Photos from personal trips AND trips with
Birds of Oregon and General Science, (BOGS) in association with Eugene's Celeste Campbell Center
BOGS Finley Wildlife Refuge,
Jan 29, 2015; Trip Report
On the day of our Jan 29 BOGS bird-walk, the plan had originally been to go to Finley Wildlife Refuge 12 miles south of Corvallis on Hwy99W. Often, some members drive directly to our bird-walk destinations rather than meeting at Campbell Center for the pre-trip briefing and car-pooling. This saves driving extra miles and buying more gasoline as well as some extra time for those who live on the side of town to which we are planning to go.
Those members who drove directly to Finley Wildlife Refuge, did not get the word that Steve was changing the plan for the trip to Walterville reservoir; after hearing about a car wreck on Hwy 99W. By the time we got to McFadden Marsh we found that there were ten of us from BOGS who had turned up at Finley Refuge that day.
We are fortunate that we have Don Laufer as a BOGS member not only because he contributes so many fine photographs, but also because on this occasion, he was with the larger contingent at Walterville Reservoir, so we have a great photo album from that bird walk as well as the one I put together for the Finley contingent.
Marylee, Marvel, Scott and I had our hearts set on going to Finley, so even though we had heard about the change in plans, we decided to break rank and go there. I really love birding at Finley. I lived in Corvallis in the 70s and used to go there probably at least one weekend every month. I had taken the time to pack a lunch for this trip and was disappointed when I heard our plans had been changed. Marylee lives up in Oakridge and does not always do the 45 minute drive to Eugene for our bird -walks; but she did so on this day because she really wanted to go birding at Finley. She and I persuaded each other to go ahead and go to Finley. We didn't have any trouble getting two more to join us in Marylee's roomy car for the trip.
Marvel is a highly experienced birder and probably joined in our adventure because of the likelihood of greater bird numbers and diversity up there. For Scott, the motivation was at least partly that he is doing a "Big Year" and Finley would very likely (and did) add some harder-to-find species to his list. (As I understand it, though I'm not all that familiar with these kinds of things, a "Big-Year" is a determined effort to find as many birds as one can, in one year). Scott is doing this within the bounds of the state of Oregon.
We drove to Finley via I-5, Hwy34 and south on 99W from Corvallis. We arrived around 10:15 to find Larue and Dan near the Bruce Rd intersection. They were really glad to see us and we travelled in our two cars together until Dan left to go home around 12:30, taking Scott with him. Larue took Dan's place in our car and the four of us; Marylee, Priscilla, Marvel and Larue continued birding until 3:30pm! We came up with a total of 45 species.
On the boardwalk at the first marsh parking lot, we discovered Debby, Beth-Ann, Bill Butler and Nola. Nola and Bill Butler had driven themselves, while Debby and Beth went together. Bill must have moved through the refuge more quickly than we did because after he left McFadden Marsh we did not see him again that day. The other nine of us; Debby and Beth in their car, Dan and Larue in Dan's car, Nola in her car and the four of us in Marylee's car, stayed together the whole morning. I didn't keep a tally of what had been seen by the time Debby, Beth, Dan and Scott returned to Eugene around 12:30 or 1pm, but it was already by far the larger portion of the day's total of 45.
In rain-swelled ponds along Bruce Rd, there were Northern Pintails swimming. These were a mere 30 feet from our car so we really enjoyed close-up looks at them.
Once we were on the boardwalk, and found Nola, she was excited about things she had just seen. I think it had involved Rough-Legged Hawks being harassed by other birds.
Near the duck blind a Bewick's Wren was singing with great enthusiasm from atop a small tree. I was able to photograph it well enough to show the eye-stripe and some downward curvature of the bill. I'd only photographed a juvenile Bewick's Wren up until then.
From the duck blind we saw a lot going on. There was a tree just filled with Great-Blue Herons and another full of Great Egrets. We were able to identify some Dusky Canada Geese, and as usual, there were some Bald Eagles in the area; mostly immature ones while we were there.
Larue was outside the duck blind and looked overhead to see an eagle-sized very dark bird being harassed by a couple Ravens. The large bird had white patches on the underwings out near the elbows and some white on the tail. These are the classic field marks of an immature Golden Eagle!
We got pretty excited over that and I think everyone that was there got to see that bird and it's field marks. I couldn't get a focus on the immature Golden until it was further away, but I did get a few photos showing portions of the diagnostic white patches on wing and tail.
Back at the parking lot, there were a couple hawks in distant trees and with two spotting scopes, everyone took looks at them because we were having difficulty identying them. One of those hawks gave us a lot of trouble. There was a band of white near the tip of the tail which was wide enough to be seen at nearly 1/4 mile in a scope. Some argued for Red-Shouldered Hawk because of that wider band of white.
I don't think we came to a consensus. We probably should have just driven closer to them and gotten it settled. If there had been any hint of a Golden Eagle or Prairie Falcon at that distance in a tree, I would certainly have pushed for doing just that.
Next, we drove to the south prairie overlook. There were two cars of other birders in the lot and they were craning their necks to look at something almost straight overhead. Our group "Ooh-d and Aah-d" over and over again for 15 minutes as we discovered there was a fine mix of Bald Eagles, Rough-Legged Hawks, and Red-Tailed Hawks soaring in circles together overhead against a brilliant blue sky; while simultaneously Northern Harriers were flying low in the field right across the road with more Rough-Legged Hawks. One species after another was identified. I think I can safely say this was the highlight of the trip in most respects. Only the immature Golden Eagle came close to offering as much excitement.
Some of the Rough-Legged Hawks were the lighter phase and against the brilliant sun-lit sky the white on their wings and tails practically glowed as I would imagine angel wings would glow. The black elbow wing patches of the Rough-Legged Hawks were entirely clear to see as well. Everyone was talking excitedly and pointing out different birds. For example there were Northern Harriers and more Rough-Legged Hawks across the road (north) flying fairly low. An American Kestrel landed nearby on a sign post.
Somewhere in the 20 minutes we were there watching all this, I think I heard that a Prairie Falcon had flown through the sky somewhere. We got a glimpse of it flying a little later on after leaving the scrape pond. Somewhere along the way, some in our group reported seeing a Pergrin Falcon as well, but I completely missed that one and don't even know when/where it happened.
There was also a bird photographed around this time which I am still not sure about. I'm including it here and you can look at it yourself. See what you think.
But the immature Golden Eagle DID show up again while we were still at the south prairie overlook. It was quite far to the west, high in the sky but people did see the white wrist-patches on the underwing and the white band on the tail.
If that bird had been an adult at that distance we would have had no chance of getting a solid ID on it.
One photo I took at this time, might or might not be of that same immature Golden Eagle. This was actually taken a few minutes earlier in the midst of all the action in the skies above us, so it could have been this same Golden Eagle flying over before it got further to the west.
Our group was somewhat spread out over the parking area so someone could well have been looking at it and talking about it while I wasn't aware of that going on. I took this photo because these two birds were close to us and the Harrier was obviously harassing this other bird
And if all that wasn't enough excitement and action for one half hour, someone spotted a large immature Bald Eagle being harassed by a Hawk which looked diminutive in comparison. As I started shooting photos, the Eagle apparently got a little irritated at the Hawk and swooped up at it.
As I started shooting photos, the Eagle apparently got a little irritated at the Hawk and swooped up at it.
This is a fun sequence of shots.
And all of this before 12 Noon!
Scott had been especially hoping for a Rough-Legged Hawk at Finley, as well as Tundra Swans and Western Bluebirds. So he got the first two, (we saw Tundra Swans while driving south from Corvallis on 99W on our way to the refuge, and the Golden Eagle was a bonus; but the Bluebirds eluded us.
Not too much was seen at the scrape pond, although there were two more light-phase Rough-legged Hawks on the ground way out in the fields beyond the pond.
Further along Bruce Rd, in the private property stretch right after leaving the refuge, there is a farm with some Acorn Woodpeckers in the trees. I saw them last year on our BOGS Finley trip and we saw a few of them again this time.
That farm also has an ancient tractor sort of thing with a flower display in it.
A little further on, Debby and Beth had seen something which resembled a Western Tanager. Not typically a winter bird for this area, the Tanager would certainly get a lot of attention on OBOL if any other birders saw one, and there hasn't been any such fuss online. We didn't get to see it, so I guess the ID on that bird was never resolved.
House Finches were seen there and Debby and Beth had also seen White-Tailed Kites over the top of the nearby ridge to the south. We didn't get to see those either, but we DID see the Finches. I labeled them Purple Finches when I was processing the photos, but now I see that when I wrote these notes, I had them as HOUSE FINCHES. The distinction is one that takes some knowledge to make, and I am only beginning to learn those details about these Finches.
By this time it was after 12 Noon, so Debby, Beth, Dan and Scott headed back to Eugene, leaving Nola in her car and Larue with Marylee, me and Marvel.
We continued on to Headquarters, where we quickly heard and then saw a Black Phoebe.
Then Marylee spotted a bird up at the top of a nearby tree. Before looking at it with binoculars we all seemed to have the impression it was larger than it was. Our initial guesses included Cedar-Waxwing. I even suggested it looked something like a Western Kingbird. Finally someone suggested Yellow-rumped Warbler but to most of us it seemed too large.
I got couple pretty good photographs so I took them inside and to my chagrin, biologist refuge manager Molly Monroe confirmed the bird as a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. I am pretty familiar with this species so I was a little embarassed to have been fooled again by what I am going to start calling, the "size-illusion". This bird looked too large for that warbler. Most if not all of us viewing it were making guesses of larger birds. Why did this bird appear to be so large?
After leaving Headquarters, we took the boardwalk out to the Cabell Marsh observation blind. The Sun was getting lower in the sky, making colors a little warmer looking. A Song Sparrow (I think) was mucking about below the boardwalk.
On the far side of the marsh, marauding Eagles were scaring huge flocks of Geese and Ducks into swirling clouds of dark spots against the bright hazy sky. (No photo)
From the observation blind, we saw loose assemblies of waterfowl here and there in the marsh, but heat shimmer and distance made it a challenge to identify much. We thought we saw a Ruddy Duck with its elevated tail; however I think Northern Pintails float along that way too. They are different enough looking - if the Pintail raises its head, but if it is resting, it becomes harder to even gauge the size of the bird.
In the center of the marsh there was quite a menagerie of bird species atop some large logs probably placed and anchored there. Cormorants were obvious, as were a few species of Ducks; but there was a smaller bird which kept us going for quite a while and we never did come to a consensus about them.
In one of my photos we can see a fairly long straight bill. That led some of us in the direction of Long-Billed Dowitchers. But their upper breasts appeared dark with white below, which is reminiscent of Dunlin. They seemed too large for Dunlin, but since the size illusion easily comes into play, I remind myself that size is not very reliable unless a known bird is side-by-side with the unknown bird. In this case we did have Cormorants and Ducks right alongside the mystery birds. We were still undecided. For the time being, I've decided to call them "Long-Billed Dunlitchers." See what you think from the photos below.
At our final stop, which was the Finley Road (north) Prairie Overlook, there were more Dusky Canada Geese to be seen in the conservation wetland pond to the northeast. There was also a hawk which we were unable to identify. It was perched in a tree at some distance and only had its back to us. The tail had a narrow white tip and another broader white band further up. Perhaps it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.
Finally, around 3:30 we called it a day with a total of 45 species and went to the store at the intersection of Bruce Rd and Hwy 99W, where we found they do have sandwiches and some hot food items available; (made on premises).
Bird list for January 29, 2015, for the trip which some of us took to Finley Wildlife Refuge.
The photo slide-show for this trip includes additional photos and can be found here:
Generally if you want to know what is happening next at BOGS, or want to see the latest photos/reports,
you can find these on my "updates" page: