Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Finchy Kind of Day

At least April ends with some sunshine after a long month of snow and cold. Today's sunshine, however, doesn't mean that winter is done.

It was a pleasure this morning to sit in the sunshine and shoot photos of the finches that descended to the backyard feeders. First there were the Cassin's finches, about 12 individuals and a mix of males and females. Their male's brilliant wine red coloration was a welcomed sight. While these finches were working over the sunflower seeds, I could hear a flock of evening grosbeaks calling and getting closer.

Once the grosbeaks descended, the finches had to shift from one feeder to another one. The larger grosbeaks were defending their food source from the finches and other grosbeak arrivals.

In addition to these birds there were white-crowned sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, American goldfinches, house finches, house sparrows, ruby-crowned kinglets, and pygmy nuthatches getting into the fray. A lone robin showed up with nest material in its bill and proceeded to dunk the plant material in the shallow water dish.

When the western scrub-jay appeared, everyone scattered to nearby branches. A nice way to spend a nice day.

The Deschutes County Big Year continues. Though I've missed a few entries, today's total stands at 127.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mid-April...

...and the birding is great in Central Oregon. Our Oregon Audubon Council meeting members went on a fun field trip to the Rooster Rock burn and the Camp Polk Preserve up in Sisters, Oregon this past weekend. First bird of the day, not counting the pinyon jays on my drive to the carpooling location, was a white-headed woodpecker near the Village Green in Sisters. This species is the icon of the East Cascades Audubon chapter and was a harbinger for the day to follow.

From the Village Green we traveled towards the Three Creeks area and stopped at the Rooster Rock burn. In this human-caused burn, we found several other woodpeckers: black-backed, hairy, and downy. Evidence of woodpecker activity was easy to see on the blackened trees; removal of the outer charcoaled bark revealed the lighter colored layers below. We also located a few yellow-rumped warblers, northern flickers, and common ravens. 
Raven in flight
Traveling back to the Village Green for another restroom break, we picked up a varied thrush just before leaving. Then it was over to the Forest Service office to scope out the feeders. One of the ladies that works at the office, Sandy, keeps several feeders stocked. In just a few minutes we spotted pygmy and red-breasted nuthatches, red crossbills, ruby-crowned kinglets and mountian chickadees.

One person in the group mentioned a desire to see pinyon jays, so the guides Howard and Judy drove us straight to a flock of over 50 birds foraging alongside the road. Ask and ye shall receive.

From the jays we drove to Camp Polk Preserve, a Deschutes Land Trust holding in Sisters. Here we found more yellow-rumps and kinglets, song sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, a lone female wood duck, and white-breasted nuthatches. That made a trifecta of nuthatches for the day. There were also western bluebirds and a Say's phoebe. One treat of the visit was watching a flying osprey carrying prey trying to outrun a bald eagle. Wasn't going to happen. The eagle gained enough elevation to stoop after the osprey. After a few attempted manuevers to ditch the eagle, the osprey finally dropped the fish which the eagle easily snatched in mid-air.

Northern goshawk
After tracking down a red-breasted sapsucker, thanks to its "morse code" tapping, we returned to the parking lot and were preparing to leave when a northern goshawk flew overhead. A great ending to a great day, and some new additions to the Deschutes County Big Year List.

Deschutes County Big Year List to date: 106 species

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Migration continues...

Sandhill cranes at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
...to bring new birds each week. Recently, I've seen ruby and golden-crowned kinglets, yellow-rumped warblers, tree and violet-green swallows, and Say's phoebes. New waterfowl include canvasbacks and pintails. Although the weather continues to be variable (snowing as I type), the birds continue to move. 

The County Big Year continues, slowly and with some missed opportunities. Species count to date: 95.