Photos from personal trips AND trips with
Birds of Oregon and General Science, (BOGS) in association with Eugene's Celeste Campbell Center
BOGS Golden Garden Ponds bird walk,
May 29, 2014
We had almost 30 people on this birdwalk, and a lovely day for it too. The Sun was bright and warm, while there was a very refreshing cool breeze the entire time we were there.
We began at the main entrance trail-head, walking north, then turned west to skirt the small stand of trees along the road. This stand of trees has a small trickle of water flowing through it, down to the small roadside pond, so there are usually some birds to be found here.
This time, there were a few Cedar Waxwings seen by some of us, and they made another appearance or two during our bird walk, so most of us got at least a glimpse of them. I love the smooth waxy appearance of Cedar Waxwings when they are seen up close in good light. In this instance, though, it was their pale yellow feathers below the whiter mid-breast area which I was seeing and appreciating. That color is brought out when the bird itself is under the canopy but is surrounded by brightly lit light green leaves.
The highlight of this early part of the walk, though, for me, was a Western Wood-Pewee which was straight in front of us about 50 feet away, repeatedly flying from and returning to a low-hanging bare branch above the trail. I've always liked the Western wood peewee. I suppose its because they are reliable contributors to lazy Summer day walks or picnics. Their call is a pretty distinctive single long buzzy note, loudest at the beginning and then fading slowly and dropping in pitch.
I always enjoy the view of the first small roadside pond at Golden Garden, partly because one approaches it from higher ground and gets a better perspective. From this first view of the pond, one can look across to the far side, where the outlet channel runs directly away to the west, eventually joining up with one of the Amazon creek channels downstream of Meadowlark Prairie, near Clear Lake Rd, west of Greenhill Rd.
In this photo, our group is looking at a Killdeer on the other side of the pond, near the outlet channel.
Killdeer made a strong showing on this walk, beginning at the first pond ....
Later, two more pairs of them were found towards the end of our walk as we skirted the far West end of the large pond on our southward return towards the parking area. Some folks saw two or three hatchlings running around in the grassy fields with their parents. I saw them but couldn't get them in view with my camera. However, some photos I took of another pair of adult Killdeer in the same area, provided an encore when I got home and took a closer look at them.
While most of the group were looking at a Killdeer across from us at the nearest pond to the road, I saw a Pied-Billed Grebe on our side of the pond. When I looked with binoculars, I found that there were several young grebes as well as two adults. The young ones still had their orange bills and black-and-white striped heads and necks. These birds were better positioned for photographing than any other young grebes I've seen so far, and I am very happy with the results.
While we were still at the first small pond, an Osprey came along scouting the water for fish. It landed in a tree across the pond from us and I photographed it there as well. But we noticed the Osprey hunting that small roadside pond many different times during our walk, seeing it from afar, as it soared or hovered over it. pond. Both Don Laufer and I got some nice photos of the Osprey. Most of them are in the photo album. I'll only show one of the here.
It seemed that Savannah sparrows were more active than I remember them being on other visits. We saw and heard them singing at several places, always perched at the top of a shrub or signpost and singing constantly. I can't say that I was hearing them well enough to have learned their song, but others may have. They gave us some nice opportunities to photograph them, though not right up close.
Usually we've seen several Bald Eagles on our trips to Golden Garden Ponds, but not this time. Instead we were content with seeing several Lazuli Buntings with their brilliant blue and rufous colors. The first few of these were in tall Cottonwoods. Donna spotted them and kept track of them even as they flew low over the field to some shrubs and young trees up ahead of us on the trail. I suspect they were finding food or nesting materials in the tall Cottonwoods because I think they usually nest in thickets of shorter vegetation. I am basing that on their abundance in areas on Mt Pisgah where the open savannah is populated almost exclusively with pockets of the shorter vegetation.
At first, the Lazuli Buntings were high up in the Cottonwood trees. As you can see in this next group photo, not everyone was willing to work so hard as to crane their necks and look nearly straight up through their binoculars. Fortunately, the Buntings came out of the tall trees and flew over to some shorter shrubby bushes, where we could look at them more easily. Here is one of three photos I took of the Lazuli Bunting.
It was shortly after seeing the Lazuli Buntings that we came across the Killdeer pairs, around the same time that Steve brought our attention to a Savannah Sparrow singing from the top of a signpost up ahead of us. The Killdeer were to our left, between the path and the shore of the large pond we had walked around.
Several of us were noticing a pair of adult Killdeer between our path and the large pond. At the same time, most everyone was looking at a Savannah Sparrow perched on a signpost ahead of us and singing constantly. Viewing the Savannah Sparrow from the path, there were houses in the distance directly behind the bird. I stepped off the path, moving in the general direction of the Killdeer, to get a better angle for photographing the Sparrow - so as to get trees lined up behind the sparrow. Since the Killdeer were only 20 to 30 feet away, I took some pics of them too.
One of them was further away and kept going. But the one that was closer, seemed hesitant to go further away. As I took a few more steps, the closer bird began doing the broken-wing act which Killdeer are famous for. This was most likely the female and I knew this meant I must be getting too close to her nest, so she was trying to lure me away, acting as if she was injured. She was still maybe 20 feet away from me. I took a few more steps towards the pond, still trying to get a better background for the Savannah Sparrow. But now the female Killdeer abruptly changed tactics. She roughed up her feathers a bit and walked aggressively straight towards me, without hesitation. She came quite close to me before she stopped walking. Evidently the broken-wing act hadn't worked, and she was still very concerned about my presence, so now she was trying to scare me off. I figured I must be closer to the nest than I had thought. I turned around and carefully re-traced my steps back to the path. Once back on the path, I turned and photographed the female again. She then plopped down on the ground, looking very much like she was perched on her nest.
I thought that was the end of that story, but when I got home and looked at the photographs, I discovered that in the last one I took while she had been coming towards me, before I had retreated to the path, there were at least two eggs visible beneath her!!! I was really excited to discover that!
I zoomed in on the eggs and put that photo in the album for this trip. Days later, Don Laufer told me he had gone back and found the nest and photographed the eggs. That magnificent photo is in the album for this trip.
Another pair of Killdeer were seen in the farm fields to the right side of the path, on the side away from the large pond. There were two or three hatchlings running around with them. They quickly scampered into the plants so I only had a quick glimpse of one of them in my binoculars. Don wasn't able to photograph them either.
From there, we were close to finishing the loop around the largest pond. We passed a fisherman and before we were much past him he caught a fish. I couldn't tell from where I was standing, what kind of fish it was, but it kind of looks like it might be a small Bass.
As we walked the dike separating the largest pond from the small roadside pond, I remembered to take photographs of that general area, looking both towards the road and away from it, so that those of you who read these reports but aren't able to come with us on these walks can get a better idea of how things looked out there.
There are more photos to be seen in the album found at:
Trip Photo Album