Monday, June 30, 2008

Orchard Spider

Our yard, if you can call our little patch of shrubs next to our condo a yard, has been overrun with some interesting spiders this year. In about six different spots, interesting green and gold colored spiders have taken up residence. In the 4 summer I've lived here, I've never seen anything like them. They are approximately 1" long (legs included) and build a slightly messy web. I tried to get some pictures, but it's tough to photograph something that's suspended in the air with no background. Plus, I was using my point-and-click camera. A little googling found what I think is the correct identification: Leucauge venusta - a type of Long-jawed Orb Weaver also known as an Orchard Spider. As much as we'd like to think of our yard as an orchard, it's far from it. Enjoy a few more shots:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Even More Bird Wine Labels!

It's been a while since my last bird wine label post. I've added a whole bunch of new labels to the collection. Our trip to Oregon featured quite a few wineries with bird labels and Beth has been picking up some here and there for me too. Thanks to the folks from BirdChat for sending some suggestions my way too. Check out the new additions to the collection!

View all labels on Flickr

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sandy Hook Rarities

If you read this blog with any minimal frequency, you'll know that I spend a lot of time birding at Sandy Hook, NJ. From NJ Audubon: "Sandy Hook is an almost undeveloped barrier island with a variety of habitats: beach and dunes, mudflats, holly forest, deciduous woods, freshwater ponds, salt marshes, coastal scrub/shrub, and successional fields." This variety of habitats makes any day a good birding day at "The Hook." A major migration path in both spring and fall, Sandy Hook has attracted approximately 340 bird species to its varying habitats. This spring, NJ birders were treated to a smorgasbord of rarities - not that I saw a single one of them mind you! Darn work! The Sandy Hook Bird Observatory recently updated their rarity web page with info and photos on all of these rarities including Townsend's Warbler, Western Grebe, and Swallow-tailed Kite. Check it out.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Burning Hawk Starts Vineyard Fire

In an unfortunate meeting of two things that I enjoy, a hawk that was ignited by landing on a power line or similar equipment fell to the ground and started a fire in a Sonoma County, California vineyard. Despite it only being a small fire, this incident brings attention to the threat of power lines to birds. The Avian Power Line Interaction Committee has an excellent document on their web site detailing the Suggested Practices for Avian Protection on Power Lines. This document also gives background information on this issue including history and stats.

Thanks to reader Nick for being this to my attention. Disturbed by this recent news, Nick is working on an effort to bring attention to the issue of birds and power lines. He and a group of volunteers, businesses, and wine makers are looking to make a wine label devoted to the legacy of this bird and share proceeds to help organizations who are working to address the issue of bird/powerline interaction and or bird conservation or recovery causes. I'll keep you posted on any updates to this story. It's not only a great cause, but it'd make a nice addition to my wine label collection.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm not dead and I love puffins

Dearest readers, I am not dead although I know it's been days since I posted anything substantial. I've been working my tush off at my job. I'm on a huge project that is insanely complex and keeps me very busy. In any event, to temporarily satiate your insatiable desire for my writing and pictures (hehe), here is an awful picture of two Tufted Puffins from Cannon Beach, Oregon. Lifer!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Israel's New National Bird (FUNNY!)

Ok folks, you definitely have to have a non-politically correct sense of humor to enjoy this one. You gotta love Stephen Colbert!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lewis & Clark's Birds

I found this really cool Lewis & Clark interactive web site. It has a neat page on the birds and other natural history encountered along the way.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mt. Hood Birding - Part 2

For the few of you waited with baited breath for this post, thank you and I'm sorry it's been so delayed. I had the joy of spending my weekend with my laptop doing work instead of outside enjoying the 90+ degree heat.

Continuing from my last post, we left Larch Mountain having heard some nice birds but having seen very little. We headed toward the Columbia River Gorge on the more scenic "Historic Columbia River Highway" that parallels the major highway through the gorge tracing the reverse route of Lewis & Clark. The road stops along many scenic viewpoints and several waterfalls.

Our first stop was Vista House. While not a birding hotspot by any means, it did offer exquisite views of the river, a bathroom stop, and some very close Violet-green Swallows. An Osprey also made a brief appearance.

We headed back to the highway and came to our first waterfall: Latourell Falls. The falls were a short walk from the parking lot. It was a breathtaking waterfall with great rock formations around it and a neat moss-covered wall. I was hoping for a miracle Black Swift, but I don't think they exist in this part of Oregon. I did find our only Western Tanager of the trip here though. I didn't have "the big camera" here due to the mist from the waterfall.

Our next stop was Wahkeena Falls, not quite as scenic as Latourell, but nice nonetheless. A little further up the winding highway was the real show of the gorge - Multnomah Falls. Plummeting 620 feet from its origins on Larch Mountain, Multnomah Falls is the second highest year-round waterfall in the US. Here are some photos:

On part 3 of our trip, we will visit Mt. Hood itself in all its glacial goodness. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mt. Hood Birding - Part 1

Last Tuesday we took a drive from Portland east towards Mount Hood through the Columbia River Gorge essentially making a big 150-or-so mile loop. With my trusty Oregon birding book by my side, I had a planned a few stops along the way. We started just east of Portland in an area called Larch Mountain (although I didn't see a single Larch tree). The road up to Larch Mountain was relatively quiet bird-wise, but boy was it pretty. It was a rainy, overcast day but the moss and lichen-covered trees of this old-growth forest were beautiful in the misty light.

Winter Wrens were the most numerous bird by far - singing their bubbly song every 100 yards or so. We stopped at a gated logging road and walked up to look for a clear-cut that the book said might have birds.

We heard the distant fluting of a Varied Thrush here which got my heart racing. Unfortunately, this denizen of the moist woods was not to be seen this day. We did find a Gray Jay, Stellar's Jay, and a Common Raven along this road. This road also had two gastropods for us to photograph. See below, but be sure to keep reading.

The second one is a Banana Slug, but I've got no clue on the first. Any takers? Trilliums were also plentiful all along the road up Larch Mountain. Here's a nice picture that Beth took of one.

Bird-wise, Larch Mountain was a disappointment. I found the clearcut written about in the book, but it was pretty overgrown, tough to walk through, and VERY wet. I had hopes of finding Northern Pygmy-Owl and MacGillivray's Warbler, but I was unsuccessful. Look for my next Mt. Hood post in which we visit the Columbia River Gorge and all of its waterfalls!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Lots of Bird Books

On our first day in Portland, we visited the famous Powell's City of Books. This place is HUGE. They literally give you a map at the door. This is the bird book section shown here. They had TONS of awesome books including interesting local birding texts, world field guides, and many older books I have never seen. I spent quite a lot of time there looking through them and chatting with a local birder. I also got a kick out of their men's room where people had written every possible play-on-words on the word "grout" on the tile grout above the urinal. It included things like "grout it out loud," "grout at the devil," and tons of others.

Powell's also has a separate store in Portland that just sells technical books. I'm told there's a whole section of ornithological books there. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see that store since I found out about the ornithology section after we had visited the area where it's located.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Predatory Blue Jay

I stole this from Treehugger. Warning: It's not for the squeamish.

Any takers on what species the prey is?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Audubon Society of Portland

Black-headed Grosbeak

Last Sunday we visited the Audubon Society of Portland on a somewhat rainy day. Their headquarters is located just outside the city within Forest Park, the largest urban forest reserve in the US. It's a really nice building with a large nature store, many displays, a rehab facility, and feeders! We spent a lot of time watching the feeders there. Here are some of the highlights:

Anna's Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Dark-eyed Junco

Douglas Squirrel