August 26, 2013

Preamble in Portland

This past June, my friend, Levi, and I (Joel) had the opportunity to attend the legendary Hog Island Coastal Bird Studies camp in Maine. Typically, traveling by air from Colorado to the East coast can be quite tricky in terms of cost and logistics. In order to get a relatively good deal on fares, as well as to guarantee that we'd make it to the camp on time, we flew into Maine two days early. Luckily, our all-day flight sequences didn't have any major hiccups. Staying in a hotel in South Portland, we had some solo time to explore the Portland area. Despite finding the hotel area to be the most bird rich place on this leg of our trip, we still made a few interesting trips away utilizing bus and cab transportation. The definite highlight was a visit to Scarborough Marsh.

Traveling by canoe, Levi and I snaked our way up a river surrounded by tall coarse grasses. The river, not a typical one, runs through the largest saltwater marsh in Maine . . . Scarborough Marsh. Comprised of Spartina grasses (cord grass and salt hay), Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sparrows were the only passerines detected in the marsh while canoeing. From the black and white flash of a Willet's wing to a Double-crested Cormorant emerging from the murky nutrient rich water, we anticipated something new around every bend. 

Levi and I aboard the canoe at Scarborough Marsh

While paddling up this river, small clusters of Glossy Ibis frequently wheeled overhead.

Being a tidal marsh, the depth of the water rapidly changed during our time on the river.

After a couple hours of paddling, we arrived back at the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center where we had rented the canoe. Not entirely finished with the Scarborough area, we walked a quarter mile down the road to the Eastern Trail, a wide gravel pedestrian and bike path that also traverses Scarborough Marsh. With Song Sparrows singing in almost every tree, Snowy Egrets and other wading birds hunting along the mud banks, and numerous gulls swirling about, the bird life was drastically denser than on our canoeing excursion. Unfortunately, hunger and diminishing snack supplies turned us around a short distance down the trail.

As you can see, the Eastern Trail travels in a straight line for quite a distance. Actually, this trail is part of the East Coast Greenway. Starting in northern Maine, the East Coast Greenway follows the coast all the way to Key West in Florida.

Four-spotted Skimmer

Song Sparrow

Glossy Ibis

Double-crested Cormorant

To close out our first complete day in Maine, we took the bus to the Old Port in downtown Portland. Chocked full of redundant gift shops, this historic district is known for its 19th century architecture and fishing piers. While we strolled the cobbled streets, Chimney Swifts swirled above the old brick buildings. Eventually, we found our way out to a public pier. Fringed with reckless casting fishermen, we managed to get our eyes on a low flying Black-crowned Night-Heron just before it disappeared behind another pier.

With trails winding through and around it, we decided to spend our last morning before camp exploring the golf course near the hotel. Over rolling hills, asphalt paths covered the massive golf course in numerous loops. Edged with towering trees, the Sable Oaks Golf Club had great wildlife habitat including cattail ponds, swamps, and thickets.

Red-winged Blackbird and Baltimore Oriole outside the hotel.

Wild Turkeys grazing on the hotel's front lawn.

Sable Oaks Golf Course

Black-throated Green Warbler

Thickets, Forests, and Greens

Ovenbird with a Mouthful

Ebony Jewelwing

Dirt trails through densely wooded areas were abundant on the perimeter of the golf course.

Eastern Bluebird

North American Porcupine

Next up: I will cover the other leg of our trip . . . Hog Island!

July 19, 2013

Basin and Range Country

Over the last week of June, I (Marcel) had the great privilege of attending a Western Field Ornithologists' field trip to the Northeastern Counties of California, thanks to an extremely generous WFO scholarship. Led by Ken Able, Jon Dunn, Lena Hayashi, and Dave Quady, we explored the varied habitats of the Sierra Valley, Modoc Plateau, and the Warner Mountains. There was great avian diversity to be found in the sagebrush, alkali flats, pine forests, oak woodland, and spruce highlands, as the group tallied over 170 species in eight days. Thanks again to WFO for providing me with the opportunity to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Surprise Valley

Following is a series of my best photos from the trip, including birds, landscapes, people, and other things.

A young member of a family of Western Scrub-Jays (coastal subspecies californicus) at the eastern extremity of its range in Reno, NV.

A male Williamson's Sapsucker at a nest (just out of the photo).

Lemon Valley Road, where there were Barn Owls to be found.

Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea) was an abundant species at the higher elevations.

Sierra Valley, with storm clouds brewing.

American Bittern in the Sierra Valley.

Smithneck Creek County Park

Lewis's Woodpecker, with nest located at top of photo, at Smithneck Creek County Park.

Carmen Valley (there was a Hairy Woodpecker nesting in one of the fence posts).

Mountain Quail Road (though I have heard that its namesake is almost unheard of at this location).

Lifer Rubber Boa!!!

We heard a Mountain Quail calling from down this slope.

Birding Yuba Pass

Fox Sparrow, Thick-billed subspecies group (megarhyncha), on Yuba Pass.

Red Rocks Road, which burned a few days after we visited in search of Gray Flycatcher (successful) and Juniper Titmouse (unsuccessful).

Common Branded Skipper

Male Western Pondhawk

The Red Rocks Fire, en route back to Reno.

Papoose Meadows, just south of Eagle Lake, held a couple of Yellow Rails.

Acorn Woodpeckers, playing on high voltage lines in Janesville.

Lewis's Woodpecker being mobbed by a feisty Western Kingbird.

Pacific Wren in the Warner Mountains.

Blue Lake

One of California's only nesting Eastern Kingbirds, at Blue Lake.

 Eastern Kingbird Nest

Singing male MacGillivray's Warbler, at Blue Lake.

Nesting Tree Swallow, at Blue Lake.

Brewer's Sparrow, at Blue Lake.

Variable Checkerspot, at Blue Lake.

Eight-spotted Skimmer, at Blue Lake

Female Western Pondhawk

Cordilleran Flycatcher, in the Warner Mountains, the only regular location for this species in California.

Sworinger Reservoir, in the foothills of the Warner Mountains.

North American Pronghorn

Warbling Vireo taking flight in Oregon, en route to California, on the other side of the road.

Birding near the almost dry lakebed of Goose Lake.

We encountered a flock of Bushtits on Fandango Pass which appear to show intermediate characteristics between the more western Brown-crowned subspecies californicus and the more eastern Gray-crowned subspecies plumbeus.

This Northern Pygmy-Owl flew in to check out Dave Quady's tooting, while we photographed the flock of Bushtits.

Jon Dunn and Dave Quady search for Sagebrush Sparrows.

Osprey at Stough Reservoir.

Boisduval's Blue at Stough Reservoir.

Female Bufflehead, likely nesting, at Stough Reservoir.

Scanning the gull and tern colony at Dorris Lake.

 Cassin's Vireo on Day Road.

A silhouetted Ash-throated Flycatcher on Day Road.

A view of Mount Shasta from near the town of Day.

Birding near Day.