[birding] Motorless birding surprises (Barn Owls and Mountain Quail)

Joel Geier joel.geier at peak.org
Wed Feb 4 13:51:31 PST 2009

Hello folks,

Today I continued my motorless birding binge with a lunchtime dog-walk
to the most unique bird "habitat" in our neighborhood, namely Coffin
Butte landfill. 

I went there by way of a wet patch of Oregon ash woods in E.E. Wilson
Wildlife Area, immediately kitty-corner from the landfill, which I've
seldom ventured into. A BROWN CREEPER was singing and feeding in the ash
trees alongside of surprising numbers of VARIED THRUSHES and GOLDEN-

At the landfill's remedial wetlands (Toketie Marsh) I found just one
gull, an adult HERRING GULL, with the usual mix of ducks & geese. All of
the ducks were very nervous about seeing someone on foot, despite being
habituated to hundreds of trucks per day, so it was difficult to get
views of most before they retreated to deeper into the marsh. Most were
Mallards and Green-winged Teal; I didn't spot any Cinnamon Teal. 

A check of the margins for snipe was unsuccessful. A couple of KILLDEER
pairs seem to be getting ready to nest.

Afterwards I ventured into some dense conifers on private land that I
have access to. WINTER WRENS were singing, but surprisingly I couldn't
find any Chestnut-backed Chickadees among the kinglet flocks. However I
noticed some whitewash and looked up to see BARN OWL that flushed from
its daytime roost and flew about twenty yards off, to peer back at me
through the upper branches. I moved off in the other direction to give
it more space, and within a few paces flushed another one.

A bit farther along, a pair of MOUNTAIN QUAIL and I were mutually
surprised to see each other. I didn't have much of a look as they
quickly scooted into cover, but I recognized their alarm calls. I
haven't seen the Mountain Quail covey on Coffin Butte for over a year,
so perhaps that covey broke up with a few birds moving to our hill.

Other notable sights included CORAL MUSHROOMS that are starting to
emerge in the forest duff, and two big SCOTCH BROOM plants that I seemed
to have overlooked in last year's weed control efforts.

Happy birding,

Joel Geier
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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