Myriad Updates (Pt 1 of ?)

With the train wreck of events that are and have been taking place these past several months, I have not been impelled to write or post. So, what brings me back?

I’m a volunteer editor for the Oregon Birding Association, and our fall journal was just published! I include a URL to my blog in my “Letter from the Editor”, so I may have visitors. What do you do when you visit somebody’s blog and they have not updated it in several months? You probably never visit again. So … I wanted to light a small fire under my blog because my blog is about birding and I am still always birding. It’s not like I don’t have content and photos to share. I could probably post daily.

Let’s start with some recent photos. I’m in Ontario, Canada, now visiting my family, so here are some of the highlights from this trip so far : ) Note that this post is a bit “drafty” because I don’t have strong enough WiFi here to slave over this.

Bay-breasted Warbler; Ojibway Park; Windsor, Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Bay-breasted Warbler; Ojibway Park; Windsor, Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Blue-headed Vireo; Ojibway Park; Windsor, Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Blackpoll Warblers (I believe); Point Pelee National Park; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Blackpoll Warbler (I believe); Point Pelee National Park; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Blue Jays; Point Pelee National Park; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Cedar Waxwing; Hillman Marsh Conservation Area; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Black Oak savannah; Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve; Windsor, Ontario; October 2020.
Cooper’s Hawk; my parents’ backyard; Windsor, Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Eastern Phoebe; Hillman Marsh Conservation Area; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
European Starlings; Hillman Marsh Conservation Area; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
European Starlings; Hillman Marsh Conservation Area; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Hermit Thrush; Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve; Windsor, Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Monarch butterfly; Point Pelee National Park; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Monarch butterfly; Point Pelee National Park; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Painted turtle; Point Pelee National Park; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Point Pelee National Park (from new tower); view facing south; October 2020.
Point Pelee National Park; the tip; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Semipalmated Sandpipers; Point Pelee National Park; the tip; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Semipalmated Sandpipers; Point Pelee National Park; the tip; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Song Sparrow; Point Pelee National Park; the tip; Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
Tufted Titmouse; Ojibway Park; Windsor, Ontario, Canada; October 2020.
White-throated Sparrow; Ojibway Park; Windsor, Ontario, Canada; October 2020.

Quarantine Yard List Tally

In light of recent events keeping us at or close to home, starting on March 24, 2020, I started a quarantine yard list as part of a challenge kicked off by 5MR Jen. Even though no cloud of any sort has truly lifted (e.g., we are still staying close to home), that yard challenge ended yesterday, April 30, 2020.

I ended with 62 species of birds on my quarantine yard list and a total ongoing yard count of 80 species. I even managed to summon a Western Tanager yesterday morning, species #80 for my yard and my final species for this yard challenge! I found it in the lower part of the canopy in one of our Doug-fir trees.

This was a rewarding time of the year to participate in this challenge because bird species are coming and going. During this window of time, I said goodbye to the Dark-eyed Juncos and Varied Thrushes and hello to the Black-headed Grosbeaks, Ospreys, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

What follows are some yard bird photos from this final week. My quarantine yard list is at the end of this blog post. The ongoing yard list continues though! And May 9 is the eBird Global Big Day!

Chipping Sparrow. Camas, WA. April 2020.
I couldn’t help but shoot a video of this individual: https://youtu.be/zV_xhGGjVFw
Anna’s Hummingbird. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Rufous Hummingbird. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Black-headed Grosbeak. Camas, WA. April 2020.
American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins. Camas, WA. April 2020.
American Goldfinches dominated my yard on the last day.
https://youtu.be/3dix7ykXzBo
Red-breasted Sapsucker. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Spotted Sandpiper. Lacamas Creek. Camas, WA. April 2020. Note: this photo was taken off of our property but looking up toward our property. I have seen (and heard) this species from our yard a handful of times these past couple of weeks, but I was able to get a much better photo from down below.
And how could I not shoot a video: https://youtu.be/08bZC_6fsVU

Quarantine Yard List March 24–April 30, 2020

#Species Name (taxonomic order)
1Canada Goose – Branta canadensis
2Wood Duck – Aix sponsa
3Hooded Merganser – Lophodytes cucullatus
4Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos
5Common Merganser – Mergus merganser
6Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
7Vaux’s Swift – Chaetura vauxi
8Anna’s Hummingbird – Calypte anna
9Rufous Hummingbird – Selasphorus rufus
10Spotted Sandpiper – Actitis macularius
11Greater Yellowlegs – Tringa melanoleuca
12Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
13Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
14Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
15Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
16Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
17Great Horned Owl – Bubo virginianus
18Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
19Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
20Red-breasted Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus ruber
21Downy Woodpecker – Dryobates pubescens
22Hairy Woodpecker – Dryobates villosus
23Northern Flicker – Colaptes auratus
24Steller’s Jay – Cyanocitta stelleri
25California Scrub-Jay – Aphelocoma californica
26American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
27Black-capped Chickadee – Poecile atricapillus
28Chestnut-backed Chickadee – Poecile rufescens
29Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
30Violet-green Swallow – Tachycineta thalassina
31Bushtit – Psaltriparus minimus
32Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
33Red-breasted Nuthatch – Sitta canadensis
34White-breasted Nuthatch – Sitta carolinensis
35Brown Creeper – Certhia americana
36Pacific Wren – Troglodytes pacificus
37Bewick’s Wren – Thryomanes bewickii
38European Starling – Sturnus vulgaris
39Varied Thrush – Ixoreus naevius
40American Robin – Turdus migratorius
41House Sparrow – Passer domesticus
42House Finch – Haemorhous mexicanus
43Purple Finch – Haemorhous purpureus
44Pine Siskin – Spinus pinus
45Lesser Goldfinch – Spinus psaltria
46American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis
47Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
48Fox Sparrow – Passerella iliaca
49Dark-eyed Junco – Junco hyemalis
50White-crowned Sparrow – Zonotrichia leucophrys
51Golden-crowned Sparrow – Zonotrichia atricapilla
52Song Sparrow – Melospiza melodia
53Lincoln’s Sparrow – Melospiza lincolnii
54Spotted Towhee – Pipilo maculatus
55Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
56Brown-headed Cowbird – Molothrus ater
57Orange-crowned Warbler – Leiothlypis celata
58Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
59Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
60Townsend’s Warbler – Setophaga townsendi
61Western Tanager – Piranga ludoviciana
62Black-headed Grosbeak – Pheucticus melanocephalus

The Endless Big Sit

Our yard continues to yield new “quarantine” bird species almost every day. A few of these have been new yard species, too. We have been at this location for almost 1 year.

Yesterday on the way back from my daily morning coffee walk around my neighborhood, I saw a Chipping Sparrow in our next-door neighbour’s flowering dogwood tree. I slowly walked past the tree and onto our driveway. Chipper was still in the tree! Bam! Yard bird #78! Sadly I have no photograph of Chipper because I don’t bring such luxuries as a camera on my morning coffee walk. I’m fresh out of bed and usually in my PJs.

Last weekend, a new and quite surprising yard bird, a Greater Yellowlegs, flew along Lacamas Creek and wadded around long enough for me to get a few terrible photos from my office window.

Other highlights from this past week included my yard’s second Lincoln’s Sparrow and yard’s first Brown-headed Cowbird.

As of yesterday, my total yard count is at 79 species and my quarantine list is at 58 species.

Here is a photo blog update of some of the birdy highlights, new and old, from our yard over the past week and a half.

White-crowned Sparrow. I believe this is the Gambel’s subspecies because of its pale lore. If this is correct, I suspect most of the WCSPs in my yard right now are Gambel’s. Camas, WA. April 2020.
My second yard Lincoln’s Sparrow. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s), probably a female. New yard bird #74. I’ve had little flocks of 12 to 30 pass through our yard this past week. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s), probably a female. I’ve had little flocks of 12 to 30 pass through our yard this past week. New yard bird #74. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Greater Yellowlegs, taken from my office window. New yard bird #78. Lacamas Creek. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Greater Yellowlegs, taken from my office window. New yard bird #78. Lacamas Creek. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Steller’s Jay, after sending a pile of American Goldfinches off into the trees. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Fox Sparrow. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Fox Sparrow. Camas, WA. April 2020.
Brown-headed Cowbird. New yard bird #77. Camas, WA. April 2020.
The yard! Camas, WA. April 2020.

Birding in Place

Quarantined birding for me isn’t much different from non-quarantined birding. We live on a bluff overlooking a creek, river, and ash-dominated floodplain, and I’ve worked from home full-time, in this location, for nearly 1 year. It’s backyard birding as usual except that now it’s spring, so the migrants are passing through (north [or up]) and the residents are setting up territories and building nests.

My office view of my backyard; April 14, 2020; Camas, WA.

On March 24, 5MR Jen kicked off a yard challenge. This generally means counting birds you see or hear in or from your yard. Because I work from home, this feels like one very long birding point count, but with long, nighttime breaks for sleep and many breaks during the day for cheese and crackers (many).

I’ve been participating in this yard challenge since March 24. My office window faces our backyard and my feeders. During the day, I catch what I can while I’m working. After work, I sit outside and catch the late afternoon/evening bird activity.

As of today, April 14, my yard challenge list since March 24 is 47 species.

Here’s a selection of yard birds that I was able to capture with my pretty basic camera. Check out my YouTube channel for videos of a Varied Thrush and a Fox Sparrow.

White-breasted Nuthatch; Camas, WA; April 2020
Golden-crowned Sparrow; Camas, WA; April 2020
California Scrub-Jay; Camas, WA; April 2020
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon); Camas, WA; April 2020
Golden-crowned Sparrow; Camas, WA; April 2020
Northern Flicker; Camas, WA; April 2020
Downy Woodecker; Camas, WA; April 2020
Spotted Towhee; Camas, WA; April 2020
Black-capped Chickadee; Camas, WA; April 2020
House Finch; Camas, WA; April 2020
Bald Eagle; Camas, WA; April 2020
Canada Goose; Camas, WA; April 2020
Song Sparrow; Camas, WA; April 2020
Chestnut-backed Chickadee; Camas, WA; April 2020
Bald Eagles; Camas, WA; April 2020
Black-capped Chickadee; Camas, WA; April 2020
White-crowned Sparrow; Camas, WA; April 2020
Downy Woodpecker; Camas, WA; April 2020

Fort Myers, Florida, 2020

Last month, I put on my snowbird training wheels for the second time and flew to Fort Myers, Florida, to visit my snowbird parents and to, of course, bird. This year’s trip doesn’t necessarily top last year’s trip because last year’s trip resulted in a waterfall of lifers. This year’s trip did involve the following:

  • Visiting some of my favourite birding spots
  • Visiting some new birding spots
  • Complaining about the humidity
  • Enjoying the ubiquitous serenade of the Northern Mockingbird
  • Joining the Caloosa Bird Club on a visit to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
  • Joining the local Audubon chapter on a visit to Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve
  • Seeing five lifers: Limpkin, Mottled Duck, Magnificent Frigatebird, Monk Parakeet, and Crested Caracara
  • Spending time with my incredible family, including my nephew

What follows are out-of-order photos of my trip, followed by a link to some birding videos.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Florida, February 2020.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Florida, February 2020.
Caloosahatchee River, North Fort Myers, Florida, February 2020.
Boat-tailed Grackle, Cape Coral, Florida, February 2020.
Full Moon, February 9, 2020. North Fort Myers, Florida.
Green Heron, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, February 2020.
Yellow-throated Warbler, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, February 2020.
Reddish Egret, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, February 2020.
Snowy Egret (background) and a White Ibis (foreground), Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, February 2020.
Spotted Sandpiper, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, February 2020.
Little Blue Heron, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, February 2020.
Prairie Warbler, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, February 2020.
Anhinga, Lake County Park, Florida, February 2020.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Lakes Park, Florida, February 2020.
Limpkin, Harns Marsh, Florida, February 2020.
White Ibis, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Florida, February 2020.
Laughing Gull, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Florida, February 2020.
Little Blue Heron, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Florida, February 2020.
Willet, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Florida, February 2020.
Laughing Gull, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Florida, February 2020.
Magnificent Frigatebird, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Florida, February 2020.
Ruddy Turnstones, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Florida, February 2020.
Yellow-crowed Night-heron, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, February 2020.
Blue-winged Teals and American Coots, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, February 2020.
North Fort Myers overlooking the Callosahatchie River, Florida, February 2020.
Kayaking at Marsh Point, North Fort Myers, Florida, February 2020.
Kayaking in the mangroves at Marsh Point, North Fort Myers, Florida, February 2020.

For Florida 2020 birding videos, including one with the Reddish Egret’s serious dance moves, visit my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/lburfitt/videos?view_as=subscriber

Shorebird Confusion at the Coast

We no longer live 1 hour from the coast. It’s more like 2 hours now, so we have yet to make the trip since we moved north. In late January, we decided to head to Cannon Beach, the birthplace of our PNW love.

We started (birding of course) at Ecola State Park, which was a new stop for both of us. It was mostly be accident. When we entered the town of Cannon Beach, we turned right at some point, then drove down a very long road through an enchanting forest to Ecola State Park.

This park is breathtaking, and I’m happy that it’s the closest part of the coast to our house.

I need to visit the coast more often because my shorebird ID needs some work. Almost every time I see shorebirds, it’s like I’m starting over in bird ID. I guess that keeps things interesting, and I’m glad I have a decent camera that allows me to bring home bird ID homework.

Surfbirds that I originally thought were Black Turnstones.
But there were a few Black Turnstones! They just were not ALL BLTUs. Compare this individual’s bill colour to the Surfbird’s in the previous photograph. Eh? The Surfbird’s bill has orange at the base. This guy? All black.
Medley of both Black Turnstones and Surfbirds.
I believe these are mostly Surfbirds taking off because they lack the white stripe on their backs (that Black Turnstones have).
Some Surf Scoters getting testy with each other.
Black Oystercatchers looking ridiculous as always
I do love the Oregon Coast.
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.
Harlequin Ducks, always a pleasure.

You Down with PPP (Yea You Know Me)

Go ahead and roll your eyes at me. I’ll give you a few minutes. Don’t run out of eye rolls though, because once I define this marvelous abbreviation for you, you’ll be back at it again.

PPP = the Philomath Poo Ponds, aka the Philomath Sewage Ponds.

Note: Access to these ponds is restricted! You need to have a permit, which is available free of charge from the Philomath Public Works Department.

It’s been several months since I’ve birded the PPP because it’s now more than 2 hours away. But, enter the Willamette Valley Birding Symposium in Corvallis, plus a visit from my birding sister Lindsay, and I’m back down in arguably the best birding area in Oregon (IMHO). The symposium was on the Saturday, and we birded on Sunday. We planned on birding the PPP and Finley, but hitting both in 1 day is difficult when the sun sets at 4:30-ish and you’ve slept in and had a lazy morning birding your AirBNB property.

Views of the Coast Range from the Poo Ponds.
And sometimes, you get a rainbow over the sewage ponds. But … where are all of the birds?
There are six cells (ponds). We found the birds. This cell is boiling over in Northern Shovelers. We counted approximately 930 individual shovelers. No that’s not a typo.
A possible Eurasian x American Wigeon (hybrid)? https://ebird.org/checklist/S63844912
An Eared Grebe with a robust dust ruffle!
The cacophony that is the PPP seed pile. Check out my video here, if only just to hear the juncos and their crazy 80s video game-themed calls.
https://youtu.be/uTbaCbODsZI
This Lincoln Sparrow was a nice highlight at the seed pile.
A White-crowned Sparrow nestled in a small depression. I’m guessing he’s full of seed.
A Northern Harrier flying in for some afternoon preening. See video here:
https://youtu.be/pJ6j_TJBBcU
Alfred the Greater Sage-Grouse at the Willamette Valley Symposium with pals Lindsay and Linda.
The traditional post-symposium beers and burgers at Squirrels in Corvallis.

The Full Dipper Experience

I ventured out my front door today to find the American Dippers that are regulars, at least for now, above and below the Lower Falls in Lacamas Regional Park.

The streamflow in the creek today was fast, and as soon as I got to the bridge, I found one dipper, dipping and bobbing on a big mossy rock on the side of the creek. The water was rough today, but Dipper took to the air and masterfully dived into the creek and returned to the mossy rock seconds later with a tasty treat. I was close enough today to get a video capturing the full dipper experience (FDE)! It’s short and worth it! Check is out at the following link, especially if you’ve never seen the FDE: https://youtu.be/4VwPwQJws_g

American Dipper, Lacamas Creek, Lacamas Regional Park, January 19, 2020.
Incoming (snack in bill)!
Lacamas Creek, Lacamas Regional Park, January 19, 2020.
Main bridge, Lacamas Creek, Lacamas Regional Park, January 19, 2020.
Lacamas Creek, Lacamas Regional Park, January 19, 2020.

A Mid-Day Skirmish

January 8, 2020, and a new yard bird—#73—makes a dramatic appearance in the backyard.

#73 is a Sharp-shinned hawk.

#73 flew in quickly today, snatched a specimen belonging to #16 (Spotted Towhee), and settled down in the grass for a few minutes (very-still towhee in talons) before flying off. I noticed this skirmish after hearing a small but loud cry (poor towhee) then looked over to see the latter half of the scene.

Wild! I feel awful for the towhee. I bait towhees with delicious seed and inadvertently baited a sharpie with a delicious towhee. I have a lot of towhees, so I suppose I can spare a few? I still feel a bit awful. RIP towhee. I think you went quickly.

Sharpie spent maybe 2 minutes sitting here, and I quickly took a few shots through my office window. I was tempted to open the window, but sharpie would have certainly flown off.
I alternated between taking photographs and viewing this scene through my binoculars. It appears that the towhee went quickly. The time between the sharp, small cry of the towhee and a very-still towhee was less than 1 minute.
RIP towhee. Nice work sharpie. He then flew off with his chunky red-eyed lunch.

January 5, 2020

It’s a blog revival! Since you were last here, the blog has appropriately changed from Oregon Big Year to Sauntering Birder, and I have changed locations. I’m still in the Pacific Northwest, but we moved up to southwest Washington in June 2019. Moving is all consuming, and the months that followed were made up of many highs and and one real low. Nevertheless, the blog was unintentionally put to sleep for a bit.

I haven’t stopped birding of course, and I haven’t stopped taking photos. So, consider this a long photo-based catch up of the birds and birding locations I’ve enjoyed these past several months in my new backyard and 5-mile radius (5MR).

My office window,  January 2020. You can see my feeders at the bottom left, Lacamas Creek, and to the top right, the Washougal River. I do get work done, I promise.

My new 5MR is HOT. Let me tell you about it right now.

As you can see, our backyard overlooks some great habitat and is thus exceptionally birdy. This may have been a key factor in deciding on this exact location. Since we moved here in June, my yard list is at 72. On eBird my yard is called “Lacamas Creek-Washougal River Confluence Area (and backyard feeders)”.

My daily fall-winter yard visitor, the Golden-crowned Sparrow, January 2020.
My daily summer yard visitor, the Black-headed Grosbeak (female), July 2019.
My daily all-season visitor, the Spotted Towhee, fall 2019.

Beyond our backyard is a series of walking paths (some paved, some not) that make up the Washougal River Greenway Trail. I can see part of the unpaved trail from my yard. The unpaved trail winds through a floodplain comprising mainly Oregon Ash. The paved portion follows the Washougal River, crosses the river, and passes through and by a young riparian forest and some old quarry ponds.

Bridge on the Washougal River Greenway Trail, summer 2019.
Me and my Dad in November 2019 on the Washougal River Greenway Trail.
Quarry pond along the Washougal River Greenway Trail, fall 2019.
Queue the Twin Peaks theme song, it’s the Pacific Northwest classic, the Varied Thrush! In December 2019 and now in January 2020, there is one very reliable spot for this species along the Washougal trail.
My Mom in June 2019 on the Washougal River Greenway Trail.

Down the street and a 2-minute walk from our house is the trailhead to Lacamas Creek Park. The approximately 40-acre park is in a dense Douglas-fir forest (some old-growth) and has myriad unpaved trails and three waterfalls. The main trail follows Lacamas Creek, whose flow is controlled from a dam upstream at Round Lake. Round Lake is also part of the park and provides added habitat diversity and superb flatwater kayaking.

Lacamas Creek Park, November 2019.
Lacamas Creek Park, Woodburn Falls, and Clint, December 2019.
Lacamas Creek Park, January 2020.
Lacamas Creek, Lacamas Creek Park, January 2020.
Who is that over there?! It’s an American Dipper! I’ve seen these in December 2019 and again in January 2020. Lacamas Creek, January 2020.
The dipper flew in closer and had a partner! This was the best shot I could get, but I was thrilled. Lacamas Creek, January 2020.

Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is just barely within our 5MR. The refuge features riparian forests, wetted fields, and ponds. It’s currently undoing a massive makeover, the Steigerwald Floodplain Restoration Project. The project will eventually connect the refuge and Gibbons Creek Watershed to the Columbia River and restore approximately 900 acres of Columbia River floodplain habitat.

Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge with Mount Hood in the background, January 2020.
Nesting Purple Martins, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, August 2019.
American Kestrals in some Mountain Ash, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, August 2019.
Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, August 2019.
Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, August 2019.