February 21, 2014
Friday morning was overcast but without rain. Again, my luck was holding. I had encountered plenty of rain and snow on this trip, but it had little impact on my birding. Yesterday's snow storm and downpour had all occurred while I drove and was gone now. Left behind were hundreds of ponds in farm fields and roadsides. All of which had the potential to attract birds.
My goal for this day was three-fold. First, I wanted to take a look at Finley National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Corvallis. Second, I was curious about an eBird report from a day or so earlier. A Western Grebe and a Clark's Grebe, both potential lifers, had been reported in a place called Cartney Park, somewhere to the southeast. Finally, I needed to reach the coast at Newport and bird my way north to Tillamook. As it turned out, the plan was a bit too ambitious.
I tore myself away from that area only to find myself in yet another one filled with birds. A large pond to the right of the road held some Mallards, Northern Pintails, and Green-winged Teals, each one gorgeous in its own way. A Stellar's Jay noisily moved from bush to bush, and then I froze. I saw one of my all-time favorite birds - a Varied Thrush. I had seen my first one at the very top of a Sitka Pine in Alaska only eight months earlier, and here in Oregon I had caught a few quick glimpses of several others. Now here was one right in front of me. I slowly reached for my camera, not wanting to startle the bird. Agonizingly slowly, I unhooked it from the Spider Holster attached to my belt, raised the camera, and got off only two photos before it took off. The photo above, right, is the better of the two.
I hopped back in the car and drove out to the parking lot at an observation pavilion that overlooks the lake. I scoped the area and found Wood, Ruddy and Ring-necked Ducks. A large flock of Canada Geese flew in while a Bald Eagle circled the lake. Meanwhile, a Spotted Towhee chattered in the brush beside the pavilion.
|Mallards at Finley NWR|
It took a lot longer than I expected. To reach the park I had to drive south to Junction City before turning east and crossing the river at Harrisburg. Then I turned north to look for the park. It was not where it was supposed to be. The Google Earth pin placed the park squarely in the middle of a plowed field. I finally found a road to a boat ramp that appeared to lead to the park. The park, however, was gone. The road led directly into the river, the yellow line disappearing into the murky water. The little building that holds the restrooms was in the middle of the river. The only bird in sight was a single Great Blue Heron. There were no grebes anywhere.
I hurried back to Harrisburg and grabbed a quick sandwich at a Subway. I realized that it was getting very late, and that depending on weather and traffic, I'd have only a couple of hours of daylight on the coast. Determined to make the best of the time I had left, I drove north to Corvallis and took US 20 toward Newport.
|Dark-eyed "Oregon" Junco|
|A Bewick's Wren hiding from me|
|The Restrooms at Cartney Park|