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

 

June 15, 2018

When you are about to start your weekend with a very deserving happy hour, but you find out a Common Loon has been spotted at the “local” sewage ponds, you trade beers for birds and you hit the road.

I have not seen a Common Loon since I lived in Ontario, Canada, so I was pretty excited to see this old friend. Common Loons are not typically this far south right now, so this was a rare chance for me to see one and add it to my 2018 Oregon list.

Common Loons are gorgeous. I was counting on the bird to be easy to find considering the ponds are pretty empty (bird life) at this time of the year. The eBird posts also mentioned that the loon was in the south pond.

Much like my Pacific Golden-Plover luck, I saw the loon almost immediately. We should have brought some beer with us, though I’m sure the City of Philomath frowns upon people partying at their sewage ponds.

And … the Common Loon is BIRD #200!!

One species, bird #200. This is how it’s going to be for the rest of the year. One new bird here, two new bird there. Any pelagic tours I take will yield a small handful, but this big year has formally shifted to deliberation and strategy.

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Common Loon; Philomath Sewage Ponds; June 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Common Loon; Philomath Sewage Ponds; June 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Philomath Sewage Ponds; June 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

June 8–10, 2018 (1 of 2)

This past weekend’s trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harvey County, Oregon, was nothing short of windy and cold, but it was rich in bird species. Having spent the week prior out in Salt Lake where it was 90 degrees every day, we had not anticipated (nor had we packed for) cold temperatures.

I am 1 species away from 200. I still have a ways to go, but 200 seems like a bit of a milestone. I’m hell bent on getting one more species tomorrow to reach 200. Seriously.

Here’s a recap of this past weekend. All species in bold are new 2018 Oregon bird species.

June 8, 2018; Crystal Crane Hot Springs; Crane, Oregon

Common Nighthawk (zipping around “peenting” as we got out of the car)
Willet (hanging on the shore of the north pond and calling to another Willet)

CMNH

Common Nighthawks; Crystal Crane Hot Springs; Crane, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

BRBB

Brewer’s Blackbird (female); Crystal Crane Hot Springs; Crane, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

WL_2

Willet; Crystal Crane Hot Springs; Crane, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

YHBB

Yellow-headed Blackbird; Crystal Crane Hot Springs; Crane, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

June 9, 2018; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Black Tern
Forester’s Tern
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
White-faced Ibis (so many!)
Trumpeter Swan (flew in right before we left; ting!)
Burrowing Owl

WFIB

White-faced Ibis (sadly my “best” shot even though they were E V E R Y W H E R E); Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; Harvey County, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

BLOR

Bullock’s Oriole; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; Harney County, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

TRSW

Tree Swallow; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; Harney County, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

BLTN

Black Tern; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; Harney County, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

TRSWAN

Trumpeter Swan; Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; Harney County, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

MAL

Near Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; Harney County, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

BUOW_1

Burrowing Owl; Near Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; Harney County, Oregon; June 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

–> GO TO PART TWO !

January 4–5, 2018

I saw a Ruddy Duck today!

I wasn’t even going to venture out today, because I wanted to give my “new” eyes some rest, and because it was pouring rain this morning. I was going to chalk it up as another feeder-yard day and leave it at that.

But, the sun came out, so I hastily grabbed all of my birding paraphernalia and set off to Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is approx. 2,800 acres and comprises cropland; wooded swamps; large, ephemeral wetlands; and various forms of edge habitat in between. The refuge was established in 1965 to provide optimal wintering habitat for the “dusky” Canada goose, which is a subspecies of the Canada Goose that nests only in the Willamette Valley.

I focused my birding today in the wetland areas. My list is as follows, followed by some photographs.

American Coot*
American Crow
American Wigeon*
Belted Kingfisher*
Bewick’s Wren*
Black-capped Chickadee
Canada Goose
Great Blue Heron
Green-winged Teal*
Mallard
Northern Flicker*
Northern Pintail*
Northern Shoveler*
Ring-Necked Duck
Ruddy Duck*
Tundra Swan*

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Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge; January 5, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Bufflehead (male) and the backside of an American Wigeon (male); Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge: January 5, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Mallard and American Wigeon; Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge; January 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Tundra Swans (and a coot); Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge; January 5, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

And, my feeder list from today and yesterday:

American Goldfinch
Bewick’s Wren*
Brown Creeper*
Dark-eyed Junco
Lesser Goldfinch*
Red-Breasted Nuthatch*
Song Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Western Scrub-Jay

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Dark-Eyed Junco; Salem, Oregon; January 5, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Lesser Goldfinches; Salem, Oregon; January 5, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

And on that note, I need to stop staring at this screen and rest my eyes for the rest of the evening. Tally below.

*New Birds for 2018: 14 species
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 41 species

 

 

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/