Saturday, February 7, 2015

Making the Rounds on New Year's Day

After an epic 2014 we wanted to start the new year off on the right foot. We hit the ground running by visiting some of our favorite local hotspots to give a quick jolt to our year lists, and hopefully find some good county birds in the process. Maureen and I had exchanged camera gear to each other for Christmas, and the gorgeous weather was the perfect opportunity to play with our new toys.

But first we needed a muse, and sparrows were more than happy to oblige. A mixed flock at Minto-Brown Island Park gave us our choice between Golden-crowned, White-crowned, and (Sooty) Fox. A couple dozen individuals churned around and around the piles of Himalayan blackberry plants, taking turns starring as the main attraction in our viewfinders.

Fox Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Golden-crowns are the predominant sparrow right now, and it's a shame to think of how they'll leave us behind in a few short months. These pudgy Zonotrichia are one of my favorite winter birds, I think partly because they migrated away only a week after we arrived in Oregon last year -- tantalizing us with just a taste of their antics, and leaving us wanting much, much more.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

In the afternoon we stopped by Ankeny NWR to load up on waterfowl, and met with several happy surprises in the process. Oregon has spectacular number mammal species that we're becoming acquainted with, and some that I can barely believe even exist in the state at all (I'm looking at you, Mountain Goats). On the other hand, some mammals are ubiquitous, yet, despite finding their telltale signs everywhere we go, are nearly impossible to turn up.

Tundra Swans

Townsend's Chipmunk

Myriad mounds of loose soil litter nearly every park we visit, but this was the first time we've managed to identify the culprit: a buck-toothed little pocket gopher. After watching one of the mounds pulsate for several minutes, he finally poked his head aboveground and showed us with his winning smile. Two varieties share the Willamette Valley; I think this one was a Western, but it could very well be a Camas, for all I know of pocket gophers.

Pocket gopher

A couple of good county birds were cause for further celebration. The first was a Canvasback, which hadn't been reported in Marion County since the previous June. It was too far to photograph, but just a few minutes later we managed decent looks at a beautiful male Eurasian Wigeon. This one was significantly closer than the one we'd found on the coast in November, and digiscoped a lot better.

Eurasian Wigeon

Our previous post featured an American Wigeon with too much buff on its face -- here's one that hasn't got enough!

An American Coot running -- a rare and hilarious sight

Ruddy Duck

Thousands of Geese, both Canada and Cackling, winter in and around Ankeny. Most of them either pass overhead or congregate out in the water, but today a half-dozen Cackling Geese marched right in front of our position in the observation gazebo, just as setting sun cast some of that sweet, sweet evening light on them. And with that, we called it a day -- the end of the first of 2015, and the start of a whole new set of adventures for the coming year.

Assorted waterfowl

Bald Eagle

Cackling Goose


  1. This is quite the foundation for 2015; the birding gods will look kindly on your endeavor and many will the blessings be throughout this new year.

    Your Christmas crusher exchange program seems to have worked out very well!

    1. Thank you, Laurence! I'm glad we can share the products of our crushing machines. May our offerings be plentiful and drool-worthy. Amen.