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I've been birding off and on for 8 years but just really got serious this year. I'm on a quest to see as many birds as I can for the rest of my life. I'm not much of a photographer but I am starting to study up on how to make quality recordings of birdsongs and calls. I'd like to one day be able to make some really good recordings to go with the extremely amateur photos on my eBird lists.
- Activity 2: Migrant birds: Golden-crowned Sparrow, Green Heron, Chipping Sparrow.
- I chose these three because I see the Golden-crowns a lot when they're here, the Heron rarely, and I've only gotten one Chipping Sparrow, and that after an exhaustive study of one recording I had during peak migration. I can never find that thing, especially in my home county; every time I think I've got it for sure this time, I track it down and it's a Dark-eyed Junco. doing it's level-best to sound just like a Chipping Sparrow. We are just barely on the western fringes of their breeding range here in the northern Willamette Valley, but while not exactly common, they don't appear to be too rare here. Except for me.
- Green Herons I've gotten better at finding, or maybe they're just more abundant here during the summer than during earlier migration; I've birded with varying degrees of intensity for a decade or so now, but this is my first year of birding every day for months on end so I'm still learning so much. This is also not exactly a Green Heron hot spot, but they are here.
- I consider the GC to be my 'spark sparrow;' when I first started birding and saw these chubby little guys with the brilliant yellow and white crown stripes I just thought they were the coolest thing ever, and I miss them when they're gone. I'm really hoping to get one for my back yard list one day, but I don't think I have the right habitat. Maybe one'll pass through for me someday while I happen to be watching or listening.
- My year-round birds are the Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin and Great Blue Heron. I was under the mistaken impression that the Juncos were snowbirds here; (we mostly get the Oregon group (appropriate, being that I live in Oregon) but I have gotten one of the much more rare (for here) cismontane 'Cassiar' juncos, so that was really cool. Saw him twice a week apart, hanging with some Oregon birds way out in the woods. We appear to be at the northern edge of a patch in the Willamette Valley where they disappear for part of the summer, and while I do get them much more rarely now, I don't think they ever disappear entirely. But I enjoy the flocks that come to scratch in my yard in the winter.
- Robins, the quintessential American bird. I was surprised to find that they migrate because they seem so common, but they are much more scarce around here these days than they were a couple months ago. When the Western Tanagers and Black-headed Grosbeaks arrive it can sometimes drive me crazy trying to suss out the songs between the three, but I keep getting better the more I listen.
- The Great Blue Heron is another favorite. Herons remind me that birds are dinosaurs maybe more than any other bird; I always find myself very glad that I'm not a fish or a frog whenever I spot any type of heron on the hunt. They are the official city bird of Portland; they are very abundant here because it's so wet, but they are fairly common throughout most of the state. There's been a push for some time to change the Oregon state bird from the Western Meadowlark to the Great Blue. Nothing against the Meadowlark, other than it's the state bird for like 6 states, and so far as I know, the Great Blue isn't the official bird of any state. Some originality here, please.
- Activity 4: My favorite local spot is Boardman Wetlands, and the birds I most expect to find here now are Mallards (always), Red-winged Blackbirds, and Song Sparrows. In 6 months there will probably be a lot of Green-winged Teal, and some Buffleheads and if I'm lucky some Common Mergansers, which are my spark bird.
Went to my favorite local patch (Boardman Wetlands, NCPRD) in the evening on a hot day for this one. 1. Picked a crow and a barn swallow. The crow was easy, and it was the first bird choice Merlin gave me. Some others were more interesting, such as Wood Duck and Eurasian Collared Dove, when the only color I gave was black. I used red, blue and white for the Barn Swallow and it was the second choice on the Merlin list, right below the Cliff Swallow which also worked given those parameters. 2. Picked the colors black, white and red and it gave me my birds: Downy Woodpecker, House Sparrow (although red is bit of a stretch on that one) and House Finch. Lots of good bird choices on the list. 3. The swallows (Barn and Violet Green) were hunting for insects on the wing over the marshlands and ponds. The mallards were dabbling in the increasingly shallow and murky marsh, butts in the air, but I'm not sure exactly what they were after, even after all the birding I've done. Whatever they can get in their bills, I suppose. The Lesser Goldfinches nibbled tentatively at the buds on the trees. 4. Hard to pick a favorite bird; this is the only bird I didn't see tonight but I did see it the other day at this location: Green Heron. I spent all year chasing this bird, and got one bad look at it about 40 miles north of here earlier this year so I was thrilled to get a good long 5 minute look at it out in the open just the other day at my local patch (without my camera of course). We are in a wet, temperate climate, just a few miles north of the 45th parallel. This was my first good, long look at it. It was smaller than I'd imagined; rather the sized of a large chicken. But what an extraordinary bird. Those greenish wings with the grey outline, the rust red neck mottled with dun stripes, the intense eye and the yellow lines on the face. Stalking secretively through the marsh, one wary eye on me at all times. I've always found this bird eerie, intense even: if there's ever a bird that reminded me that dinosaurs still roam the earth, it's this one. I'd hate to be a frog when this guy is stalking the marsh. Fascinating, beautiful, and alien. He did not vocalize.
This is a photo I took of a Eurasian Green-winged Teal at a nearby park. Waterfowl are my favorite birds; the common merganser is my 'spark bird'; the one that inspired my passion for birding. I was on vacation at a lakeside house on the Oregon coast one chilly November and noticed that there were a lot of ducks. Then I looked a bit closer and said 'hey...those look like different kinds of ducks.' And there was a pair of binoculars and a Sibley's guide on a table by the picture window that opened onto the lake...and that was that.
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