April 29, 2019

Salem, Oregon, and I’m sure other parts of the Pacific Northwest, is abundant in Bushtits. These little nuggets of pure joy are currently out and about, building their nests, amending the insides, feeding, and calling. No matter where I go in Salem these past few weeks, I hear and see Bushtits (they are calling right now outside my window).

During nest construction, Bushtit males and females gather plant materials (e.g., moss) and other fine items (e.g., spider webs) to make a sock-like nest with an opening near the top. This sock is attached firmly to a tree or large shrub. Post-construction, they continue to amend the inside of the nest, preparing the inside for egg-laying perfection.

While birding the Capitol property last week, I found three Bushtit nests and confirmed that two were active. On April 29, I visited one of the active nests in a cedar tree (Cedrus sp.) to see if I could get some shots of one of the adult Bushtits arrive or leaving nest. I set up my camera and tripod, pointed up at the nest and focused, sat down, and waited and watched from a distance as they came and went from their nest. With an incredible amount of patience, and a lot of crappy, blurry shots, I managed to catch a few decent shots of an adult female leaving nest (adult females have white eyes).

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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.

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

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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?

AND THERE HE WAS!

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

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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 15, 2018

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, Salem, Oregon

Under the influence of the real Sudafed (me, not Clint), we headed to bird Ankeny’s Pintail Marsh. I didn’t last too long because of my cold, but it was nice to get out.

After we put away the scope and were ready to head out, a bright lime-green bird flew in. We busted out the scope anew, and found a poor budgie perched on a log in the marsh. I’m not sure how long this little guys will last out there.

We saw lots of Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, and Pied-billed Grebes. Full list here: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48529561

Photos are not great. My camera performs very poorly in low light.

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Female Pintail; September 15, 2018; Pintail Marsh; Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Budgie (parakeet) and Brewer’s Blackbird; September 15, 2018; Pintail Marsh; Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

No new species.

 

 

September 3, 2018

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters
(where rarities show up but only a day or two after I leave)

Before we headed back to Salem, we stopped at Headquarters to bird the pond, feeders, and general premises.

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Great Horned Owl; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Mountain Cottontail (I think?); Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Turkey Vultures; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Turkey Vultures; killin’ them parasites or just enjoying the sun?; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Great Horned Owl; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Townsend’s Solitaire; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Common Nighthawk; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Rufous Hummingbird; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Lewis’s Woodpecker; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Last Quarter; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge –  Headquarters; Harney County, Oregon; September 3, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

 

No new species.

July 16, 2018

I heard there were Peregrine Falcons nesting under the Marion Street Bridge in Salem.  I heard this earlier this year, I think. This did not stop me from insisting, yesterday, that we stop just south of Cannon Beach  at Cape Meares to see the Peregrine Falcons that nest on the cliffs there. I still had not seen this species, and it was troubling me. We did not make it to Cape Meares for reasons I will not discuss here.

The next day, I remembered hearing that there were Peregrine Falcons nesting under the Marion Street Bridge in Salem. This is less than 2 miles from my house. I went over and saw one of the falcons almost immediately, under the bridge. I easily could have gotten this species months ago.

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Marion Street Bridge; Salem, Oregon; July 16, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Peregrine Falcon; Marion Street Bridge; Salem, Oregon; July 16, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

New Birds for 2018: 1
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 205

July 15, 2018 (with a bonus track)

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon, July 15, 2018

The Tufted Puffin is a seabird that nests on sea cliffs and sea rocks along the Pacific Coast at varying densities from northern California up to near-northern Alaska. It also nests along the coast of northern Asia. They are the largest puffin species! One reliable and accessible breeding spot in Oregon is Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. When visiting Haystack Rock in late-June and early July, the adults make roundtrips between the ocean and their nests to feed their chick. Seeing them in flight is best because they typically disappear into their burrows once making contact with the ground. Low tide is also best, and so is early morning before the summer crowds arrive (for many good reasons, Cannon Beach is a very popular beach town spot on the Oregon Coast; arrive after noon and you will not find parking in this town).

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Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon; July 15, 2018; photograph by Clint Burfitt.

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Woodthrush (me) at Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon; July 15, 2018; photograph by Clint Burfitt.

Although most visitors to Cannon Beach are not interested in the puffins, and many are not even aware of them (I enthusiastically told the bartender at the local pub that I had “just seen the puffins,” and I’m pretty sure he had no idea what I was talking about), the town itself does give a lot of foxes about their puffins. The City of Cannon Beach Haystack Awareness Program, which through things like stewardship and education, promotes the preservation of Haystack Rock and the fauna that depend on it. Also, because Haystack Rock is a designated Marine Garden and National Wildlife Refuge, protections are in place to prevent people from messin’ about in ways that might negatively affect the flora and fauna on the rock (no climbing, collecting, or harassing).

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Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon; July 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Tufted Puffin; Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon; July 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt. Photo take with my IPhone through my scope.

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Brown Pelicans; Cannon Beach, Oregon; July 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Pigeon Guillemots; Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon; July 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

The Tufted Puffin broke me out of my stuck-at-200-species rut. I also saw three additional new species at Haystack Rock that day: Pigeon Guillemots, Brown Pelicans, and Heermann’s Gull. After a month of beings stuck at 200, I was back in the game.

New Birds for 2018: 4
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 204!

It also didn’t help that I was out of Oregon for almost half of July in the Canadian Maritimes. Cue the Atlantic Puffin! Yes, I saw TWO puffin species in July! That’s 50% of the world’s puffin species (my Dad informed me of this!).

BONUS TRACK: Bird Islands IBA; Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada; July 2, 2018

We flew out to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in late June, for a 1.5-week Maritimes trip with my family from Ontario, Canada. I think I heard White-throated Sparrows at every place we stopped in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI. “Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada.” I also reacquainted myself with my eastern warbler pals, e.g., the Northern Parula and American Restart. The highlight was the puffins, though. I managed to convince a few of my family members to accompany me on a pelagic trip out to Bird Islands, off the coast of Cape Breton, to see the Atlantic Puffins. This was my first pelagic trip, and it was wonderful. There are a few companies that offer these short pelagic trips to see the puffins, and I’m sure they are all awesome. We chose Donelda’s Puffin Tour, and I highly recommend it. Also, contrary to the Tufted Puffin, the Atlantic Puffin is the smallest puffin species!

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One of the islands in the Bird Islands IBA; Nova Scotia; July 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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A seabird party comprising Razorbills, Atlantic Puffins, and Black Guillemots; Bird Islands IBA; Nova Scotia; July 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Atlantic Puffins; Bird Islands IBA; Nova Scotia; July 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Razorbills; Bird Islands; Nova Scotia; July 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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My Dad and Clint birding in the Bird Islands IBA; Nova Scotia; July 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Bird Islands IBA; Nova Scotia; July 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

 

 

 

 

May 22, 2018

Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge

May 22, 2018: Post-work and post-gym, I set off in a sweaty, hot mess to Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge to find a Pacific Golden-Plover that was reported on eBird the day before. I pulled up to what local birders call “the narrows,” parked, got out of my car with my bins, and looked up at a random spot in Cackler Marsh right at the Pacific Golden-Plover (#184). Beyond this luck, the weather was beautiful and cool and was the perfect respite after warming up considerably from earlier activities. The sun was also near setting, and it was incredibly quiet except for the calls of the birds, specifically the flying Black-Necked Stilts. I also saw a second new bird—Wilson’s Phalarope (#185). The water was too low, so there was no spinning involved.

I keep thinking back to this evening and this particulate spot. I always enjoyed Baskett Slough, but there was something incredibly comforting and clarifying about being there that evening. This may sound hyperbolic, but there was no other place I should have been at that moment. I’m not sure I can replicate that evening, and I think I’m ok with that.

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Pacific Golden-Plover (female in breeding plumage); Baskett Slough National Wildlife Area; May 22, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Wilson’s Phalarope; Baskett Slough National Wildlife Area; May 22, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Black-necked Stilt; Baskett Slough National Wildlife Area; May 22, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

New Birds for 2018: 2
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 185

 

 

May 18–20, 2018

May 18–20, 2018: Where Linda visits the La Grande, Oregon, area for the Ladd Marsh Birding Festival, and determines that eastern Oregon does have many virtues (Ok, I knew that but had yet to experience that). Even the town of La Grande is a fine place to spend a few hours and grab dinner. There’s a birding store called The Bobolink, which we did not stop at because we were literally on a mission to find … Bobolinks.

The play-by-play of what was a fabulous weekend:

On Friday, May 18, we drove from Salem to La Grande just in time to grab a bite at Side A Brewing in La Grande, check into our Grande Hot Springs yurt, and go and find two new 2018 Oregon birds: Bobolinks and a Eastern Kingbird. I also happened to notice that our hot springs were surrounded by a glorious marsh, which turned out to be THE Ladd Marsh. A fine start to the trip. The love was just beginning.

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Dobbs Lane, southeast of La Grande, Oregon; May 18, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Bobolink; Dobbs Lane, southeast of La Grande, Oregon; May 18, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Dobbs Lane, southeast of La Grande, Oregon; May 18, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Savannah Sparrow, loving the camera once again; Dobbs Lane, southeast of La Grande; May 18, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Waxing Crescent; Grande Hot Springs; May 18, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

On Saturday, May 19, we had not signed up for a tour so we birded on our own in the area. Our first stop was to the area around the La Grande airstrip to find Short-Eared Owls (reported the day before on eBird), with much success. We then checked into one of the birding “stops” the festival had set up and met and chatted with a handful of other enthusiastic birders. Everyone was so excited about the birds. The contagious and animated energy we all exchanged I’m sure made us look like looked like a bunch of twittering bushtits. We got some great tips and continued on our way and ended the day with an additional three 2018 birds: Vesper Sparrow, Ring-Necked Pheasant, and Horned Lark.

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Short-eared Owl (a little creepy looking IMO); Airport Lane; La Grande, Oregon; May 19, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Bullock’s Oriole; Grande Hot Springs; La Grande, Oregon; May 19, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Thief Valley Road; southeast of La Grande, Oregon; May 19, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Thief Valley Road; southeast of La Grande, Oregon; May 19, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Northern Flicker; Grande Hot Springs; La Grande, Oregon; May 19, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

On Sunday, May 20, we birded with a formal festival tour in and around Ladd Marsh and up Rhinehart Canyon just north of La Grande. Birding and the fact that I’m getting older are lending themselves to early mornings, which I admittedly love. Getting up early to go birding while I was in my 20s was painful, but I did it frequently. Waking up at 6 or even 5:30 AM now doesn’t really phase me, so this morning’s alarm of 4 AM wasn’t awful. In fact, once we arrived to our meeting spot, a number of cars were leaving, having just birded pretty much in the middle of the night, listening to secretive marsh birds. Apparently we got to sleep in.

This day kicked off with new birds around every corner, with the great great help of our tour guide Trent Bray, who also happens to be the owner of The Bobolink biding store in La Grande. New 2018 Oregon birds this day comprised 10 species: Snow Goose, Gray Partridge, Ruffed Grouse, American Bittern, Wilson’s Snipe, Calliope Hummingbird, Canyon Wren, Veery, Gray Catbird, and MacGillivray’s Warbler.

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Morning birding along Wilkinson Lane; Hot Lake, Oregon; May 20, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Snow Geese; Wilkinson Lane; Hot Lake, Oregon; May 20, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Grande Ronde River; Rhinehart Canyon; Elgin, Oregon; May 20, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Car-now-pedestrian bridge over Grande Ronde River; Rhinehart Canyon; Elgin, Oregon; May 20, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Rhinehart Canyon; Elgin, Oregon; May 20, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Eastern Kingbird; Rhinehart Canyon; Elgin, Oregon; May 20, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Western Wood-Pewee; Rhinehart Canyon; Elgin, Oregon; May 20, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Rhinehart Canyon; Elgin, Oregon; May 20, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

New Birds for 2018: 16
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 183