Well, I have to admit there have been times when it has seemed like that. We will cover nearly 3000 miles driving before we reach Seattle, and our final stop. Road conditions and traffic have gotten much easier now that we are traveling in the US, and so today we were headed to Eugene, Oregon. My college Alma Mater, the University of Oregon, and one of my favorite places there is. Unfortunately, we had gotten a call while we were in Medford, that my sister had taken sick, and was in the hospital in Florence Oregon. This is a 60 mile side trip from Eugene, straight west to the Pacific coast. We had already planned on at least one night in Eugene, and spending a day at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area. So, instead, we dropped off the 5th wheel, and high tailed it towards the coast. It turned out that my sister was going to be just fine, which meant that we might be able to pick up a few coastal birds earlier in my year than planned. This is that Plan “B” stuff I talked about Earlier. We were up before the sun, getting ready to head out to the south jetty of the entrance to Florence Bay. We got a nasty surprise with heavy rains and 25 MPH wind. That will make it interesting out on that jetty. It did not get better once we left the small amount of wind break that the adjacent sand dunes provided. There was a huge wave set running, and a very strong surge running down the bay. I did manage to get a few Surf Scoters, my first Bald Eagle of the year, Pelagic Cormorants, and an unlikely pair of Western Grebes out in the middle of that rough water. Those were the new additions to the year list, from out on the water. In addition to those new birds, there were several Common Loons, Buffleheads, Red-breasted Mergansers, Herring Gulls, and Western Gulls.

This Surf Scoter did a close swim by to get it’s picture taken, in the worst of the weather, but it was better than nothing.

 

Turning back in land around the dunes, I got a huge surprise, a Northern Shrike! A new lifer for me, and a bird that was never ever on any of my wish lists.

Here one of the photos that I got of the Northern Shrike.

 

The next day we traveled to Corvallis, Oregon, and an area that is dotted with refuges, greenbelts and large parks. We had arranged to stay with a longtime friend, John Spicher. He had grown up in the area, and had planned a couple of full days of birding, as only a local could pull off. Our first morning started out, at the one spot that is always a lock for birds, the local sewer treatment pond. I have gotten to the point where there were very few waterfowl that I need for my years’ list, but I was able to add Canvasbacks, and Cackling Geese. On a bit of a side note, I have to point out, I have never seen so many Northern Shovelers in one spot, ever. When I did my eBird posting I had estimated 650, but looking at the two other posts from that same day, both of the other two people that posted observations, guessed 850 and 900, all basically on one of the three ponds.

Next it was off to several parks, boat landings, and we even made a stop at a local BMX bike track, as it was part of a green belt along the Willamette River. This all netted me three new birds for the list, the Varied Thrush, some Wild Turkeys, and my BBOTW, a Pileated Woodpecker.

Shooting straight up into a glooming, cloudy sky is the not best angle for photography, but here is a decent image of the Pileated Woodpecker.

 

There were nearly 25 Wild Turkeys hanging around the edge of the refuge property.

 

After a lunch break, we were back at it, this time, finishing the day at William L. Finley NWR. I had missed the Greater White-fronted Geese all the way up the coast, and saw that a single White-fronted had been observed on the refuge. Now, bear in mind, there are nearly 10,000 Canada and Cackling Geese on this refuge, and all I had to was find one single Greater White-fronted Goose, mixed in with the others. I did find 26 species of birds that afternoon, all of which were already on the list, but no Greater White-fronted Goose.

We traveled to three new spots the next morning, but it had started to rain again, and our search for new birds was a bit stagnant. By late morning the rain had let up, and after lunch, we were back out at William L. Finley NWR. Right after passing the headquarters, there were a couple hundred geese nibbling on the new grass shoots near a pond, so I pulled out the spotting scope, and right there alongside all these geese, was my one single, Greater White-fronted Goose.

Here is the photo of the Greater White-fronted goose, with this bird pointed out by the arrow. This was taken with a 500mm lens.

 

And here is some very serious cropping of the same image to get a better look.

 

There is a designated trail, that runs along the hillside near the entrance to the refuge, called the Woodpecker trail. I had hoped for a Hairy Woodpecker, as I had pretty much gotten everything but that one, for the areas I have traveled. No luck on the Hairy Woodpecker, but I did find a Stellar’s Jay, a bird I had figured on finding later this summer after we return to the US.

All in all, Oregon was pretty good for this year’s list, with 41 new birds, as well as a couple of new Lifers! Now we are on our way to Seattle, The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR., and some very cold weather, complete with snow!

This beautiful Western Meadowlark made an appearance just as we were leaving the William L. Finley NWR. Yes, it does have another leg, but it was so bloody cold, it was tucked up in the feathers, keeping warm.

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Written by Tom Brown
Tom Brown grew up in the high desert area of central Oregon. His love for birds and photography started at a young age. Thru the course of time, travel, and a lot of different occupations, he ended up living in Seattle, and met a girl with a sailboat. Now his wife, Jeanne wanted to travel the world, and he thought that sounded like fun, and a great way to see a bunch of new birds! So far they have sailed north from Seattle, up thru British Columbia, Canada and down the West Coast of the US to settle (for now) in La Paz, Mexico. When he is not scouring whatever area they are in, looking for the next great bird photo, he can be found trying to earn enough money for the next adventure, and of course, a new lens or camera body! Having been nick-named “The Bird Nerd” by his last remaining friends and family, Tom continues search for that next lifer, and the accompanying photo that goes with it.