Monday, October 20, 2014

The Western Sojourn Part 1

In early September, I made my first ever trip to Oregon and Washington, flying into Portland. I spent the next day and a half visiting Kathyrn Work, a friend from MA who now lives in Portland. The first day we drove out to the Columbia River Gorge. It was a breezy day and lots of folks were windsurfing on the river. Kathryn said she had never seen the river with so much exposed sand and bars.
The Columbia River Gorge on a blustery day

Kathryn has to hold on to her hat.
Lots of windsurfers hang out on the beach.
We didn't go to Multnomah Falls hoping to avoid the crowds. Instead we stopped at a smaller falls just off the road - LaTourelle Falls. On a 90+ degree day, it was wonderful to hang out near the spray where the temperature was at least 10 degrees cooler.
LaTourelle Falls

Amazing to see the patterns as the water hit the rocks.
And even closer!
 Next up was the drive to Mount Hood. The day was clear and hot, and we could see by the lack of snow that Portland had had a warmer than normal summer.
Mt. Hood
I was fascinated by Timberline Lodge - built in the 1930s as a WPA project under Franklin Roosevelt's Presidency. The construction was heavy duty and full of artistic detail, such as the carved pelican atop the stair banister, and the tiled mural with lots of animals.
Timberline Lodge                  

Carved Pelican on the top of the banister.
Mammoth fireplace in Timberline Lodge

 We weren't really doing birding but I did see a Western Scrub Jay and several Steller's Jays.

On the way home, we made a quick stop at the Rhododendron Garden just before dusk.
Rhododendron Garden in Southeast Portland, Oregon
The next morning, Kathryn and I got up early to visit the Japanese Garden during members hours. It was serene and peaceful, with a few hints of fall color beginning to emerge.
The Japanese Garden, Portland

Another view of the Japanese Garden

Waterbugs making patterns on the surface of the pond.

Brightly colored Koi added life and movement to the water.  

After we left the Garden, Kathryn and I went to the Portland Audubon Sanctuary to meet up with hipster birders Nick Martell and Maureen Leong-ki who moved to Oregon last April. They are living in Salem, with Maureen working at OSU as an academic advisor and Nick now working at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
Kathryn Work, Maureen Leong-ki and Nick Martell at Portland Audubon Sanctuary

It was rather quiet at the Sanctuary, bird-wise, but I did see my first two life birds of the trip - Pacific Wren (split from Winter Wren) and Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Just before we left, we had a nice feeding flock of songbirds, including Townsend's Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Hutton's Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler and Black-throated Gray Warbler.

Pacific Wren - my first life bird of the trip  

Chestnut-backed Chickadee - second life bird
Wilson's Warbler - not a life bird but much more common out west than in coastal Georgia.
AAfter lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Northwest Portland, Kathryn and I headed to the coast. She drove me out to Rockaway Beach to Twin Rocks Conference Center, where I spent the next 5 days on a Road Scholar Birding Program sponsored by Portland Audubon. Stay tuned for Part II!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tybee Island Gray Kingbirds

Three young gray kingbirds have fledged from the nest at the Ocean Plaza Resort on Tybee. Amazing how fast it happened. On my last kingbird post from June 17, I had photos of Mom sitting on the nest.
Then on June 24th, I got a picture of a couple of fuzzy heads.
Young Gray Kingbirds head poke up.
On June 30, I got a not great shot of Mom at the nest to feed them.

Parent comes in to feed the kids.
When I went back to check on the family on Monday, July 7th, there were 2 large young kingbirds in the nest. I wasn't sure at first if I was seeing a parent or the juvies. Then I heard a kingbird song from nearby and found another juvenile perched in a palm, the first to leave the nest!

Gray Kingbird Juveniles - 7/7/14

The first one out of the nest!
When my friend Connie and I went back to check on them on July 8, all three birds were out of the nest and perching on a wire near a large pine tree at the northern end of the parking lot. One was behind the palm so I couldn't get it in the photo. Every so often, one or the other parent would fly in
bringing a tasty bug.
Gray Kingbird Adult (Left) and two youngsters 7/8/14

Bugs Mom! Bring us Bugs!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tybee Oystercatcher Update 7/7/14

I went to the North Beach last night and as I walked towards the point, an adult American Oystercatcher flew by me carrying food. "Oh, goodie," I thought. "They are still here."
Both parents and both young adults were on the beach. HH was following one parent around while HJ was resting on the beach with the other parent nearby.
HH follows the parent in begging posture.
Eventually, HJ and the adult flew (yes both flew!) down the beach to join the other pair.
They were all together for a few minutes, before two birds - HJ and an adult - took off across the water towards Lazaretto Creek. HJ is a little larger and more mature than HH.

HH & one adult remained on the beach. After about 10 minutes, I saw a small group of 4 American Oystercatchers fly by the point, calling loudly. As I snapped pictures, the adult from the beach joined the group and they headed around the point towards the rock jetties.

4 adult oystercatchers fly by, calling loudly

They are joined by the parent from the beach.

As I study my photos, I realize that one of the four has a red band. It can't be HJ because it has an all orange bill (the juvenile birds have bills that are dark on the tip) and it has a bright orange eye ring.
Also, the metal band is on the right leg and HH & HJ have theirs on the left leg.

This leaves HH all alone on the beach. It hunkers down for awhile, then eventually makes its way back to the rope enclosure, looking a bit forlorn.
HH waits for its family to return.

I wait and watch myself for more than 20 minutes. Finally, HH stands up and begins piping. As I turn around, I see an adult fly. HH immediately goes into begging mode, though the parent doesn't appear to have any food. Then another couple walks up to say that they have just seen 2 birds land further up on the beach. Sure enough, HJ and the other parent have returned. Although the chicks can now fly, they are still waiting around for Mom and Dad to bring food.

HJ can fly, but it still hopefully follows the adult with a stooped, begging posture.
I am delighted to be able to follow the progress of this young family.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tybee Gray Kingbird update

Not quite as exciting as banding oystercatcher chicks, but still worth noting. The female gray kingbird is sitting on her nest in the top of a palm tree in the parking lot of the Ocean Plaza Resort. She did not, after all, make a nest in the sign.
Female Gray Kingbird on nest
Her mate keeps watch nearby, often perched on the sign itself.
Gray Kingbird keeping watch
One hazard of nesting above a parking lot is cars and car mirrors. I watched as presumably the male attempted to drive off the intruder reflected in the windows and mirrors.

Gray kingbird on car mirror.

American Oystercatcher chicks are banded!

I had the great privilege of accompanying Tim Keyes and Chris Depkin with Georgia DNR and Danny Carpenter with Tybee DPW to the North End of Tybee this morning to band our 2 young American Oystercatcher chicks. They were about 28-29 days old, with one chick being a bit larger than the other.  I wondered how they would accomplish the task.

We were lucky to find both chicks with an adult hanging out on the beach, rather than back in the dunes. As we watched, a second adult flew in bringing food which it gave to one of the chicks. Chris and Tim positioned themselves carefully.
Chris hangs out in the dunes

Tim walks toward Chick# 1 with the net.

I was given the task of keeping an eye on Chick #2 while they went after Chick #1, so I didn't actually see the capture. I just looked over and Tim was holding Chick #1.

Success with Chick #1
The adult was nearby watching and was obviously not happy with the situation. Tim handed off the first chick to me while he focused on "2, who fortunately ran towards him, rather than back into the dunes. Soon that one was also in hand. Danny Carpenter with Tybee DPW and I each held a chick while Tim and Chris set up their mobile banding lab on a log within the roped off area.
Tim and Chris take measurements

Danny Carpenter holds one of the chicks after it is banded.

Taking measurements
Each chick was fitted with a silver US Fish and Wildlife metal band on the lower left leg, and each was given two red plastic bands - one on each upper leg, since oystercatchers stand on one leg a lot.
These two are now HH and HJ, with the first H underlined. All oystercatchers banded in Georgia are banded with red bands. Each state up and down the east coast has its own color.
Oystercatcher Chicks can now be identified as Red HH and Red HJ
For 8 years now, I have been studying the flocks of American Oystercatchers on the north end of Tybee and taking photos and reporting banded birds. This is the first time I've gotten to be present at the banding.

Diana holds HJ before its release.

Once both birds were banded, weighed and measured, it was time for the next tricky part - the release.  We could see an adult waiting nearby on the sand. We walked down towards the water, with Danny and I each carrying a chick. Then we went up to towards where the parents stood and each knelt down to place our charge gently on the sand. Immediately, both chicks ran towards the parent and all three went towards the dunes and inside the roped off area. Success!
Adult and now-banded chicks are reunited.

Oystercatcher chicks HH and HJ back on the beach wearing their new jewelry.

Monday, May 26, 2014

American Oystercatcher surprise on Tybee North Beach

A friend and I went out to the North Beach this evening hoping for shorebirds at the 8.1 foot high tide. We dd find Sanderlings, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers. However the treat of the evening came after we spied an American Oystercatcher standing on the beach.
American Oystercatcher adult
I wondered what it was doing there as I expected most to be on territory with nests and eggs or chicks by now. Then, a boat-tailed grackle landed on the beach, not particularly close to the oystercatcher. It immediately flew over and began harassing the grackle, driving it farther away. This made me think even more seriously that this bird must be on territory and may have a nest nearby.

Then, glancing back toward the dunes, I spied something small that almost blended with the sand.
It was Chick #1!
American Oystercatcher Chick #1

As this bird vanished into the vegetation, I spied Chick # 2 walking towards the log where the
parent bird had been standing.

American Oystercatcher Chick#2

Soon this bird too returned to the dunes. I also saw a second adult join the first and follow the chicks
into the dunes. Later, 3 crows flew over and both adults took to the sky, aggressively calling and bothering the crows to make sure they left the area.

Chasing away the crows!
My friend and I hung out a while and later saw one adult walk out onto the beach where it was joined by one of the chicks.
Adult and juvenile American Oystercatchers.

In the 15 years I have been back in Savannah, this is the first time I have seen a pair of Oystercatchers with chicks on the North End of Tybee.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On Tuesday afternoon, after I voted at the American Legion on Tybee, I went over to the Ocean Plaza Resort to check on the Gray Kingbirds. On May 4th, I had seen one adult and was hoping that its mate had arrived. After circling the parking lot, I noticed a kingbird-shaped bird sitting on the sign for the Dolphin Reef Restaurant. Bingo! Then a second bird flew in carrying a stick and flew to one of the Letter Es in the word REEF. I continued to observe.
Gray Kingbird pair on the sign

It appeared that one bird, the male?, stood guard on the corner of the sign, singing from time to tiime.
Gray kingbird sings

The second bird was actively flying back and forth, bringing, checking and arranging sticks.

Gray Kingbird leaves the sign
This bird would occasionally go sit in the sign and peer out, before flying off again. Then both birds would leave and be gone awhile before returning.
Gray Kingbird surveys the scene
Seems like an interesting nest choice - certainly away from possible predation by raccoons or rat snakes!