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

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.