Journal archives for December 2020

03 December, 2020

November Summary

The month of November has ended. For some it comes off as a relief since we are in the last month of this wreck we call 2020, some others because it's Christmas season. Whatever it is, this is the report for the past thirty days.

Top 5 Species (November):
Red-tailed Hawk -- 56 obs
Rough-legged Hawk -- 17 obs (new to Top 5)
Bald Eagle -- 13 obs (+1)
American Kestrel -- 9 obs (-2)
Northern Harrier -- 8 obs (returns to Top 5)

Top 5 Species (Overall):
Red-tailed Hawk -- 218 obs
Swainson's Hawk -- 62 obs
Osprey -- 60 obs
American Kestrel -- 46 obs (+1)
Bald Eagle -- 39 obs (new to Top 5)

Total Species Overall: 29

Top 5 Observers (Observations): birdwhisperer 195 obs, @masonmaron 68 obs, @cgates 326 59 obs, @the-catfinch 25 obs and @uta_stansburiana 19 obs

Top 5 Observers (Species): cgates326 18 species, birdwhisperer 18 species, masonmaron 12 species, uta_stansburiana 11 species and the-catfinch 10 species

Species Still Not Observed: White-tailed Kite, Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk-Owl, Spotted Owl, Boreal Owl and Gyrfalcon -- 6 species

New Species in November: Short-eared Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl

Counties Needing Observations: Washington -- Ferry and Klickitat -- Oregon -- Wheeler

News and What to Expect in December: To compare with last year's project, we are 300 hundred observations short of breaking the record. I doubt we'll break that but maybe we'll get a Christmas miracle. We are one species short of last year but I think we can get the Snowy Owl and Gyrfalcon if we try hard enough. I still need to go out and find Boreal Owls, just need to get snow tires on. This is the final month of the project so let's get a little extra oomph into finishing strong.

For the Observation of the Month, lets congratulate cgates326 for his photo of a male American Kestrel. They are the smallest North American diurnal raptor and are often found in open fields and agriculture. They are the only falcons to nest in cavities or nest boxes and they are in my opinion, the best pest control. If any of you are or know any farmers, encourage them to establish kestrel boxes to discourage the use of pesticides. You can see the photo here:

Observation of the Week goes to @nordsman for an excellent flight shot of an immature Northern Harrier. Often called Swamp Hawks, you can find the highest concentration of these aerobatic dancers around marshes, making places like McNary NWR and Ladd Marsh WMA are perfect places to see large numbers of these guys. Here's the photo:

Posted on 03 December, 2020 06:31 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

09 December, 2020

Season Greetings

The first week of December is now over and it's looking to be a great month for birders and hawkwatchers. As for me, my first week gifted me with four Blue Jays, my life Harris's Sparrow and my first visual Great Horned Owl in the last couple months. We got 35 observations over the week with a variety of species with one particular individual taking the spotlight.

Observation of the week goes to @cgates326 for his photo of a sleeping Northern Saw-whet Owl that's drawing a lot of attention in central Oregon. These are by far my favorite species of owl but I've had difficulty seeing them since my last sighting in which I spotted one feasting on a vole on the white line of an Oregon highway. The lack of sightings has nothing to do with whether or not they're in the vicinity but because they are masters of hiding. If you know of any place that has trimmed spruce trees that you can walk under, look for the poop piles saw-whets will leave and look up. You may get an owl one out of ten times. Just remember to be respective of their of space and no pointing.

With a good start to December, I expect the next seven days being just as good. We will definitely see an increase of raptors if it would just snow but the future forecast doesn't seem good. Also look out for other birds. Finches are making irruptions this year and this is your best chance of seeing Hoary Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks or Purple Finches within the project's perimeters. Good luck!

Posted on 09 December, 2020 20:52 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

16 December, 2020

Let It Snow

The last seven days were very slow for the project, probably due to the weather we've been getting. The Blue Mountain basins have been snowed out from the rest of the world, so we'll see you when spring comes. Only 10 observations were posted in the last week, though I have some crappy photos that still need uploading.

Just because there was little submission, doesn't mean photos were bad quality. Let's congratulate @ferrisjabr on a photo of a flying adult plumage Bald Eagle, in Bend, Oregon. The national bird and for a very good reason. This photo is what I'd call the put-it-on-a-postal-stamp photo. These 7 foot wingspan raptors are definitely a treat to see.

We are ticking down to the last two weeks of the project. With snow occurring through much of the project's perimeters, we should be keeping an eye out for Snowy Owls and Gyrfalcons. I went out to a place I suspect will be the future location of a Snowy Owl sighting in northeastern Oregon yesterday with no luck but just give it time. As for you, I wish you the best of luck.

Posted on 16 December, 2020 17:42 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

17 December, 2020

Winter Nest Observations

With this project becoming more popular than I ever anticipated, I'm having a little trouble keeping up with the constant additions to the project. Though I've mentioned this before, I believe it's time to give another reminder to observers before they add their sighting.

Active Nests is only for active nests. This means there is current activity at the nest site, such as eggs, young, building or even managing nests. I've added three winter observations this year, a Cooper's Hawk bringing a twig to a nest that she has probably used for years, a juvenile Red-tailed pairing itself up with an adult in a known nest as they gathered twigs and managed the nest, and finally a pair of Bald Eagles just sitting in the nest, not doing anything but nevertheless in the nest. These should be the only exceptions to submitting a winter nest observation.

Why is it so important that nests have to be "active" to be in this project? Anyone can find a bird's nest in the winter time. Leaves are gone and you see the remnants of the summer season, but other than location and environment, it doesn't contribute much scientific data. The propose of Active Nests is to measure the timeframe in which birds breed. For example, through this project, we can see that Eastern Bluebirds can have eggs or young in their nest anywhere from February to November. They typically lay 4-6 blue eggs, occasionally white. The propose of this project is to monitor the species' presence at the nest site. As of lately, I'm seeing tons of robin nests that are clearly empty and in winter months. This is not the project to be sending those observations. These sightings will be much more appropriate for Bird Nests of North American or Eggs and Nests.

I think the users that have contributed so far and as a recommendation for next year, find the nests I mentioned about before. Birds often use nests year after year and you can come back in the summertime. If it's a species that builds a new nest every year, judge how the environment is like for old nests and see how to apply that knowledge to finding new nests. Winter is a great time to start getting some notes down. Good luck everyone!

Posted on 17 December, 2020 06:14 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

23 December, 2020

Christmas Week

The final countdown is beginning for the project and this is my second to last post. Otherwise, I'd be celebrating Christmas Adam because we all know Adam came before Eve. Corny joke but worth the pity laugh. Over the week we gathered another 21 observations that now puts us close to 850 for the project. With nine days left, we need to gather another two hundred or so to broke last year. Doesn't seem like we'll make it but this year was definitely a unique one for the project.

Observation for the week goes to @the-catfinch for a photo of a Angry Bird--, I mean Northern Pygmy-Owl on a wire. Spotted in northeastern Spokane, you can find this guys just about anywhere close to forests or mountains. They're also the most likely owl you're going to see during the day since their favorite treat is songbirds. They are also the smallest raptor in the whole project, averaging about 6 inches tall or the same size of your local House Finches or House Sparrows. Though I've seen them plenty of times, they still shock me too with their ridiculously small size. You can see the observation here:

I did my Christmas Bird Count this past Sunday and though I saw plenty of raptors, weather and distance prohibited any decent content. With the last days of the year ticking down, I would hope we can end this project with a bang. My personal goal is to find one new species so that way I can tie last year. What do you want to break?

Posted on 23 December, 2020 21:41 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

31 December, 2020

My 2020 Birding Year

Year Total: 277 species
Life List: 342 species

Best Month: June -- 176 species
Worst Month: December -- 68 species

State Stats -- State and Life

Oregon -- 255 year -- 274 life
Idaho -- 180 year --- 220 life
Washington -- 138 year -- 274 life
Montana -- 41 year -- 247 life

New Counties Visited

Oregon -- Lincoln, Marion, Crook, Polk, Benton, Washington, Wheeler, Deschutes, Hood River and Jefferson
Idaho -- Twin Falls, Blaine, Gem, Camas, Bonneville, Owyhee, Butte, Madison, Bingham and Jefferson
Washington -- Douglas
Montana -- Mineral and Sanders

Year Lifers: Whimbrel, Black-and-white Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Plumbeous Vireo, Cassia Crossbill, Broad-winged Hawk, Ruff, Magnolia Warbler, Black Oystercatcher, Snowy Plover, Wood Sandpiper and Acorn Woodpecker

Memorable Moments of 2020 Birding

January 6 -- Found continuing Black Scoter at the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter Pond. 1st county record.
January 18 -- While driving into town to run errands, I found both the first Oregon record of a Northern (abieticola) and Eastern (borealis) Red-tailed Hawk. These two subspecies are almost certainly underreported in the Columbia Basin and are likely annual. and
February 18 -- Found three Snowy Owls at a known wintering grounds in northern Washington.
April 10 -- Performed my 2nd survey for Project WAfLS (Western Asio flammeus Landscape Survey) and got a pair of copulating Short-eared Owls.
April 23 -- Second times a charm to go to a lek and find 61 Greater Sage-Grouse and those were mostly males!
April 28 -- After two days of unsuccessful searching, I was finally about to get my life Whimbrel in northeastern Oregon.
June 1 -- Found a continuing Black-and-white Warbler at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Sighting unfortunately not accepted due to the lack of photos and the eBird reviewer being present who did not see it.
June 27 -- Found continuing Eastern Phoebe in Spokane, Washington; first county record.
July 18 -- Found life Plumbeous Vireo in Castle Rocks, Idaho, who liked my pishing.
July 19 -- Found life Cassia Crossbill in several places in the South Hills; confirmed by flight call recordings.
August 24 -- Found continuing Red-shouldered Hawk in Ladd Marsh, Oregon. 4th county record.
August 30 -- Finally got my first Spruce Grouse photos, three males in fact, in Wallowa County, Oregon.
August 30 -- Found life Broad-winged Hawk from probably two miles away on Ferguson Ridge in the Wallowa Mts. First northeastern Oregon record. Same individual (presumed by age, markings and Swainson's companion) was photographed by a good friend of mine the next day 50 miles away in the Powder Valley. and
September 1 -- Found continuing Ruff at near Cove, Oregon.
September 12 -- Found Magnolia Warbler at Thief Valley Reservoir, Oregon. Unfortunately, the warbler was incredibly secretive and since it was the first county sighting, the county reviewer told me it wouldn't be accepted without photos.
October 21 -- Found life Black Oystercatcher at Depoe Bay, Oregon.
October 22 -- Found life Snowy Plovers in Lincoln County, Oregon. Almost had the county high record with 41 individuals.
October 23 -- Found continuing Wood Sandpiper in Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge. 2nd Oregon record.
October 23 -- Found life Acorn Woodpecker in Klickitat County, Washington.
October 27 -- Found continuing Long-tailed Duck at the La Grande Sewage Ponds.
November 10 & December 6 -- Subspecies are important because I found a pair (yes, two) Eastern Song Sparrows at North Powder. They represent the 4th Oregon state record and 2nd Intermountain record.
November 16 -- According to eBird, my "best" photo of the year is a Black-capped Chickadee.
December 1 & 4 -- In a span of four days, I was able to find and photograph all 4 Blue Jays in Union County. and
December 6 -- Finally found my biggest nemesis bird, the Harris's Sparrow at North Powder.

Goals for 2021
I do have a few goals I want to obtain in the following 12 months. Here's to name a few:

  • Obtained 8 new "photo lifers" so I can say I've photographed 300 species of wild birds.
  • See my life Eastern Bluebird because it's the most common bird on iNat I have not seen.
  • Photograph my next nemesis bird, the White-headed Woodpecker.
  • If safety permits, travel to Pennsylvania to bird for a week or two.
  • See 50 new state birds for Idaho so I can tie that number with OR and WA.
Posted on 31 December, 2020 19:21 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comments | Leave a comment