Some Birding Notes
It has been over a year now since I left the Chesapeake Bay for the Northwest. I have done a lot of birding and attended to the differences between seasons. I have my favorite local places like the Steigerwald, a National Wildlife Reserve (NWR) only about 15 miles away. I’ve seen a large number of “new” birds that don’t find themselves 2800 miles east of here. I don’t know how many new ones because I don’t keep track. I spend more time watching bird behavior than I do numbers.
Though I would never travel great distances or spend much money to see exotic birds, I do enjoy the new ones I see at the locations I am already at. That happens when one spans the country and is on the west side of the Rocky Mountains. There are a lot of places to go out here. Many close by and others requiring a night in a motel.
So around twice a month I go hike around Steigerwald. Some of the birds I see in abundance are not new to me but are more numerous here than any place I watched on the East Coast. There are lots of Osprey (seasonally), Bald Eagles and Pileated Woodpeckers for viewing. Rarer but not actually rare are Western Kingbirds, Varied Thrush and Northern Harriers. In fact there is one Harrier that perches near the same place every time I have been out there. That species is fun to watch as it flies low to the ground, can nearly hover motionless over potential prey and make elaborate dives. Occasionally they perch as if posing until I get a good photograph.
During the winter and much of the spring the watersheds are replete with many species of water fowl. Mallards and Canada Geese are prevalent but I think they are no matter where in North America one finds them self. Gadwalls, Shovelers, Common and Hooded Mergansers abound. So do Bufflehead and during the winter the Trumpeter Swans blare enormously. I think it is possible that I have spotted a new species (for me) every time I have gone there.
The last time I visited I had a Great Blue Heron walking the path I was on and about 150 feet ahead of me. I reveled in simply watching this fairly timid bird and trying to make the experience last as long as possible. Of course there were other people on the same path and the bird chose to exit. Perhaps it was out of prudence as humans were nigh but it also may have just been its time to hit the skies. I was able to get several photos and chose the one I liked the best to present here.
Ridgefield NWR is also a standard place for me to visit. It is around 15 miles north of here and I went there twice during this spring season. Unfortunately there was little to see in part because on its car tour path I was too early in the season to get out of my car for photos. It is the rule there that we visitors stay in our car until April 1. It is after all a reserve and the design is to allow wildlife to have their breeding seasons less disturbed. The next time I went there flooding prevented excursions on many of the paths.
Amongst the common birds at Ridgefield are Bald Eagles which I could see carrying sticks undoubtedly with nest building designs. There are also plenty of Varied Thrush, Scrub Jays, Trumpeters and ducks. I’m looking forward to the drier season forthcoming so I can get closer to the waters and more birds.
A little closer to home is Salmon Creek which is a county park. I have been able to see many water fowl, Bald Eagles, Golden Crowned Sparrows, Brown Creeper, woodpeckers, Brewer’s Blackbirds to name a few.
Recently I watched a Mountain Chickadee catching prey and returning to a used woodpecker hole supposedly feeding chicks. It was too high to see what was inside the bored out hole but it is hard to imagine another task being accomplished. During this last season I watched for ducks mostly and saw many.
Ring Billed Ducks
There also were:
Anywhere there is water there are Redwing Blackbirds. Salmon Creek is one of those places and this species is pretty frenetic in pace and vocal in announcement. They are birds with a mission.
There are a string of hiking locations along the Columbia River about 10 miles east of Vancouver and I am unclear as to the one I hiked for the first time recently. I am going to claim it was the Port of Camus but will stand correction. I was there for the first time this last season but will return often. I saw so many species and enjoyed ambling along the river for a few hours that a return is required.
I saw many species but because I was there early on a spring morning I had to fight a low sun for good pictures but I did get a few. One was of a Canada Goose apparently nesting aloft. I haven’t studied nesting habits of this bird but thought that like Mallards, the offspring were precocial. It is unlikely that a hatchling born in the condition below would be waddling soon.
Canada Goose in a nest about 30 feet above ground
I drove for about 250 miles mostly along the Columbia to visit Walla Walla not simply for birding but of course did that as well as other things. The geology of eastern Washington are different than Vancouver. The birds there are more likely to be found on vast plains. Amongst them was the California Quail.
This chicken sized fowl looks better than the photo above and seen by the side shows a variegated design and it has the pickelhaube appendage on its head. As soon as I get the chance I am going to get a better picture. I have yet to be where I have been able to see ground fowl and look forward to future prairie birding.
The very best of the “new” birds was the Black Billed Magpie. The sharply contrasted whites, blacks and blues were enough to catch anyone’s eye alone. They are about Crow sized but unlike their cousins, the Magpie has a magnificent tail.
They are pretty much a mountain bird and are not found as close to the coast where I live but I started to see them only about 100 miles to the east.
Also only a few miles east, the Western Kingbird is found in more abundance. We do see Eastern Kingbirds nearby. Both species are similar in size and mannerisms but not in color. They are chatty
While in the Walla Walla Valley I spotted a Yellow Warbler. They may be this far west but I have not spotted any of these elusive birds nearby.
Common Mergansers are aptly named but this couple apparently on a restive mission, were too nice looking not to photograph.
I have also been watching in a tree found at a strip mall in Vancouver and that is the subject of another post.
I’ll finalize this posting with a photo of a Circumpolar Bluet (damselfly) mostly because I really like the photo.