Long-tailed Duck, Hagg Lake, OR (10/25/09)

Ian Boustead and I found a female LONG-TAILED DUCK with a flock of 11 Surf Scoters at Hagg Lake this afternoon. This flock was first noted off the parking area on the south end of the dam, then again scoped from Rec Area A and just west of it. A scope might be necessary to see this bird.

Also interesting were a first-winter BONAPARTE’S GULL and a late Osprey.

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Thanks to Ian Boustead for allowing me to post his picture here.

Chasing rarities in WA state (10/24/09)

Early morning, Ian Boustead and I stopped at the Tyee Marina near Tacoma for the adult Black-tailed Gull. Ian eventually spotted the bird and the whole crowd got on it. It was too far away for decent pictures.

Then we proceeded to Hoquiam where it was easy to get good looks at the immature Orchard Oriole, the Clay-colored Sparrow and the Chestnut-collared Longspur. A Tropical Kingbird was also present at the same spot.

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We ended the day at the Westport Marina where we failed to locate any Rock Sandpipers.

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Still quite a few Brown Pelicans were hanging around.

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A winter-plumaged Common Loon.

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An adult Mew Gull, also very close.

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And finally a Western Grebe.

Bar-tailed Godwit at Tokeland Marina, WA (10/17/09)

On the annual trek to Tokeland for the Bar-tailed Godwit, I was not disappointed. This juvenal bird was surprisingly hard to pick out, at least for me. What helps to positively ID this bird is:

-Very limited cinnamon color on perched bird, none on tail

-White supercilium extends WAY back beyond the eye towards the back of the head. With the Marbleds, the supercilium stops at the eye.

-Apparently smaller than the Marbleds around it

-The scapulars have a different shape (Bar-tailed on the left, Marbled on the right):

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-Finally, in flight, no cinnamon will show underwing for the Bar-tailed, nor will there be orange tones from above.

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While not a great picture, this flight shot is diagnostic for Bar-tailed.

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The scapular samples above were taken from this shot:

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This bird looks to be of the baueri subspecies which shows copious amounts of brown on the rump. This is the subspecies to be expected in the Pacific NW as it is breeding in Western AK.

There were also 12 Willets.

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A trip to the Wallowas, OR (Oct 10-11/2009)

Sam Walker and I did the Wallowas this last weekend. We were at McCully Ck SE of Joseph from 11am-1:30pm Saturday and immediately had a SPRUCE GROUSE in a short tree. A few minutes later 4 more were in a bare spot in the sun under a broad conifer. 2 of them were taking dust baths. At times, you couldn’t tell where the head was, it was just one moving ball of feathers. These birds were about 1/3mi up the 2-track from the gate short of the near 180 degree switchback, so not up the mail hiking trail straight south into Eagle Cap Wilderness. There was a large flock of migrants with many Yellow-rumped and 2 Townsend’s Warblers and lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets. A PINE GROSBEAK was calling near where the grouse were and a Ruffed Grouse was flushed near the 180 degree switchback.

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En route to Hat Point, we had 2 magnificent Golden Eagles soaring right above us and a Prairie Falcon, with an immature calling non-stop. A Northern Shrike was near the Joseph cemetery. We had no Rough-legged Hawks all weekend.

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Wallowa Lake SP was crowded with people, so no Pygmy-Owls. A late YELLOW WARBLER, a treeload full of Ruby-crowned Kinglets and 2 American Dippers were at the creek crossing at the south end of the lake. 2 Eared Grebes were on the lake, otherwise it was quiet. And cold.

It was 52F in Imnaha (el 1800) and the warmth was soothing, but the mercury quickly dropped to below freezing as we ascended towards Hat Point. The views from Hat Point Rd were incredible, as usual. Even if there are no birds at all, this drive is absolutely worth it. We had 2 Ruffed Grouse at MP 8.5 and a THREE-TOED WOODPECKER near MP 12.5 at an opening with a dead tree right next to the road. From the tower at the point proper, we watched 2 smallish gallinacious birds low in flight, dropping down just below the cliffs to the north. This could only have been MOUNTAIN QUAIL. Has anybody seen them up there?

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On Sunday morning we drove through Golf Course Rd and got stunning views of the peaks to the south, yet all we saw were American Pipits, Horned Larks, Western Bluebirds and a perched up Great Horned Owl. Another Ruffed Grouse was only 1/3mi into trail #1824 at the Hurricane Creek trailhead and 2 Townsend’s Solitaire were near the parking lot. The cone crop around Enterprise again looks great, so watch out for those crossbills this winter.

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We ended the day at Spring Creek where the temperature plummeted quickly into the 20s after the sun went down. While we didn’t find any Great Gray Owls, we had all 3 nuthatches, White-headed and Pileated Woodpecker, several Western Bluebirds, heard a Northern Sawwhet-Owl just after sunset and had a great time.

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On the conditions: It was unusually cold. When we left the Hurricane Creek trailhead at 1:30pm on Sunday, it was still below freezing. Snow levels were just below 5000ft. While the access roads were generally snow free, I would recommend snow shoes for all trails. Hat Point never made it above freezing on Saturday afternoon. There were pretty much no fall colors yet and it was weird to see fully green trees and shrubs in the snow with the freezing temperatures.

Lapland Longspur extravanganza, Ft. Stevens SP, OR (10/04/09)

There currently is a large flock of about 30 Lapland Longspurs at the South Jetty of the Columbia (Ft. Stevens SP). At the time I saw them they were in the salicornia just off the parking lot for Area C. With patience I was able to get very close to them and they weren’t flighty at all. It is still tough to get a clear look at these guys even though you might be only about 15ft away from them. Their soft rattle and flight call could be heard very well, ideal if you are interested in recording it.

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4 Pectoral Sandpipers were also in the same area.

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Some more common birds of the PNW (10/03/09)

These Fox Sparrows were in the woody section at Bayocean Spit near Tillamook, OR. They have indeed returned for the winter.

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A little Winter Wren out in the open for just a little moment in the same area.

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When you come out onto the mudflats of the Necanicum estuary off Wellington in Gearhart, OR, there always seems to be a singing Marsh Wren. Wait, what’s this?

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A Marsh Wren that I seem to have caught while it was blinking.

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Bonney Butte Hawkwatch, OR (09/27/09)

When they are holding the freshly caught bird out, it’s pretty easy to get decent shots, even with a snapshot camera. The first bird was an adult Cooper’s Hawk.

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Overall, there weren’t a lot of birds. Mostly Sharpies, just like this guy:

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With a palm start, the bedraggled bird lies in releaser’s palm for up to a minute and is completely confused about what it has to do. Very neat.

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