Friday, March 17, 2017

The Short of It

In our last post, The Long and Short of It, we set out to look for both the Long and Short-eared Owls.  Today concludes one journey and begins another. 

The wind gusts were extreme.  And so was the birding! 
 We journeyed into the heart of the Pacific Northwest with VERY challenging photography conditions.  Not only that, we had to find a difficult group of birds in these conditions.  

People turn their backs to the strong gale force winds on Cannon Beach

The wind and rain were constant.  And so were the low clinging clouds.  To be honest, it was all very beautiful, but it challenged the photographer inside. 

Haystack Rock-home of the nesting Tufted Puffins
We'd raise our binos up to look at a bird and they'd fill up with water.  Our cameras took a beating.  We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.  Portland's light conditions were the most challenging.  

Just when you'd think the rain was done; it would begin again!

And most of the birds here didn't care.  I suppose they deal with this kind of weather every day.  We observed many Mew Gulls and added this new lifer to our slowly growing list. 

Carefully taking field notes on this exciting lifer that can sometimes be mistaken for a Ring-billed Gull
 I love gulls so much and this was truly an exciting search for me.  I'll write more about them in my yearly larus report coming up in a few weeks. We'll focus on the Pacific Northwest and the challenges birders have when ID'ing gulls.  If anything, this trip really upped my gull ID skills.  But I won't say that too loudly as I'm still learning lots.  

Mew Gulls-note the smaller yellow(no markings) and somewhat drooping bill
 Oh but the rain.  It continued to eat away at our sanity.  The darkness.  The depression.  The sadness. How do these Portlandians deal with the heavy gray skies?  

Harlequin Duck on Haystack Rock
This Arizonan complains about the heat all the time, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I missed the sunshine.   I don't think we saw the sun ONCE while we were in the city. 

But behind every cloud, there was a bird.  We just had to walk through the mist to find it. 

Song Sparrow
Under ferns, on moss and lichen, there they sang.  But would Gordon finally find his Short-eared Owl?  Could WE find the Short-eared Owls?

Spotted Towhee(the Oregon subspecies)

The clouds clung to every cliff, hid every tree and made the roads slick and dangerous.  The traffic was the worst, especially if there had been an accident. 

In that damp darkness, we saw a shadow. As we moved closer, I watched Gordon get excited.  He toggled ISO switches on his camera, cursed the wet conditions and observed this magical moment under the gentle rain.  Finally, the bird gods granted him this lifer moment. 

Short-eared Owl
Over the next several weeks, we'll explore the beauty and wonder of the Pacific Northwest with our guide and friend Khanh Tran.  It was a hard fought, exciting (and exhausting) time into some of the most beautiful places of the United States. Until next time....


  1. Chris, I thought for a moment you were describing our typical UK weather!
    Delighted to learn that Gordon got his 'Shortie'. I watched 2 flying in slightly better conditions last weekend.

  2. Joli voyage en images ;-)
    Céline & Philippe

  3. Wonderful images and post. Your excitement shines through even if the weather was dire!

  4. Hola Chris!!!.. Me encanta el búho campestre como decimos en España..


  5. Absolutely brilliant pictures and adventure.

  6. The owl is fabulous and I loved this entire post -- because of the wonderful birds and also because you evoked winter in our part of the Pacific Northwest so honestly (and yet so beautifully) ... We now spend Winters where it is sunny and warm and have ever since we retired. Those conditions you describe get tiresome especially for people who aren't as intrepid in the outdoors as you and your friend.

    But I love Oregon and it is still our home. And it's beautiful in the summer. (We get the benefit of the rainy season without actually being there for it. It's kind of cheating, but we put in our years.

    Look forward to reading more from home. Stay dry and warm!


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