Friday, December 4, 2015

November 2015 Out and About

I can't believe it's been about six weeks since my last post, which must mean that fall is here and I'm holed up on the couch, binge watching something on Netflix.  I love the month of November, when the trees begin to shed their leaves in earnest, and the sunlight, when we get it, takes on those pale pastel shades associated with crisp, cold days.  The wind pierces my layers like a knife, reminding me that it is time for the long johns to go on and not come off, along with my uniform of beanie, scarf and fingerless gloves.  Tom Waits' song 'November' is a favorite of mine, the lyrics I never forget, "November seems odd, it's my firing squad; November".  I find myself disgruntled by the need to take off my gloves to cope with running water, and my usual love of cooking becomes a much more sedentary affair, mostly involving things that can be heated in the oven.  I know I sound like I'm describing living in a cabin and not an urban apt in central Portland, but I'm not wealthy and I tend to be frugal with the heat, and this season is clearly showing the dread effects of the El Nino pattern. It's been unusually cold already, and it's forecast to be a harsher winter than usual.  It makes me wince to think of the homeless being on the streets this time of year, and to wonder if the local wildlife suffer more than usual because of it.  Clearly they're much better prepared than you and I, with feathers and fur, but I wonder how this year's season seems to them after the past four or five fairly mild winters. And when that 4:30 pm sunset rolls around, I think of all the Junco's and House Sparrows and Pine Siskins that were on my balcony all day, now huddled in the trees and shrubs, feet locked around a branch, bracing against the next 14 hours of cold darkness.  It sounds rough, so I try to put out lots of extra seed for them, and wonder about the temperature fluctuations affecting food and water supplies, and hence, winter migration for all these little dudes.

Well, the weather means I'm certainly not birding as much as usual or spelunking around any given swampland, but I did get a chance to make a few trips out this last month, and I would love to share the details with you.  Here's the first half of the month, I'm going to post a separate entry for the last two weeks, as it's just too many pictures in one sitting.Should have learned my lesson after posting a zillion pictures from my October trip around Oregon, but it's hard to not want to share every spot, every image.

Ankeny and Baskett Slough NWR 11.02.15

Wanting to go somewhere different is always in my short list, so I decided I would take the drive down to Salem and hit up Ankeny and Baskett Slough in one afternoon.  I would have gone to William Finley as well, but I just ran out of time.

I headed to Ankeny first and stopped off at the Ankeny Hill Road overlook to soak up the view. Nothing like the green rolling hills of the Willamette Valley, farmland interspersed with the intermittent copse of beautiful old oaks and maples. The sunlight was gorgeous and lit up the fall foliage til everything seemed to glow gold and orange. I headed over to Eagle Marsh on Buena Vista Rd., where I was stoked to see a huge flock of Cackling geese, divided into the right and left sides of the pond.  Mixed in were good numbers of Mallards, Green-winged Teals, as well as Long-billed Dowitcher, and Dunlins, with a few Lesser Yellow-legs.  A Northern Harrier spooked all the geese to my left, but they collected themselves and resettled a little farther out.  And then although I don't think the harrier had touched it, a solo goose swimming directly in front of the blind had a convulsion and died. Very odd.

I chatted a bit with another birder and tagged along with him to the next pond at Egret Marsh. Much quieter there, so after a few moments I headed out to the walk through the woods at the Rail trail. Didn't see much, but was a pretty day and it felt good to stretch my legs. That can be the downside of long drives to birding spots; if there is just a blind or deck, and nowhere to walk, I feel robbed. This is often the case during winter too, the paths are in areas closed for migratory birds or early spring breeding.  

I headed onward to Baskett Slough, where I also stopped at the spectacularly pretty overlook to start. Such a great spot, with lots of birds flying in above you to the refuge below.  I drove in from the west side on Coville Road, and saw a couple Eagles, some ducks, sparrows, nothing unusual, but lots of lovely landscapes.  As the sun began to set, I headed back towards Salem, queuing up for rush hour traffic.

I need to remember to come down here more often, it's really relatively close to Portland, and a great change of scenery.  And then of course, a few days after my visit to Ankeny, the infamous Ruff appeared off of Buena Vista.  Wouldn't you know it?  Here are some pix:

Ankeny Hill Road overlook

 Eagle Marsh -Dunlin feeding

 Eagle Marsh lots of Cackling geese, and Mallards, Green-Winged Teals, etc

 a group of snoozing Dunlin kept safe by a ring of Cacklers

 Northern Harrier freaking out the geese

 Literally scaring this one to death..

 Long-billed Dowitchers, Mallards, and Dunlin

Dowitchers, Dunlins, and a lesser Yellow-legs in the foreground

 Boardwalk through the woods at rail trail, still in Ankeny

 Immature Bald eagle at Baskett Slough

 Baskett Slough overlook from highway 22

 Cacklers flying through a 1965 hunting postcard

 Golden-crowned sparrows hopping through the trees

 Beautiful golden hour light at Baskett

 Autumn foliage

Bald eagle roadside at Baskett Slough

Rentenaar Road, Sauvie Island 11.09.15

For whatever reason, I've managed to not spend much time on Rentenaar Road, although it's a great birding spot.  I guess it's because it's easy to get to and well known, so it's not as difficult as I like to make things.  And to be honest, I tend to shy away from the two-legged wingless mammals in any great number, so I'll head out into the woods or a longer trail that takes me off over there before I hit up the obvious place. But when it's hunting season, and all my usual options on Sauvie are off limits until April, it's Rentenaar Road, or Wapato Greenway, or a muddy three mile stagger to the Warrior Rock lighthouse.  But that's not a particularly bird filled walk for some reason. The newer Ruby wetlands back in the woods to the left of Warrior Rock path could be, but I havn't checked back in there for the past two seasons.  After the initial landscaping, the overgrowth got kind of thick, so who knows, it could be a birder's paradise.  But of course you need to be there on a non-hunt day to walk Rentenaar Rd. or the path out to Warrior Rock, so check your ODFW calendars.  For December of this year, non-hunt days are even numbered, as are January's. 

So I decided to head down Rentenaar to look for some winter sparrows, maybe I'd luck out with a White-Throated! If anything, it was a sunny day, so would probably be beautiful on Sauvie Island.

Well, it was Gold-crowned central, no White-throated's to be found.  But I saw a mixed flock of Snow geese and Cacklers, as well as some American White Pelicans and Sandhill Cranes overhead. Plenty of hunters in trucks and a few RV's, queued up at the ranger station camping for tomorrow morning's hunt.  A few were out stretching their legs on Rentenaar, and we said hello and looked at birds.  Always so interesting to me, the similar but different reasons we're both out in this natural place.  One to observe, one to kill.  Hmm.. Well, here are the pix:

 a flushed flock from the first field on the right contains both Cackling and Snow Geese

 flying beautifully in formation together

 What great colors on this Snow goose, reminds me of a White pelican

 the lovely sky and landscapes that Sauvie Island offers never cease to make me smile

 Golden-crowned sparrow posing for his close-up; it's my holiday card!

 speaking of American White Pelicans, I keep being surprised to still see them around..

 And these Sandhill Cranes, announcing their arrival with that crooning warble.. nothing else sounds like it.

 some more landscapes

 Kestrel in repose

go sparrow hawk!

 more Golden-crowned sparrows in the bushes

Brown Creeper creeping

Well, I'm going to wrap this post up here and try to get the second half of the month out in another post this weekend.  You can click on any picture to see it larger and remember to get out there on those sunny days and soak up the scenery.  Autumn is fantastic for birding, for once you can finally see into the trees without all the leaves!  It's also a great time to hike and explore, completely different from spring and summer and just as unique.  Until next time, happy trails!

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