Saturday, May 5, 2007

the big sit... sunup to sundown!

As you may know by now... May is American Wetlands Month! WREN has lots of events going on, including the big sit...

Today 5 birders worked to identify as many bird species as possible from one place. This was a fundraiser for WREN, whose education effort serves school children through field trips and classroom programs, as well as community events – all in the spirit of wetland awareness and stewardship. The birders collected pledges at a flat rate or at a per species IDed rate.

We were at Fern Ridge reservoir – specifically on the platform at the end of Royal Ave.

Here are some shots when we first arrived, just after 6am…including Cary Kerst.

Some of the highlights were seeing a family of 5 river otters! Cary saw them run and dive off an island. The rest of us enjoyed seeing them swimming in the water. Then later on, a flock of gulls caught our attention. We quickly realized what had them excited: a lone otter was loping up the trail (road) toward us! The gulls and the moving reed canary grass were our clues to its movement when it disappeared. But then it reappeared on another trail and ran away from us.

Another major highlight was getting some stellar looks at a family of Virginia Rails! Virginia Rails and Sora (which we only heard) keep hidden most of the time, so this was a real treat. Seeing their 8 chicks was amazing! These tiny jet-black puffs have the tiniest “wings” – nubs really – and the biggest feet! The parents were busy getting critters (like crayfish) out of the muck at the edge of the water and feeding the young. Right in front of us! There were several large bullfrogs in the vicinity… we were a little nervous for the chicks.

In-between the excitement there was indeed time to sit. Here are Cary Kerst and Steve Gordon:

Also feeding young in the muck were song sparrows. They would gather mouthful after mouthful of freshly hatched damselflies – wings and bodies poking out of its bill -- and pass them off to the young, who were incessantly crying for more. Red-wings were also feasting on the flies.

We spied several – perhaps 10 – bald eagles, most of them immature.

We got great looks at a bittern which was very close, perhaps 100 feet, from the platform. Throughout the day we saw several others flying by. They are pros at holding still and have camouflaged coloring. We did not hear much of the classic “gulp, gulp” though! What we did hear a lot of was pie-billed grebes and marsh wrens. Lot of noise for such small birds!

Later in the day the sun came out… here are Emily Steel, Rick Ahrens and yours truly, who happened to get a shot of the same view taken in the early morn…

Towards the end of the day after not seeing a “new” species to add to the list for quite some time, Rick spotted a raptor high in the sky. By the time I got a look at it he had IDed it as a peregrine falcon. I noticed that the wings were completely at its sides for a moment. Then it went into a sharp dive to the ground, wings tucked! Wow! It scared some shorebirds but didn’t get one. Awesome!

All in all 60 species were identified by the group as a whole – either seen or heard by someone. For collecting pledges made on a per species rate, birders may use the list of species they heard and saw. Here is the list, although a few are not “official” because they were seen during Emily’s walk (marked with a *) far from the platform. Read Steve Gordon's post on OBOL here.

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shovler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked duck
Lesser Scaup
Ruddy duck
Pie-billed Grebe
Western Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Sora Rail
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt*
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Dowitcher
Ring-billed Gull
Black Tern*
Mourning Dove
Vaux’s Swift
Rufous Hummingbird
American Crow
Common Raven
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Marsh Wren
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-breasted chat
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow*
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Thanks to everyone who made this possible! We raised over $900 for WREN!! Way to go! Happy Wetlands Month!

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