The morning light seemed brighter when looking out over the Multnomah Channel early this day. Right away a Double-crested Cormorant eyed me as I opened the hatch to my sailboat. Over in the large oak tree sat a beautiful Bald Eagle, proudly looking over it’s vast countryside. This was going to be a good birding day, because well, they are all good birding days.
Click on the images if you’d to see them much larger.
As I headed west on Highway 30 with latte in hand, the warm sun broke through the gloomy gray, and the thermometer display said 51 degrees. This was surprising as it was only just after 9am. I had the usual suspects at McCuddy’s Marina in Scappoose, but I was quite hopeful that I would have some surprises at Trojan Park and the “lakes” beyond. But, like yesterday however, the activity was lower than weeks before. Oh sure, there were the 1000 swans about a mile and a half away, but gone were the variety I looked forward to. A small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets welcomed me to the Graham Road “lakes” but there were also about 300 American Coots which I haven’t seen before.
Today was about the gull. Another European specie that has lost it’s way. Yesterday I tried to find it but came up empty (today I did find out that it was there, but I just didn’t see it). Although I’ve been visiting Astoria for years, I don’t know of many birding hotspots. It didn’t matter too much because I was on a mission to see just the one bird here. Did I find it? Look below at the Black-headed Gull in all it’s glory!
I took many photos, but the bird was cleaning itself in all the others, you know, just like what dogs do, and I didn’t think it would be appropriate to show those out of respect for this bird. But alas, the gull I’ve been wanting to see for weeks! I almost drove out to McNary Dam when one was sighted there – I’m so glad I didn’t. A ninety minute drive is much better than a four hour drive. I do want to say that without help from my new birding friend Linda P, I may not have found this little guy. So, thank you Linda P for this amazing addition to my Big Year, and for showing me the way to Wireless Road. While not overflowing with birdlife today, it is a hot hotspot a lot of the time.
Yes, I like to photograph more than just birds. These faces were interested in me, so I took their pictures. Miss Red had her earrings in today, aren’t they nice? And then Mr. Black (not to be confused with Mr. Brown in the back) gave me a rather nervous feeling so I moved along after a quick nod.
I’ll be back to Wireless Road. Linda P. nearly promised me a list of owl species that would nearly fill my list for the year. Pygmy, Long-eared, Short-eared, Great-horned…I think she even said something about a Saw-whet. Bird people are the best, aren’t they? I’m not just saying that because I know she follows this blog now. Birders are always (well, mostly) there to help a fellow birder.
I moved on after the Wireless Road tour to the Eagle Sanctuary just off Highway 30. I’d been here years ago but it was so long, I’d forgotten what to expect. Here it is:
It’s a wooden platform (that needs a little repairing) that overlooks the Columbia River and the wetlands. It’s beautiful. I didn’t have great expectations from this location, but when I heard the Stellar’s Jay, my ears perked.
This turned out to be the best spot of the day – or at least just as exciting as the Black-headed Gull moment. I saw two American White Pelicans off in the distance, a few Greater Yellowlegs, scaups, herons, harriers, and beauty that I won’t soon forget.
Now, my camera was doing some very strange things. I’m still learning this very complicated thing called photography so most of the time I have my camera on “auto” instead of having the courage to play with things a bit. I don’t want to pass up a great shot because I have the wrong settings. Here though, and many of the other shots which I will not post, are very blue-tinted. I only have a 200mm lens. I have told myself that until I master this lens, I will not be getting a bigger one. Obviously I haven’t mastered the 200mm.
The star of the day was the spring mating ritual of a pair of Bald Eagles. I witnessed this last year but I didn’t have my camera. This year – I got it, but they didn’t hold on very long at all. As soon as I took the shot of them holding talons, they released. Here are the photos:
So, as you can tell, it was truly an incredible day. The Black-headed Gull (with help from Linda), the pelicans, the swans, and the eagles. How can you not be a birder?
Big Year Count to date: 80+
Lattes: Chestnut Praline and Butter Rum
Weather: Freakin’ perfect 60 degrees, sunny (at the coast even!)
Time birded: 9am – 3pm