You Down with PPP (Yea You Know Me)

Go ahead and roll your eyes at me. I’ll give you a few minutes. Don’t run out of eye rolls though, because once I define this marvelous abbreviation for you, you’ll be back at it again.

PPP = the Philomath Poo Ponds, aka the Philomath Sewage Ponds.

Note: Access to these ponds is restricted! You need to have a permit, which is available free of charge from the Philomath Public Works Department.

It’s been several months since I’ve birded the PPP because it’s now more than 2 hours away. But, enter the Willamette Valley Birding Symposium in Corvallis, plus a visit from my birding sister Lindsay, and I’m back down in arguably the best birding area in Oregon (IMHO). The symposium was on the Saturday, and we birded on Sunday. We planned on birding the PPP and Finley, but hitting both in 1 day is difficult when the sun sets at 4:30-ish and you’ve slept in and had a lazy morning birding your AirBNB property.

Views of the Coast Range from the Poo Ponds.
And sometimes, you get a rainbow over the sewage ponds. But … where are all of the birds?
There are six cells (ponds). We found the birds. This cell is boiling over in Northern Shovelers. We counted approximately 930 individual shovelers. No that’s not a typo.
A possible Eurasian x American Wigeon (hybrid)?
An Eared Grebe with a robust dust ruffle!
The cacophony that is the PPP seed pile. Check out my video here, if only just to hear the juncos and their crazy 80s video game-themed calls.
This Lincoln Sparrow was a nice highlight at the seed pile.
A White-crowned Sparrow nestled in a small depression. I’m guessing he’s full of seed.
A Northern Harrier flying in for some afternoon preening. See video here:
Alfred the Greater Sage-Grouse at the Willamette Valley Symposium with pals Lindsay and Linda.
The traditional post-symposium beers and burgers at Squirrels in Corvallis.

February 12, 2018

This past Saturday, February 10, 2018, C and I headed over to William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge just south of Corvallis to bird for the day and to specifically find the *Lewis’s Woodpecker, a striking western woodpecker who flycatches insects rather than excavated insects from a tree. The Lewis’s Woodpecker nests in tree snags and prefers open woodlands. Because of fire suppression and urban and agriculture encroachment, this habitat is not as common as it once was. To add insult to injury, the European Starling also nests in tree snags and is outcompeting the Lewis’s Woodpecker. For all these reasons, this species is in decline and is rarely found in the Willamette Valley.

After arriving to the refuge, we parked at the Ray Benton overlook, where the woodpecker was being regularly seen hanging out and flycatching in the oaks. Once we arrived, a group from Portland said that they briefly saw him, but that they lost him. They left and drove off, but then they stopped soon after! They stopped and got out of their van. They got out of their van and started looking through their binoculars. Then, somebody busted out their scope. I ran down the street, while they were motioning for me to run toward them. Gosh, I love my fellow birders (where were you in Fort Stevens State Park the other day?!!?).

They found the woodpecker and had him scoped by the time I got there, out of breath. Effortless. I’ve got to admit this was pretty nice after my X3 crossbill failure this past week. I was even able to get a documentable but awful photo of the woodpecker. We also got the woodpecker in our scope and was able to help others spot him much like the Portland group did for us.


Lewis’s Woodpecker; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; February 10, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt (through a nice scope).


We saw 31 species at Finley yesterday, which warranted a nice, worthy eBird post. I got an additional two 2018 birds, too: *Wood Duck and a *Lincoln’s Sparrow.

We ended the day at the Philomath Sewage Ponds where we watched the sunset and looked for Cinnamon Teals (negative).


Lincoln’s Sparrow being stubborn; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; February 10, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt


Wood Thrush ;); Philomath Sewage Ponds; February 10, 2018; photograph by Clint Burfitt.

*New Birds for 2018: 3
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 86