Date: 10/31/20 8:09 pm From: Caleb Centanni <caleb...> Subject: [obol] A Polk County Somewhat Large Day
Nick Martens and Maureen Leong-Kee joined Courtney and I today for a big-ish day (in separate cars) in the Willamette Valley section of Polk County. We birded from the south end of the county at Luckiamute State Natural Area up through fields near Buena Vista and then to Monmouth. In the afternoon, we did the fields to the north of Independence up to Baskett Slough and Livermore and Perrydale Rds, ending in the fields near Ballston at the north edge of the county. We totalled 92 species, and had one really big surprise--a single gorgeous red FERRUGINOUS HAWK (spotted by Courtney) on Livermore Rd, just where the big open fields start near the north end. Highlights below. Not too bad for a day with basically no attempt at forest birds. All agreed it was just about the loveliest day we could have asked for--a warm, sunny Halloween in the autumn Willamette Valley.
The morning at Luckiamute brought a healthy portion of sparrows and riparian passerines, including both Hermit and Varied Thrushes, Wrentits, and many scolding (maniacally laughing for Halloween) Hutton's Vireos. A single Type 2 Red Crossbill flew over us in the Cottonwood gallery (too fast for recording, sadly). At Wendell Kreder Reservoir near Buena Vista, two Greater Scaup joined the many ducks on the lake, and Marsh Wrens and Lincoln's Sparrows abounded. We birded into Brandon Wagner at the Talmadge Rd Pond, who said he had 150 Wood Ducks near Buena Vista this morning. Scoping over the Monmouth Sewage Ponds gate produced little out of the ordinary, but a dozen Western Bluebirds in the parking lot were pleasantly bright. A Say's Phoebe seen yesterday on Poplar Lane north of Independence cooperated for us, along with at least 80 Brown-headed Cowbirds at the dairy near Rickreall. Baskett Slough is still quite dry, but a brief visit found many Cackling Geese and a White-front (though not the Snow others saw), a hundred Tundra Swans too distant to pick out Trumpeters, five Canvasback (thanks Maureen!), two Cinnamon Teal, a Dunlin and a Least Sandpiper.
Livermore Rd was our highlight of the day, with a single beautiful Ferruginous Hawk spotted by Courtney on a field to the east of the road on the north end (let me know if you want details). Maureen picked out a single Short-eared Owl mothing about nearby. A Peregrine Falcon and three Rough-legs joined the show.
To the north, the pond at the intersection of Perrydale and Tucker Rds held 39 well-dressed Hooded Mergansers, along with Ring-necks and Pied-bills. The pond at Perrydale and De Jong offered Dunlin and a Greater Yellowlegs, and the coveted Belted Kingfisher so often missed on big days. The previous Swainson's Hawk field near Ballston still has raptors, but nothing rare. We ended the day with the glorious descent of 600 Brewer's (and some Red-winged Blackbirds) descended into the arbor vitae hedge to roost at the farm pond on Broadmead Rd south of Ballston Rd. It was too dark to pull out the Rusty or Tricolored that was likely mixed in. (Note: Nick possibly found 1 Tricolored -- we for sure recommend spending more time with this blackbird flock in November!)
We all agreed that Ferruginous Hawk (county bird for all of us) was the bird of the day (along with the Rock Pigeons at Baskett Slough--county birds for two of us ;)). The birds of the day for abundance were Black Phoebes (at maybe 60 percent of stops--starting to feel like California), European Starlings (certainly over 12,000 seen throughout the day), and American Pipits, which flew over at all but maybe three stops. Big misses were an actual Pipit flock, Horned Larks, (we never found any Lark/Pipit flock), and some forest stuff we didn't try for.
Overall, a wonderful day on the Valley floor, and a great teaser for a winter (a-hem: the upcoming Dallas CBC) full of sparrowy bushes and raptory fields. It is so good to have the scarce but wonderful opportunity to bird with friends in these hard times, and we look forward to more in the near future. Here's to a great fall of birding!--and a great winter to come.