March 2005 Birding Trip Report
Columbia County, Oregon Coastal Range to Scappoose Bottoms
Rufus Hummingbirds, Selasphorus rufus, returned from their central Mexico winter sojourn on March 11th, a chilly 33 degree F. morning, to our Scappoose Creek home 30 miles NW of Portalnd, OR. They returned on March 12th, 2004 and March 13th, 2003. The rusty red males are vigourously defending breeding territory and food resources from each other. An involuntary startle reflex makes me twitch each tme a high speed pair zoom past my head in their buzzy, trilled pursuit. I am watching for the females to arrive, typically two weeks later than the males, and the aggressive courtship and breeding of our tiny travellers.
Clouds of highly nomadic Pine Siskins, Carduelis pinus, uncommon last winter here, have descended in flocks of 75 to 150 birds from the tops of the douglas firs and blooming alders. Highly vocal, energetic, slightly smaller than sparrows, these brown streaked creatures with yellow wing bars and yellow tails empty our three tray and tube feeders of sunflower seeds in under four hours of gregarious feeding. I spread sunflower seeds along our cedar deck railing. 40 feet of Pine Siskens are hopping, wing fluttering and lunging at one another to clear feeding space for themselves along the railing. Easily approachable, I move slowly towards them. One Pine Siskin lands on my shoulder, two others on my head, their tiny feet prickling my scalp. Neither Black-capped nor Chestnut-backed Chickadees; neither Red-breasted Nuthatches nor Downey Woodpeckers dare approach. Not even the Steller's Jays and Red Squirrels contest the hungry Pine Siskins.
Closer to Vernonia the sweet natured Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets are abundant in the conifers. Feeding in the sun on early spring insects the Golden-crowned outnumber the Ruby-crowned. Binoculars with a close focusing range and good field of view are especially nice for detailed viewing of small birds like these Kinglets.
A group of 20-30 Great Egrets, Ardea alba, have been hunting mice, moles and other prey in the green fields along Honeyman Road, Scappoose Bottoms. Radiently white against the dark gray background of rainclouds the Egrets stand watching and waiting. I almost overlooked their blue-gray Great Blue Heron shadows, equally numerous, hunting with them. Most of the Great Egrets will fly away soon. The Great Blues are year round residents and have begun setting up nesting colonies in the trees around the Multnomah Channel and Sauvie Island.
Wintering Bald Eagles, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, have been abundant. The resident breeders have begun nesting activities returning often to the same nest each year. I have located one occupied nest with an excellent view for watching and future reports. More as the season progresses.
I just purchased a Swarovski HD-ATS Spotting scope with an 20-60x angled eyepiece. Am I excited!
Next month a review along with April's birding report. the coastal shorebird migration will really be moving by the end of April!