Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Blog Backlog Catch-up: Oregon in Late Summer in September 2018

I flew from Peru directly to Oregon for my even-numbered-year tour in late summer. With just one day between tours, it didn’t make sense to fly to Arizona for just one night, and I enjoyed the chance for a short visit with friends and my parents.

It was really good tour, with lots of birds, amazing weather, and a fine group.
WINGS Birding Tour Oregon in Late Summer

We started in the Willamette Valley and the Coast Range, where we saw Sooty Grouse, then went to the coast at Florence for two nights. This Eared Grebe was an unusual sighting at the north jetty of the Siuslaw River.
Eared Grebe

A stop at the Darlingtonia californica wayside north of town is always interesting.
Darlingtonia californica

Our last morning on the coast featured several banded Snowy Plovers, and I was able to find out from bander Daniel Farrar some interesting stories about these individual birds.
Snowy Plover

Finding a pair of Golden Hairstreaks, Habrodais grunus, courting on their hostplant Golden Chinquapin, Chrysolepis chrysophylla, at Salt Creek Falls was fun.
Golden Hairstreaks, Habrodais grunus

We were astounded by the number of Northern Shoveler on the extensive mudflats of vanishing Lake Abert.
Northern Shoveler

It’s hard to overstate the beauty of eastern Oregon in late summer, especially Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Steens Mountain. We saw plenty of birds, mammals, and other wildlife.

I saved this Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer, off the road near Frenchglen.
Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer

This Long-tailed Weasel, Mustela frenata, was at Benson Pond on the refuge.
Long-tailed Weasel, Mustela frenata

The view from Steens Mountain was amazing, though a bit hazy (but not nearly as smoky as last year).
Steens Mountain

It was fun to see this migrant Red-breasted Nuthatch on the rocky ledges well above treeline there.
Red-breasted Nuthatch

We saw two moderate rarities at Malheur. This Northern Waterthrush was at Benson Pond.
Northern Waterthrush

This American Redstart was one of two at the refuge Headquarters.
American Redstart

As usual, this tour included a day north of Burns to bird the coniferous forests and aspen-lined creeks. White-headed Woodpecker as a big target bird, but we covered many likely spots without finding one. Finally on our last day’s drive back to Portland we made a final stop and lucked into a pair at the Swick Old Growth Interpretive Trail north of Seneca.
White-headed Woodpecker

Painted Hills at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument was on our route back to Portland.
Painted Hills at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Four of the seven participants joined the pelagic trip extension out of Newport. This Great Shearwater was a spectacular rarity, Oregon’s third record. I spotted it first when it flew past the boat at very close range, but it vanished almost immediately in a huge cloud of California Gulls and Pink-footed Shearwaters. I thought it might circle around the boat again, but the boat full of birders kept looking and searching for several minutes without luck. Only three or four people had managed to get on it at first. Then after maybe 10 tense minutes, someone decided to look at the only two birds that were calmly perched on the water right next to the boat – a Black-footed Albatross and this bird!
Great Shearwater

Another highlight on the pelagic was the huge number of migrating Sabine’s Gulls. The official guides estimated over 1500 birds.
Sabine’s Gull

I had one day off after the pelagic before flying back to Tucson. Before turning in the rented tour van I went to Finley National Wildlife Refuge on my own to chase the first county record of Stilt Sandpiper that had been found by Pam Otley two days earlier. I saw it and in the process also found a Whimbrel, very rare inland in Oregon. It was a birdy place, as you can see the Whimbrel here is surrounded by Western and Least Sandpipers, American White Pelican, and Great Egret.

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