Sunday, May 10, 2015

Big Year Murmurations

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to reach 245 species in Douglas County, Oregon. After a quick start with some good county birds found alone and by others (Snow Goose, Glaucous Gull, Horned Lark, Pine Grosbeak, Williamson's Sapsucker) I was encouraged by some local experts, one of whom holds the county record, to shoot for 265+.

    I made a High Cascades loop this weekend hoping for what I thought would be some guaranteed species. Nature had other ideas.
    I tried Thorn Prairie, near Toketee lake, hoping for:

Green-Tailed Towhee
Common Poorwill

and Rabbit Ears (which is near Union Creek in Jackson County Oregon) for:

Rock Wren

Things don't always work out.

On Friday night I tried Thorn Prairie for Poorwill and Flammulated Owl. I did end up hearing a BARRED OWL, but nothing else. The next morning I woke up at 5:30 and started beating the brush for Green-tailed towhee. After a three hour search, I ended up finding:

Spotted Towhee
Dusky Flycatcher
Bullock's Oriole
MacGillvray's Warbler
Cassin's Vireo
Hermit Warbler
American Robin
White-Crowned Sparrow
Golden-Crowned Sparrow
Red-Tailed Hawk
Common Raven
House Wren

but no towhee.

 I decided to move on.

My next stop was the Diamond Lake Sewage Ponds. This is a "hotspot" for Douglas County, and the High Cascades. I have never been disappointed birding here, and while I didn't get any year birds,  I did see:

Lewis's Woodpecker
Gray Jay

and an assortment of other ducks and common mountain species.

Gray Jay

Lewis's Woodpecker

The Lewis's is a neat bird especially for this area at this time of the seasons. A ranger who lived and birded the area for years in the 1980's never had a Lewis's in the spring.  

My next stop brought me to Rabbit Ears.

Rabbit Ears from the Road

A quick hike in the later afternoon took me to a location for Rock Wren where they have been seen before. I missed. 

View From Between the two Ears

    I ended up climbing up a wash that ran up between the two monoliths, but even from there I saw nothing but a Stellar's Jay that excitedly squawked louder and louder as I slipped more and more climbing up the wash. I finally made it to the top, but still no Rock Wren. 

    I was frustrated to say the least. In a 5 hour drive over a day I didn't add a single year bird. And this is the best time of the year! I decided to skip owling in the area and go home early to get a fresh start the next morning.


    Today, I decided to try for some Umpqua Valley birds, namely, Grasshopper Sparrows. I drove north to exit 142, north of Oakland on I-5, where I pulled off and strained my ears for a couple minutes, when, Eureka! Grasshopper Sparrow! I searched in vain, but could not see the one I was looking for. 

    I then decided to try for a public location. Another birder in the area relayed that they had been seen at Mildred Kanipe Park nearby. After being accosted by the local peacocks, I made my way to the equestrian area, and spotted a cow path moving south through the park. At a distance, I heard snippets of what sounded like a dial-tone. 

Yellow-Breasted Chat

This beautiful guy followed me down the wash and serenaded me with his mishmash of sound. I was feeling a little bit better, as a makeup for my big dip the day before, when I thought I heard another Grasshopper Sparrow. As luck would have it, I was hearing one, and he was right out in the open. After a little stalking, I managed to get some pics and a video. 

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow SINGING!!!!

Tsee Tsee TSEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!

This was very cool, and I was almost all the way over yesterday's dip after getting this video. Other birds at the park included:

3 Grasshopper Sparrows total
Lazuli Bunting
Wilson's Warbler
Yellow-Breasted Chat
Common Yellowthroat

After Kanipe that I buzzed over to Ford's Pond where I added SWAINSON'S THRUSH to my year list. 

Finally, in the afternoon, I added a seen and calling Ash-Throated Flycatcher to my Douglas County year list, bringing me to 200!!!

I fell well short of my goal of 13 new species for the weekend, netting only 5. But, as often, I struggle to find the rose, and spend my time trying to do just that. A great video, some great pictures, and a nice even number for my OCD.