Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Noth Pacific

The birding didnt stop after our trek across te country. From Portland we've been out on a couple of day trips acrss Oregon State and had some excellent birding.

On Sunday we headed West to Cannon Beach in the hope of some martime goodies, we weren't disappointed.
First up was Ecola Stae Park, where a scan from the car park revealed a sea swarming with lifers. Pelagic and Brandts Cormorants were sitting on the rocks, Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls loafing around offshore, several Pigeon Guillemot and a single TuftedPuffin buzzing by and Surfbird and Black Oystercatcher on the rocks below. A wlak through the woods added even more, with one particualrly active area holding Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Wrentits, and single Huttons Vireo and Townsends Warbler, with a Red-breasted Sapsucker just up the trail. The highlight of the day however came as we were scanning the ocean from a high viewpoint and a Grey Whale breached several time really close inshore below us. Although I'm predominantly a birder, theres something extra special about seeing mammals and particularly cetaceans, they're just that much more impressive than birds
A quick stop at Seaside Cove gave us a small group of Black Turnstone feeding on the rocks, and loads of Surf and White-winged Scoter and Western Grebes feeding just metres away from very cold looking surfers.
Finally we stopped in Cannon Beach at Dusk to check through the roosting gulls. Glaucous-winged and Western comprised most of the flock but we were rewarded with single Thayers and Heermans Gulls and a monstrous flock of Brown Pelicans roosting alongisde.

Monday we went South to William Finley Wildlife Refuge. All the wetalnds were swathed in dense fog when we arrived so we had a walk through some nice lookng woody areas, picking up Spotted Towhee, Bewicks Wren, California Quail and Bush Tit. Then, suddenly we heard a strange call, like a single whictled note and a hum at the same time. Colin recognised it instantly as a Varied Thrush and sure enough, a spanking male flew up in to a nearby tree. WHAt A BIRD!! Vibrant Orange and subtle Slaty Blue, erched on an old Oak tree covered in moss and dripping with lichen that looked like it had been sprayed from a can of silly string. And there were more too, with about 6-7 birds n one group, all whictling mournfully to each other. One of the best moments of the whole year for me. Walking back to the car we saw another dozen or so of these brilliant zootheras and even had one later in the car park of the refuge headquarters. 

As the fog lifted we moved on to the more open areas of the refuge where we saw vast flocks of Canada Geese, mainly Cackling, but with a few Dusky and Taverners thrown in. The area was buzzing with raptors too, with half a dozen Rough-legged Buzzards and Northenr Harriers in view at once, but alas no sign of the hoped for White-tailed Kites. There was one hilarious incident when we spotted a group of geese flying in towards 3 young Bald Eagles sat hunched in a field, obviously thinking tht they were fellow geese, and realising their mistake at the last minute and pulling up in chaotic mess of flapping and honking, and then another group doing exactly the same thing a few minutes later, classic!!

USA road trip pictures

Monday, November 24, 2008

800 up!!!

Phew, what a mission that was!!
7 days and 4000 miles later, and we're in Portland, Oregon. We arrived at Colin's parents place yesterday afternoon after a furiously paced trek across the country.
From Long Point, we drove non-stop for 24 hours to Kansas ,where we stopped for a short while at Quivira National Preserve for a bit of birding. This was an impressive wetland site, with large numbers of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese, along with smaller numbers of Canada and White-fronted Geese, and assorted other wildfowl. We had a few good smaller birds with Loggerhead Shrike being a nice lifer as well as a Harris's Sparrow at some other site back along the road.
From Quivira we carried on in to Colorado, seeing very little until the last few kilometres of plains before the Rocky Mountains started, where we had a stonking Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon perched up on adjacent telegraph poles, giving fanastic views. We stayed in the Rocky Mountains for a few days, picking up some quality mountain birds, like Pine Grosbeak, Clarks Nutcracker , Stellers and Grey Jays and Three-toed Woodpecker. Unfortunately the weather had been too good to push Rosy-finches down to accessible areas, i'll have to try again for them some time in the future.

We pushed on in to Wyoming seeing Barrows Goldeneye, Western Grebe and Trumpeter Swan on roadside lakes and pools and arrived in the legendary Yellowstone National Park. The only new bird in Yellowstone was an American Dipper, my 800th bird species of the year. The highlght of Yellowstone however, was the mammals ,we had crippling close views of grazing hordes of Bison and Elk, and hunting Coyotes and Red Fox. The only budget acommodation available in Yellowstone at this time of year was camping, so we set up at Mammoth Campsite expecting a freezing night, luckiy iy was surprisingly warm, though when we woke up there was 2 inches of fresh snow on the tent!!! A Great Horned Owl calling from a tree above the tent was a nice disturbance in the middle of the night.

Overall it was an excellent trip across the country, we managed to do it fairly quickly, and on a decent budget thanks to some unbelievably low gas prices (for a european at least). We also saw a pretty decent selection fo birds considering a total lack of planning, we pretty much decided where to go each day by picking a random spot on the atlas each morning!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We're on a road trip to.........

Yes, thats right, we're on a road trip to PANAMA!!!!

Later this morning, Oregonian birder Colin Woolley, fellow Brit birder Matt Slaymaker and I are leaving Long Point to drive back to Colins place in Portland, Oregon, from there Matt and I going to peel off (Colin has a job, boooo!) and the current plan is to head down South along the Pacific coast, and travel down through Central America, probably as far as Panama before flying home sometime early next year, depending on jobs, finances and crappy real-world stuff like that.

It has the potential to be a birding trip of epic proportions, and even if it doesnt wrok out as planned we should have an awesome time, and should see some spectacular birds.

We have 10 days to get to Portland from here, so the current idea is to 'properly book it' through the boring middle part to Colorado and then take our time birding back up through the Rockies, hopefully picking up some quality moutainish stuff like Rosy-finches, and Nutcrackers, and maybe some grousey/chickeney things.

It feels wierd to be leaving Long Point, i've been here almost 3 months and had a fantastic time. I've learnt more about birds during my time here than over any other 3 month period during my birding life, apart from the very beginning obviously, and had the opportunity to study some really cool birds close up.
Highlights have been many, and include catching a Great Blue Heron in a net strung up over a pond to catch Snipe (quite possibly the only time i'll ever handle such a dangerous bird), stumbling across the first Boreal Owl (Tengmalm's for all you crazy Europeans) for Long Point, while tape-luring Northern Saw-whet Owls into nets, a dazzling variety of new world wood warblers, even though most were in comparitively grotty fall plumage there were still plenty of gems, catching 6 Cave Swallows over 2 days (only one has been banded in Canada before) including one that I caught in the Heligoland trap, and banding a variety of raptors, the best of which was a stunning adult Red-tailed Hawk, caught on the last day of banding at The Tip.

Anyway, I really ought to pack my stuff up and work out how we're going to make it through USA border control later today.

I hope to be updating this blog fairly frequently as we make our merry way down South, and i'll try and get pictures up as often as I can.

Oh, and if anyone has any good birding gen for the Rockies over the next few days, or for anywhere else between Portland and Panama, particularly for California, please do e-mail me at joe_cockram@hotmail.com, any help will be much appreciated!!!