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Monday, January 17, 2011

Year List: Kickin' It Up A Notch

First up, a little bookkeeping to do on the year list. Before leaving New York I added the house finch (42) and hairy woodpecker (43). Then from the train I saw most of the same species I saw on the way east, including the ring-necked pheasant (44), though I missed adding the black-billed magpie. During the last morning on the train in the Columbia River Gorge, a stretch that was dark on the train ride east, I added double-crested cormorant (45), great blue heron (46), western grebe (47), and common merganser (48).

Now that I'm back to a part of the country where the temperatures are well above freezing, there is far more bird activity. With my year list sitting below 50 species halfway through the month of January, it was time to increase my efforts a bit and add some birds to the list, especially if I have any chance of making my goal of 100 species before the end of the month. So yesterday was a full day of birding!

We started out in north Portland where while my dad (who is keeping a year list for the first time this year) was running a couple of quick errands I saw my first glaucous-winged gull of the year (49). A stop at Vanport Wetlands turned up a red-winged blackbird (50), a flock of bushtits (51), a green-winged teal (52), ruddy ducks (53), northern pintail (54), and the first of many western scrub-jays (55) for the day. The nearby Force Lake was pretty quiet, though I did find a pair of pied-billed grebes (56), a flock of golden-crowned sparrows (57), and a single female hooded merganser (58).

Driving to our next spot I saw a flock of Brewer's blackbirds (59) and a northern flicker (60). The black-crowned night-heron (61) that I added to the 2010 year list on Christmas Day was still in its same tree along the Columbia River, this time joined by two others. A lady that came by walking her dog said that the numbers of night-herons usually peaks in late February with as many as 16 of them being seen roosting in the trees. That would be an awesome sight!

Black-crowned night-heron in North Portland

A little further down the river at Broughton Beach we found five killdeer (62) and a pair of horned grebes (63). There was also a western grebe, and multiple huge flocks of lesser scaup. Where pull-outs were available to scan the flocks in detail, we weren't able to turn any of the scaup into the coveted tufted duck.

Our major stop for the day was Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in southern Washington, a refuge that has a great auto tour that's perfect for rainy days like yesterday. As expected, I immediately added some of my missing waterfowl to the list, including northern shoveler (64), gadwall (65), ring-necked duck (66), and American coot (67). Despite the weather, the refuge was very active, and it was one of my slowest circuits ever of the auto tour route as we kept stopping to admire species like purple finches (68) and a patrolling northern harrier (69).

Pair of American coot at Ridgefield NWR

The yellow-rumped warbler, now split into two species, is our only reliable winter warbler, and while I just missed the Audubon's warbler (my dad got to add it to his list!), I did see the Myrtle warbler (70):

Myrtle warbler at Ridgefield NWR

There were lots and lots of hawks at Ridgefield, but despite seeing some that looked a little bit "different" we couldn't determine for sure that any of them were anything but red-tails, with the exception of the one northern harrier we had seen earlier. We got to see a wide variety of color morphs, though, ranging from very light to very dark - potentially even the Harlan's morph that has been reported there lately, though the lighting wasn't great for picking out plumage details. Here is one of the red-tailed hawks just taking flight:

Red-tailed hawk taking flight at Ridgefield NWR

While we weren't able to turn up a rough-legged hawk or anything like that, we did see several bald eagles and this stunning and amazingly cooperative American kestrel:
Male American kestrel at Ridgefield NWR

The end of the auto tour route at Ridgefield turned up a ruby-crowned kinglet (71), a flock of cackling geese (72), and a lone great egret (73).

After a stop for a bite to eat in Vancouver, WA we drove the Old Lower River Road which goes through some farm country and always seems to turn up something interesting. Yesterday was no exception: first I found a common teal (74) among some green-winged teal in a marsh, and then our patience of carefully examining every hawk finally paid off in the sighting of a red-shouldered hawk (year bird 75, NA life bird 341)!!! When I spotted it, the hawks was perched deep in a tree and while I could tell it was different the field marks were hard to see. (Though I did say, "Whatever it is, I've never seen a bird like that before!") It then took flight, and while we only got a brief glimpse it was enough to confirm the ID. It was very orangey overall, and we saw the reddish shoulders and white crescents near the wing tips when it was in flight. A very cool find!!

The clouds made for an early dusk, so before we reached the end of the road it was starting to get too dark to bird. The last species added for the day was a flock of half a dozen sandhill cranes (76) in one of the farm fields. Overall, it was a very successful day with 28 year birds and a life bird to add to the books!

Next up, more birding in the Portland area as I try to catch my year list up to Dave, who at last check was at 90, and my dad, who was sitting at 82.

3 comments:

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Another day like that and you'll be well past me!

Dream of finding an Anerican Coot mixed in with all our 'normal' ones.

Re you west coast hybrid guls - - good luck!!!

Cheers

Davo

Julie said...

I can't believe that you've not seen a red-shouldered hawk before. They must not be common in Oregon or Washington, eh? Because they are everywhere here in northern California. I had a great time birding in Argentina this year, and if I kept a life list, would have added a bunch. Anyway... good luck! And glad to hear you had a great trip out east.

Julie

Jen said...

Congrats on all the birds... You definitely hit up lots of my favorite spots..