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 5, Zumwalt County Park,
July 17, 2014
Weather: Cloudless sky, 58 degrees at 8am, reaching 75 by Noon
Five of us gathered at Campbell Center before 8am; Priscilla, Don, Floyd, Larry and Bill. Jo joined us at the park when we arrived at 8:30. Marylee had intended to go on this trip with us, but was unable to make it.
When we got out of our cars at the end of Vista Road, at the South end of Zumwalt County Park, many birds were singing. While equipment was being gathered I played the songs of several flycatchers; both Olive-Sided and Willow, so that we might successfully recognize them. I might also have played the song of the Warbling Vireo.
As we began to enter the park, I could clearly hear a Swainson's Thrush, a Robin, and a White-Spotted Towhee; but there were a few other quieter bird songs in the air as well, difficult to hear through these louder birds. The first bird we saw was just inside the park boundary. It was a Female Western Tanager. The pale yellow breast was easily seen by all, and the much darker olive back with two wing-bars, were probably seen by most of the group because this bird continued to pop into view again and again for a few minutes.
A male Western Tanager may have been seen, though I wasn't aware of it. Don took the following photo, which looks to me like a male Western Tanager, because of the hints of red on the head and throat, the hint of yellow on the lower parts of the bird, and black looking wings.
I was hearing what might have been a Warbling Vireo amongst the chorus of songs. It could easily have been a Purple Finch, though my sense of it is that the Finches often tend to continue calling for long periods of time, whereas what I was hearing was only occasional. We saw a bird with plain white breast and flanks and several of us agreed that a glimpse of the side of the face suggested it was rather plain light grey or white. In fact my first impression, at that moment, because of the white breast and whitish side of the face, was of a White-Breasted Nuthatch. It was only an impression, but I voiced it and Floyd pointed out this bird had no dark crown cap, to which I had to agree. Still, no one was sure what it was. Floyd agreed it was possibly the Warbling Vireo I had thought I was hearing.
My recollection of the birds we saw and/or heard:
The old road through Zumwalt Park winds through a wooded section before reaching a large open field/picnic area having some large fir and deciduous trees, including a old Oak Heritage Tree dating back to the late 1850s; which was planted by the either the Zumwalt's or the family which originally had the first land claim here.
We walked along the southern edge of the field, listening for and scanning the willows and shrubs bordering the woods, for birds. This is where we saw and photographed a flycatcher perched out at the end of a branch, but it was at some distance, and even with the assistance of Floyd's spotting scope, we couldn't identify it.
ADDENDUM: There was also a dove or pigeon which was rather plain. It lacked the black collar on the back of the neck which is seen on Eurasian Collared Doves. We could not see it very well, so at the time Floyd thought it was a Rock-Pigeon. Upon getting home and looking at the photographs I discovered the yellow bill which Sibley says is unique to Band-Tailed Pigeons. An adult would show some white on the back of the neck, but the juvenile lacks markings there, so I think this bird is a Band-Tailed Pigeon
A few other species were seen here, including Black-Capped Chickadees, and an adult Bald Eagle which flew over our heads, low enough to easily see the fully white head and tail without binoculars. We then continued on to the shoreline of the reservoir. There were several pairs of Large Grebes scattered here and there, and to our delight, some of these were carrying young ones on their backs. These birds were quite a distance out in the water so detail was hard to see, and our photographs suffered this problem as well. In spite of that, I think it is safe to say that seeing the young chicks on the backs of their parents through Floyd's spotting scope was the highlight of the day for everyone. The general consensus for a while, was that these were all Western Grebes, but in my photographs it appeared to me that the eye of one of these adults was not surrounded by black as it would be in a Western Grebe. I showed the photo to Floyd, and he could see it too; so it was confirmed that this chick-carrying adult was a Clark's Grebe.
While we were enjoying the Grebes, several times we heard a Pied-Billed Grebe calling. This is quite a loud raucous call when heard up close. This bird was a long way across a cattail marsh to the north of us but we could still hear it quite well. This is one of my two favorite bird calls, the other being the Yellow-Breasted Chat. Jo played the grebe call on her iPhone but we didn't have any luck bringing the bird in any closer.
Some attention was paid to a flock of birds way far out on the reservoir. These may have been gulls. I wasn't paying a lot of attention to them because I was scanning the marshy area to the north looking especially for Yellow-Headed Blackbirds. I didn't find any, but I did discover that one of the adult Western Grebes with young on it's back had come into this area and was now much closer to us than before. This called for another round of viewing with binoculars, and with spotting scope and of course more photographing!
I mentioned that Swainson's Thrushes were calling, but did I say that they were calling everywhere we went? As we left the large field along the north boundary which borders a marshy arm/inlet, these Thrushes were especially abundant. Because of the repeated exposure to this birds vocalizations, I think most of our party have now learned to recognize both the loud upward spiraling song as well as the loud "HWIT" call note of the Swainson's Thrush.
But we got more of a treat than that! TWICE we had Swainson's Thrushes in places where we could see them. Most everyone got at least a decent glimpse or two, if not good long looks at this usually very elusive bird. Don took some excellent photos of this beautiful and elusive bird.
We returned to the main N-S road at the north end of the large field, then continued walking north. The road there cuts through the marshy inlet, offering a greater range of habitat with the marsh, the willows and shrubs bordering that, and the wooded areas surrounding those. We heard a Common Yellowthroat in this area, and heard it again when we were returning south. This is also where we saw a Female Black-Headed Grossbeak and Jo saw five Red-Wing Blackbirds
Passing again through the wooded area next to the marshy inlet on our return, we got another good look at a singing Swainson's Thrush
While driving back towards home along W. 11th, with Fern Ridge Reservoir still on both sides of the road, Don and I saw two Cattle Egrets, a Red-Tailed Hawk, and a group of American White Pelicans, bringing our species count to 26.