Posted by: atowhee | May 27, 2022


Today we had a Salem Audubon Field trip to Baskett Slough NWR in Polk County. Much of what we saw and heard was expected and predictable: singing meadowlarks and a robin, hunting kestrel, posturing male red-wings, insect-hawking swallows, calling Pied-billed Grebe. But that was just setting, the surroundings, our local spring’s usual menu of sightings hereabouts.

We soon found the stilts that are probably nesting in the marshes south of Coville Road. We also saw and heard the Yellow-headed Blackbirds that are annual nesters there in modest numbers. They’re far more abundant in eastern Oregon marshes. Next we started seeing some of the White-faced Ibis, numbering n double digits. This is a bird more expected in Klamath or eastern Oregon. Then I saw three brightly-marked shorebirds lift out of the tall grass and fly in circles–through sheer good fortune they landed at the far edge of a pool right in front of us. Two males and the boldly marked female Wilson’s Phalarope! Next I hoped to find a shoveler in the scope for the birders who’d missed its speedy flight, a bright male. He was on the far shore of the widest pond south of Coville. It was easy to find his bright body…then next to him loafed four dark-headed birds…terns? Gulls? We watched and wondered, black heads, dark gray backs…then FOUR of them lifted off and flew across the sky in front of us. Franklin’s Gulls. Going over the list of birds we were seeing–we could have been at Malheur or Klamath when it had water. Birds of the east coming west because of dried up marshes?

I don’t think of these “out of place” species as vagrants or wandering migrants. These days and times, I consider them climate refugees. They’ve come for the water…will they all stay for the summer?
Here’s what an eBird search indicates for the two adjacent counties of Marion (which includes Ankeny NWR) and Polk (Baskett Slough): the phalarope are regular summering birds…there have been just 7 reported Franklin’s Gull sightings (including ours)…ibis have never been reported in late June or July, so far…stilts, BW Teal and Yellow-headed Blackbirds are regularly summer breeders in modest numbers.

I have just learned that Franklin’s Gulls were reported twice at Baskett Slough last year–on May 16 and June 2. So it may be an occasional asppearance while they are moving about in spring.

There was a pair of Blue-winged Teal in the canal south of Coville Road at the narrows pond. By the time our group got there at 11AM, they’d literally gone round the bend. Our only Bald Eagle of the day was a mature adult. We heard a Sora, no sighting. The Pied-billed Grebes were calling as were the coots.
One of the many Cinny:

Today’s mammals: ground squirrel, two coyote, a nutria.

*”West” is just a handy scramble of the word “wets”…can Franklin’s Gulls spell?

Here’s a checklist of my day…some in ther group saw more, or other, than this:
Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
May 27, 2022
Checklist Comments:     53-58F cloudy with occasional drizzle, light winds. Salem Audubon Society bird walk led by Harry Fuller with 13 participants including Dominick and Larry. We started in parking lot at base of Richard Guadagno trail, birding nearby fields and shrubs. Then we moved to the “Elbow” area to South Slough pond. Last, we Birded the “Narrows” off of Coville Rd. Water levels were high. Good mix of birds led to great discussions about breeding and behaviors of observed species and bird shape and conformations for easier recognition on wires and in distance. Highlights: FOY rare Franklin’s Gulls, White-faced Ibis, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Black-necked Stilt, Bald Eagle.
41 species

Blue-winged Teal  2
Cinnamon Teal  16
Northern Shoveler  2
Gadwall  10
Mallard  60
Ruddy Duck  2
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Mourning Dove  1
Virginia Rail  2     Heard.
Sora  3     Heard.
American Coot  20
Black-necked Stilt  8
Killdeer  8
Wilson’s Phalarope  3
Franklin’s Gull  4     FOY mid sized gull with round black head and upper neck, prominent white eye crescents, short reddish bill with black tip. Body was white with dark gray back. Legs appeared red. Wings in flight showed black ends with white terminal band. Too large for Caspian Tern and head all black and rounded. Larger than BOGU and white crescents more prominent. Smaller than LAGU and had white wing tip spots. Birds were standing on shore near ducks for good size comparison with spotting scope, then flew overhead for clear view of wing patterns and white eye crescents on black head. Seen by 3 senior birders and group leader.
Great Blue Heron  3
Green Heron  1
White-faced Ibis  6     Medium large bronze colored wading bird with prominent long curved bill. White coloration around base of bill and eye. Seen in marshy area near overlook marsh where they have been reported over past 2 weeks.
Turkey Vulture  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1
American Kestrel  4
Western Wood-Pewee  3
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  8
Barn Swallow  25
Cliff Swallow  2
European Starling  X
American Robin  3
American Goldfinch  1
Savannah Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  6
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-headed Blackbird  10
Western Meadowlark  6
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Brewer’s Blackbird  5
Common Yellowthroat  3
Western Tanager  1     Heard

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