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.