend. She was incredibly cooperative for us, and even flew closer to shore to provide me with a spectacular view. She also did not mind the surfers who swam quite close to her. With just my binoculars, I could see her chunky bill and the white borders or her speculum. We spent a little more than 1 hour here at Seaside Cove, appreciating this rare sighting and catching some more species. How on earth did she end up down here? Would she find her way back to Alaska? I felt a bit sad while I watched this little brown nugget of a duck and pondered her fate.

Seaside Cove Highlights:

Steller’s Eider* (lifer!)
Harlequin Duck* (lifer!)
Surf Scoter*
Horned Grebe*
Pelagic Cormorant* (lifer!)
Double-crested Cormorant
Herring Gull*

Other highlights from these past two weeks include Golden-crowned Sparrows* at Riverside Park in Salem, Oregon, and a Mute Swan* (likely a domestic escapee; counting it for now) in the Willamette Slough at Minto-Brown Island Park in Salem, Oregon.

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Steller’s Eider; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Surfers; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Surf Scoters; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Pelagic Cormorant;  Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Herring Gull; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Harlequin Ducks; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Horned Grebe (with a fish!); Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Mute Swan; Minto-Brown Island Park; Salem, Oregon; January 15, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

*New Birds for 2018: 8
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 76

[1] Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 2018. Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri). Species Profile. Available at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=stellerseider.main. Accessed January 29, 2018.
[2] Oregon Birding Association. 2017. The Records of the Oregon Birds Records Committee.  Available at: http://orbirds.org/recordsdec2017.pdf. Accessed January 29, 2018.

January 14, 2018

Part of a Big Year involves looking for rare birds or finding rare birds that other birders have found. Once found, rare birds often pop up on various forms of rare bird alerts (e.g., emails, texts, etc.). Heading out to find a reported rare bird is usually a last-minute decision and involves a quick change of plans, driving, and a near full day of not eating well. Because of this, I’ve decided to put together a Rare Birds Bag. Similar in idea (and maybe contents?) to the hospital bag women pack for when they go into labor, this bag will include, at a minimum, the following:

  1. Non-perishable, filling, snacky food items that I’ll actually eat (grabbing a banana on the way out is a sure fire way to make my car smell for days because I will never eat said banana).
  2. Filled water bottle
  3. Bird field guide (I have so many, I’ll throw one in this bag)
  4. Rain jacket (my back-up obnoxiously coloured pink jacket)
  5. Layers (warm tops, toque, gloves)
  6. Extra socks (for when I’ll inventible step took close and then into some type of inundated area)

Other obvious items I’ll take with me are my optics—bins, scope, and camera–and my staple field guides, but they are always near the door and ready to go.

January 14 was a rare birds day, sort of. A Lesser Yellowlegs had been seen at a local conservation easement property, and I wanted to try again to see the Tri-Colored Blackbirds that had been reported at the Philomath Sewage Lagoons. Also, the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge was sort of on the way (“on the way” = a debatable term in the world of birding), so I decided to stop there, too, for my first time to see what I could find. It was an overly ambitious plan. I grabbed a banana.

Stop #1: Conservation Easement Property just south of Turner, Oregon

I left Salem and immediately descended into fog shortly before arriving at the conservation easement property. Peering through the dense fog, I found moving, shorebird-shaped items far out in what appeared to be a ponded area. I put my scope on them and immediately saw the large shorebirds, which turned out to be Greater Yellowlegs. These larger birds were accompanied by mini versions of themselves, and I was hoping these were the Lesser Yellowlegs.  The fog finally started to lift, and after watching these birds for more than 1 hour and after watching them in flight a few times, it became obvious that these were definitely not Lesser Yellowlegs but were instead Dunlin. Still a new bird for 2018 and a delight to watch for so long.

Stop #1’s list:

Canada Goose
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
*Killdeer
*Dunlin
*Greater Yellowlegs
European Starling
Song Sparrow
*Western Meadowlark
*Red-winged Blackbird

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Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon, post–dense fog; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon, post–dense fog; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon, post-fog; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Greater Yellowlegs and Dunlin at Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon; dense fog shortly after arriving; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Greater Yellowlegs and Dunlin at Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon, post-fog; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Song Sparrow; Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

Stop #2: Middle of Nowhere, Willamette Valley

After birding at the conservation easement, I was off to some random country farm road corner between Corvallis and Eugene to look for another rare bird, a Say’s Pheobe, that I did not find. I did, however, find hundreds of very loud Brewer’s Blackbirds—a new 2018 bird for me.

Stop #2’s list:

Rock Pigeon
*Brewer’s Blackbird
Song Sparrow

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Brewer’s Blackbirds; Somewhere between Corvallis and Eugene; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

Stop #3: William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

As planned, I stopped in at Finley on my way to the sewage ponds. I arrived later than I wished (having wandering around too long looking for the phoebe), so my plan was to simply do a drive-through reconnaissance before heading to the ponds. At one point though, I realized that I was exceptional tired of being in the car for so long. I stopped and parked the car at a trailhead, deciding that perhaps this was my last stop for the day and that I would do my legs a favour and go for a birding walk.

For reasons that include a somewhat faulty driver’s side door and the fact that I had not eaten anything yet that day (no, not even the  banana), I locked myself out of my car. Thankfully I had my binoculars around my neck, but all other important items (e.g., cell phone) were in the car. Also thankfully, this rad lady Rachel was there, too; lent me her cell phone to deal with my adulting failure; and waited with me until a tow-truck/locksmith arrived to opened my car for me. By the time my car was “free” it was near 4:30pm, and it was time to head home. So yea, Step #4 was home, and the banana went into the freezer where it ultimately belongs.

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William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, moments before I parked and locked myself out of my car; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

*New Birds for 2018: 6 species
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 68 species (this includes a House Sparrow that showed up in my yard that morning and a Northern Harrier I saw while I was driving)