Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beautiful Birds of Prey Come Back to Skamania Lodge for the Summer

By Skamania Lodge
Summertime is a great season to get outdoors and see many bird varieties up close, including fierce and beautiful raptors. With the beautiful Columbia River Gorge as a backdrop, guests and visitors to Skamania Lodge can observe first hand some of the most magnificent birds in the world and learn about the important role they play in the environment. The Birds of Prey Program is back and will take place every weekend this summer from June 15th through August 25th.

Barn OwlShow times are scheduled for: 5 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. For exact start times, it is recommended that attendees check the Lodges’ online event calendar at:

This is the third year Skamania Lodge has offered the Birds of Prey Program. Guests and day visitors are invited to the Front Lawn of the Lodge to learn the natural history, stewardship and the importance of these amazing creatures in the environment. Volunteers from the Raptor House Rehab Center in Yakima, Wash., captivate audiences with up to eight different raptors, including a bald eagle, barn owl and a ferruginous hawk.

Ferruginous HawkRaptor House is a nonprofit organization that rescues injured wild birds and returns them to the wild. At the Raptor House Rehabilitation Center, the birds receive care from local vets who donate their services and medication. The birds are then placed in flight pens by appropriate species for exercise and recuperation. Once ready, the birds are released in the same location they were found in or a location designated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Birds of Prey Program is one of many outdoor activities guests can experience while staying at Skamania Lodge, which is situated in the heart of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. There are a multitude of sporting and recreational activities that can be enjoyed right on Skamania Lodge property such as golf, tennis, basketball, volleyball, croquet, biking and hiking. For those who want to experience the natural wonders of the Columbia Gorge, offsite adventures can be arranged through the Lodge’s concierge. These include white water rafting, hiking, climbing, biking, windsurfing, kayaking, fishing and Sternwheeler cruises on the Columbia River.

1131 SW Skamania Lodge Way, Stevenson, WA 98648

Monday, May 21, 2012

Field-friendly bird sequence
Wading Waterbirds

Greater YellowlegsGreater Yellowlegs, Hillsboro, Oregon, 21 April 2010 by Greg Gillson.


The 13 categories of North American birds listed in the Field-friendly bird sequence: Part II are:

Swimming Waterbirds
Flying Waterbirds
Wading Waterbirds
Chicken-like Birds
Miscellaneous Landbirds
Aerial Landbirds
Flycatcher-like Birds
Thrush-like Songbirds
Chickadee and Wren-like Songbirds
Warbler-like Songbirds
Sparrow and Finch-like Songbirds
Blackbird-like Songbirds

A beginner should be able to quickly place a bird they see into one of these categories.

Most wading waterbirds are generally long-legged and long necked. Many have longer bills for probing in mud for food. They can be solitary or in flocks, depending upon species and time of year. Though most are found near wetlands, others can be found in open grassland settings.

Wading waterbirds include shorebirds, herons, cranes, and rails.

Sandhill CraneSandhill Crane, Harney Co., Oregon, 24 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.


White-faced IbisWhite-faced Ibis, Harney Co., Oregon, 24 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.


SanderlingSanderling, Coos Bay, Oregon, 28 August 2011 by Greg Gillson.


Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron, Forest Grove, Oregon, 18 January 2010 by Greg Gillson.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where should I go birding in June?

What! Spring's gone already?

My schedule works out so that I am unable to get to Malheur NWR on the Memorial Day weekend in May. So, I'll go a week later, during the first week of June, if I can. There will still be some late migrants, including rarities, I hope! I also have a private pelagic trip to work in during early June.

And I want to get up into the Coast Range in my home county, yet. The Hammond's Flycatchers and Hermit Warblers are up there. It is harder each year to find Common Nighthawk, so I'll give that a try. And the Sooty Grouse should be hooting. Oddly enough, I still haven't seen Hairy Woodpecker or Northern Pygmy-Owl this year yet. So they are also in the Coast Range.

What birds I do see will be nesting. Oregon finished its Breeding Bird Atlas project over 12 years ago, but I still miss looking for breeding evidence--parents carrying food to a nest, newly fledged young, or birds sitting on a nest.

Where are you planning on watching birds in the coming month and what species do you hope to see there? Are you a field trip organizer? We want to hear what you offer (fee or free). Leave your response in the Comments section as ideas for others.

Birding festivals:

Wings Across Big Sky
June 8-10, 2012
Kalispell, MT

Friday, May 11, 2012

eBird best practices
Bird different places

We previously discussed birding the same area repeatedly throughout the year, and how beneficial that is to eBird data completeness and accuracy.

Birders are creatures of habit, though, and often bird the same places over and over, ignoring other areas. For instance, there are several lowland parks and wetlands in my local county that receive several eBirder visits weekly. But the Coast Range forest is visited much less frequently--primarily in early summer when certain warblers and flycatchers are present. Resident birds such as American Dipper and Gray Jay are very under-reported, making them appear more rare than they really are.

Here are 3 ideas to bird different places:

1) Visit new areas in your home county or anywhere where you haven't birded before. Randomly stop on a trip and make a 5-10 minute survey.

2) Look at eBird bar chart maps of birds in your county. Look for locations where no birds have been located--even though you know they live there. Then go birding there!

3) Bird areas at times of year when not normally visited by bird watchers. Nothing exciting there during that time of year? It doesn't matter. Negative data is recorded by eBird and makes data more accurate. And who knows, you may find there is a good bird there after all.

More information on this topic can be found on the eBird site, eBird county birding and Fill in the gaps (January 2012), and Fill in the gaps (April 2012).

Read all posts about eBird

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pelagic birding

pelagic birdingRed and Red-necked Phalaropes on glassy seas, off Newport, Oregon on 5 May 2012 by Greg Gillson

This past weekend I led a pelagic birding trip from Newport, Oregon. The weather and birds were so good and the tour so delightful that I wanted to document it with more than just a simple trip report with list of birds and a photo of rarities.

We boarded the boat, "Misty," and were underway by 7:00 a.m. Numerous Pelagic Cormorants were nesting on the bridge supports and pilings. Seven Brant remained on the mudflats exposed at low tide. Several Pigeon Guillemots swam and flew by. A flock of Brown Pelicans winged their way north over the jetties. As we neared the end of the jetties we spotted a Wandering Tattler high on a rock silhouetted by the sky.

We crossed into the ocean and headed south. Pacific Loons were migrating by near shore, now in breeding plumage. We spotted the blow of a Gray Whale in the shallows near shore but did not pursue a closer look. After about 10 minutes we spotted our quarry--a pair of Marbled Murrelets. Soon another pair flew off the water, and we turned the boat to head offshore. It wasn't long and we were seeing Red-necked Phalaropes sitting on the water and flying around in hyperactive flocks. Our first Sooty Shearwaters appeared and glassing the horizon we could see these pelagic birds flapping and gliding far ahead.

pelagic birdsBrandt's Cormorant, off Newport, Oregon on 5 May 2012 by Greg Gillson

By the time we had been on the boat an hour our birding tour had made its way offshore about 5 miles and began seeing a change in the bird life. Loons and cormorants ended, while other ocean birds appeared. Over the next two-and-a-half hours we saw Sooty Shearwaters continuously--we tallied 2500 in this section of our trip. We also had Red-necked Phalaropes, estimating at least 1000 here. We were soon picking out Cassin's Auklets and Rhinoceros Auklets on the smooth waters ahead. About 15 miles offshore our Oregon nature tour came across three Humpback Whales splashing and rolling on the surface. The largest of the animals had a terrible wheezing breath, something the veterans on the trip had never heard before, and assume it indicates some kind of medical malady. Smartly-marked Sabine's Gulls flew over the waters. Tiny little Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels fluttered and darted low to the waves. About 20 miles offshore we came to the Stonewall Bank weather buoy. Our first Black-footed Albatrosses appeared here. Also in this area Red Phalaropes appeared and became more common the farther offshore we traveled, while the Red-necked Phalaropes decreased in abundance as we moved farther from land. A couple of Pink-footed Shearwaters were spotted.

Oregon birdsSabine's Gull, off Newport, Oregon on 5 May 2012 by Greg Gillson

nature toursHumpback Whale, off Newport, Oregon on 5 May 2012 by Greg Gillson

Smooth seas allowed us to easily spot seabirds a half mile to either side of the boat and far ahead--nothing was getting past us in a mile-wide swath as we motored on. A bird ahead on the water showed a large head and chunky body--some kind of alcid, probably a puffin. We slowed the boat and... Yes! A Horned Puffin! One of our target rarities for the day. The bird allowed us to circle the boat several times as we obtained numerous photos and great views. In almost 150 trips we have seen this species only five times. A mile farther we spotted our first Tufted Puffin of the day.

Oregon seabirdsHorned Puffin, off Newport, Oregon on 5 May 2012 by Greg Gillson

It was 11:00 a.m. when we reached 30 nautical miles offshore. As we continued west bird numbers dropped. The sun came out from the marine layer, and we had sunny skies the remainder of the day. Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels flitted around and Black-footed Albatrosses wheeled up and soared over to investigate us. A floating mat of bull kelp provided a resting place for two Arctic Terns and a couple of Sabine's Gulls. We spotted a few more Tufted Puffins, while Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets appeared at irregular intervals. Red Phalaropes outnumbered Red-necked, but neither were plentiful out here.

pelagic toursBlack-footed Albatross, off Newport, Oregon on 5 May 2012 by Greg Gillson

About 12:30 p.m. we reached 45 miles offshore, where we stopped for a while and chummed. We attracted a half dozen Black-footed Albatrosses, a couple Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, and a few California Gulls. A new pelagic bird, a Parasitic Jaeger, zoomed in to attack the Sabine's Gulls. We were hoping for additional deep water specialties, but none showed. We headed southeast for an hour, then back east toward shore, spending a total of 3-1/2 hours beyond 30 miles, and about 2 hours beyond 40 miles--not enough to pick up deep water rarities.

birding toursRed-necked Phalarope, off Newport, Oregon on 5 May 2012 by Greg Gillson

Where did the sea birds go? Our return pelagic trip was quite slim on birds except for an occasional Rhinoceros Auklet or Cassin's Auklet sitting on the water, or a lone albatross soaring along. Finally, about 12 miles from shore birds picked up. We ran back into numerous Sooty Shearwaters and Red-necked Phalaropes again. Common Murres increased. A large flock of Greater White-fronted Geese were heading north over the ocean to Alaska.

pelagic birdingYaquina Head, Oregon on 5 May 2012 by Greg Gillson

The following seas with gentle swell aided our seabird cruise in returning to shore ahead of schedule. So we veered north toward the Yaquina Head lighthouse. Murres were abundant, and other birds were increasing. A pale loon deserved a second look, so we turned the boat around.Could it be? Yes! A Yellow-billed Loon--the first ever for our pelagic birding boat trips. It seemed unconcerned with our joy, diving down and coming up with fish. We found 4 more Marbled Murrelets near the jetty. A flock of Bonaparte's Gulls--new for the trip--migrated north near the beach.

pelagic tripsYellow-billed Loon, off Newport, Oregon on 5 May 2012 by Greg Gillson

We entered Yaquina Bay about 6:40 p.m. where we spotted 2 Wandering Tattlers on the jetties. There were several Red-necked Grebes. A couple of people picked out a drake Harlequin Duck against the jetty. The Brant were back where we saw them in the morning--though they must have moved elsewhere during high tide. We docked the boat and disembarked. What a fun day!

The Bird Guide, Inc. leads pelagic birding trips several times per year. Check our schedule to book your next exciting trip today!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pacific Wren

Pacific WrenPacific Wren amid sword ferns, Beaverton, Oregon on 17 April 2012 by Greg Gillson

How many of these little tykes must there be? They are found throughout the year in damp, dark forests of the Pacific Northwest. You can spot these tiny sprites crawling through the undergrowth and calling "kip-kip" to give away their presence. But in spring when they sing? Oh my!

First of all they have a loud, musical, high-pitched, rapid, cascading and tumbling and twinkling song, lasting 12 seconds or more. Secondly, they are THICK in wet forests, especially west of the Cascade summit. On this day, April 17, 2012, I spent over 3 hours and walked about 5 miles of trails around the Tualatin Hills Nature Park in Beaverton. There are no hills in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park, but there are Pacific Wrens! In fact I counted 72 birds, primarily singing males! Here is my eBird checklist for that day.

Oh, and remember, Pacific Wrens were split from Winter Wren in 2010, so they may still be in your field guide as Winter Wren. The former Winter Wren was spit into Eurasian Wren, Winter Wren, and Pacific Wren. Even though they look very much alike, the Winter Wren has a different call than the Pacific Wren, the songs are a bit different, and they don't breed together where their range meets in northern BC and Alberta. The eastern Winter Wren migrates, the western Pacific Wren really doesn't, though there are some downslope movements in winter. (Map of ranges provided by David Sibley.)