Photos from personal trips AND trips with
Birds of Oregon and General Science, (BOGS) in association with Eugene's Celeste Campbell Center
BOGS Summer Walk 1, Fern Ridge Reservoir, Royal Ave
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Weather: 55 -> 70 degrees with mostly clear skies, from 9:15 to 11:45am
An enthusiastic group of birders gathered before 9am at Campbell Center on June 19 for our first Summer bird walk of 2014. If memory serves correctly, I was joined by Don Laufer, Don McNeeley, Bill, Christy, Pat, Barbara and Jo. Over the next several weeks, these same folks tended to be the core group of regulars, with some missing a trip once in a while, and other folks showing up once in a while.
I must express my appreciation to Don Laufer for his continuing to help us out with his great photography. As I write this, we have gone on five walks this Summer and he has come with us and taken great photographs on every one. His skills sometimes exceed mine, and otherwise our work tends to complement each other's. I am very thankful that he is making this wonderful contribution.
As coordinator for these Summer bird walks, I do not have as much opportunity for taking photographs because I focus on checking in with everyone as we go along, to find out what people are seeing and what they think it is, and spreading that information to others who are looking at something else. I also spend time working with everyone to identify the birds we are seeing. I am not an expert. There are many birds I haven't learned yet. The Vireos and Warblers for example are weak areas for me, while songbirds are perhaps my strongest suit. I do recognize many birds by their songs, which helps a lot. We miss having Steve and others along who are proficient at identifying birds. (On our fifth walk, we had Floyd with us, which helped immensely!) While we have to work harder at bird identification, we have also observed that working in a group this way requires that we pay more attention to the details of the birds we are seeing, so we are perhaps learning more.
Photography is always a challenge at Fern Ridge Reservoir because so many of the birds seen are so far away, and often they are flying as well. Some of the good sightings go unphotographed. While not very many birds were photographed on this particular trip, we did have a very enjoyable time and saw many birds. (see bird list further down)
We decided to go to Fern Ridge on this first Summer bird walk, because of very recent reports of a possible Pacific Golden Plover about 1/2 mile south of the observation platform. In addition, we hoped to see Black-Necked Stilt, American Avocets, Black Terns and Blue-Winged Teal. The Plover eluded us, and indeed has not been reported by anyone else in the several days since our trip. Blue-Winged Teal were only seen flying at some distance. But we did get to see the rest of the birds we hoped to see; American Avocets, Black Tern, and Black-Necked Stilt.
Along Royal Ave, many of the usual species were seen, including Tree-Swallows, Song Sparrows, Northern Harriers and Common Yellowthroat. There was also a Black-Headed Grossbeak singing from the top of the trees south of the trail. American Bitterns were seen flying now and then on this trip, adding to a total of four of them!
Most of the months of April and May when I visited Fern Ridge, Common Yellowthroats were singing everywhere in the marshes along with Marsh Wrens. However, they were very hard to spot because they did not come up to the tops of the shrubs for more than a few seconds at a time. For some reason, on both Monday and Thursday of this week, we found Common Yellowthroats perched high atop small trees singing their hearts out in plain view.
From the observation platform, we saw a Mallard duck sitting on a log a few hundred feet out. It was the same log on which we had seen the Red Knot earlier this Spring. The thing is though, that when I had been there a few days earlier with Jody and Marylee, that Mallard duck was sitting on that same log in the same spot. She must be sitting on a nest, wouldn't you say?
From the observation platform, we walked South until we could see the expansive pond to the South (and East of the dike trail). It was here that we reached the height of our expectations; looking for American Avocets, Black-Necked Stilt and the prized Pacific Golden Plover. Here is a view looking west from the dike about 1/8 mi or so south of the observation platform
The American White Pelicans which have taken up residence at Fern Ridge were out there on "Pelican Island" in their usual numbers. I still haven't talked to anyone who knows why that island they are sitting on is made up of light colored gravel when everything else around is brown silty mud. The island also sits about a foot above the water level yet has no vegegation.
After scouting around a while at the South pond, and talking to several other birders who came by with their scopes also in search of the Golden Plover, it was getting to be 11:30. I mentioned it was about time to be heading back, but NO ONE in our group wanted to leave! One member said there was too much potential to see more interesting birds, so they didn't want to leave. I was surprised, but it was no problem since no one was wanting to get back to town in any kind of hurry. This became something of a pattern with our bird walks this Summer. The only appointments people have wanted to get back for have been around 1:30 or 2pm, so on most of our walks we have been getting back to town around 1 or 1:30. I do check with folks as we arrange our car-pooling to ensure those wanting to be back earlier can get into a car that will meet their needs.
The birding was indeed pretty rich out there towards the South end of that dike. This is where we saw Purple Martin, Osprey, American White Pelicans, Redhead, Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal and one of my favorites, the Black-Necked Stilt.
John Sullivan has reported three Black-Necked Stilt nests at Fern Ridge this year. By the time I wrote this, (July 22), there were three families with young Stilts reported. But back when we were there on June 19, our first Summer birdwalk, the Black-Necked Stilts we saw were foraging for food and did not seem to be in tightly bonded pairs, though we might have seen some of them paired up loosely.
I love these birds. I call them "Tuxedo Birds" because of the black-and-white color pattern. But take a look at those LOOOOONNNNNNNNG red-orange legs!