Monday, February 2, 2015

Nemeses Conquered at Finley NWR

Although we haven’t been in the Pacific Northwest very long, we somehow had already acquired some nemesis birds. One in particular isn’t necessarily a difficult bird to get, but it eluded us a number of times. We would see reports of a Black Phoebe in an area we had just birded, or we’d go to that area after a report with no results. What was particularly irksome for Nick was that he *swore* he saw one once at Ankeny NWR, but it quickly disappeared before I got a glimpse of it, never to be seen again.

Red-Breasted Sapsucker

Golden-Crowned Kinglet (by Nicholas)

Male Dark-Eyed Junco (by Nicholas)

Female Dark-Eyed Junco

Ankeny NWR has also hosted a regular Rough-Legged Hawk that we couldn’t quite seem to get. We tried a couple of times to look for it with no luck. And another time we super scrutinized a distant raptor sitting in the grass for about 15 minutes hoping that it was a RLHA, but it turned out to be a Northern Harrier. Wah wah. So when a recent report for Finley NWR listed these two nemeses, we knew we had to give it a chance to get the most bang for our buck, so to speak. 

Brown-Creeper - Not a nemesis bird, but a nemesis photography subject. Nailed it!

Male Spotted Towhee

False Turkey Tail fungus (by Nicholas)

We had our doubts about how the day would turn out when we drove through a thick blanket of fog that stretched from just south of our apartment for about 35+ miles down all the way down to Finley. We eased into our day with a few ducks here and there in some of the ponds created by the winter rains. 

Fox Sparrow

Golden-Crowned Sparrow

Purple Finch… But not purple!

What perked us up was a group of 11 California Quail. Usually when we see any quail, they run for cover and vanish into the brush as soon as we see them. But this group seemed to feel they were at a comfortable distance, and they pecked for food as we watched them for a while munching and then running back and forth from one side of the road to the other. 

A bevy of California Quail

These round little footballs are super adorable and a joy to watch. They look like balloons that could pop at any moment. And I love how they know how to quickly run across the street in contrast to their somewhat leisurely pace along the edge of the brush/grass. I giggled each time one of them would inch up to the edge of the road, assess the safety of their surroundings, and then quickly scoot across, lengthening their bodies.

We pushed on and drove to the nature center as we were on a mission to find those nemeses. The first attempt was in a pond just behind the main building. There we sought and succeeded in finding a new lifer: the Black Phoebe! Huzzah! I took one pass when we first got there, not sure if this was the right pond as there was another across the street. After we took some time to snap some photos of the well-behaved birds at the feeder, we went back over to the pond, and immediately found success as the Black Phoebe flew passed us and continued to flycatch amongst the reeds.

Black Phoebe

Lovely pair of Spotted Towhees by the feeder (by Nicholas)

Next we headed to the long stretch of road with large open fields sprinkled with ponds of ducks. We were first greeted with only our second sighting of a Golden Eagle. He was one amongst half a dozen Bald Eagles we had already seen that day. We watched him perched for a few minutes until he unsuccessfully hunted for a goose. And then, as if a heavenly door opened up in the sky, a Rough-Legged Hawk swooped across the sky. There was no mistaking this one with its black belly and black “wrists.” It landed in the treetops and we were still jumping for joy when a second one soared right above us. AAAA-mazing! 

Digiscoped photo of a Rough-Legged Hawk

Immature Bald Eagle

This dreary day turned out to be quite rewarding, indeed. And just when we thought it couldn’t be any better, we were delighted by some bonus sightings. A group of Tundra Swans were feeding super close to the road that allowed for nice close shots. But the cherry on top of this awesome day was something I didn’t even know existed – a Storm Wigeon. What’s that you say?!? Check out Seagull Steve’s blog post about them. This is a rare form of an American Wigeon that has that butter color on most of its face, not just on the top of its head. 

Tundra Swan

I shouted, “What’s wrong with that Wigeon?” And Nick knew just what it was after reading Seagull Steve’s post. It was really cool to see it side by side with a regular American Wigeon. I would have never expected to see one, especially since I didn’t know of its existence. Haha. But what a treat it was after conquering two nemeses and having great views of other great birds.

Storm Wigeon = An extra buttery American Wigeon

Compare a normal American Wigeon to a Storm Wigeon

Ebony and Ivory, live together in perfect harmony...


  1. Hey hey way to slay!

    That Storm Wigeon looks NICE. And is probably the most bad-ass-named duck.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I think you're right about its bad-assery. He could be a super hero with that name.

  2. Did you see the Kinglet along the boardwalk through the woods? When we were there in December, we saw two there. One stayed far away, but one got up close and personal with us. So cute!

    1. Kinglets are super cute indeed! This one was across the road from a pond, before you get to Cabell Lodge. Thanks for stopping by!