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Sunday, May 1, 2011

End of April: Year List Update

I'm in the middle of spending a week down in Portland, where my parents have just sold their house to move outside of the city. In addition to packing, sorting, and doing a little bit of work for my dad, I've had the chance to go on a few different birding excursions. Sorry for the lack of pictures today - the conditions just didn't quite align very often either due to distance or weather or both!

On the drive down south I stopped at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge where unfortunately it was pouring rain. I still managed to find 18 species on the one mile Twin Barn loop trail. The highlight of the visit were the hundreds and hundreds of swallows buzzing around over the marsh near the visitor center. While the majority of them were violet-green swallows, there were also tree swallows, barn swallows, and a few cliff swallows (156) mixed in.

Yesterday my dad and I made a brief stop at Vanport Wetlands in north Portland, where a vermillion flycatcher had been spotted a couple of days before. While it remained elusive for us as it had for many other birders who tried to follow up on this report of a normally more southern species, there was still a lot of activity on the marsh. Dozens of red-winged blackbirds were singing away, with a few yellow-headed blackbirds (157) mixed in for good measure. The most plentiful bird on the water was the American coot, though there were also Canada geese, mallards, gadwall, northern shoveler, pied-billed grebes, and lesser scaup. The waterfowl highlights were several male ruddy ducks, a pair of redhead, and a pair of cinnamon teal (158). Again several swallow species were catching insects over the water, but there were also about a half dozen Vaux's swifts (159), another first for the year.

We went to check on the nearby great horned owl nest, but it appeared to be empty. On the walk over there we did have a close encounter with a surprisingly tame mourning dove, however. At Force Lake I got several close looks at a male common yellowthroat who became camera shy as soon as I pulled out my bigger lens. The only cooperative bird turned out to be this charming song sparrow:

Today we took a day off from "work" to go to Tillamook and do a COASST survey on my dad's beach. On the way out we stopped at Killin Wetlands in Forest Grove, which didn't turn up any bitterns or soras as we had hoped. The highlight of this stop for me was the chorus of about five marsh wrens singing simultaneously, with the red-winged blackbirds providing back-up. There were also some northern rough-winged swallows mixed in with the swallow crowd, and we saw a pair of Eurasian collared-doves nearby. Closer to Tillamook along the river we found a flock of about 30 greater scaup.

We didn't find any dead birds during our survey, which meant we had extra time to spend looking for live birds. At the Happy Camp beach most of the activity was near the end of the Netarts spit where we saw a few surf scoters, pigeon guillemots, and western gulls in addition to a single common loon. A group of 16 Brandt's cormorants flew by, as did a single Caspian tern (160). Everything was too far away for photos, so the only thing I took a picture of was this scene on the beach:

Next up we swung by Bay Ocean Spit as we always do, but got delayed longer than usual by the bird activity. First we came across a small flock of mallards and northern pintail, as well as a nearby group of bufflehead. Then a larger flock of ducks including northern shoveler, green-winged teal, American wigeon, and two Eurasian wigeion. Through my dad's scope we also found about 50 brant greese out in the bay, as well as our only red-breasted merganser for the day. On the mud spit were several dozen more Caspian terns, though one of the tern-like birds flying around turned out to be a lone Bonaparte's gull in breeding plumage.

The highlight of this stop for us was the shorebirds. We saw four marbled godwits, a dozen western sandpipers (161), and a group of about 45 dowitchers. My dad thinks they were long-billed, which would make them another year bird for me, but they were just too far away for me to be certain, especially with all the heat distortion looking through the scope! Still cool to see, even without knowing for sure what they were.

Our last birding stop for the day was Fenk Road, a little agricultural side road that seems to turn up more than its fair share of "good" birds. Today was no exception, as just after turning onto the road we were surprised to find a flock of about 20 least sandpipers (162) along the river bank! I don't think I've ever seen peeps along a river before. While we were watching them, a flock of about a hundred greater white-fronted geese flew in - another great find! Several ravens were also in the field nearby. The sightings didn't end there. As we pulled up to the cow barns in addition to the red-winged blackbirds, European starlings, crows, and house sparrows, I saw a single male American goldfinch (163). A little further on along the river we could see mallards, green-winged teal, gadwall, shoveler, and a couple bufflehead. Here's one of the tree swallows that was perched nearby:

The brambles between the road and the river were bustling with activity as they always seem to be, with lots of yellow-rumped warblers (both myrtle and Audubon's) as well as both white-crowned and golden-crowned sparrow. The best find of the day turned out to be the very last species we added to the day list - a single palm warbler (164). This species was reported here a couple weeks ago, and in fact this is the exact same spot I saw it for the first time in January 2010.

With the five birds added to the year list today that makes a total of 25 species added for the month of April. That's better than the 21 added during April last year, when by the end of the 30th I was sitting at 152 species on the year. I'm sure those eastern species added in January have helped boost me ahead of last year's total, but it's a good thing because during May last year is when I started my trip to Alaska! It will be tough to match the 2010 year listing efforts of May and June in Alaska during this year, but I'll be out there birding regardless! :)


Warren Baker said...

You're rising to the challenge of last Year so far Monika :-)

Love your tree swallows !

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Quality day's birding there Monika, and a relief not to have to record any dead birds.
Have you any idea when orca cam is likely to go live again? I NEED that armchair tick!