Saturday, November 28, 2009

Myiarchus flycatcher south of Florence

Daniel Farrar called me this morning to tell me that he had just seen a small Myiarchus flycatcher in his back yard near Woahink Lake, 5 miles south of Florence. He wanted me to come down and take some photos. When I arrived 10 minutes later, the bird had left, but we were eventually able to refind it in a small shore pine and study it at leasure.

Based on overall coloration, the amount of rufous in the wings and tail, and the tail pattern we lean towards a hatch-year Ash-throated Flycatcher. The bird never called, and we did not see the color of the lining inside the bill, so we can't confidently rule out Nutting's Flycatcher.

Here are some pictures of the bird, taken around 11:45 am this morning. Comments as to the bird's identity are welcome (you can click on any picture to see a larger image).

This picture shows a little of the mouth lining. Unfortunately, the lighting is too poor to make a confident ID, but the color does not look bright orange to me, rather flesh-colored, which would rule out Nutting's and point toward Ash-throated.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

After the Storm in Florence

I headed out to the South Jetty of the Siuslaw River early this afternoon, hoping that last night's high winds might have blown in something exciting . Alas, I didn't find too much, the water between the jetties was very choppy and mostly devoid of birds. Among the most impressive sights were well over 800 Brown Pelicans lined up on the rocks between the channel and the sheltered North Jetty cove. About 5 Red Phalaropes bobbed, circled, and flew up and down in front of the rocks, well out of camera range. Closer in, I noted a few Common Loons and Western Grebes, a couple of Red-necked Grebes, a handful of Red-breasted Mergansers and Buffleheads and a small band of Surf Scoters. At one point 3 Green-winged Teal came zipping by.

Male Bufflehead and Western Grebe off the South Jetty

The Siuslaw River channel between the jetties.

Just as I was ready to get back into my car, I noticed a small diving duck directly off the jetty rocks in front of me. It was clearly smaller than a couple of female Surf Scoters nearby, and a quick look through my binos confirmed a female Harlequin Duck! I don't see this species very often between the jetties in Florence (it is more common at some of the pull-outs farther north along the Lane County coast), so I was quite pleased with my find. Not the breath-taking rarity I had secretly hoped for, but a nice bird nonetheless, and it obligingly posed for a few photos.

Female Harlequin Duck off the jetty rocks.

She let me get a little closer.

Gotta check out what goodies there are under the surface.

Getting ready to dive ....

... and gone!

There she is back up again - what a handsome bird!

On my way back home, I swung by the neighborhood were the Tropical Kingbird had been hanging out for the past few days. I didn't see it today (I only spent a few minutes looking, though), just a bunch of starlings and crows on the wires. But at least I was rewarded with a beautiful rainbow that spanned the sky. Let's hope for another good windstorm soon - I could use some alcids or tubenoses!

Rainbow over Florence

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Red Phalarope at the North Jetty in Florence

After the recent storm, Red Phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius) have popped up all over the Oregon Coast (as well as at some inland sites). This afternoon I decided to check out the backwater of the North Jetty of the Siuslaw River in Florence, usually a good place to find a variety of shorebirds in migration, including Red-necked Phalaropes - so why not a stray Red Phalarope?
Therefore, on our way back from grocery shopping Oscar and I made a brief detour to the jetty and - voila! - my hunch paid off: After a little bit of scoping, I detected one lone Red Phalarope swimming gaily in the rather choppy waters near the shoreline of the bay. It was quite unconcerned with my approach and allowed me to get pretty close for some pictures.
The bird is still mostly in juvenile plumage, indicated by the blackish coverts and tertials. Adults in non-breeding plumage are uniformly gray above. Also note the pinkish wash on the throat and upper neck.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mushroom Hunting on the Central Oregon Coast

Even after shorebird season is pretty much over, living on the Oregon Coast has its perks. October is a great time to roam the coastal forests in search of some tasty additions to your menu. Especially after a few rainy days, these woods will yield a plethora of mushrooms, a surprising number of which can be used in your kitchen. During a brief visit this morning to a couple of undisclosed locations in the vicinity of Florence, Oregon, my partner Oscar and I were able to harvest the following choice edibles:

Pacific Golden Chanterelle (Catharellus formosus)

Only recently recognized as a species separate from the Common Chantarelle (Cantharellus cibarius) of Europe and eastern North America, this spicy, slightly peppery mushroom is considered one of the tastiest edibles among all fungi. Sautéed in butter, they make a wonderful addition to your steak or pork chops ... or a meal all by themselves.

Pig's Ear (Gomphus clavatus)

This is a close relative of the chanterelle, and like the former, its spore-bearing surface consists of shallow veins rather than gills or pores. Another tasty edible, although not quite as good as the chanterelle (at least in my opinion), and nowhere near as showy.

King Bolete (Boletus edulis)

With its savory, slightly nutty flavor, this large, handsome bolete is one of the most highly prized mushrooms for the table. Just make sure you get to it before the maggots do! The above specimen is a rather slender-stalked variety with a relatively pale tan cap - quite different from the often bulbous-stemmed, darker-capped examples found in the pine forests of the High Cascades.

Sweet Tooth (Dentinum repandum)

top view of the cap

view of the underside of the cap (note the small, tooth-like spines)

Also known as the Hedgehog Mushroom, this delicious fungus belongs to the family of Teeth Fungi (Hydnaceae), which produce their spores on tooth-like spines on the underside of the cap. This species equals the chanterelle in flavor and texture, but like the former, it should be cooked slowly and for a long time to render it tender.

Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum)

Walking the coastal woods of the Pacific Northwest in the fall, you will frequently encounter these large, bright lobster-red to deep orange, somewhat misshapen fungi poking out of a mound of dirt. The Lobster Mushroom is actually a parasitic mold that infects and engulfs other species of mushrooms (usually members of the genera Russula and Lactarius). In the process, it manages to turn an otherwise rather unpalatable host into a culinary delicacy. In our area, the most common host is the Short-stemmed White Russula (Russula brevipes), a ubiquitous mushroom with little culinary value of its own. When collecting Lobster Mushrooms, a note of caution is necessary, since there is a small chance that this mold can infect a poisenous host species! Fortunatey, there are no deadly Russulas or Milky-caps around here, so you probably risk no more than an upset stomach.

Our little walk yielded a multitude of other mushroom species, including several additional edibles (e.g..the Admirable Bolete and the Common Laccaria), but we left those for another time. The above harvest was enough to feed us for a couple of days. Bon appétit!