Photos from personal trips AND trips with
Birds of Oregon and General Science, (BOGS) in association with Eugene's Celeste Campbell Center
BOGS Dorris Ranch April 24, 2014
It had been a week with rain showers off and on every day. Around 8am, as many of us were getting ready for our bird walk, it rained so hard that I stopped and just stared out the window at the cloudburst. I decided I wouldn't let the rain stop me. It was only sprinkling lightly and the brighter sky was fostering hope by the time I got to Campbell Center.
As it turned out, the weather was reasonably kind to us on our walk; we even had periods of sunshine now and then. During one or two spates of rain, I had to put my camera away and put up my hood, but only for short times. I heard several people mention the 8am cloudburst and how they had wondered at that point, what we were in for. An impressive contingent of stalwart senior citizens turned out for this walk even though the weather had been so foreboding earlier that morning.
Once at Dorris Ranch, we walked on a trail directly South towards and through the Filbert Orchards. One of our first birds left us unsure about it's ID. I learned a lesson though, because my photos of the bird came out very blue. Jo pointed out how blue the photos were and it dawned on me that I had not changed the white-balance setting since taking pictures indoors with tungsten lighting the other day. The lesson I learned: checking such settings needs to be routine at the start of any photography session. Later that evening Don discovered he too had his white-balance set wrong. He was able to undo the effects of that using photoshop. His pictures came out great on this trip, as they did on the Skinner Butte trip.
American Goldfinches in brilliant breeding plumage adorned the open fields. Don got several nice pictures of them while I must have been gabbing away. I do remember not being able to locate them in my camera viewfinder, but I think that was a group of them which were further away.
Steller's Jays are rarely the most abundant bird, but they were on this walk, with 15 of them having been counted. Some of them were solitary but others were in several loose flocks moving through the forested area.
Jennifer gets the credit for two of the best sightings of the day. She was showing me a saprophytic "plate" fungus ("mushroom") about 8 or so inches across, growing out from the side of a tree trunk about 20 feet off the ground when suddenly she spotted a Red-Breasted Sapsucker directly opposite the fungus. This tree was only 20 feet off the trail so we had a very privileged view of this beautiful bird. Many of our group had been ahead of us but came back to enjoy the sight, as the Woodpecker pecked the tree and alternated that with going half-way into a hole for maybe 20 seconds at a time. It only NOW occurs to me that the hole may have been a nest and he/she may have been feeding babies. I didn't hear anyone mention this at the time, but surely someone thought of it. I probably just wasn't listening well enough. Both Don and I got excellent photos of that wonderfully colorful bird. With all that excitement, I forgot to get a picture of that plate fungus!
We entered a denser wooded section of the riverside trail, where there is an increased photographic challenge because the light level can be quite low in the forest, as it was Thursday. This is where a group of Steller's Jays swooped through the trees overhead. A Pileated Woodpecker was seen across the river. Also, in this stretch of woods, several Brown Creepers were seen , as well as a few Hairy Woodpeckers and a Downy Woodpecker. Don captured great shots of a Brown Creeper, which is hard to do because they tend to keep moving, and a Hairy Woodpecker. The Hairy Woodpecker kept on pecking away right next to the trail, while our entire talkative group passed by.
Some time later, while the rain was giving me misery by spattering my camera lens, Jennifer scored her second coup for the day; spotting a Great Horned Owl up high in a tree, easily seen against a patch of sky as it sat on a horizontal brach about a foot from the tree trunk.
She must be a good Owl spotter, because she has seen several Owls on her own walks at Mt Pisgah. Everyone enjoyed seeing this Owl, both by eye, with binoculars and best of all through Bill's spotting scope. Looking at the Owl by eye or binoculars, the bright sky behind it left the bird a very dark silhouette, but in the spotting scope most of the background sky was cropped out and much more color and detail could be seen on the bird. Similarly, a camera can be set to allow more light in, which brightens the bird to reveal color and detail. We can't control the iris in our eyes to do the same thing; they run essentially on autopilot, opening and closing according to the overall light arriving at the eye. Because of rain splatter smudges on my lens, my autofocus wasn't working, so I used manual focus and took bursts of three shots each focused at a slightly different distance. A few of my Owl photos came out pretty good, but Don was able to get a very sharp photo of the Owl with the autofocus working fine on his camera.
Usually Great Horned Owls select roosting locations in which they are very hard to see from almost every angle. But in April, one has a better chance to see them, because baby Great Horned Owls begin climbing out of their nests and wandering about. This is before most deciduous trees develop their new leaves, so the babies are often not so hard to find. They can't fly for several more weeks, so they often end up on the ground and then, using bill and talons, climb up one tree or another. The adult Owls then have to place themselves near enough to protect the young Owlets, so they forego their usual secluded roosts and as a result they are more easily spotted. Once the trees leaf out fully, by the end of April, both the babies and the adults again become more difficult to see.
I can't recall our seeing any Owls on our walks since April 2012, when we visited an active Great Horned Owl nest on Greenhill road, so it was really fun to see one again on a BOGS walk.
Out in the open again, we arrived at the junction with the bike path, and headed back towards the parking lot along that. A Cooper's Hawk was seen here, along with more American Goldfinches at the tip-tops of some fir trees. The descending soft trill of an Orange-Crowned Warbler had us searching the fresh bright green leaves of a large bush very close to the trail for several minutes. Finally the bird graced us by flitting to the top of the bush where we could all see it. With this bird, hearing the call might be more conclusive than getting a look at it, because it has essentially no field marks, unless you happen to be looking down at it and can see the orange crown patch.
Just before reaching the parking area, a pair of White-Spotted Towhees were seen in the understory of a small (fruit?) tree. Don Laufer captured a nice photo of one of them. By this time it was mostly sunny and very pleasant to be outdoors.
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