Out to Sea

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I went on my first pelagic trip ever
lookin’ for birds in the ocean
I rode in that boat on the left
MISTY
Weather was perfect
Seas were a bit rough
It was a 10 hour tour
I only felt sea sick for 10% of the time

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Red-necked Phalarope
Nonsensically small bird to live in the ocean
Weighs 1.2 ounces
Photo taken about 17 miles out
So tiny, how are they not food for everything?

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Angry looking dinosaur
But not a dinosaur
A Rhinoceros Auklet
The little horn at the base of its beak gets bigger
Brings in all the ladies

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Black-Footed Albatross
The main reason for the trip.
Oregon’s Largest seabird
With a 7 foot wingspan

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Though one of the smallest Albatross species
The majority of them breed in Hawaii
Then they spend their winters in the pacific
The closest they get to us is 35+ miles off the coast of Oregon

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Just waiting for strangers to boat by
And feed them popcorn
And maybe some beef fat
Though they mostly eat squid, fish eggs and plastic

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They glide majestically over the waves
And have a very good sense of smell
Allowing them to find food from afar
But they can drink water whenever they want

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They have a desalinization gland in their head
That pulls the salt out of the sea water they drink
And then a highly salinated solution drips out their nose
I love them.

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This Albatross is being investigated by a South polar skua
Whereas the Albatross nests in Hawaii, these guys nest in the South Pole!
And they all winter far out in the Pacific

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South polar Skua visits a gull
They are cleptoparasites
Literally parasites by theft
If they see gulls, terns, or fulmars with fish
They just bite them and shake them until they drop it

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They also just kill and eat baby penguins.
COOL!

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In the foreground a smaller type of Skua
The juvenile Long-tailed jaeger
Inspecting a juvenile California Gull
These Jaegers also harass and steal food from birds
Though my understanding is that it is usually from smaller birds
Little bullies (I love anthropomorphising stuff!)

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Buller’s Shearwater
I don’t really know anything about them
Other than that they are beautiful
Clean white pattern underneath
Outlined in black
This was a bird I wanted to see on the trip, but wasn’t a sure thing
I was very happy to see it

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This is a Pink-footed Shearwater
not to be confused with Flesh-footed Shearwater
Who names these things?
The more common of the large shearwaters
Having to only fly from Chile, not New Zeland, to get to waters off of Oregon
Incredible journeys made by all

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Last but not least
Northern Fulmars
They come in two flavors:
Dark morph, and Light Morph
Both salty.

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These guys also have the desalinization gland
Though their nostrils are on the top
Their beaks appear to have been broken
then super glued back together by a child

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They can live to be 30+ years old
And return to their same nest site every year
Though they don’t start mating until they are between 6-12 years old

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I saw other birds too
But these are the best of the best photos
Taking photos with a super zoom lens
On a ship that is rocking very erratically
IS SUPER HARD
But I had a good time, and I would love to try again

OH YEAH HOW COULD I FORGET I SAW AN INCREDIBLE WHALE!!!

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Grand Finale
Humpback Whale Breaching
Jumping
Spinning
Doing Pec Slaps

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Look at the barnacles on his chin!
like some weird goatee
These are called Coronula diadema
And it is a species of barnacle that only lives on Humpback Whales!
WEIRD, I guess kinda like a STI
But for whales

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It is smiling!
You can see its baleen
And I think that little dot in the bottom center
That is its eye
I always take photos mid-blink

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The whale was doing “Pec Slaps”
Just smashing its pectoral fins into the water
Making huge splashes
And we all loved it

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A final Jump

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And a final splash

The trip was incredible
The whale display may have been a once in a lifetime event
Though I hope that’s not true
I had a great time, got 13 new lifers
14 new Oregon birds, & 18 new Lincoln County birds
Oh yeah, and a majestic Humpback whale
Perhaps the best bird of the trip.

 

PERU

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Macchu Picchu
Maybe you’ve heard of it

White-Bellied Woodstar

White-bellied Woodstar live there

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Fanny Pack Model

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Birth announcement ideas

20170617-_T9A0514My squad rolls pretty deep

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Majestic Llamas of Ollantaytambo

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Pretty standard form of taxi

black vulture square

Black Vulture’s fill the same niche in Lima as crows do in Portland

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They are multiplying

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No touching!

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Trash Bouquet lovingly picked

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Square Peg in a Square hole.

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You come for the llamas,
You’ll stay for the quinoa soup

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Human form of Pachamama
Goddess of Time and Earth

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This is how see-saws work, right?

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Photogenic preschool mascot

Andean Flicker

Andean Flicker

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Mystery air plant

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Peruvian Soccer Moms

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Cuzco is the city of cool hats

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In Peru you need four license plates
One for each side of the vehicle.

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Celestial Gardener

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Lots of random dogs in Peru
Not all as handsome as this pupper though.

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Spot-billed Ground-tyrant

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Puffy American Kestrel

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Isometric building.
Hard to tell if constructing or deconstructing.

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Stairs like ribbons

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Best way to make money from fuzzy animals:
Charge people to take photos of them.

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Parade Floats

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Cusco is steep.

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Play Hard.

Amazilia Hummingbird

Amazilia Hummingbird
Pretty Amaz-ing

rufous-collared sparrow

Most ubiquitous tiny bird
Chestnut-collard Sparrow

spectacled redstart

Spectacled Redstart

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Industry

Torrent Tyranulet

Cutest birds of peru
Torrent Tyrannulets
They move in little groups
They are just little puff balls.

Edge Coffee Art Show

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have a new art show at Edge Coffee in Beaverton, Oregon.
Show runs 5/2 – 8/1  so you have a bit of time to get down there.
It would be awesome if you could make it down there.
Great bird watching is half a mile away at Beaverton Creek Wetlands / Tualatin Hills Nature park.
Make a day of it.

If you would like to buy a print please let me know, I have prices and sizes listed below each image.  Prices include frames.

A - Flight - 8x10Want your very own hummingbird guardian?
Someone to eat your spiders?
Potion: 1 part sugar + 4 parts water
Hang outside
Say “This is for hummingbirds”
Poof! Hummingbird spell complete.

Female Anna´s Hummingbird
$65 8×10

A - Annas - 8x10In this hectic world
A bird has just got to take a moment
To take a big breath in
And stretch all the way out

Male Anna’s Hummingbird
$65 8×10

A - babies - 5x7Babies crying incessantly
In the form of cute lil quacks
Mom needs a break
Just let the quacklings play in the yard

Mallard Ducklings
$40 5×7

A - Owl - 4x6
His name is Rocky
Though he probably doesn’t know it

Burrowing Owl
$20 4×6

A - Bluebird - 5x7A dutiful father
Watches patiently
As the mother of his children
Does all the work

Western Bluebird
$40 5×7

A - Crow - 8x10Walking to the market
On his one day off.
Mr. Crow creates a mental shopping list:
Fresh loaf of crusty bread
A wedge of stinky cheese
A bottle of red wine (or two).
Tonight is going to be special!

American Crow
$65 8×10

A - Finch - 5x7Blessed be thy seed eating angel
Who hovers by our side
And sings so sweetly
May you find a tasty morsel
And avoid predation
Amen

House Finch
$40 5×7

A - phalarope - 12x12It’s important to self-reflect
Otherwise, you are a vampire.

Red Phalarope
$120 12×12

A - Meadowlark - 5x7Hey Kids!
Wanna make some questionable life choices?
Yeah, I thought so.
I’ll Help.

Western Meadowlark
$40 5×7

A - Heron - 8x10
My Ugliest Photo
Chosen to enhance the beauty
Of all of the others
Please don’t buy it
Get the Phalarope photo!
And follow me on instagram
@portlandbirder

Green Heron
$65 8×10

A - Owl - 12x16You come to the forest
To seek their wisdom
But they only respond
“Who cooks for you?”

Barred Owl
$120 12×16

A - Wren - 12x12
Hopped up on hormones
Belting birdsong through the forest
Shakin’ that booty
Ladies form a line

Pacific Wren
$120 12×12

A - Varied - 5x7Missed Connection: m4b
I was on a walk
You were sunning yourself in the grass
I smiled and took your photo
You posed and flew off
I think of you often
Coffee sometime?

Varied Thrush
$40 5×7

A - woodie - 12x16Duck modeling contracts
Usually include a rider
Dictating demands for day old bread

Wood Duck
$120 12×16

A - Grossbeak - 8x10Birds of the wizarding community
Secretly gathering materials
So they may cast spells from the treetops

Evening Grosbeak
$65 8×10

A - Pelican - 5x7
A young foolhardy trio

Earning a living as fishmongers
Though aspiring to something greater

Brown Pelican
$40 5×7

Texas Spring Break: End of Days

 

End of Days.
Maybe that is Dramatic.
But it was definitely my last few days worth of Photos.
I can’t believe it has been three weeks since I was last in Texas
almost all of my itches are going away.
As are my clear recollections of any events that may or may not have happened
All we have now are memories cobbled together with photos
But that is more than I really have of most things anyway
So at least we have the photos.
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Pretty sure this is a sunrise
Or a sunset
Those are probably also some good birds
And definitely some palms
All that can be confirmed here is bird silhouette and palms.
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This tree is a mighty fellow
It is probably still where we left it
I have GPS coordinates if anyone wants to see it in real life

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Some kind of non-memorable butterfly name
Swallow-tail something something?
Memories are fuzzy
Fleeting
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Lots of good lizards,
Convinced most of them were the same
Anole, Green Anole, Something Gecko,
I am pretty sure they changed colors based on your mood
It aint easy bein’ green
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One of the more memorable birds
One of our target birds
And an easy bird to get anyone excited about South Texas
The Green Jay
WOWOWOWOWOW
I still am surprised that this is real
Portland needs more green birds. 20170326-_T9A4223

This is a hooded Oriole
It loves Sabal Palmetto
And to be fair, Sabal is one of best kinds of Palmetto
Very palmy
Portland could also use a few more Orioles.

20170326-_T9A4288Oh god!
Its coming right for us!
Regal Lawn Dart
Destroyer of Fishies
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South Padre Island
South Jetty
Good place for fishermen
Or if you just like to be with a giant crowd
Surrounded by water on 3 sides.
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Needle nosed fish shape
Fun to catch,
For humans or Cormorants
But you gotta let it go bud
Eating it would be suicide!
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International Port Towering in the skies
Fishermen living in the shadows
The future is here
But it isn’t evenly distributed

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Black Skimmer
Gets by skimming off the top 1% 20170326-_T9A4445

Clapper Rail
Illusive
But ever present
Well… In its range, at least. 20170326-_T9A4637

Ruddy Turnstone again
Body naturally off balance
Enjoys long walks on the beach20170326-_T9A4738

You just gotta expand your mind
…man
See things from a different
…angle
Whatever Frank.
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No Seriously.
I think I have it all figured out
…man
We’ve been looking at it all wrong
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Skimmer’s mostly don’t skim
They seem to mostly chill on the beach.
Black Chillers
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I brought you this
I hope you like it
I picked it myself.
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Sable Palm Sanctuary. 20170326-IMG_7499
Its a jungle in there20170326-IMG_7518
A beautiful Jungle20170326-IMG_7522

Some birds live here.

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Photos are crazy Jumbled
As are my memories
Laughing gulls
And strutting humans
coexisting is all we can ask for20170326-IMG_7581Human Nature

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Birds are just staring into the sun all the time
No hats
No sunglasses
Sometimes hiding in the shade
Must be reason for black around eyes
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Oh great
Another beautiful little butterfly
This one has seen better days
Probably called queen something something
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One of my more memorable trip birds
White-eyed Vireo
Sings incessantly in the bushes
Almost always behind a branch
Like an optical illusion
No matter where you go you can’t get a clear view
This clear view
Obviously breaking the weird rule that I just created
Was the effort of 15 minutes of walking around the same bush
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Oh hello
I’ll be your Harris’s Hawk for the Trip
Look at those feet
Look at that bird
They’re all good birds
But this one is better.
Rufous Pants
Brown Jacket
Yellow Shoes
We stared longingly into each others eyes
For… maybe 2 minutes.
Trip highlight for sure. 20170328-_T9A7774

Mourning Doves
Apparently they are everywhere.
oh well, this one has Texas as a background.
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Tropical Kingbird of Industry
Checking those fittings
Tightening those bolts
Catching those flies
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Black Bellied Whistling Ducks
Family oriented
Wholesome
Gooselike
Enjoys public parks
Probably bread crumbs. 20170328-_T9A7888

Look at those stilts
also black neck
A bird normally found wading
Was searching for some shallow water
But only found a deep pond
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Pretty sure I’m lost

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A real grabable lizard
I have proof.
Available on request.

Texas
I miss you
I would like to visit
I wish I had the energy
Or capacity
To write more about you
When you were fresher in my mind
But I have new adventures to go on20170328-IMG_7768
Birds are on the move
Spring is here
Oregon may not have your incredible diversity
But it still has some really good birds
I’ll prove it.
Later.

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Texas Day 2: Electric Boogaloo

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Foggy morning seemed like a bad omen
Yeah right, we saw a bunch of birds anyway
And arachnids
But nobody’s home here

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We also saw a horse
Though we received an apology for not seeing more
Apparently Texas should have more free range Horses

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Our best look at an Olive Sparrow.
we heard them singing during the whole trip
But Texas birds are tricky
and there are lots of places to hide.

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This is South Padre Island
If you like Herons, Egrets, Shorebirds, and Ducks
There may be no better place
incredible beauty in diversity
and the boardwalks make this barrier island very accessible.

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This Tricolored Heron thought I needed a closer look
It flew right up to the boardwalk so I could get a better view
“Check my wings bro!”

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It is difficult describing this shorebird
If vanilla frozen yogurt is your dessert of choice
You will love a Willet.

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The Black Skimmer
Looks like it was made from too many bird parts
But it has a niche,
and the niche is skimming.

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Surprisingly overlooked
Maybe because they are literally everywhere
Great Tailed Grackle
Succeeds in getting my attention.
They are easier to focus on if they are solitary.

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We saw our Texas alligators too!
They came in two sizes
Adorable Baby sized

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And Big Chompy Mom sized
CHOMP CHOMP

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Green heron reminds me of a tiger
Maybe it is the yellow eyes
or the ready-to-pounce posture
Absolutely prepared to eat some tiny fish

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I loved Jurassic Park
I love dinosaurs
And I think that is why I love bird watching
That and I get to keep obsessive lists
Look at this Common gallinule’s  feet though!
So Stabby!
Probably makes putting socks on difficult.

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Little Blue Heron
One of my favorite birds of the trip
The largest legitimately blue bird I have seen
But wait, it also gets a purple head?
Wait?  It also stabs fish?
So good.

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Scanning the surroundings
Is fairly difficult
If your perch is only a foot off the ground
Silly Osprey

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More Willet
I just can’t get enough
And I can’t explain why
Vanilla elegance?
Is that a thing?

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Little girl doesn’t care about how great these birds are
Or maybe sand is more important
These flocks would pop up periodically
Mostly due to tourists taking Skimmer selfies
Or people parking on the Skimmer part of the beach
Weird coexistence with cool birds at South Padre

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The most proactive fisherbird I have seen
Chases and flaps wings maniacally
And it works?
These guys are hilarious to watch, and I love them.
White Morph Reddish Egret

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After South Padre
We trekked into the wastes
Post apocalyptic bird watching

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Little waste scavenger
A little water here
A little snack there
The future is bleak
But we make due
And find hope in the little things
Macropods
Friendship
Being able to fly

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Spotted Sandpiper
Found respite among a bit of grass
Normally a bird you’d find next to water
If there was water

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Ahhh I’m just playin’
I love a post apocalyptic hypothetical
This place was really just a weird boat ramp
That led out to a cracked-earth mudflat.
Here’s another Willet.
And in this photo you get to witness their true beauty>
Vanilla exterior
But the wings,
Oh the wings:
Chocolate swirl.

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Semipalmated Plover
Probably stuffed with marshmallow
Eyes on the skies
Gotta make sure his delicious candy interior
Stays on the interior
For as long as possible.

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After the apocalyptic memorial boat dock
We went to Mexico
At least our phones thought we did
Kept changing to international roaming
This is a photo of Mexico
From our side of the Rio Grande
You can’t hear Mexican Folk music blasting
But know it is there.

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Laughing Gulls were everywhere
At Boca Chica
But also everywhere else
Though I tend to appreciate a gull a bit more
When it is at the beach
Maybe I just like the ocean.

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Mid laugh-laughing gull
Their eye crescents
Dark coloration & red bill
Make these very attractive birds
Underappreciated due to frequency seen
Oregonians would go nuts if one showed up here.
(only three ever have).

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Just a lil crab
There were several
Living terrestrial lives
In tiny hobbit holes
This one’s body was about the size of a quarter

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Constantly running in the surf
Stopping while the water recedes
Grabbing a tiny snack
And running again
Busy life of a Sanderling

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron
A bird I had seen before in the Dominican Republic
And a bird I really wanted to see again
This was our best look
As it landed behind our car on our way home
I leaned out for a photo
Such a great body shape
Head/bill are so menacing looking
Yellow eyes help too.
I want to see more soon.

20170325-_T9A3871The last good bird of the day
Ruddy Turnstone
Their face kind of reminds me of Rorschach
Rorschach Turnstone
Too bad if I rename birds nobody knows what I am talking about

Day two was a great day
A long day with 26 new bird species I have never seen before (lifers)
I ended up taking about 1,500 photos, and we went bird watching for about 12 hours
Here are the my three eBird checklists if anyone is curious.

For your convenience if you missed it
Preliminary Texas Trip Report
Texas Day 1: Lower Rio Grande Valley

And here is where I put a link to Day 3
In a couple of days… man this blogging stuff is a lot of work.

Rio Grande Valley – Photo Diary Day 1

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The Fastest way to get to Texas was by spaceship.

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Prickly Pear were flowering and fruiting
Note to self:  Don’t just grab a ripe looking Prickly Pear fruit.
It might not look like it has tiny spines, but it does.
Also, don’t just take a bite out of it raw, because, you know, the spines
Spines in your tongue and lips leave a longer reminder than taste does.
4/5 would try slightly differently next time.

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This butterfly made me legitimately angry
Angry of how easy it was to take a photo of
How cooperative it was.
It was the first little animal I saw in the yard

Am I missing obvious beauty in Oregon
Or does Texas have something we don’t?

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Black Crested Titmouse was surprisingly loud
It came to greet us when we arrived at the Airbnb
HEY! HEY! HEY!
Look!  Look at me!
Welcome to Texas!

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The orange eye on this curved-bill Thrasher
Looks like a delicious candy
Rio Grande Birding was hard to adjust to
The birds were so loud
but the thicket was so thick
This guy was right on top of me and I couldn’t find him

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Ducks on a Log
Sounds like a tasty kid snack
I’ll get to work in my test kitchen
Hey kids?  Ready for a bird test?
Northern Shoveler, Mottled Duck, Blue Wing teal, and Green Wing teal.
Missing anything?

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Shake that booty
Lesser Yellow Legs can’t resist the urge to dance

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Cinnamon Teal and Little Blue Heron
They said we were an abomination
but our love knows no bounds
Species, size, interests, none of this matters
We love being in each others presence

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Everything was beautiful.
Even this dumb flower

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Couch’s Kingbird
He’s got a good head on his shoulders
In fact, he seems to be mostly head
They say the camera add 10 pounds
It is weirdly allocated in this situation

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Estero Llano Grande State Park did not disappoint
Bird Highway Trail
Speed Limit: 80
Birds Seen: 45

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Plain Chachalaca
Huge Bird/Dinosaur
Moves invisibly, unless out in the open
Sneaks up on you
Intermitant Screaming

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We are in tick/chigger/giant spider country
I itch every time I look at this photo
Tick found: 1
Chiggers found: Me
Still itchy

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Turtle Time:
Left to Right, Top To bottom:
Red-eared Slider
Texas River Cooter
Spiny Softshell

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Turtle names are little self contained jokes

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Least Grebe
Cutest little Grebe
Another bird in the Yellow-candy-eye-club
Or maybe I’m Just hungry

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My Bird Crew rolling deep
On the look out for some invisible birds.

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You can play along too
There is a bird here
It is called a Common Paraque
Not so common to Me
Here is a hint:
Hiding in bottom Right quadrant

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Here is a closeup.
These guys are nap-masters
But they stay up late partying
So I guess it makes sense they are so good at sleeping
Even with all of us birders watching

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Golden-Fronted Woodpecker
Fill an interesting ubiquitous bird niche
They seem to be everywhere
but only as a pair
Texas’s Song Sparrow is a Woodpecker
How lucky is that?

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Feathers Blowing in the Wind
Lores painted in Green
Great Egret is ready for date night

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Roseate Spoonbill
Providing the landscape with a splash of pink
A goofy wading bird
Goofy and beautiful
Its an endearing mix of characteristics

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I think this is an Anole
I don’t know about lizards
But I know I like them.

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Buff Bellied Hummingbird
Lounging in the Shade
The sun is hot
Time for a well deserved break
You work too hard lil guy.

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One of my dream birds
And my dreams have come true
I made the group pull over so we could bask in their coolness
Scissor-tail flycatcher

If running with scissors is dangerous
Flying with them is deadly
If you are an insect

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The first day was more than I could have hoped for
I was lucky to be able to go.
Really lucky.

Not tired of me yet?
Check out Day 2

Preliminary Texas Trip Report

TEXAS!  If you like birds and tacos, I would highly recommend it.

Photography Map

I took so many photos, I am going to have to make more blog posts by the day, or the location, in order to adequately cover everything that I saw.  This post is meant to be more of an overview of birds seen, with a few photos, while I will have some more narrative driven blog posts detailing our journey in Magical South Texas coming shortly.

Until then, the breakdown of all the birds I saw.

After a red-eye flight from PDX we arrived in Brownsville Texas on the 24th, around noon, we rushed to check in to our AIR BNB, and we were off birding by 2:00

Our first stop was the incredible Estero Llano Grande State Park/World Birding Center

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We saw 45 bird species in a little under 3 hours.  (Lifers in Bold)

1 Gadwall – Anas strepera
2 Mottled Duck – Anas fulvigula
3 Blue-winged Teal – Anas discors
4 Cinnamon Teal – Anas cyanoptera
5 Northern Shoveler – Anas clypeata
6 Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca
7 Plain Chachalaca – Ortalis vetula
8 Least Grebe – Tachybaptus dominicus
9 American White Pelican – Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
10 Great Egret – Ardea alba
11 Snowy Egret – Egretta thula
12 Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
13 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron – Nyctanassa violacea
14 White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
15 White-faced Ibis – Plegadis chihi
16 Roseate Spoonbill – Platalea ajaja
17 Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
18 Sora – Porzana carolina
19 Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
20 American Coot – Fulica americana
21 Stilt Sandpiper – Calidris himantopus
22 Least Sandpiper – Calidris minutilla
23 Long-billed Dowitcher – Limnodromus scolopaceus
24 Spotted Sandpiper – Actitis macularius
25 Lesser Yellowlegs – Tringa flavipes
26 White-tipped Dove – Leptotila verreauxi
27 White-winged Dove – Zenaida asiatica
28 Common Pauraque – Nyctidromus albicollis
29 Buff-bellied Hummingbird – Amazilia yucatanensis
30 Golden-fronted Woodpecker – Melanerpes aurifrons
31 Ladder-backed Woodpecker – Picoides scalaris
32 Great Kiskadee – Pitangus sulphuratus
33 Couch’s Kingbird – Tyrannus couchii
34 Purple Martin – Progne subis
35 Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
36 Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
37 Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
38 Curve-billed Thrasher – Toxostoma curvirostre
39 Long-billed Thrasher – Toxostoma longirostre
40 Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
41 Orange-crowned Warbler – Oreothlypis celata20170324-_T9A1626
42 Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
43 Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
44 Lesser Goldfinch – Spinus psaltria
45 House Sparrow – Passer domesticus

This is kind of a funny list, because I picked up a few Eastern US Birds with the Cardinal and the Carolina Wren.  I finally understand why everyone is obsessed with Cardinals, they are beautiful!

To finish out our abbreviated day with a bang, and an Elf Owl, we scooted over to Bentesen: Rio Grande Valley State Park, and picked up the following new birds:

46 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck – Dendrocygna autumnalis
47 Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
48 Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor
49 Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
50 Broad-winged Hawk – Buteo platypterus
51 Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
52 Elf Owl – Micrathene whitneyi
53 Ringed Kingfisher – Megaceryle torquata
54 Cave Swallow – Petrochelidon fulva
55 Black-crested Titmouse – Baeolophus atricristatus
56 Great-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus mexicanus

While waiting for dusk we went to search for exciting Kingfishers.  Luckily, we found a Ringed Kingfisher, flying and calling, and walked back to try to find the Elf Owl.

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It was a pleasure to see a pair of nesting Elf Owls.  They are our smallest owl, eat insects, and are fully nocturnal.  This photo was functionally taken in the dark, with camera settings I almost never use (ISO 16,000 f/5.6 @1/60 sec if anyone is interested).

We ended our first day happy, exhausted, and excited for more!

March 25th, we woke up early and headed to South Padre Island.

On our way to the coast we made a stop down Old Port Isabel Road, home of Bobwhite, some random Horses, and APLOMADO FALCON!

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57 White-tailed Kite – Elanus leucurus
58 Northern Bobwhite – Colinus virginianus
59 Harris’s Hawk – Parabuteo unicinctus
60 White-tailed Hawk – Geranoaetus albicaudatus
61 Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
62 Whimbrel – Numenius phaeopus
63 Long-billed Curlew – Numenius americanus
64 Willet – Tringa semipalmata
65 Laughing Gull – Leucophaeus atricilla
66 American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
67 Aplomado Falcon – Falco femoralis
68 Loggerhead Shrike – Lanius ludovicianus
69 White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
70 Horned Lark – Eremophila alpestris
71 European Starling – Sturnus vulgaris
72 Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
73 Olive Sparrow – Arremonops rufivirgatus
74 Lark Sparrow – Chondestes grammacus
75 Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
76 Pyrrhuloxia – Cardinalis sinuatus
77 Eastern Meadowlark – Sturnella magna

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The Aplomado falcon was definitely a highlight of the trip, it was a bird we all wanted to see, and they are fairly rare in Texas.  The falcons used to be common in the Southern US until the 1950s, and were part of a reintroduction program that ended in 2002.  This photo was one of a pair that was breeding on a nesting platform.

After this exciting high-point we headed to Spring Break Island

78 Chihuahuan Raven – Corvus cryptoleucus

This bird was seen on the highway, en route to South Padre Birding and Nature Center.  We thought it was a crow at first, before we remembered Crows don’t really exist in this part of the world.

South Padre Island had two great boardwalks that let us explore some mangrove-type wetlands and go out to look at the Gulf (or whatever the interior body of water between the Island and Texas is called)

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79 Redhead – Aythya americana
80 Red-breasted Merganser – Mergus serrator
81 Common Loon – Gavia immer
82 Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
83 Neotropic Cormorant – Phalacrocorax brasilianus
84 Brown Pelican – Pelecanus occidentalis
85 Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
86 Reddish Egret – Egretta rufescens
87 Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
88 Green Heron – Butorides virescens
89 Black-crowned Night-Heron – Nycticorax nycticorax
90 Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
91 Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii
92 Black-necked Stilt – Himantopus mexicanus
93 American Golden-Plover – Pluvialis dominica
94 Pectoral Sandpiper – Calidris melanotos
95 Solitary Sandpiper – Tringa solitaria
96 Greater Yellowlegs – Tringa melanoleuca
97 Caspian Tern – Hydroprogne caspia
98 Royal Tern – Thalasseus maximus
99 Sandwich Tern – Thalasseus sandvicensis
100 Black Skimmer – Rynchops niger
101 Rock Pigeon – Columba livia
102 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – Tyrannus forficatus
103 Barn Swallow – Hirundo rustica
104 Wilson’s Warbler – Cardellina pusilla
105 Clapper Rail – Rallus crepitans
106 Ruddy Turnstone – Arenaria interpres
107 Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
108 Marsh Wren – Cistothorus palustris
109 Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata

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It was a real pleasure and a delight to spend so much quality time with so many lifers.  The Egrets and Herons here were incredible.  This is a very handsome Little Blue Heron.

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From South padre, we went south toward Boca Chica, and made a quick stop at / Zapata Memorial Boat Ramp to look for Gull-billed Terns and little shorebirds.  It was nice to have a lot of eyes searching for exciting birds!

110 Wilson’s Plover – Charadrius wilsonia
111 Semipalmated Plover – Charadrius semipalmatus
112 Sanderling – Calidris alba
113 Semipalmated Sandpiper – Calidris pusilla
114 Gull-billed Tern – Gelochelidon nilotica
115 Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri
116 Crested Caracara – Caracara cheriway

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This place was great, so many Semipalmated Plovers!  I love them so much!

From the weird boat basin, we went down to the mouth of the Rio Grande!  I saw Mexico, I picked up my last lifer of the day, and it was a very good one!

117 Parasitic Jaeger – Stercorarius parasiticus
118 Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis
119 Herring Gull – Larus argentatus

We lucked into a Parasitic Jaeger, this is a pelagic bird, and should have been somewhere far out over the ocean.  It was trying to steal food from a Sandwich Tern.

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It was our rarest bird of the day, and it was exhibiting some really exciting behavior.  We were able to watch it chase and harass the tern for a couple of minutes.  Boca Chica was a great last stop of the day.

Maybe this is obvious, but we saw the majority of our new species in the first two days. Our next three were mostly spent trying to find new birds in similar habitats so things slowed down on the new state bird count.

March 26th, we went into what felt like a jungle, Sabal Palm Sanctuary, then back to South Padre Island to escape the heat of the day, and ultimately bought popsicles and beer, and birdwatched from the yard of our Air BNB.

120 Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
121 Green Jay – Cyanocorax yncas
122 Black-throated Green Warbler – Setophaga virens
123 Hooded Oriole – Icterus cucullatus
124 Least Bittern – Ixobrychus exilis
125 Black-bellied Plover – Pluvialis squatarola
126 Dunlin – Calidris alpina
127 Inca Dove – Columbina inca
128 Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Archilochus colubris
129 Altamira Oriole – Icterus gularis

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Not all birds were cooperative.  We went back to South Padre island to not only escape the heat, but to find the Least Bittern we didn’t see on our first trip.  This was one of a tiny tiny pair of bitterns, hiding among the reeds.

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Our Air BNB was excellent, we saw two species of woodpecker, two species of Oriole, Green Jays, Chachalacas, Black-crested Titmice, and more.  It was an incredible place.  It was also the only place I found where I could openly drink beer and birdwatch.

March 27th, our last full day we went back to explore Bentsen State Park more comprehensively, escaped the heat at Estero Llano Grande’s covered observation deck, and ended the night in Brownsville’s Oliveria Park to look for roosting Parrots.

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Bentsen was excellent, we had a great sunrise, we saw a Bobcat, and had wonderful looks at a roadrunner.

130 Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
131 Northern Harrier – Circus cyaneus
132 Greater Roadrunner – Geococcyx californianus
133 Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet – Camptostoma imberbe
134 Brown-headed Cowbird – Molothrus ater
135 Fulvous Whistling-Duck – Dendrocygna bicolor
136 Clay-colored Thrush – Turdus grayi
137 Lesser Nighthawk – Chordeiles acutipennis
138 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
139 Red-crowned Parrot – Amazona viridigenalis 

 

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The Roadrunner was one of the birds I wanted to see most on the trip, even though it isn’t really a Texas specialty, it was a very sought after bird for me.  We got to watch this one for about 10 minutes, calling from a tree.  It made me so happy.  The whole day, as they all had been, was incredible.

It was nice to be birdwatching at dawn, and then eat lunch and take a siesta before finishing the night watching roosting parrots.

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The parrots were such a spectacle.  They flew in to the park in small flocks, played on wires, were super loud, and really fun to watch.  It was a great way to end our last night in Texas.

March 28th, our last day.  We had some time pre-checkout to go birdwatching.  We stayed more local to Harlingen.  The Harlingen Thicket was incredibly dense, and a beautiful park, Harlingen Lake had a Tropical Kingbird on some weird waterworks piping, and our last stop was University of Texas, Brownsville before our flight.

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140 House Wren – Troglodytes aedon
141 Common Ground-Dove – Columbina passerina
142 Chimney Swift – Chaetura pelagica
143 Lincoln’s Sparrow – Melospiza lincolnii
144 Tropical Kingbird – Tyrannus melancholicus
145 Black Phoebe – Sayornis nigricans

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My last Lifer of the trip was the Tropical Kingbird.  We saw 50-100 Couch’s Kingbirds, which look nearly identical, but we lucked out to get a nice view of this little yellow-bellied bird.

It was an incredible trip.  I was lucky to have wonderful company, and see some great birds.  I would absolutely do it again.  I added 66 brand new species to my life list, and I got a lot of great photos.  It made the long flight and travel absolutely worthwhile!

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Next blog posts will be day by day more detailed narratives.  Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!