January 1, 2019

Birding Ctrl+Alt+Delete!

My first bird of 2019 was a Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) followed soon after by my front-yard 9-to-5 suet-cake monitor, this female Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Audubon).

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon), making sure nobirdy is misbehaving in the front-yard magnolia tree; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

I’m a little relieved that my 2018 Oregon Big Year has come to a close. Chasing birds, seeing a handful of lifers, exploring Oregon, and meeting new friends were wonderful, but the disappointment that came with missing chased birds, not being able to chase birds because of other commitments, and things like my failed 8-hour pelagic tour weighed on me too much sometimes.

Onward, and enter two new birding challenges that I think will be a little easier on my well-being:

  1. Participating in the 5MR challenge!
  2. Seeing my truly sought-after, missed Oregon 2019 birds (e.g., both rosy-finches)
My 5MR in Salem, Oregon!
Map data 2019 Google.
Radius generated using https://www.mapdevelopers.com/draw-circle-tool.php

Let’s start with the 5-mile-radius challenge (the 5MR challenge). This isn’t an incredibly new idea, but Jen at http://www.iusedtohatebirds.com/ has given this idea some fresh light and has rallied a handful of birders from across the country (and beyond) to participate, including me.

This challenge for me has three categories:

  1. See as many bird species as I can within 5 miles of my house.
  2. Bird places in my 5MR that I may have overlooked in the past, and discover new potential birding eBird hotspots.
  3. See the highest % of bird species relative to the number of birds seen in your county.

The bonus (and possible hindrance in terms of category #1) for me is that we’ll be moving this year, so I’ll be switching from one radius to another at some point. But I do know that my second 5MR will include the Columbia River, both the OR and WA sides!

Starting with my 5MR here in Salem, OR, we birded all day on January 1, starting with the feeder birds in our yard. Species total: 13.

After, I headed over to Mirror Pond just north of the Salem Courthouse in downtown Salem, because an American Dipper was seen there a few weeks ago. I dipped on the dipper, but if I get an American Dipper in my 5MR, I’ll be truly ecstatic. Species total: 13.

Mirrow Pond; Salem, Oregon; Imagery 2019 Google, Map data 2019 Google.
Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Common Merganser and a pair of Hooded Mergansers; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Common Merganser and a pair of Hooded Mergansers; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Common Merganser; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Downy Woodpecker; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Red-tailed Hawk; Mirror Pond; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Our next stop was the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve in West Salem. The reserve is a 7-acre woodlot in the middle of a residential area. The Salem Audubon Society (with help from the Rotary Club of Salem) has done incredible work here, including building a pond, putting up feeders, and working on controlling invasive plans species (e.g., English ivy, Himalayan blackberry). Volunteers work every Wednesday at the Reserve to improve it. Our highlight was the Western Bluebirds. They were high up in the Oregon white oaks, feeding on the mistletoe berries. Species total: 8.

Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; West Salem, Oregon; Imagery 2019 Google, Map data 2019 Google.
Western Bluebird; Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Western Bluebird; Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Western Bluebirds; Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
Salem Audubon Nature Reserve; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Following this, we headed over to Straub Nature Park in West Salem, where the highlights were Townsend Warblers and a Varied Thrush. Overall, it was a quiet and expedited trip. Species total: 6.

From here, we went to the Fairview Wetlands near the Salem Airport. This wetland complex was created in the 1990s to mitigate impacts to natural areas in this same area from the development of an industrial commercial business park. Species total: 19.

Fairview Wetlands; West Salem, Oregon; Imagery 2019 Google, Map data 2019 Google.
FYI: this complex is much more impressive than what this imagery shows.
Scoping Wilson Snipes; Fairview Wetlands; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt.
American Kestrel; Fairview Wetlands; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt
Fairview Wetlands; Salem, Oregon; January 1, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

As you can see from the above picture, the sun was setting, but I knew we could get two more species—Gadwalls and Pied-billed Grebes—at a pond in Minto-Brown. And we did, just in the nick of time before the sun completely set. Species total: 7.

EOD Species Total: 43

January 7, 2018

I do not get Varied Thrushes in my yard yet (insert High Fidelity reference here), and because my friends Jim and Diana do get Varied Thrushes in their West Salem yard right now (along with Townsend’s Warblers, etc.), I started my Sunday birding day at their house to check out their feathered visitors. Jim also made pancakes with real maple syrup, so one could say the morning and day in general were being set up in a damn fine fashion. I had already had coffee at home, obviously.

Jim and Diana’s January 7, 2018 morning Top 5 yard list (yes, another High Fidelity ref):

Anna’s Hummingbird*
Downy Woodpecker*
Northern Flicker (red-shafted)
Townsend’s Warbler*
Varied Thrush*

Townsends

Townsend’s Warbler; January 7, 2018; West Salem, Oregon; photograph by Linda Burfitt

 

VariedThrush

Varied Thrush; January 7, 2018; West Salem, Oregon; photograph by Linda Burfitt

 

After not too many pancakes and a few new 2018 bird species, Diana and I headed over to the conservation area just past Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge in downtown Salem to hunt down a Harris Sparrow that I caught wind of on Saturday¥. Although we did not find the Harris Sparrow, we did find the following highlights in or near the river, ponded areas, and adjacent, drier areas.

California Quail*
California Scrub-Jay
Common Merganser
Fox Sparrow*
Great Blue Heron
Mourning Dove*
Northern Shoveler
Pied-Billed Grebe*
Ring-Necked Duck
Song Sparrow

CalQuail

California Quail; Minto Conservation Area January 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt. Apologies for the branch in front of him. This was taken with full 50X optical zoom.

 

That afternoon, after a quick trip home for lunch and to check out my feeders (the usual fare of visitors were there, plus a Downy Woodpecker), Clint and I headed over to the quarry ponds just northwest of Minto-Brown Island Park. My goal was to find the RedThroated Loon I found on December 30 (but was, of course, not countable for my 2018 big year). This individual was still there, albeit in the one of the larger ponds this time. Highlights from my quarry pond trip (in or near the ponds):

American Coot
American Wigeon
Bald Eagle
Belted Kingfisher
Bufflehead
Common Merganser
Double-Crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Green-Winged Teal
Hooded Merganser
Mallard
Red-Throated Loon*
Song Sparrow
White-Crowned Sparrow*

loon2

Red-Throated Loon; Quarry Pond NW of Minto-Brown Island Park; a January 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

 

loon3

Red-Throated Loon; Quarry Pond NW of Minto-Brown Island Park; a January 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

 

Loon1

Red-Throated Loon; Quarry Pond NW of Minto-Brown Island Park; a January 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

 

En-route in between places: Rock Pigeon* and Ring-Billed Gull*

¥ I attended the TEDx Salem event on Saturday and Noah Strycker was one of the speakers. I actually had no idea who the list of speakers was before I went, so this was a pretty awesome surprise for me. Noah did a world Big Year in 2015 and saw more than 6,000 bird species of birds. They had his book, Birding Without Borders, and he was kind enough to sign it and chat with me for a good 20 minutes or so about birding, his talk, and the Harris Sparrow he spotted earlier in that conservation area.

*New Birds for 2018: 12 species
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 55 species