Summer BOGS Clearwater Landing
July 13, 2017
Note of Appreciation by Priscilla
I have to say I was really impressed yesterday (July 13, 2017) with the people who participated in our bird walk at Clearwater Landing. What little extraneous conversation did take place was done with quiet voices. Everyone remained so intently focused on listening for and looking at birds that there were times when no one at all was talking, at least in my vicinity, and we were able to just enjoy the sounds of the millrace, the river, or the woodland birds. At times, for a little while, it was almost like birding by oneself.
Here are the names of this dedicated crew:
Ann M, Betsy H, Bill M, Don L, Greg H, Janet N, Jody F, Marlene M, Marylee S, Mary M, Priscilla S
We've been having short conversations this Summer about ... I suppose it falls into the catergory of "birding etiquette". At the start of this (Clearwater Landing) walk, while we were gathering in the parking lot at Campbell Center, Marlene said with a smile that she was "still remembering to speak in a quiet voice". There were probably several intentions behind her saying this and one was humor, so I smiled, tapped her on the arm and said "You are a good doo-bee, Marlene." She and a few others laughed. Possibly she also wanted to remind everyone about this idea of speaking in soft voices on our bird walks. Possibly too, she was checking to see if I brought my sense of humor with me, because on at least one occasion I didn't. Shortly after Marlene's playful remark, Bill told me privately that he was glad I had said something about people talking in loud voices while we were out birding. Bill was referring to at least one of a couple conversations I've had with the group this Summer about this.
All this began fortuitously enough, on our June 22 Finley Woodpecker Loop walk when a bright male Western Tanager appeared at the top of a tree right in front of us. As Don and I both raised our cameras, several people expressed their excitement in loud voices (and perhaps pointed at the bird) and it flew out of sight immediately. I'm afraid my exasperation got the best of me, (just as excitement had gotten the best of some of our group) and I turned to the group and told people in a strained but moderately loud voice, not to make so much noise or to keep their voices down; something to that effect. I might not even have said "please". As that walk continued, several of us spoke amongst ourselves about this topic during the walk. I don't recall for sure if we discussed it as a group at the end of the walk that day gathering at our cars, but I did revisit this topic and led a short discussion after we left Carolyn Nielsen's house on our next outing and went for a little walk on the trails at Leaburg dam.
I wanted to clarify that I don't want to bully anyone into following any rigid rules about behavior on our bird walks. I explained that I might have come across a little too strongly that day at Finley when I was exasperated about losing the Western Tanager. I also wanted people to share their own feelings. As I said at the time, excitement about some birds is natural enough and is part of why we go birding. Certainly forgetting oneself when excited is going to happen now and then. Also, some socializing is going to take place during our walks, and that's okay too. I admitted that I myself often socialize on these outings; so to me it comes down mostly to paying attention to and being respectful of what is going on with those around us.
If some folks are trying to hear a bird, be respectful and speak in soft voices. If a bird is seen, try not to scare it off. Doris informed us that a bird group leader told the group she was in that movements of people scare birds more than noises the people make. That was especially usefull to learn. Several other folks made comments also and my sense was that people were glad we were discussing this as it turns out that quite a few of those who go on the Summer bird walks actually prefer being in a quieter group out in the field.
This came up again during our Clearwater Landing bird walk yesterday (July 13, 2017). Several among our group yesterday have attended Audubon bird walks and / or Dave Bontrager birding trips, or WBU bird walks, (or others). They remarked on how quiet the participants are on such walks. I used to belong to Audubon in Corvallis back in the mid-70s so I know what they were talking about. Also, Jody, Marvel, Jennifer and I participated on a Corvallis Audubon bird walk two years ago at the Finley Refuge 50th anniversary celebration.
We all noticed how little talking there was and how quietly it was done, and that it was nearly entirely about birds being heard or seen. We liked it but I think we all realized it would be unrealistic to ask or expect our large birding groups from September to May to follow that rigid a protocol. Not just because the groups are often as large as 30+ members, but also because we almost always have some participants who are with us for their first time. For some of them, birding is a completely new activity.
This Summer however, we are discovering that the dozen or so folks who go on our Summer walks, are all somewhat experienced (or very experienced) and are quite willing or even happy about trying to be quieter and more bird-focused on these Summer walks, so things seem to be evolving in that direction this Summer.
Clearwater Landing, July 13, 2017
Quite a number of bird species entertained us for the three hours we were on the bike path from Clearwater Landing. Some birds were heard but not seen; others were seen only briefly but not identified; still others were seen and identified, though only a few were photographed.
Right from the parking lot and throughout our walk we were serenaded by Robins loudly but leisurely singing their contented-sounding song. I'm from Michigan where the state bird is the Robin and one hears them just everywhere. Often they are the last bird one hears at night as it gets dark, and they say goodnight to each other with a call that rises and then falls, and sounds something like "wheet-chu-chu".
A few hundred feet further, some of us saw mourning doves. Janet and I saw one flying. I must have seen another one because here is a picture I took.
Don had been to Clearwater Landing a week earlier with the Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) birding group led by Donna, so he was able to point out locations where several interesting species were seen. The first of these was the far end of the second large meadow, (about 1/4 mile from the parking lot), where the WBU group had seen Lazuli Buntings and heard a Yellow-breasted Chat. Chats have only been reported along this trail a few times, beginning, I believe, only just this Spring (2017).
In the first meadow area shortly after leaving the parking lot, Turkey Vultures were soaring the skies and several other species were being heard or seen or both by folks a short distance behind those of us near the front. We had several confusing bird calls which led to disparate accounts. Jody, who was with Marylee in the back of the group, reports that there was a weird Red-tail Hawk sound which appeared to be coming from a Steller's Jay. "When the Jay flew off," she says, "the call quit." Don reports that in the same area, "people also heard what they said was an Osprey calling." He reported that Dan Gleason [on the WBU walk the week before] said that fledgling Red-tails sound like Osprey. Don says he did hear a Steller's Jay in that area. Don also reports "two of the women that were on our walk said they saw a Scrub Jay making that call."
Personally I feel gratified when the group is able to remain unsure and in disagreement about sightings and bird calls being heard, rather than people rushing to name the bird, sounding as though they are quite certain, especially when there are disparate accounts of what was heard or seen as there were in this situation. Identifying birds is a process, laden with potential errors. While everyone enjoys being able to get a definite ID, that does not always happen. People vary in their degree of tolerance for unresolved bird IDs.
Before we saw any of the birds Don told us about from the WBU walk, Don photographed a House Finch, along with a large Red-tailed Hawk we saw near the top of a fir tree across the meadow on the Northern edge. Don managed a fine photograph of the Hawk in spite of its distance.
Several heard a Lazuli Bunting while I was out in the field (off-trail) by myself, looking at a Chat. It was immersed in the top of some short trees rising up out of a thick wall of blackberries. I could see it moving around between the leaves. What I saw was a Robin-sized bird with yellow below. It flew out and in one quick dive was out of sight in the blackberries so I had no pictures with the bird in them, but I saw it clearly enough to be 90% sure about it.
I also saw the Bunting others were looking at, just as it flew away fast and far. Towards the end of our walk, when we returned to this same area, I heard the Bunting (along with several others) and both Don and I photographed it. Don and I also saw the Chat again. (So did Betsy I think). Don and I both photographed it but I only got a view of the back end of the bird, while Don also managed a blurry side view shot showing the yellow breast, good enough for a certain ID.
Don told us that Common Yellowthroats are often heard in this same area and I do recall that from previous trips last two years. I think someone heard one this time too, though I don't think anyone saw one.
Robins were not the only "ubiquitous" bird on this outing. White-spotted Towhees were also heard just about everywhere we went. Several were seen, including at least one juvenile Towhee which a number of us saw but no one was able to photograph. In fact, none of the Towhees were successfully photographed. Don reports that Starlings and Scrub Jays were also abundant. He said; "I got a very good look at a male Black-headed Grosbeak that was looking for food, not calling, but I was unable to get a picture of it. A couple of others saw it fly away."
Where the millrace passes beneath the pedestrian/bike path, several birds were seen. A Song Sparrow was lurking right near the water, returning to a small fallen branch again and again. It gave me plenty of time to photograph it. I also managed a rear-end view of an American Goldfinch before it flew off. Other species were seen here but not photographed. I'm not sure but I think Cedar Waxwings and a Hummingbird were seen here. Don also said "There were two (probable) Hairy Woodpeckers near the bridge over the mill race."
Not much further along, an American Goldfinch was perched at the bare top of a tall tree. We got several photographs of this bird.
Flycatchers were seen fleetingly in a number of places, but again, none were photographed successfully. One bird got us excited for a moment because it sat still up high on a branch and we thought we would get an ID on this one. We did. It was an American Robin. I know I was hoping it was a flycatcher, and I suspect others were too. I was frustrated at not being able to get good looks at any of the several flycatchers we heard and/or saw on this walk. It seems like they were common enough, but they were always flitting about and never sitting still. So ... no photographs!
We did eventually come upon some Cedar Waxwings which we were able to see. Betsy and others with good high-frequency hearing, had been hearing them again and again as we walked. I'd only heard them once, but was happy to be able to hear them at all. Don and I both photographed the Waxwings, though they were way high up at the top of a tree, and that tree was not all that close to us either.
As far as photographs go, that's it. We did not get any other species captured in our cameras. Still the walk continued to be interesting, with everyone very focused on the birds we were hearing and seeing.
We all walked as far as the point where the path comes very close to the river; where there is a park bench. Several folks turned around there and a few others of us, myself included, decided to sit on the bench for a while as the remainder of the group ventured further along the path in search of Red-eyed Vireos. Someone had a fix on where this species of Vireo had been seen recently and Jody wanted to check that out. When they returned, they had not found one. Marylee said it was getting late in the season for them to be singing. I went back to last Summer's reports and found that the date we heard Red-eyed Vireos at Clearwater Landing was June 23. That day, we heard one singing incessantly as soon as we got out of our cars.
I also had a Red-eyed Vireo location marked on a map from an eBird report made by Sally Hill the morning of the previous week's Wild Birds Unlimited bird walk. She had placed the marker back closer to where the Millrace had crossed under the path, though in the wooded area just beyond the first or second curve of the path West of that crossing. Some of us had been listening for the vireo as we went through that area, but none were heard.
As I mentioned earlier, we came across and photographed both the Yellow-breasted Chat and the Lazuli Buntings as we passed the West end of the 2nd meadow (2nd from the parking lot). So while there is not much more to say about the return trip and those photographs were posted in this report back towards the beginning, in fact we continued to hear Towhees and Robins and get glimpses of Flycatchers and Waxwings all the way back to the cars.
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