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Monday, May 5, 2014


No new year-bird today, but I wanted to do a ketchup entry for my BAD birds for the last six days.† I have a few pictures, and I wanted to include a discussion of todayís Bird-A-Day (BAD) bird, for my future reference.


As a reminder, you can check out Bird-A-Day birding here:† .† You can find me in the list of participants and see all my BAD birds for the year.


First, though, I wanted to make one correction.† I had a discrepancy between my spreadsheet for the year and my little notebook I record my sightings in.† I went through them both exhaustively and found a couple of mistakes.† The bottom line is that my year-to-date total is 401 species, and 15 of those are lifers, plus one more that is new for my US list.


So, last Wednesday, April 30, I went to Juanita Beach Park and there were still three Double-crested Cormorants around.† There were at least a couple of dozen all winter, but they are now heading inland and north to breed, and I wanted to pick that one up for a BAD bird before they all left.† It is an easy bird to see, but there soon wonít be any around here until late summer.


On Thursday, May 1, I went down to Juanita Bay Park and got Orange-crowned Warbler.† That is another one that probably wonít be around for much longer.† A few over-winter here, but most spend the winter farther south, and now most of them are heading north to breed.† Here are two pictures of an Orange-crowned Warbler.



I like the way the bird, the sunlight, and the blossoms all blend together.† Warblers arenít easy to photograph, as they are small and they are very active usually.


I also got this picture of a Savannah Sparrow in the sun that I like.


I havenít used that one for a BAD bird yet, but they should be around all summer, so Iíll get them later.† My focus now is to take either difficult birds or ones that wonít be here in a few weeks.


On Friday, May 2, I went down to Juanita Bay Park again and got Yellow-rumped Warbler for my BAD bird.† That is another one that is easy now, but soon most of them will have moved on north.


On Saturday, May 3, I went up to the Crescent Lake area, between Duvall and Monroe.† On my way I drove along the Snoqualmie River Road on the west side of the river, north of Duvall.† There were a number of sparrows and I got Golden-crowned Sparrow for my BAD bird.† I had been looking for them before I left for Texas because all of them will be gone in a week or two, so I was particularly pleased to see them on Saturday.† Ironically, on Sunday morning one showed up in our yard, outside the kitchen window, just to mock me, I think.† It stuck around all day, but I havenít seen it again today, so it was heading north I suspect.


On Sunday I went over to the Union Bay Natural Area, known as the Montlake Fill to local birders.† I had seen reports of a couple of ducks that I wanted for my BAD bird list.† It was raining, but there were times it was only raining lightly, so I went ahead.† When I got there, it turned out that the Urban Horticultural Center there was having its annual Master Gardener plant sale, and the place was mobbed.† The good news was that they had opened some parking lots for the plant sale, so I parked in one of those.† I walked around the paved loop in the rain, looking on the various ponds for my target ducks.† I managed to see a pair of Blue-winged Teal and then later a pair of Cinnamon Teal, the two species I was looking for.† I ended up walking about a mile and a half in the rain, I figure, but I had my birds.† I could only take one of them for the day, of course, so I chose to take Blue-winged Teal, as they are quite uncommon around here.† I hope to go back later this week to try for Cinnamon Teal, as that would also be an excellent BAD bird.


Today I drove out to the Snoqualmie Valley near Carnation.† I had seen a post on the local mailing list about several birding sites out there, with reports of some interesting birds seen there yesterday.† It was only raining very lightly today, most of the time.† I found Sikes Lake and I found the flooded field where Least Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plover had been seen yesterday.† Either of those would make an excellent BAD bird.† As it turned out, I didnít see any Semipalmated Plovers, but I did count 13 Least Sandpipers.† Here is a poor picture of one, showing the yellow legs that distinguish that species from other small peeps.


I would have been glad to take Least Sandpiper for my BAD bird for today, but there were three dowitchers there, and that was even better.† I had never seen a dowitcher locally before.† They pass through here twice a year in migration, but mostly they are closer to the ocean, I think.


Dowitcher identification is difficult.† There are two species, Short-billed Dowitcher and Long-billed Dowitcher.† Bill length isnít a good way to tell them apart, though, as some Short-billed Dowitchers have longer bills than some Long-billed Dowitchers.† The best way is to hear them call, but I couldnít get these three birds to say anything.† When I played the Short-billed call, they totally ignored it.† When I played the Long-billed call the first two times, they immediately stopped feeding and stood motionless for at least 30 seconds.† I thought that was some evidence that they were Long-billed.†


My field guide says that the wings of the subspecies of Short-billed that is here in the west extend past the tail.† On my birds, the wings seemed shorter than the tail, so that was another vote for Long-billed.† The colors of the feathers on the back were a closer match to Long-billed, too.† In addition, one of the birds was developing distinct barring on the upper breast and flanks, and that also would indicate Long-billed.† These birds were partway into breeding plumage, but not all the way yet.† Finally, Long-billed Dowitchers arenít common here, but there are a lot more reports of Long-billed than of Short-billed, in the past.† So, with all that, Iím going with Long-billed Dowitcher for my BAD bird today.† I put a post up on the local birding mailing list, with a link to the three pictures below, and I am hoping that more knowledgeable birders than I will give me some feedback.† Here are the three pictures.


That picture shows the colors and patterns on the back of the bird on the right, and all the white feather tips indicate Long-billed to me.† Short-billed Dowitchers are supposed to have red-brown feather tips on their backs, not white.† You can also see the barring that is developing on the side of the bird in the middle.



In that picture, you can see that the wings donít extend as far as the tip of the tail, especially on the bird on the left.† The tail of the bird on the left is barred with reddish-brown and dark brown, like Long-billed Dowitchers are supposed to have in breeding plumage.† Short-billed ones have white and dark brown barring on their tails, I understand.



OK, that is far more than you ever wanted to hear about dowitchers, but as I said, I wanted to record it here for my future reference and education.


That catches me up on my BAD birds since I got back from Texas.† My next trip is to Malheur NWR, which is in Central Oregon.† I plan about a six or seven day trip, starting about the 17th or 18th.† The exact date I leave will depend somewhat on the weather forecast, as I would like to stop en route and pick up some Washington county birds.† I should be getting one or two new year-birds before then, though, as the summer birds are returning to our area, and Iíll be out and about looking for them.



Saturday, May 10, 2014


Having seen the dowitchers on Monday, I went back to the same field near Sikes Lake on Tuesday, May 6, hoping the Least Sandpipers were still around.† Indeed some were still around, and here is a picture of one.


I was going to take that one for my BAD bird, but then I noticed that some of the little ďpeepsĒ had black legs, rather than yellow legs.† There were two possible species those could be, but from the markings on the sides of their breasts and their flanks, I could tell they were Western Sandpipers.† Here is a picture of a Western Sandpiper (black legs) and a Least Sandpiper (yellow legs).† The Western looks a bit taller there, but it is only because the Least is in the water.† They are about the same size, the smallest of the sandpipers here in the US.


Here are a couple more pictures of Western Sandpipers.



They are in transition from their plain winter plumage to their summer plumage, and they are in the midst of migrating from somewhere south of here to the Arctic Circle to breed.


It turns out that Western Sandpiper is even less common here at this time of year than Least Sandpiper, so I took Western Sandpiper for my BAD bird for Tuesday, May 6.


On Wednesday, May 7, I went back to the same place, again hoping the Least Sandpipers were still sticking around.† I did see three of them on Wednesday, along with about a half dozen Western Sandpipers.† I was again thwarted in my plan to use them as my BAD bird, though, as there was a single Semipalmated Plover there, another bird that is even less common than the little sandpipers.† Here is the Semipalmated Plover.


Here is a picture of the Semipalmated Plover and one of the Western Sandpipers, for size comparison.


That particular Western Sandpiper is really showing the reddish-brown color that characterizes the species in breeding plumage.† Here is a picture of two Western Sandpipers.


Note the black legs.† Here is a picture of two Least Sandpipers, with their yellow legs and not such reddish overtones.


So, that day I took the Semipalmated Plover for my BAD bird.


I still wanted the Least Sandpiper, though, so I went back a fourth day, on Thursday, May 8.† That time I only saw two shorebirds, and I only saw them briefly before they flew away.† They were Least Sandpipers, though, so I took that for my BAD bird for Thursday.


When all was said and done, I had visited that same place four days in a row and each day I was able to see a species I had never seen in King County (my home county) before.† That gives you an idea how uncommon they are here, since I had never seen any of those four species in this county before, in all my years of birding.† Here is a picture of that amazing field.


If I hadnít read the report last Sunday, I never would have paid any attention to that field, even if I drove by, which I never would have done.† It makes me wonder why and how these birds chose that field to stop over in on their migration northward.† I figure each bird stayed there for one or maybe two days, and then flew on.† Others kept coming in, though, all week long.† Jumping ahead to today, I was out in that same area, and I stopped by to see what might be there, and there was nothing.† Not a sausage.† Nada.† No shorebirds at all, not even the Killdeer I had seen on the first two days, and they donít migrate, but are resident here.† I just hit it extremely lucky, I think.


Yesterday, Saturday, May 9, I drove up to the Crescent Lake area between Duvall and Monroe, where I had been a number of times earlier in the year.† My target this time was Cinnamon Teal, but I didnít see any.† There were a couple of other species I would have liked to see, too, but I didnít see anything remarkable there yesterday.


Fortunately, on the way up there I saw some Common Ravens, a bird that was new for King County for me, like the shorebirds of the last four days.† At least, it was new since I started keeping county records, which was about two years ago.† I might have seen one sometime before that, I wouldnít necessarily remember.† I used that as my BAD bird for Saturday.† I saw a couple more ravens a mile up the road, and those were the first Common Ravens for Snohomish County for me Ė I had crossed the county line in the meantime.† So, that made five days in a row that I was able to take a BAD bird that wasnít even on my spreadsheet.† I should easily be able to get into July now.


Today I headed out to the Snoqualmie River Valley again, but to a site across the river from Sikes Lake, where I had seen the four shorebirds - the Stillwater unit of the Snoqualmie Valley preserve, or something like that.† I had read a report of Bank Swallows, and I wanted that for my year list.† I have seen them over in Central Washington, but the chance to see them here at home was worth taking a chance.† I had written to the guy who put up the report, and he told me where to go.† I found what I think was the right parking lot and set out up the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.† Here is a picture of the trail.


The guy hadnít mentioned distances, and I walked about a half mile up the trail to the ďfirst trail on the left, past the pondĒ.† I donít think I would call it a trail, but here is the steep little path down to the riverside that I went down.† The picture doesnít do justice to the steepness.


Does that look like a trail to you?† What I was looking for was a bank on the river where the swallows nest.† They dig holes in the bank and nest in them.† In this location, as in other places, Bank Swallows nest communally, and they often nest with another very similar species, Northern Rough-winged Swallow.† Here is a picture, taken from the trail, of the bank the swallows were nesting in.


I understand that they have nested nearby for several years, but this year they have moved about 80 yards to this bank for some reason.


Anyway, I made my way down to the river bank.† There were swallows flying around and flying to holes in that bank.† My target species, Bank Swallow, which I have only seen a couple of times, looks very much like Northern Rough-winged Swallow.† Well, I stood on the river bank for about an hour, looking at the swallows swooping around and coming to the nest holes.† I saw Northern Rough-winged Swallows, but never a Bank Swallow, which looks pretty much the same except they have a dark band across their breast.† Here are a couple of Northern Rough-winged Swallows.


Clearly they donít have a breast band.† Here is another picture of three of them on the bank.


After an hour or so standing there, I scrambled back up the ďtrailĒ to the real trail.† I had to go to my knees at one point, to give you an idea of the steepness.† Oh yes, I forgot to report a couple of good birds while I was at the riverside.† I had a Belted Kingfisher fly in briefly and perch, but it flew off before I could get a picture.† That would have been a decent BAD bird, as would the Northern Rough-winged Swallows, actually.


I had another surprise, though, a male Common Merganser floated down the river, and I got this picture.


Later another one flew down the river.† I had looked for Common Merganser for a BAD bird last weekend, as they are due to fly off soon, so I took it for my BAD bird for today.


OK, that brings us to why Iím writing this report today.† Back up on the trail, I walked a little farther on, and I ended up seeing at least three BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, a new one for my year list.† They are common, but they are just coming back after being gone for the winter.† Here is a distant picture of a male Black-headed Grosbeak.


So, I didnít get my target bird, but I did get a year bird, and the Common Merganser was a nice BAD bird at this point.† I figure it will easier to see another Black-headed Grosbeak than another Common Merganser, so Iím taking the merganser for my BAD bird today.


As I mentioned before, I stopped by the field near Sikes Lake on the way home, and there were no shorebirds there at all.† That sort of emphasized how incredibly lucky I had been to see four different species of shorebirds there in four days Ė ones I hadnít ever seen in the county before.† On my way home from there, a bird flew up from the road in front of me, as another car approached, and I stopped when I got there and got great views of a male Ring-necked Pheasant.† Here is a picture of that colorful bird.


Here is a view from the rear, with the bird looking back toward me.


He flapped his wings at one point, showing some details of his feathers.


Thatís it.† Nothing else today.† The grosbeak puts me at 402 species for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is a US first.


Iím planning on leaving for Malheur NWR, in Central Oregon next Saturday, stopping two nights on the way so I can do some Washington State birding.† That will depend on the weather, though, and here in the Pacific Northwest that is always chancy, so we will see.



Friday, May 16, 2014


In my last report I told of going to the Stillwater Unit of the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area in search of Bank Swallows last Saturday.† After thinking about it, I thought I might have gone to the wrong location, so I emailed the guy who had told me about seeing them there.† It turned out that on Saturday I had indeed gone to the wrong parking area, and therefore had ended up at the wrong spot on the river.† It was just a coincidence that there happened to be Northern Rough-winged Swallows nesting where I ended up.


So, having ascertained where I was supposed to have gone, I returned on Sunday, May 11.† I parked in the correct parking area this time, but there was a large puddle of flowing water on the access to the trail, and I didnít want to get my feet wet and muddy.† I drove back up the highway, though, and found another place to pull off the road and access the main valley trail.† I found the path to the river, which was a distance of about three-quarters of a mile, I estimate.† Here are a couple of pictures of the trail to the river.



There was heavy dew on the grass, so my shoes and pants cuffs got wet, but it was a beautiful morning, as you can see, so I enjoyed the walk.† There were surprisingly few birds, though.† I did see American Goldfinches a couple of times, and Red-winged Blackbirds, of course, but little else.† Here is the Snoqualmie River where I ended up.


There was a bend in the river there, and it had cut a big bay with a bank that the swallows were nesting in.


I could see Swallows all along the bank, and I stayed there for almost an hour, but I never could identify anything except Northern Rough-winged Swallows, like I had seen on Saturday downstream a half mile or so.† Both Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Bank Swallows nest communally in holes they dig in sandy banks, and sometimes they nest in a common community.† I did see a Belted Kingfisher that had a nest hole in the bank across the bay, and I watched it fly in and out of the hole a few times.† There must have been chicks in the nest hole, and the parent must have been bringing food.† The blue and white Kingfisher was really beautiful in the sun, but it was too far away to attempt a picture.


Eventually I gave it up and headed for home.† I stopped again at the field near Sikes Lake where I had seen the shorebirds last week, but like on Saturday, there were no shorebirds there at all.† That just emphasizes again how lucky I was last week to see five different shorebird species there over a period of four days.


For my BAD bird on Sunday, I took the Northern Rough-winged Swallow.† They are pretty common, but Iím now at the point when I have to start taking common species when I donít find a ďgoodĒ one on any particular day.


On Monday, May 12, I went down to my local park, Juanita Bay Park.† It was another beautiful sunny morning, and the park was really pretty in its fresh springtime colors.† I got this picture of a common bird, Black-capped Chickadee.


Eventually Iíll take that one for a BAD bird, but since they are always in our yard, it will be when I canít find anything else new, probably not until July.† They flit around so much that I have a hard time getting a picture of them, so I thought I would show this one.


I played the song of a warbler that lives there at the park but I rarely see, and it actually worked and one came in to check me out.† I got this picture of a male Common Yellowthroat.


Itís a blurry picture, but I like it anyway for some reason.† It does show the colors on the bird, at least.


I was going to take that for my BAD bird, as I donít see them often, but then a little later I got good looks at a Nashville Warbler, an even ďbetterĒ bird.† It was my first Nashville Warbler at the park in the 15 years Iíve been going there, and it brought my total park list to 94 species.† It was also the first time Iíve seen that species in Washington, so it went onto my King County list.


There was an immature Bald Eagle flying around overhead, and I got a picture I like of it.


As always, there were lots of Red-winged Blackbirds around, and I got these two pictures Ė the first is a male and the second is a female.† I like to show sexual dimorphism when I can.



The shapes of the body, the bill, and the tail are the same, but the colors are completely different.


So, I took the Nashville Warbler for my BAD bird.† It is only passing through here, a little off course, actually, as it should be heading for Eastern Washington or Southern Canada, a bit inland from here.


On Tuesday, May 13, I headed up to Edmonds.† My first stop was Yost Park, a rugged stand of trees and canyons in the middle of suburban Edmonds.† It was again a beautiful sunny morning, and I walked in the woods.† Forest birding is always hard for me, and I didnít see much.† I did play the song of Wilsonís Warbler, though, and one responded.† I first heard it singing back to me, and then it flitted around taking a look at me.† I got this one picture of the little guy.


He is all yellow underneath and has that shiny black cap right on the top of his head.


I walked some more and got a look at a Swainsonís Thrush, a bird I had seen down in Texas several times.† That was another pretty good bird for this area.† Both the Wilsonís Warbler and the Swainsonís Thrush were new birds for my Snohomish County list.


After I left the park I went down to the Edmondís Pier to look for Marbled Murrelet, which I need for my year list.† There were very few birds around and nothing of interest.† I stopped at the Edmondís Marsh, too, but there was little there either.


Back at home, I debated with myself about which bird to use for my BAD bird today.† I ended up deciding to take Wilsonís Warbler today and try to see Swainsonís Thrush another time.† They both are migrants that breed here and have just returned, but the thrush is more common, according to eBird reports, so Iíll try to see one again.† The way these things go, I expect to see tons of Wilsonís Warblers now, having chosen that one for today.† We will see.


On Wednesday, May 14, I went over to Marymoor Park and walked along the river, through part of the off-leash dog park there.† As soon as I arrived, near the parking lot, I had a male Common Yellowthroat and got pictures.† Here is a picture of that bad boy.


That would have made a good BAD bird, but a little later I got looks at a male Bullockís Oriole, and I decided that was even better.† Here is the male Bullockís Oriole.


There was a female Bullockís Oriole nearby, too, so maybe theyíll nest there.


I heard a bird singing loudly and eventually got a look at it.† I thought I knew what it was, so I played the song, and it was indeed a Warbling Vireo, still another excellent BAD bird candidate.† I thought I might attract the bird to fly closer for pictures by playing its song, but instead of that, I got two or three others singing, all around me, basically.† ††It is a very small bird, about the size of a chickadee, but very loud.† They were so responsive to the playing of their song that Iím hoping I can go back and get them singing again.


It was another beautiful sunny day and there were lots of people out with their dogs.† Here is a picture that shows one of the 4 or 5 places that dogs can access the river.


Great Blue Herons nest there in the tall cottonwoods along the river, and they have young in the nests now.† I got this picture of one of the adults by the river, looking for a meal.


Back at the parking lot, I saw both the male and the female Common Yellowthroat, so Iím hoping they are nesting there and I can see them again on another visit.† Based on that and the responsiveness of the Warbling Vireos to playback, Iím going to take Bullockís Oriole for my BAD bird for Wednesday.


On Thursday, May 15, I went up to the Crescent Lake area, between Duvall and Monroe.† I had seen reports of two different great birds up there, so I thought Iíd take a look.† If I missed both of them, there were other good ones that were possible, too.


I stopped just across the river, as I approached the area, to take a leak under the bridge Ė a handy location Iíve used before.† There were some very vocal birds there, and they turned out to be Black-headed Grosbeaks, which would be a decent BAD bird, if I missed my two target species.† Here is a picture of a male Black-headed Grosbeak from the front.


Here is a side view picture.


There was also a Red-breasted Sapsucker there, which would also be a decent BAD bird.


I stopped at the place described, to look for the Sandhill Crane that had been reported there the day before, but it seemed to have moved on and I dipped on it.† So much for target bird number 1.


At the prison farm pond I saw one male Cinnamon Teal, an even better BAD bird than the grosbeak.† Theoretically some hang around through June at some places, but there arenít many.† I played the call of another bird that has been reported there, and a Sora answered me.† Since you can count ďheard onlyĒ birds for Bird-A-Day, I had one that isnít even on my spreadsheet, as they are quite uncommon around here.† Outstanding!


From there I went down to Duvall and drove up West Snoqualmie River Road in search of the other uncommon bird that had been reported.† I found it right where it had been described to be, near the Halal slaughterhouse.† Here is a picture of the Western Kingbird I saw there.


That one isnít on my BAD bird spreadsheet either, as they are quite uncommon around here.† It was my first one ever in King County.† When I got home I debated with myself and consulted past records of Sora and Western Kingbird on eBird, and I ended up choosing Western Kingbird for my BAD bird for the day.† I figured I would go back up to the prison farm pond and try for the Sora again on Friday, in the hopes it is resident there, and not just passing through.


So, that brings us up to this morning, Friday, May 16.† I did indeed go back up to the Crescent Lake area today, and I saw five Cinnamon Teal on the pond, so I had a great backup BAD bird.† I played the Sora call and got a strong vocal response, as I had hoped I would.† But, then I saw a blue bird flying away from me.† I had seen a report from just yesterday of 7 LAZULI BUNTINGS at that location, and this was one of them, presumably.† So, I had a year bird, and it was still another species that wasnít even on my BAD spreadsheet as they are quite uncommon on this side of the Cascade Mountains.† It was a brief look, but the color is easy to identify.† I played the song and tried for 15 minutes or so to call one up, and though I think I heard them singing in response, I never saw one again.† I donít know if I would have realized what it was if I hadnít read the report from yesterday, as it isnít a species I would have expected, but having it in my mind, the identification was actually easy, despite my brief look.


So, with that addition, Iím now at 403 species for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is new for my US list.


I had another long debate with myself today about what to choose for my BAD bird for today, and I ended up choosing Lazuli Bunting.† They are actually a little more common than Sora in this area in the next couple of months, but Iím hoping that the Sora will still be there in 9 or 10 days, when Iím back from my Oregon trip.† It seems to be responsive to hearing its call played, so Iím gambling it will stick around until I can get back up there.† I wish I could go back up there tomorrow.


You might remember that my camera broke while I was on my Texas trip, and Christina sent me my old one, which I have been using ever since.† I sent the broken camera back to Sony for repair, as it was within the one year warranty period Ė barely.† Well, they refused to fix it, on the basis of some scratches on the paint on the lens, which they say shows the camera got physical abuse of some kind, and damage caused by physical abuse is not covered by the warranty.† I couldnít get an explanation of what actually failed or why they thought it was due to whatever caused the scratches, and the whole thing was quite unsatisfactory.† I escalated it through a couple of other departments, but eventually I gave it up and Iíve asked them to return the camera to me, rather than replace it with a refurbished one (of the same model) for $263.† In the meantime, I did some research and Sony has a new model out this year that sounds like it has some nice improvements in it, so today I ordered one of those for $478, with free shipping and no sales tax.† It has the same 50X zoom as my broken one, and the old one Iím using now is only 30X, so Iím looking forward to getting back to 50X optical zoom, with the supposed improvements that the new model has.† The new one comes with a kit that has a 32 GB memory card, a spare battery, a tabletop tripod, a couple of filters, a backpack, and some other accessories.


Tomorrow morning I leave for my trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.† I plan to take three days to get there, stopping for two nights along the way, for some Washington State county birding.† I plan to bird in three counties Iíve never birded in before, and add to my lists in two or three other counties.† Iím meeting my friend, Fred (and his Golden Retriever, Tugboat), who lives in Sacramento. †We plan to stay in Burns, which is about 20 miles from the north end of Malheur, for five nights, as we did last year.† Last year we saw 100 species in the Malheur area, so we have that target to try to beat.† Iím expecting to add 12 or 15 species to my year list in the next 8 or 9 days, so there should be reports, maybe each day.† I figure it will be easy to add a good BAD bird each day, too, one that I wonít see here around home.† Of course, there will be lots of photo opportunities, too, Iím sure, for those readers who prefer the pictures to my ramblings.



Saturday, May 17, 2014


I was up at 7 and away by just after 9, as I had planned.† My first stop was Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, mainly for a rest room stop.† I did walk around a little and added six species to my Thurston County list.† As a reminder, Iím keeping track of species seen in each of Washingtonís 39 counties, and today was a county birding day.


My next stop was a place I hadnít been before, Scatter Creek Wildlife Area.† At first it was very slow, and I was disappointed.† The weather had changed, and it was in the 60ís with clouds and showers.† I got sprinkled on at Scatter Creek, but then the clouds moved on, and the sun came out.† It seemed to make a huge difference to the birds, and I saw a lot more after the sun came out.† I even added a year bird, WESTERN TANAGER.† Here is a very distant picture of a male Western Tanager.† I would have liked to have the 50X zoom of my new camera that broke, or better yet, the new one that is on order, but Iím pleased to even be able to identify the bird at this distance.


Here is a picture of a pond at Scatter Creek WA.


I added Bewickís Wren, Downy Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwing, Wilsonís Warbler, and several other species there before I left.† As I drove back to the freeway, I added Brewerís Blackbird to my Thurston county list, too.† With those two stops, I added 17 species to my Thurston county list, to bring me to 30 in that county.† The point of county birding is to first see at least one bird in each county in the state, and then to try to see at least 25, then at least 50, etc.† So far, I have yet to bird in all the counties, so I have a ways to go.


My next stop was in a ďnewĒ county for me, Lewis county.† It was my first time to bird in Lewis county.† I stopped at Riverside Park in Centralia and got my first Lewis county birds.† There was a pair of Black-capped Chickadees that were coming repeatedly to a nest hole in a dead snag, and I got these two pictures.



It was after noon by then, so I drove to Shaffer Park, just north and east of Centralia.† The park was closed due to budget constraints (since 2011, it sounded like), but they were still mowing it and there were picnic tables.† Closed means the rest rooms were closed, I think, and the sign said you could use it at your own risk, as if there is any other way to do anything except at your own risk.† I think that is a really meaningless statement, promoted by lawyers, no doubt.


I had my humble lunch there Ė ham, cheese, potato chips, and peppers and peas, with a Diet Coke.† The usual.† Iíll be having that just about every day for the next week, I expect.† I didnít see anything there, and I moved on after I ate.


My next stop was Lewis and Clark State Park.† It is a very nice park, with nice camping sites, but not much in the way of birds for me today.† I did see a female Western Tanager and I added Common Raven and Spotted Towhee to my county list there.


While driving on from there, I saw a Western Scrub-Jay, which is going to be my BAD bird for the day.† I wonít see that one around home, and I might see a Western Tanager if Iím lucky, or a Red-breasted Nuthatch, which I had seen at Riverside Park.


I reached the little town of Toledo, and instead of driving on through, as I had planned, I drove around town instead, to see what town birds I could get.† I ended up adding 7 more species to my Lewis county list there, which was great.† As I said, today was my first time birding in Lewis county, and I ended up with 21 species there today.


I made my way back to the freeway (I-5) and continued south.† When I got into the next county, Cowlitz, I picked up Feral Pigeon and Turkey Vulture for my Cowlitz county list from the car as I drove.† I had intended to drive straight to my motel in Vancouver, but I got off at Dike Access Road and drove around a bit in what is called the Woodland Bottoms.† I had birded there in January, on my way home from California, and I thought I might see some different birds in the spring.† That turned out be the case, and I picked up 8 more species for my Cowlitz county list, including American Goldfinch and Belted Kingfisher.† Amazingly, at one place there were some swallows on wires, and although there were only five swallows total, they were four different species Ė Barn, Tree, Violet-green, and Cliff.† Swallows are often in mixed flocks, but seeing four species in one place, when there are only five swallows present is amazing to me.† They sat there nicely on the wires and let me get good looks at them from the car, so there is no doubt about the IDís.† Back on the freeway, I added a couple more species to my Cowlitz county list, too Ė Eurasian Collared Dove and Stellerís Jay.† I ended up adding 12 species to my Cowlitz county list, to bring me to 27 for that county.


That was it for the birding, except that as I moved into my motel in Vancouver, I added House Sparrow to my Clark county list, to bring that one to 32 species.


So, it was a good birding day, although slow at times.† I added a new county to my lists and increased my totals in three other counties.† I got a year bird, and I got a good BAD bird.† It sprinkled a little and it rained hard a couple of times, but I was on the freeway those times, and it didnít last long.† The temperatures were in the 60ís all day, which is perfect for me.† A good day.


With the addition of Western Tanager, Iím now at 404 species for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is a new one for my US list.


Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy here in Vancouver, but Iím planning on heading east, up the Columbia River, and Iím hoping that Iíll move out of the rain as I go east.† We will see.



Sunday, May 18, 2014


Iím sticking to my early pattern and I was away shortly after 8:30 this morning, after getting out of bed at 7.† It was drizzling sometimes and raining lightly sometimes, but I headed east along Highway 14, which runs on the Washington side of the Columbia River, which is the border with Oregon.† I hastened through Clark county to Skamania county, to see what I could see for my county list.† I think it is the first time in my life I have been Skamania county, so itís obviously the first time I have birded there.


I have a book about Washington birding, and it describes birding sites around the state.† I followed it today and stopped where it suggested.† I slowly added birds, despite the drizzly weather.† My first in the county was American Robin, one of the most common birds Iíve seen on the trip.† Some of the good ones I got in the county are Osprey, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Scrub-Jay, White-crowned Sparrow, and Belted Kingfisher.† Some of those are pretty common in the county, but I was glad to see each species.


The rain started to let up and sky got brighter about 11 or 11:30.† Here is a picture of the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.


As I left there, the sun came out, and the rest of the day was good for weather.† Here are some Common Mergansers at Drano Lake, I think.


You can see that the sun was out by then.


As I was nearing the eastern border of Skamania county, I took the side road to the Little White Salmon Fish Hatchery, based on some info in the book.† To my pleased surprise, I was actually able to see the species I was looking for there, AMERICAN DIPPER.† There was a parent bird and a young fledgling, and the fledgling was begging for food and flapping its wings.† Here is the fledgling.


Here is the parent bird.


I especially like dippers, so it was very satisfying to pick up the species for my year list.


Here is the weir at the hatchery, where I saw the dippers.


I got two swallow species there, too Ė Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Violet Green Swallow, and I also got Stellerís Jay and Harlequin Duck.† It was an excellent stop, one of the most productive of the day.† Driving back to the main road, I picked up Northern Flicker and California Gull, too, making it a real bonanza of a detour.† That was the end of my Skamania county birding, and I got 28 species in the county, which is great for less than four hours, when it was raining most of the time.


Next I moved into Klickitat county.† I passed through the county last June and got three species, but this was the first time I had actually birded in the county.† I took a side road and got this picture of the Columbia River.


From that same point, I took some pictures of people on the river down below, partly to show off the zoom of my camera.† This is my old camera, remember, which is only 30X zoom.† My new one which is on order is 50X zoom.† Here is a kitesurfer on the river below.


Here is a picture of him/her when he/she goes airborne.† Note the white water where he/she left the water.


Here is a windsurfer on the river, taken from the same place.


I think it is pretty amazing to be able to get pictures like that from way up on the hill, handholding the camera.


Here is another picture of the Columbia River, a little farther east, where Highway 14 goes up on the hill.


You can see that I had a beautiful drive this afternoon.† I drove off on another side road and went down a dirt road to the side of the Klickitat River.† I got this picture of a female Common Merganser and some of her brood.† They were scooting across the river at the time, moving fast.


You wouldnít think the little ones could move so fast.


At another place I saw a couple of Ospreys perched.† Here is a picture of one of them looking down right at me.† I was in my car on the road, right under his pole.


Here is a more conventional profile picture.


Male and female Ospreys look the same, although the males are usually smaller than the females, as in most raptors.† The one above was a male, though, because I watched him fly to a nearby pole where another one was perched and he proceeded to copulate with her.† Here is a picture.


I have three pictures of them ďdoing itĒ, and Iím showing this one because you can see that the male is smaller than the female in this one.† Here they are afterwards, just hanging out together.


At one point this afternoon, I took a side road, Old Highway 8, and I turned off on a smaller side road to check out a cemetery that my book mentioned.† I stopped right after the second turn off, to check out a bird flying overhead, but I had to wait for a parade of four cars to go by, and by that time, the bird was gone.† I was suspicious about the parade of four cars, and sure enough, when I got to the cemetery, they were stopped and a bunch of obvious birders were getting out and getting organized.† I had intended to bird the cemetery, but the sight of 15 or so other birders milling around put me off, and I went on past.


My last stop of the day was at the Maryhill Museum, near my final destination, which is just across the river from it.† I was looking for Lesser Goldfinch, the same bird that is supposed to be at the cemetery that was infested with birders.† I didnít get the goldfinch (I wonder if the birders at the cemetery did), but I got a couple of others for my county list.† Here is a picture of a Western Kingbird.


And here is a picture of a pair of California Quail.


I ended up with 25 species for Klickitat county, which is great for an afternoon of birding when I was traveling.


I drove across the river and checked into my new home away from home at about 5:20.


So, with the addition of American Dipper to my year list, Iím now at 405 species for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is new for my US list.


For my BAD bird today, it comes down to California Gull, Western Bluebird, or American Dipper.† I could possibly see any of those in my home county, but none are likely.† Iíll take Western Bluebird, as I think that one is the least likely for me to see at home.


Tomorrow I have a five hour drive to Burns, Oregon, where Iím supposed to meet my friend, Fred, and his dog, Tugboat, for four days of birding around Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.† It will be interesting to see if I can get another year bird tomorrow, while traveling.† At least the weather is supposed to be good.



Monday, May 19, 2014


I was up and away before nine this morning, including gassing the car up and eating the breakfast I had brought with me Ė three hard boiled eggs, three turkey breakfast sausages, and a Greek yogurt.† I took a route I hadnít ever been on before, and I enjoyed the scenery.† It was a beautiful sunny morning and I got to see 150 miles of a road I had never been on before.


I was watching for a year bird, or at least a good BAD bird, as I drove.† I had one species in particular in mind, and after about an hour I saw my first of three BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES for the day.† It was sitting on the guard rail, so it was hard to miss.† Iím surprised I only saw three today, as I though they were more common than that out here.† I stopped at a very nice Oregon State Park and drove through it, looking and listening for birds, but saw nothing.† Mostly I just drove, as there were a couple of places I wanted to stop near my destination, which was Burns, Oregon.


I had lunch at Mickey Dís in John Day, my lunch indulgence for the week.† The rest of the time Iíll make my own, a lot lower in calories.


I only had about an hour and twenty minutes of driving left when I finished lunch at about 12:30, so I had plenty of time to stop a couple of places.† I stopped at one campground at a pass (about 5000 feet) and found nothing at all.† The next place I stopped was Joaquin Miller Campground, and it was pretty quiet.† I did see a male Hairy Woodpecker and got this picture.


Because birds were thin on the ground, I took this picture of a cute little chipmunk.


I walked around a little and I played the calls of White-headed Woodpecker, but got no response.† As I was leaving, though, I got a glimpse of a bird that flew across the road in front of me.† I only had a glimpse, and it looked gray and also larger than anything I was looking for.† I stopped and got out anyway, and looked around.† I didnít hear or see anything, but I had thought of a possible bird that it might have been, and I played that birdís song.† To my surprise, I got a response and got great views of a lovely TOWNSENDS SOLITAIRE.† I donít know if that was what flew across the road in front of me or not, but it was a great bird to get.† Here is a front view of it.


It is a pretty plain gray bird, but the prominent eye ring is the key to identification.† Iíve only seen the species a handful of times, maybe 4 or 5.† Here is a picture from the side, showing the buffy patch on the wing, which is the only other real marking.


So, that was nice, and I moved on to Idlewild Campground, where I had seen several good species last year.† I walked around and played the calls of several birds, but didnít get any response for quite a while.† There were a couple of robins, but I didnít see anything else at first.† Then I got a response to the song of MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE.† It was just exactly like my recording, and it was very easy to identify.† Since Iím counting ďheard onlyĒ birds this year, I was going to count it anyway, but I wanted to see one, and try for a picture, ideally.† I saw a couple of Brown Creepers while I looked for the chickadee that was singing regularly, but never could see the chickadee.† As it turned out, a little later I saw two of the chickadees up close, and I even got pictures.† Here is a Mountain Chickadee.† It looks like a Black-capped Chickadee except that it has white eyebrows.


Here is another one, even closer.


A little later I heard the call of the woodpecker I was looking for, and then I saw it.† Here is a picture of a male WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER.


Later he flew down lower, but I never got a better picture.


I also saw one Chipping Sparrow and got this picture.


I also saw another Brown Creeper and got this poor picture.


So, that was the end of my birding today, and I drove on into Burns and checked into my motel.† Fred showed up a bit later and now our birding adventure starts.


My four species today bring me to a total of 409 for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is a new one for my US list.† For my BAD bird, Iíll take Townsendís Solitaire, although a couple of others would be just as good.


Tomorrow Fred, Tugboat, and I will start our birding adventure.† Our goal is to beat the 100 species we saw last year here.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Our first day of birding Malheur NWR and the area around it was delayed at the start because Fred had gotten a blowout yesterday afternoon, and he had to get the tire replaced.† We dropped off his truck at the local Les Schwab place and headed out in my car.† Our first stop was the Burns Sewage Treatment Plant pond, which is accessed from the fairgrounds.† There is a shaky wooden platform that you have to climb up to see the pond, and we climbed up with my scope.† The platform isnít all that high, but you have to move around kind of carefully as it is indeed pretty shaky.


The pond was full of water birds.† We got lots of ducks including Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy Duck, Redhead, and Canvasback.† There were Ring-necked Ducks and one Lesser Scaup as well, plus others.† There were hundreds of Wilsonís Phalaropes and I managed to see about 4 or 5 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES as well.† There were probably more Red-necked ones, but that is what I actually saw.† So, I had a year bird, the one I was looking for there.† By the time we left there, we had about 18 species on our list.


Next we drove down to Hotchkiss Lane and drove both ways on it.† We saw a few more birds for our list, but nothing I particularly remember.† When we got to Highway 205, we headed south toward Malheur.† Burns, where we are staying, is about 20 miles from the north boundary of Malheur NWR, so we will be seeing that stretch of Highway 205 a number of times this week.† We picked up Great Egret and Long-billed Curlew along there.† At The Narrows, just before you get to Malheur, we got Spotted Sandpiper, American White Pelican, Western Grebe, and Clarkís Grebe.† Here is a picture of an American White Pelican.† They develop those protuberances on their bills during breeding season, for some reason.


That is kind of a small one on that bird; some of them are much larger.† I have no idea what function they serve, if any.


Here is a Western Grebe.


Note that ďthe eye is in the blackĒ.† We also saw a couple of Clarkís Grebes which look just the same except the black of the crown of the head is higher, and ďthe eye is in the whiteĒ.† The bill color is also slightly different.


On the road to the headquarters of the NWR we got SAGE THRASHER for my year list.† Unfortunately, I wasnít able to get a picture.† The thrasher flew, and while following it, we saw a nice Horned Lark sitting up and posing.† It was really distant, but here is a picture.


We had great hopes for the headquarters area, but it was less active than it has been in the past.† We did manage to pick up Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Warbling Vireo, and Bullockís Oriole, though.† Here is a picture of a male Bullockís Oriole out in the sun.


There were at least 50 or 60 Black Terns flying around over the pond there.† On the way to the blind to get pictures of them, we saw a pair of California Quail.


The Black Terns were flying around and calling, and they did land out in front of us, and I got this picture of three of them.


Here is a picture of a couple of them, and one is showing its white undertail feathers.


There were several Yellow Warblers flying around the area, and here is a picture of a male Yellow Warbler.


The picture is somewhat overexposed, but in the sun, they are very yellow.† In that same area, we saw a flycatcher that was likely either a Gray Flycatcher or a Dusky Flycatcher Ė I think the latter.† Flycatchers of that family are very difficult to ID, though, and we ended up not being able to make a decision on the identity.† Either one would have been a year bird for me, but I didnít feel comfortable making a call on it, so it didnít go on any list.


It was time for my lunch (Fred only eats one meal a day, in the evening), so we sat on a bench and I ate my ham, cheese, potato chips, peppers, and peas.† Just before that, we had seen a WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, my first of the year, and while we ate, it came and perched on a bare branch out in front of us.† It was pretty far away, and the lighting was difficult, but here is the Western Wood-PeWee.


We left the headquarters area and drove down to the Malheur Field Station, where we had stayed in 2011, our first time here.† We picked up House Sparrow there, as well as American Kestrel.† Both species were ones we had seen there before, so it was satisfying to have a plan work out.† We also saw a flycatcher that was new.† We got good looks at it, and it was quite green, and it was yellow under its tail.† I got this distant, poorly lighted picture.


I would have said it was a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, based on my experience, but it turns out that Pacific-slope Flycatcher isnít on the official list for Malheur.† But, wait, my field guide says that Pacific-slope Flycatcher is indistinguishable from another species, except by call and range.† It turns out that this is outside the range of Pacific-slope Flycatcher, but is on the edge of the range of the other one, CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER.† I wish I had gotten better looks after I looked in my field guide, and I wish I had better pictures, but Iím going to go with Cordilleran Flycatcher, an excellent one for my year list, as I wonít see one anywhere else I plan to go this year.


After I took that picture, the bird flew up onto a wire, and another flycatcher was near it.† The second one was a Sayís Phoebe, the first of several we saw today.† Hereís a picture.


We headed back to Highway 205 then and went south.† On the way we saw a couple of Sandhill Cranes, my first of the trip, and they had a couple of young one with them.† I hadnít realized that young Sandhill Cranes were this color.


The two little ones must be pretty young, as they have a lot of growing to do still.† I guess the family has to hang around the same area until the young ones are old enough to fly.† It was touching to see the way the adults shepherded the young ones around and seemed to take care of them.† I was quite a distance away, well over a hundred yards I would say, but they were very aware of me and seemed protective of the young ones.


We went to the overlook that looks over Buena Vista ponds, but it was so windy that we didnít see much, although we did get our first Franklinís Gull from there.† Down in the lowlands again, we made a stop to look at a Pied-billed Grebe and got this Marsh Wren as a bonus.


It is a poor picture, but it shows the little guy singing his heart out, and I was pleased to get anything at all from such a distance.† We got our first and only Northern Harrier there, too.


It was getting late by then, so we headed back north, heading for home.† We needed to pick up Fredís truck with its new tire and stop at Safeway for some provisions.† We took a slightly longer route and drove down Greenhouse Lane on the way.† We picked up Black-necked Stilt there, and there were tons of Yellow-headed Blackbirds along the road, too.† One of the blackbirds was very cooperative, and I got this series of pictures.


I like the way you can see all the feathers on him.† He kept calling loudly, and here is a picture of him calling.


You can see that he really puts himself into it.† He turned around after a while, and here is a view from the front.


Now Iím confused, as I see the first two pictures are of a bird on a post, and this one is of a bird on a wire.† Maybe it moved.† I thought all four of these last pictures were of the same bird.† Anyway, he called some more, and still seemed to put his heart into it.


So, that was it for today.† I added four birds to my year list, to bring me to 413 for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is new for my US list.


Fred and I got 68 species today, which is one more than the 67 we got last year on our first day here.


For my BAD bird today, Iíll take Clarkís Grebe, as I wonít see that one anywhere else this year.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014


We were out of here before 8:30 this morning, and we headed up into the mountains to Idlewild Campground.† I had stopped there on Monday and had gotten several species that would be good for our joint trip list, and there were species I could see there for my year list, one in particular that I had missed on Monday.


We walked around the campground and eventually saw several CASSINíS FINCHES, the one I needed for my year list that I especially hoped to see.† We got two or three others for our trip list as well.† We tried for Townsendís Solitaire at Joachin Miller Campground, where I had seen a couple of them on Monday, but couldnít see one.† One did respond vocally to its call once, but we had decided not to count ďheard onlyĒ birds for our trip list, partly because last year we didnít, and we are trying to beat last yearís total.


From there we went back through the outskirts of Burns and drove down ďraptor alleyĒ (Highway 78), east of Burns.† We passed some birders looking at a raptor that was flying, and we stopped long enough to decide it was only a Northern Harrier, and we moved on.† A short way down the road from there, there was a large raptor perched on a power pole, and when we got our scopes on it, we could see it was a Golden Eagle, one of our main targets today.† It was too far away and the heat haze was much too great for pictures.† While we were looking at it, the birders we had passed came along and stopped to ask what we had.† Upon hearing it was a Golden Eagle, they got out and took a look too.† They said the bird they were looking at when had gone by them was actually a Swainsonís Hawk, one we needed, so we went back.† We found it on a pole a fair distance from the road.† I got this distant picture that is terrible, but I think it does show some of the field marks that convinced us it was indeed a Swainsonís Hawk.


You can see the white chin, the dark breast, and the white undertail color.† We could see other things in the scope that convinced us of the identification.


We drove through the Diamond Craters area and I got this picture of a Sage Thrasher on a wire.


We stopped at the Round Barn and I had my humble lunch while Fred exercised Tugboat.† No new birds in that area for us, though.† When we got to Diamond Road, we went east toward Diamond, hoping for a couple of species we had seen there before.† We got Savannah Sparrow for our trip list, and then later on the way back we got Wilsonís Snipe.† Here are a couple of pictures of the snipe, which was close to the road.



On that same stretch of road we noticed a lot of swallows flitting around at one point, and they seemed to be going in and out of holes in a bank by the road.† We looked at them for a long time, as it was hard to see them well because they swooped around so fast, but eventually we decided that there were both Northern Rough-winged Swallows and BANK SWALLOWS there, nesting communally in holes in the bank.† Bank Swallow was the bird I looked for last week at home a couple of times, over on the Snoqualmie River, so it was great to catch up with it here today.† Here is a picture of a Bank Swallow at a nest hole.


They look a lot like Northern Rough-winged Swallows, which is why we had to look at them so long to be sure that both species were there, but the Bank Swallow has that bright white chin and underparts, so this one is a Bank Swallow, I believe.


We moved on and drove up the Central Patrol Road to the road over to Buena Vista Lookout.† We had been there yesterday, but it was much windier yesterday.† We wanted to play the song of a wren we have seen there before, but there were two other pairs of birders there.† We hung around until they left, and played the song.† True to form, a lovely little ROCK WREN flew onto the top of a big rock and sang his song back to us.† I got this picture.


It was getting late by then, so we hustled up Highway 205 to Malheur NWR headquarters.† There were nice birds around there, and as soon as we got out of the car we spotted an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER for my year list.† This is the best picture I could get.


The dark ďvestĒ is the tipoff for this species.


There were Western Tanagers and Black-headed Grosbeaks around, as well as other species.† Here is a picture of a female Western Tanager.


Her colors are completely different from the male.


Here is a female Black-chinned Hummingbird.


I had seen that species down in Texas, but it was a good one for our trip list.


I showed a picture of a male Yellow Warbler yesterday, but today I got one that I like as much for the surroundings and background as for the bird.


On our way to the car we saw two or three pairs of California Quail.† I have showed other pictures of them in the last few days, but this is the best one I have gotten on this trip of a male California Quail.


You can see his mate in the lower left hand corner of the picture.


We were almost ready to get in the car and head for home when I spotted a bird at the nearby feeders that was different.† I couldnít figure out what it was, and I was saying stuff out loud as I thought through it.† I heard a woman nearby say female Lazuli Bunting, and that indeed was what it was.† Here is a picture of her.


I took other pictures, but before we left another one flew in, and here are the two of them on a feeding dish.


So, it was 4:45 by then, and we were 25 minutes from home, and we needed to stop at Safeway to get some stuff for dinner, so we boogied up the highway to Burns.


We ended up seeing 18 new species for our trip list today, blowing last yearís second day total of 10 out of the water.† We covered mostly the same places today, at least in the morning.† Our total now is 86 species on the trip, and last year it was only 77 after the first two days.


I added four more species to my year list today, to bring me to 417 species, of which 15 are lifers and one is new for my US list.


For my BAD bird today, Iím taking Rock Wren, since I wonít see that one at home.


Tomorrow we are planning to head down to the south end of the NWR, to Frenchglen, P Ranch, and Page Springs Campground, and will probably stop at places along the way or along the way back.† Itís over 60 miles from here, so we will do a lot of driving tomorrow, as we did today, for that matter.† I have a small handful of possible year birds I could see, but I could easily get skunked, too.† We will see.



Thursday, May 22, 2014


We gassed up the car this morning (Iím driving this week) and headed south.† Itís sixty miles to the south end of Malheur NWR, and we pretty much just drove straight down there, stopping when we got to Frenchglen to look around.† We picked up our first American Crow there and our first Song Sparrow, too.† We soon moved on to Page Springs campground, where we had great hopes, based on reports Iíd seen.


As it turned out, Page Springs was kind of disappointing, although we did get our most exciting sighting of the day there.† We stopped near the entrance to the campground, at a place were other birders had been looking for rails last year.† Fred spotted a Sora, but I didnít see it, so we couldnít count it.† I played the calls of Sora, in the hopes of calling it out of the reeds, and we got a loud response from a point closer to us.† I realized it wasnít the Sora call, though; it was the call of another rail, Virginia Rail.† We heard it a couple of times but were about ready to give up and leave (we had decided not to count ďheard onlyĒ birds, so the comparison to last year would be pure).† As we were ready to leave, a Virginia Rail came out and showed itself.† It was a lifer for Fred.


Eventually, another Virginia Rail also showed itself, and then we saw a total of four little black fluff balls that were chicks.† Here is a picture of an adult Virginia Rail.


Itís rare to see them right out in the open like that, so we were quite pleased.† It got even better when one of the chicks came out in the open also.


Here is another picture of the same chick.† It was more aggressive than the others, following the adult out into the open.


To show you how tiny the chicks were, here is a picture of an adult and a chick.† The adult is smaller than a robin.


Here is another one.


Okay, that is kind of overkill on the Virginia Rails, but it was really exciting to see the two parents and four chicks.


We got House Wren there, too, but I wasnít quite able to get a picture.† We also picked up Orange-crowned Warbler.† As we drove out of the campground, we stopped at one point and there was a snake on the road.



On our way to P Ranch, our next destination, there was a Yellow-breasted Chat singing at the top of a tree, and I got this picture.


It was time for lunch by the time we got to P Ranch, and as I ate my lunch by the car, we saw a Northern Flicker, to add to our trip list.† After I finished my lunch, we walked up the trail along the Donner Und Blitzen River.† It was quite a long walk for the Old Rambler, in the sun and all.† I figure we must have gone about a mile an a half altogether.† I know, that is nothing, but Iím old, fat, and out of shape.† It was all worthwhile, though, because we did get my primary target of the day on that walk, BOBOLINK.† I got very distant pictures of that bird, but later got closer pictures of another one (we didnít have to do the walk after all, as it turned out Ė we got the other one from the car a little later on the Center Patrol Road).† Anyway, here is a male Bobolink.



We picked up Willet for our trip list at Knox Pond, and there were a lot of other birds there, too Ė ones we already had.† We stopped at Benson Pond because I had read that there was a Great Horned Owl nest there, and we wanted that one for our trip list.† There were other birders there, and we got directions to the nest.† On the way, we got our only Eastern Kingbird of the trip so far, and I got this distant picture.


The river was dammed up by a beaver dam at one point.† It raised the water level a couple of feet behind the dam, and it must have taken quite a lot of effort on the part of the beavers.† Here is a picture of it.


We found the owl nest.† There was one parent and a couple of owlets in the nest.† The little ones are getting pretty big, but they are still covered with down.† Here is a picture that shows one owlet and the parent.


We trudged back to the car; it was probably close to another mile of walking, on top of the mile and a half or more that we had done already.† From there we headed back north, toward home, and we stopped at the Boat Landing Road near headquarters of the NWR.† It was very disappointing.† From reports I had read, I was counting on at least one species there for our list, but we got nothing.† After that we drove down what we call Barn Owl Road, because we saw a Barn Owl there on our first trip here, in 2011.† No Barn Owl, but we did pick up a Loggerhead Shrike, which was our 12th species of the day for our trip list.


It was almost five oíclock by then, so we headed for Safeway and home.† Fred has been cooking dinner on his little charcoal grill, and tonight it was hamburgers, baked beans, and Anaheim chiles stuffed with Pepper Jack cheese.


So, I managed to see Bobolink today for my year list.† I have no idea what I might see tomorrow; Iíll most likely get skunked, but Iíll probably send out a report anyway, just so I can show off whatever pictures I get tomorrow.† Iím now at 418 species for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is new for my US list.


For my BAD bird today, I guess Iíll take Bobolink.† Tomorrow will be a clean up day, as we have been to almost all the places we wanted to go.† We are now at 98 species for the trip, compared to the 92 we had last year after three days.† We ended up with 100 last year, so we only need 3 more tomorrow to beat that.† Weíll give it a go.



Friday, May 23, 2014


Today was our last day, and we were out of here by about 8:15.† Our first stop was the Boat Landing Road at headquarters, but it was a complete bust, just as it was yesterday.† Other people have been reporting dowitchers there, but all we saw were avocets and stilts, with a few ducks thrown in, and a few phalaropes, I guess.


So, we moved on to headquarters itself.† Almost as soon as we got there, I headed off to the rest room, and before I could get there, I saw a woodpecker in a tree nearby.† I called to Fred and we got brief looks at a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER.† I didnít think I would get a year bird today, and I had one before 9:30 am.† Amazing.† I wasnít able to get a picture then, but later we saw what was probably the same bird, considering that it is pretty uncommon on the reserve, and I got pictures that time.† Here is a female Red-naped Sapsucker.


I took a number of pictures of her, and in that one, you can see her white chin, which is what tells me that it is a female.† Here is another picture.


In that picture you can barely see the white chin, but you can see that the red on the throat is bordered by black, and in the male, the red runs right out to the white.


Here is another picture of her, showing the sap wells she is working.† Sapsuckers eat bugs, but they also peck holes in the bark of trees and then come back when the holes fill with sap, and they lick up the sap.† You can see the neat rows of sap wells on this tree.


Here is another picture showing the sap wells.


I donít know if those are new sap wells this year, or if this bird just found some old sap wells from an earlier year.† They donít all look that fresh to me, and the bird is most likely only passing through; they wouldnít normally nest at that location, and in fact, they are not even seen there very commonly.


We walked around and heard the call of another woodpecker and then saw a male White-headed Woodpecker.† Here is a picture.


I had seen that species on Monday, on my way into Burns, and we had looked for it on Tuesday, up in the mountains, where I had seen it.† It is kind of ironic that we would find it at headquarters, where it is no doubt just passing through.† We were already planning to go back up into the mountains this afternoon, in search of it again, but now it was taken care of.


We looked around headquarters some more and saw a small group of Cedar Waxwings for our trip list.† That put us over the top in terms of beating last year.† It was species number 101, and last year we had seen 100.† It was the first time on this trip that we had been at headquarters in the morning, and there was more bird action than we had seen before.† There were the usual Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, California Quail, and Yellow Warblers, as well as a couple of Warbling Vireos.† None of those were new for us, but it is still satisfying to see birds, even if they donít add to your lists. †At the pond there were a few Black Terns, a Pied-billed Grebe, and some ducks, including a single Ring-necked Duck.


Next we drove the long way around to the Malheur Field Station.† That meant going a little way down the Center Patrol Road, and that took us past a small pond.† We picked up our only two American Wigeons of the trip there.† Thatís a duck species, and most of them have already migrated north, but these two are laggards.† I also got this picture of a Mule Deer along that stretch.


We didnít see anything new at the Field Station, and we moved on.† Our next destination was Double O Ranch.† It was a dusty 15 mile drive on a gravel road to get there, and it really wasnít worth it.† We did see a few birds when we finally got there, including our second Eastern Kingbird of the trip.† Here are two pictures of that one.



While we were driving the 15 dusty miles back to the highway, Fred commented that we needed to see a good bird for our trip list to make the long drive to Double O Ranch worthwhile.† Within a minute there was a male Ring-necked Pheasant on the road, the very thing we needed for our trip list.


We had great hopes for the next place we were heading.† I had seen a post on the Seattle birding mailing list, Tweeters, about a Burrowing Owl sighting here in the Malheur area.† The sighting was just yesterday, so I wrote to the guy who had posted it.† He wrote back and told me exactly where they had seen two of the owls, on Rue-Red Road.† We went to the site and spent at least a half hour driving and walking up and down the road, but never saw any owls.† It was the bird I felt most sure of seeing today when we started the day, and we dipped on it.† The only consolation we got for that side trip was these two pictures of a Horned Lark on a wire.† It wasnít a trip bird, but I like the pictures I got.† In the first picture you can see the rufous color of the back of the neck and a similar patch on the wing.† That rufous color indicates the bird is one of the Western Rufous Group subspecies of Horned Lark.


In this second picture, you can see the small ďhornĒ (behind and above the eye) that gives the species its name.† Males have much more prominent horns, so this is probably a female.


To finish our day, we headed back up into the mountains, to try for a couple of species we had missed up there.† Rain showers were developing as we drove north, and just as we got to Idlewild Campground, it started to rain enough that we didnít feel like getting out to bird.† We drove around the campground and then drove to the next campground, Joachin Miller.† It was raining even more by then, but we played some songs out of the window in the hopes something would fly in.† The rain let up after a while and we got out and played some more calls.† We thought we had a response at one point, to a woodpecker call, but it turned out to be a damn robin, mimicking the call.† Then we heard a woodpecker drumming in the tree right next to us.† We backed off to see it, thinking it was probably a Hairy Woodpecker, the species whose call we had been playing.† But, as it turned out, ironically enough, it was a White-headed Woodpecker, the one we had seen at headquarters this morning.† So, it was a good bird, but it didnít go us any good as far as our list was concerned.


Back at Idlewild Campground, we worked hard and eventually added Mountain Chickadee to our trip list, our sixth trip species of the day.† It was getting on for five oíclock by then, so we went on back to our motel on the outskirts of Burns, stopping at Safeway on the way there.


So, we finished up with 104 species for the 4 day trip, beating out our total of 100 from last year.† I added one more to my year list today, to bring me to a total of 419 species for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is new for my US list.† I added 16 species to my year list on the trip, including my two days coming down here.† I donít expect Iíll add any more tomorrow on my way home, as I plan to drive straight through.† I probably wonít send out a report tomorrow.† In addition to driving home, I just need to pick up a decent BAD bird.† Iíll try to get one I wonít see at home, but we will see what can be spotted from the car as I whiz past.


For today, Iíll take Black Tern for my BAD bird, as I wonít see that one at home, for sure.



Friday, May 30, 2014


Before I get into todayís report, let me catch up with my BAD birds for the last week and show some pictures.


Last Saturday, May 24, I drove home from Burns, Oregon.† It was an eight hour drive and I didnít do any actual birding, except from the car at 60 or 70 mph.† I saw Black-billed Magpies five or six times, and I took that for my BAD bird on Saturday.


On Sunday I got back into my daily local birding trips.† I went out to the Monroe prison farm pond and played the call for Sora.† I got clear vocal responses, and although I didnít see the bird, the rules of BAD birding allow ďheard onlyĒ birds, so I took it for my BAD bird that day.† I also saw one Cinnamon Teal on the pond, but I thought the Sora was a better one to take.


I went back there again on Monday morning and the Cinnamon Teal was still around, so I took that one for my BAD bird on Monday.


On Tuesday my brother, Rick, and his wife were in town and came to lunch.† Before lunch, Rick and I went over to Magnuson Park, in Seattle.† I had never been there, and Iím always reading about the birds people see there, so I thought I should check it out.† It is a magnificent park, located on the site of the former Sand Point Naval Air Station.† There are playing fields (soccer and baseball/softball), community gardens, open grassy areas, lakefront on Lake Washington, a boat launch ramp, wetlands, walking trails, and wooded areas.† It is a great birding habitat.† We didnít see a lot, but I did get Cedar Waxwing for my BAD bird for May 27.† I did get one picture I like Ė a male American Goldfinch that was all puffed up for some reason.


That afternoon UPS brought my new camera.† You might remember that my Sony 50X super-zoom camera broke while I was in Texas, and Christina sent me my old 30X one.† The camera was under warranty, but Sony used the excuse of some scratches in the paint on the lens barrel to say that there had been physical abuse and they refused to cover the repairs under warranty.† I had them send it back, and the damage is really minimal in my view. I canít imagine how it caused the failure, but there isnít anything I can do about it, so I decided to just let it go.† You usually canít control what other people do in this life, so it is better to just let it go.†


As it turned out, Sony had released a new version of the camera this year, and it sounded like there were a number of improvements in it.† I ordered one, and it arrived on Tuesday afternoon.† So far, after three days of limited time to use it, I really like it. †The old one breaking and Sony refusing to cover it under warranty might turn out to be a blessing in disguise, because I like the new one much better than the one that broke, so far.


Anyway, I took some pictures in my yard with it on Tuesday.† I was sitting on my porch and the birds were at the feeder, which is about 40 to 50 feet away.† Hereís a male Red-winged Blackbird.


Hereís a European Starling.


Birders pretty much ignore starlings, both because they are so common and because they are not native to North America.† When you see one with your naked eyes, they just look black, but up close, they have lots of patterns and are iridescent in the sun.


Here are a couple of female House Finches arguing over access to the feeder.


Those first pictures looked over-processed to me, maybe over-sharpened, but I found some settings on the camera and Iím experimenting with them.


On Wednesday, May 28, I went back up to the Crescent Lake area, which is adjacent to the prison farm pond.† I was going to take Eurasian Collared-Dove, which I see there every time, for my BAD bird, but I saw a Western Wood-Pewee and a Red-breasted Sapsucker as well, so I was conflicted.† As it turned out, I also saw a Turkey Vulture overhead, and I ended up taking that as my BAD bird for Wednesday.† Here is a picture of the Western Wood-PeWee.


Here is another one.


Here is a picture of a Eurasian Collared-Dove flying.


Here is a perched one.


Iíll have to go back there again to get that one for my BAD bird one day.† They are always around the dairy farm there.


On my way home, I drove up the west side of the Snoqualmie River outside of Duvall, and I got these two pictures of Barn Swallows.† I learned after I looked at the pictures that the males have a reddish-brown breast and underside, and females are white underneath.† I hadnít realized that.† Here is a male and a female Barn Swallow.



Iím quite pleased with the colors, the clarity, and the background of those shots.† I think Iím going to like this new camera.† Here is a male American Goldfinch at a feeder at a house along that road.


Both Barn Swallow and American Goldfinch are birds Iím ďsavingĒ for my BAD bird.† I have 30 or 40 fairly common birds that are in that category, and soon I will have to start taking those easy ones, as the hard ones get harder and harder to find, the more I see.† At this point, I think I can get into mid-July fairly easily if I keep working at it, before I finally run out of birds to take for my Bird-A-Day.† At the start of the year, I thought I would be done by now, or by the end of June for sure, but Iíve done very well at seeing uncommon and even rare birds this year, so it has gone on longer than I expected.


So, that was Wednesday.† Yesterday, Thursday, May 29, I went over to Marymoor Park to see what I could find.† There were Wood Ducks on the river and I saw a couple of Black-headed Grosbeaks, and either species would make a decent BAD bird.† Better than those, though was a Warbling Vireo, so I took that one for my BAD bird on Thursday.


Back here at home that day, I took some more experimental pictures with my new camera, trying out a couple of variations in settings.† Here is a Stellerís Jay at our feeder.


Here is another picture of a European Starling.


Iím learning how to use some of the features of the new camera, and Iím liking it.


So, finally we are up to today, Friday, May 30.† I went to a new place for me, Tolt-MacDonald Park in Carnation, which is south and east of here, in the Snoqualmie River valley.† I had been to the park, but I had never birded there.† It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I walked around parts of the park.† I had seen a report from a couple of days ago that listed a number of birds I could use for BAD birds and even several year birds.† Early on I got this picture of a male Black-headed Grosbeak, which would have been a decent BAD bird.


Here is another view of him.


As I said before, Iím very pleased with the quality of the images that this new camera produces.


I walked over the river on the suspension bridge, and played the song of Swainsonís Thrush, one of the birds reported there.† One flew in to check me out, and I got this picture.


There were a couple of Cedar Waxwings that were acting like flycatchers, flying out over the river to catch bugs and returning to perches on a tree that had fallen and was hanging over the river.† The light was terrible, but I still like this picture of a Cedar Waxwing.


I turned back toward the car at that point, and a flycatcher flew in and perched briefly for me.† I got a good look at it, but flycatchers are tough to identify as there are so many of them that look very similar.† I thought I knew which one it was, so I played the song of that one, and I got responses.† I also got another good look at my first WILLOW FLYCATCHER of the year.† No pictures, though; the undergrowth was too thick and it didnít perch for long where I could see it.


So, with that addition to my year list, Iím now at 420 species for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is new for my US list.


For my BAD bird for the day, Iím taking Swainsonís Thrush.† I think I can see Willow Flycatcher again at Marymoor, and the thrush would be more difficult to see again, I think, although I might very well see one of those at Marymoor, too.