for Celeste Campbell Center of Eugene Oregon
Birds and General Science group (BOGS)

provided by:
Priscilla NamHari Kaur
Eugene, OR

BOGS bird walk at East Coyote Unit of Fern Ridge, Sept 26, 2013

We began where we sometimes have not had enough time at the ends of other trips to the Fern Ridge area; at the parking lot on K.R. Nielsen Road at the East Coyote Unit, which is South of West 11th. This trip started off with a big bang because even as we were getting out of our cars a White-Tailed Kite was seen by some astute observer scanning the distant trees and shrubs across the field. This has been one of Steve's "target" birds for at least the year and a half that I've been going on these walks. We've looked for the White-Tailed Kite on every trip to the Fern Ridge or Alvadore area. Spotting scopes were set up and the bird gave us enough time to get a look at it as well as take some pictures. In the trip album photos, the black shoulder patches are plainly visible, for which this bird used to be named (Black-Shouldered Kite). So is the clear white breast and white underside of it's long tail. The eyes look very black even at our distance, and the back is fairly uniformly gray.
It was a brilliant sunny and windless day, refreshingly warmer than the past week. That may have contributed to our having a big turnout for this bird walk. We sauntered along the trail that winds around the pond and quickly and easily picked up Sparrows, Finches and Towhees. In this season, most birds are not in breeding plumage, making them harder to recognize, (an exception being the Wood Ducks I've seen in full regalia at Delta Ponds recently). American Goldfinches are most well known and easily recognized in Spring and Summer, for their brilliant gold breasts, faces and upper back, as well as their distinctive black forehead patch. At Summer's end, however, there is no bright yellow to be seen and the black forehead patch is faded or gone. Instead these birds are mostly pale olive green. But they still have their black wings and two clear wing bars. One of my pictures shows some of these details. They also continue to travel in flocks and nearly always fill the air with their distinctive calls every time they take flight. The American Goldfinch's voice is one of the easier ones to learn. Also, in all seasons they fly with the same up and down pattern; rising with several wing flaps and falling as they glide; the cycle repeating over and over until they land again. So while the Winter plumage might be challenging, the voice and the flocking and flight pattern contribute to a fairly easy identification.

Spotted Towhees were seen, though I didn't manage to photograph them. Their plumage doesn't vary with the season, so the main challenge they present is when they are fledglings. There were a couple of photos of a fledgeling Spotted Towhee in our BOGS Skinner Butte photo album from June 27, 2013. One of them is below. Notice the hint of white spots on the wings and the white on the underside of the tail tip. These are tell-tale signs that this is a Towhee.

There was a small bee hive about knee high along the side of the trail, with active bees clinging to it. House Finches were also active in the low shrubs around the pond. There is some question whether they were House or Purple Finches. I'm not good at separating those two species even in breeding plumage. I labeled them House Finches in my photos because of my (possibly wrong) impression that those are the more common of the two. Savannah Sparrows were also seen and photographed. I had trouble getting my camera to focus on them for a while, but Gail got a very nice picture of the Savannah which she contributed to our trip album. One of the pictures shows their characteristically pink legs and feet. The bill is also pink but that's not evident in our photos. The upper breast has faint streaking which only goes part way down, with the breast clear below that point. Often there is faint yellow above the eye or in front of the eye and that can be seen in one or two of our pictures this time.

The Kite was still in the area when we got most of the way around the pond and I was very happy to get pictures of it flying and "kiting" - hovering stationary in the sky as Kestrels do. Near the end of the loop around the pond a Meadowlark was seen perched atop a small tree some distance away. The Meadowlark too was lacking the bright colors of breeding plumage seen in Spring and Summer, but it retained the black necklace on a pale lemon yellow breast, as well as the striping on the top and side of the head. There was another bird in the same tree top as the Meadowlark, but which was not so easy to identify. After looking at my pictures of that bird at home on my computer, I thought it might possibly be an immature Cedar Waxwing. I saw and photographed one of those a few weeks ago and it lacked the tan and lemon yellow colors of the body. It's facial mask was incomplete behind the eye and the crest was only starting to grow in and show. The bird we saw near the Meadowlark seems to have a rudimentary crest and a dark patch on the eyes which does not extend further back so my guess is immature Cedar Waxwing. Contrary to that, however, is the fact that we did not see any flocks of Waxwings in the area that day, and Waxwings do flock almost exclusively. Does anyone have another possible ID for this bird?

We drove South on K.R.Nielsen Road and turned West on Cantrell Road. The group made a few stops along the way but as I was driving alone at the rear of the pack, I didn't see whatever was being observed by the lead cars. I only saw a Great Blue Heron in a field, and a Crow or Raven. When we got to the parking lot by a pond, a Wilson's Snipe was located almost as quickly as the White-Tailed Kite had been found earlier. The Snipe was way across the pond, lurking behind several Yellowlegs. The Yellowlegs were actively moving about, while the Snipe only seemed to dip below the grass and then pop up again from time to time. I did get a picture (of sorts) of the Snipe and the Yellowlegs, but nothing to write home about. The bird which did the best "posing" for pictures in that area was a Black Phoebe. This bird was in some low bushes much closer to us and perched out in plain sight on a bare branch. A Belted Kingfisher making it's rounds, came close enough to us for enough time to allow two quick pictures to be taken before it was off again heading to the far side of the pond.

We moved along the shoreline a short distance to see what else was around. A Hawk, thought to be a Red-Tailed Hawk, was seen in the distance, appearing to be mobbed by smaller birds. When it came a little closer for a short time I only managed a silhouette photo if it against a bright sky. Steve said he saw red in the tail when the turned.

Our last stop was a brief one at Headquarters further West along Cantrell Road. The best view we got there was of a pair of Turkey Vultures. I heard from two sources recently, that they migrate South around this time of year so we may not be seeing them again until early Spring. There was a hive of some kind in a bush, though I didn't see anything coming or going. A gibbous Moon was high up in the blue sky and that became the last photographic subject of the trip.