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.

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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.

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

–> GO TO PART TWO !

May 2, 2018

May 2, 2018, was my birthday, and I took the day off work. I went birding.

My first stop was Witham Hill Natural Area just northwest or Corvallis. I didn’t get any new birds here, but it was a lovely walk in the woods and a great early way to start my birthday.

My next stop was Mary’s River Park in Philomath. I got three new 2018 birds here: Rufous Hummingbird, Yellow Warbler, and Warbling Vireo. The park appears to function mostly as a dog park and Frisbee golf destinations, but I found a few wooded trails, including one that took me to the river’s edge. I stayed here for an hour by myself.

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Mary’s River Park; Philomath, Oregon; May 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

I continued on to Finley, and got an additional three species: Sora, Western Kingbird, and Cassin’s Vireo. Among other secretive marsh birds, at the very very end of the Vimeo video at the end of this post, you can hear the Sora.

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Camassia quamash (camas) in bloom in Finley’s wet prairie habitat; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; May 2, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

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Western Kingbird; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; May 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Oregon Ash riparian hardwood forest; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; May 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Oregon Ash riparian hardwood forest; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; May 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Cassin’s Vireo; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; May 2, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Listen to Finley marsh birds here –> https://vimeo.com/268320144

New Birds for 2018: 6
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 155

April 7, 2018

A few hours east of Bend, Oregon, lies the town of Burns, Oregon, a long town grudgingly straddling State Highway 78. Burns shares its length with Hines, Oregon, though I’m not sure where the boundary is or if that even matters at this point.

Combined, the towns have numerous restaurants and store fronts, many of which are permanently closed. Those that are still open are open for breakfast (sometimes), then they close, and then they open again for dinner (maybe). Or they’re not open ever, even though the GIANT sign says they are open. Or their door is open, and you can walk in, but they’re not really open.

What are ya gettin’ at Burns?

When you arrive in Burns after driving all day from Salem, Oregon, and you’re hungry (and a bit grumpy) even though it’s only 4pm, YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED.  I swore a lot out loud at this town.

If you want to shine a bright light on your sense of entitlement, head on over to Burns, Oregon.

What does this have to do with birding? We drove out to this area to attend the Harvey County Migratory Bird Festival, and were scheduled to spend all day Saturday doing a full day of birding with a group. We did not stay in Burns overnight. Instead, we passed go and stayed about 25 miles east in Crane, Oregon, at Crystal Crane Hot Springs, which was wonderful, and happened to be a bit of a birding mecca.

The alarm went off at 4:30AM Saturday morning, and all I could hear was pouring rain. Step 1: coffee. Step 2: shower. Step 3: get in car and drive back to Burns. Step 4: try to find a coffee shop that was open (just kidding, we were already Burns-savvy at this point and knew this would have been futile). Step 4: meet at Burns High School to find our birding group for the day.

And we’re off, to tour the greater Burns and Crane, Oregon, region, including parts of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  Although the area lacks services to please my spoiled self, it shines like a Canadian diamond when it comes to birding.

You’ve gotten this far? Well, thanks. And here are my counts followed by photos. Migration time is underway, so I hope to be posting more often now.

New 2018 Oregon Species:

Ross’s Goose
Cinnamon Teal
Chukar
Amer. White Pelican
Swainson’s Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Black-necked Stilt
Amer. Avocet
Long-billed Curlew
Franklin’s Gull
Barn Swallow
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Cassin’s Finch

New Birds for 2018: 13
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 133

CCHP

Crystal Crane Hot Springs; Crane, Oregon; April 6, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

BRBL

Brewer’s Blackbirds; Crystal Crane Hot Springs; Crane, Oregon; April 6, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

GLEA

A >100-Year-Old Golden Eagle nest that, after many years of growing, finally experienced gravity (can you find it?); Harvey County; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Ross’s Geese; south of Burns, Oregon; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Ross’s Geese; south of Burns, Oregon; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Ross’s Geese; south of Burns, Oregon; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

GHOW

Great Horned Owl 1 of 2; Harvey County, Oregon; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Great Horned Owl 2 of 2; Burns, County; April 7, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

FRGL

Franklin’s Gull; Harvey County, Oregon; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

AMPP

American Pipit; Crystal Crane Hot Springs; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

BNST

Black-Necked Stilts; Crystal Crane Hot Springs; Crane, Oregon; April 7, 2018; photography by Linda Burfitt.

FOREST

Malheur National Forest; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

CSFN

Cassin’s Finch; Malheur National Forest; April 7, 2018; photography by Linda Butfitt.

TWST

Townsend’s Solitaire; Malheur National Forest; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

BEER

One of the virtues of Burns, Oregon = Steens Mountain Brewing, the smallest brewery in Oregon; April 7, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

January 28, 2018

When not surprisingly showing up along the Oregon coast, the Steller’s Eider, a wee sea duck, spends its time much further north, breeding in freshwater tundra ponds and spending its non-breeding hours in nearshore, shallow marine waters. Their worldwide range is coastal Alaska, northern Russia, and northeastern Europe. Sadly, the species is in decline, and the Steller’s Eider is federally listed as threatened.

From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game[1]:

Almost all Steller’s eiders nest in northeastern Siberia, with less than 1% of the population breeding in North America … In the winter, most of the world’s Steller’s eiders are found in the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands.

This winter 2018, a female Steller’s Eider showed up in Seaside Cove, Oregon, in nearshore waters. This is the fourth time in birding-recorded history[2] that this species has shown up in Oregon. Looking back at my rarebird emails, Ms. Eider was first recorded at Seaside this year on or near January 13, 2018. She has been sticking around this area for weeks now and has been very cooperative for birders. Few if any days have gone by since January 13 where the eider doesn’t show up on the daily rare birds reports.

For various reasons, I did not get out to see Ms. Eider until this past weekend. She was incredibly cooperative for us, and even flew closer to shore to provide me with a spectacular view. She also did not mind the surfers who swam quite close to her. With just my binoculars, I could see her chunky bill and the white borders or her speculum. We spent a little more than 1 hour here at Seaside Cove, appreciating this rare sighting and catching some more species. How on earth did she end up down here? Would she find her way back to Alaska? I felt a bit sad while I watched this little brown nugget of a duck and pondered her fate.

Seaside Cove Highlights:

Steller’s Eider* (lifer!)
Harlequin Duck* (lifer!)
Surf Scoter*
Horned Grebe*
Pelagic Cormorant* (lifer!)
Double-crested Cormorant
Herring Gull*

Other highlights from these past two weeks include Golden-crowned Sparrows* at Riverside Park in Salem, Oregon, and a Mute Swan* (likely a domestic escapee; counting it for now) in the Willamette Slough at Minto-Brown Island Park in Salem, Oregon.

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Steller’s Eider; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Surfers; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Surf Scoters; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

PLCO

Pelagic Cormorant;  Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

HRGL

Herring Gull; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

HLDC

Harlequin Ducks; Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Horned Grebe (with a fish!); Seaside Cove, Oregon; January 28, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Mute Swan; Minto-Brown Island Park; Salem, Oregon; January 15, 2019; photograph by Linda Burfitt

*New Birds for 2018: 8
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 76

[1] Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 2018. Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri). Species Profile. Available at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=stellerseider.main. Accessed January 29, 2018.
[2] Oregon Birding Association. 2017. The Records of the Oregon Birds Records Committee.  Available at: http://orbirds.org/recordsdec2017.pdf. Accessed January 29, 2018.

January 14, 2018

Part of a Big Year involves looking for rare birds or finding rare birds that other birders have found. Once found, rare birds often pop up on various forms of rare bird alerts (e.g., emails, texts, etc.). Heading out to find a reported rare bird is usually a last-minute decision and involves a quick change of plans, driving, and a near full day of not eating well. Because of this, I’ve decided to put together a Rare Birds Bag. Similar in idea (and maybe contents?) to the hospital bag women pack for when they go into labor, this bag will include, at a minimum, the following:

  1. Non-perishable, filling, snacky food items that I’ll actually eat (grabbing a banana on the way out is a sure fire way to make my car smell for days because I will never eat said banana).
  2. Filled water bottle
  3. Bird field guide (I have so many, I’ll throw one in this bag)
  4. Rain jacket (my back-up obnoxiously coloured pink jacket)
  5. Layers (warm tops, toque, gloves)
  6. Extra socks (for when I’ll inventible step took close and then into some type of inundated area)

Other obvious items I’ll take with me are my optics—bins, scope, and camera–and my staple field guides, but they are always near the door and ready to go.

January 14 was a rare birds day, sort of. A Lesser Yellowlegs had been seen at a local conservation easement property, and I wanted to try again to see the Tri-Colored Blackbirds that had been reported at the Philomath Sewage Lagoons. Also, the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge was sort of on the way (“on the way” = a debatable term in the world of birding), so I decided to stop there, too, for my first time to see what I could find. It was an overly ambitious plan. I grabbed a banana.

Stop #1: Conservation Easement Property just south of Turner, Oregon

I left Salem and immediately descended into fog shortly before arriving at the conservation easement property. Peering through the dense fog, I found moving, shorebird-shaped items far out in what appeared to be a ponded area. I put my scope on them and immediately saw the large shorebirds, which turned out to be Greater Yellowlegs. These larger birds were accompanied by mini versions of themselves, and I was hoping these were the Lesser Yellowlegs.  The fog finally started to lift, and after watching these birds for more than 1 hour and after watching them in flight a few times, it became obvious that these were definitely not Lesser Yellowlegs but were instead Dunlin. Still a new bird for 2018 and a delight to watch for so long.

Stop #1’s list:

Canada Goose
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
*Killdeer
*Dunlin
*Greater Yellowlegs
European Starling
Song Sparrow
*Western Meadowlark
*Red-winged Blackbird

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Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon, post–dense fog; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon, post–dense fog; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon, post-fog; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Greater Yellowlegs and Dunlin at Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon; dense fog shortly after arriving; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Greater Yellowlegs and Dunlin at Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon, post-fog; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Song Sparrow; Conservation Easement property near Turner, Oregon; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

Stop #2: Middle of Nowhere, Willamette Valley

After birding at the conservation easement, I was off to some random country farm road corner between Corvallis and Eugene to look for another rare bird, a Say’s Pheobe, that I did not find. I did, however, find hundreds of very loud Brewer’s Blackbirds—a new 2018 bird for me.

Stop #2’s list:

Rock Pigeon
*Brewer’s Blackbird
Song Sparrow

BLBR

Brewer’s Blackbirds; Somewhere between Corvallis and Eugene; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

Stop #3: William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

As planned, I stopped in at Finley on my way to the sewage ponds. I arrived later than I wished (having wandering around too long looking for the phoebe), so my plan was to simply do a drive-through reconnaissance before heading to the ponds. At one point though, I realized that I was exceptional tired of being in the car for so long. I stopped and parked the car at a trailhead, deciding that perhaps this was my last stop for the day and that I would do my legs a favour and go for a birding walk.

For reasons that include a somewhat faulty driver’s side door and the fact that I had not eaten anything yet that day (no, not even the  banana), I locked myself out of my car. Thankfully I had my binoculars around my neck, but all other important items (e.g., cell phone) were in the car. Also thankfully, this rad lady Rachel was there, too; lent me her cell phone to deal with my adulting failure; and waited with me until a tow-truck/locksmith arrived to opened my car for me. By the time my car was “free” it was near 4:30pm, and it was time to head home. So yea, Step #4 was home, and the banana went into the freezer where it ultimately belongs.

Finley

William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, moments before I parked and locked myself out of my car; January 14, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

*New Birds for 2018: 6 species
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 68 species (this includes a House Sparrow that showed up in my yard that morning and a Northern Harrier I saw while I was driving)