January 2, 2018

There is a mighty fortress around my house, and it comprises bird feeders.

Today was a feeder day. I work from home full time for an environmental consulting firm. My house has many windows. Several of my usual visitors said hello in their own unique ways today. My photos are all pretty awful because they are taken through a dirty window while I was working. I need to clean my windows, but you don’t do that in the winter in Oregon. You just don’t.

American Goldfinch*: It took the goldfinches more than 1 week to find my thistle seed feeders; they’re here every day now.

Black-capped Chickadees. It does not matter what they are busy doing (e.g., eating), they always have something to say before or after the fact. It is as if we’ll forget them when they’re gone or not be ready for them when they arrive. “Food … There’s food here … This food is good … Other chickadees in the vicinity, there’s food here … watch out for the squirrel … This food is great … This redbud tree is a great roosting tree … I’m leaving now. There’s still food … I’ll be back.”

Chestnut-Backed Chickadee*. I usually see just one or two CB chickadees at my feeders per day, and they usually get comfortable hanging out near, but not necessarily with, the black-capped chickadees. The chestnuts seem to be more independent than their BC counterparts, but this is purely a yard perspective.

Bushtits*: These darlings arrive frantically and in a group, as if they are pressed for time and need to get their suet feeding done As Fast As Possible. For this reason, they have no personal space to speak of. The dozen or so bushtits that visit will all be crowded around/on the suet feeder, and bushtit #1 is not bothered if bushtit #8 lands completely adjacent to, or on, him at the feeder. There are bigger things to worry about in the world of bushtits, and I guess with the amount of energy these darlings expel, that thing is food.

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Bushtits; Salem, Oregon; January 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

Dark-eyed Juncos*: I largely get the Oregon junco variety, although I did get a few slate-colored juncos last year alongside the Oregon ones. My yard juncos also arrive in a group, but unlike the bushtits, they are never pressed for time and really appreciate their personal space. If junco #2 flies near junco #8 by closer than 1 foot (by accident!), junco #2 will fly away to quickly re-establish this 1-foot junco personal space (JPS) buffer. I understand juncos.

Purple Finch*: This was a new yard bird for me today. Odd, I know.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet*: Do I need to say anything about kinglets? They are my favourite yard bird every day they visit (UNTIL I GET A VARIED THRUSH), and I will get a great photograph of them one day. Ruby’s don’t show their ruby crowns often, and when they do, it’s usually intentional, but I do get brief glimpses of their actual ruby crowns at my suet feeder because of the acrobats they need to perform to feed at the suet feeder.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet; Salem, Oregon; January 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt. Honestly the only reason I’m including this photo is because I got ONE photo of this guy that’s not 100% blurry. #tinycelebrations #theymovesofast #cantstopwontstop

Yellow-Rumped Warbler* (Audubon, I think?). I only saw one female today, and she showed up a few times.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler; Salem, Oregon; January 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

European Starling*. I don’t see starlings a lot at my feeders, but when I do, they arrive like a gang of bullies, almost knocking shit over like they’ve never seen feeders before. Because they are so infrequent, I enjoy their brief sudden visits.

Western (California) Scrub-Jay*. Scrub-jays at the feeder are usually alone, but this might be because they are so big, and my feeders are not. Sometimes I get two. I love their chestnut-colored backs and their white bibs.

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Western (California) Scrub-Jay; Salem, Oregon; January 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

  *New Birds for 2018: 9 species
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 28 species

 

 

 

January 1, 2018

Happy New Years! Day 1 is off to a pretty good start. We woke up in Sisters, Oregon, after having spent December 31 skiing up at Hoodoo Ski Resort.

First bird of 2018: the American Robin. The robins were seen in trees surrounding a gas station in Sisters, Oregon.

From the parking lot of the gas station, at the top of a pine tree, was my second bird of 2018: Cooper’s Hawk.  Of course, I had to take a few grainy zoomed-in photos of this guy, because I wasn’t 100% sure if I was looking at a Sharpie or a Cooper’s, but judging from the somewhere rounded tail, I’m going with Cooper’s. Somebody tell me if I’m way off. Raptors are not my forte!

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Cooper’s Hawk, Sisters, Oregon, January 1, 2018, Photograph by Linda Burfitt

The day proceeded with a bit of road travel, and we ended up at Belknap Hot Springs where C was going to soak and I was going to bird. These hot springs are along the Mackenzie River in the middle of nowhere, Oregon, near a town called Mackenzie Bridge, on Oregon Route 126. I love visiting these hot springs because of the river-adjacent hiking trails and because I see American Dippers every time I visit. Dippers are very animated little semi-aquatic birds. What they lack in colour and other visual features, they make up for tremendously in their behavior. First, they dip. Up and down like they’re doing the squats. They are usually found on the shore of a river, on something prominent (like a boulder). They jump in and out of the cold water, sometimes diving under and popping back up, and feed on aquatic insects and other “live bits” in the water. I adore dippers.

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American Dipper at Belknap Hot Springs, January 1, 2018, Photograph by Linda Burfitt

My Belknap Hot Springs list DID include a dipper, but just one. My comprehensive Belknap Hot Springs finds are as follows:

American Dipper
Black-capped Chickadee
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Pileated Woodpecker
Song Sparrow
Stellar’s Jay

Oddly enough, that was it. It wasn’t too birdy at Belknap today. So, we left the springs and drove west down 126 until we reached the Leaburg Dam, where the City of Eugene has impounded and diverted the Mackenzie River for hydropower and created a small reservoir (Leaburg “Lake”) adjacent to Lloyd Knox Park. In addition to me and C, other visitors to  Leaburg Lake were as follows:

American Dipper
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Double-Crested Cormorant
Hooded Merganser
Ring-Necked Duck

We spent a good 45 minutes scoping all of these birds while freezing to death, so after getting great looks at all of these (both males and females of most of these species), we decided to head back home to the Salem area before it got dark.

Of course, birding doesn’t stop just because you’re driving. Here’s what we saw along the way:

American Crow
American Kestrel

Bald Eagle
Canada Goose
Great Egret
Red-Tailed Hawk (lost count of how many were perched along I-5)

That concludes Day 1. I was hoping we’d get home before dark so I could add some late-day feeder birds to my Day 1 count, but they’ll be there tomorrow.

End of Day Tally:
19 species
2018 Year-to-Date Talley:
19 species

My Birding Genesis

It sort of begins in the fall of 2017, and I’m sitting in our newish home in western Oregon, finally making time to read a damn book. The book, Lost among the Birds by Neil Hayward, recounts the author’s Big Year, a year in which he travels the American Birding Association (ABA) Birding Area* in search of as many species of birds he can find. To give you an idea of the enormity of this task, Neil broke the ABA Big Year record in 2013 and saw 749 species of birds. Since then, a few people have broken Neil’s record, the latest being John Weigel, who in 2017 came in at 783 species. How can somebody see, find, and identify so many bird species? It’s not common, but if you’re a savvy birder, are willing to dedicate 12 months of your time travelling pretty constantly, and have some coin set aside, it can be done. A little bit of luck helps, too, as it’s hard to predict when or if the rarities will show up, and oftentimes, they’re the surprised guests that help beat records.

Or does it begin in the early 1980s, when I was maybe 6 or 7, and I found an old rubber duck in my grandma’s basement (it had been one of my aunt’s). I claimed that little duck immediately and appropriately name him “Ducky.” Several rubber ducks followed until I had a rubber duck entourage that rivalled some of my friends’ doll collections. I also still have my first two duck books: The Little Duck by Judy Dunn, and Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. This early onset love of waterfowl turned into a healthy love and appreciation for the wetlands in and near my house, or mostly the wetlands I would read about (it’s hard to get around and explore too much when you’re 7).

I started taking birding seriously in my early 20s after watching a Carolina Wren build a nest on my parents’ front porch in southern Ontario, Canada. I continued to bird a lot in this area and found a very colourful and bright group of individuals for whom I spent many Saturday mornings. I once saw 100 bird species in 1 day in May in the early 2000s. I birded from dawn to dusk, with one of my best friends Janice, and saw 100 species in what is called the Point Pelee Birding Area in extreme southwestern Ontario. If you’re familiar with birding and with this area, you’ll know that seeing 100 species of birds in one day in May is actually not that out of reach. The Point Pelee area’s habitat diversity and the park proper’s prominence as a sand spit in Lake Erie place this area in what you could call the fall and spring bird migrations’ Path of Totality. In short: it’s birdy AF over there.

Let’s come back to the fall of 2017. I decided then that I would embark on a far tamer version of an ABA Big Year. I am going to do a 2018 Oregon Big Year. In 2018, I will travel statewide, on several evenings and weekends, to explore the various habitats of Oregon and to specifically seek out as many bird species as I can. Depending on the source, there are an estimated 470 bird species that can be seen in Oregon in a given year. This does not include the odd vagrant that will end up in Oregon. Considering this, I’m going to aim for 300 species in 2018. This is still a bit ambitious, especially since I do have a full-time job, but I am going to give it a serious “go,” and as you’ve likely deduced by this point, I’m going to write about it.

I hope you’ll stick around.

Linda (Wood Thrush)

* The ABA defines the ABA birding area as including “the 49 continental United States, Hawaii, Canada, the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, and adjacent waters to a distance of 200 miles from land or half the distance to a neighboring country, whichever is less. Bermuda, and Greenland are not included.”  Source: http://listing.aba.org/descriptions/