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My best winter news:  I won best in Wildlife in Friends of the Gorge annual photo contest for the above photo!

It was the first time I entered and I also took away an honorable mention for my adorable Pika!!

AND an honorable mention for my smoky sunset!  My prize for ‘First’ in Wildlife was a gift certificate to Pro Photo and a fabulous new Columbia backpack!

Feet back on the ground, on the first day of Winter I hiked out my back door to see who I might find.  Nuthatches!  White-breasted and…

…Red-breasted Nuthatch.

After that first sunny day of winter, we had a bit of snow.  I stayed close to home & watched Chickadees in my garden.

New Year’s Eve I went with a couple of young birders to High Prairie where they showed me a Great Horned Owl.

The younger birder has a great eye and spotted a Rough-legged Hawk in the distance and we were thrilled at how close it flew to us while hunting.

Alas my fellow birders couldn’t stay long, but I wasn’t ready to leave.  Lucky me I watched a Northern Harrier with lunch!

My winter raptor survey is in full swing and I loved finding this pair of Bald Eagles near sunset.

A few days later I drove along the Columbia just because the sun came out!  Saw eagles chasing eagles….


 A beautiful Great Blue Heron flew past.

And I passed a gorgeous Kestrel sunning at the top of a snag.

Back at the Bingen Marina I checked on our Tundra Swans.  Yep, still there.  They arrive and depart about the same time as migrating Bald Eagles.

I believe this is a Horned Grebe soaking up the sun, but I always mix it up with an Eared Grebe.

I took a couple of friends from Portland out hunting for Bald Eagles here in the Gorge and lucky us, we found some.

We watched a few juvenile eagles with an adult bathing in the Columbia, hiked into Balfour Park, then headed further east.

We found this beauty near The Dalles Dam where I was heading the very next week for Eagle Festival.

Eagle Festival at The Dalles Dam occurs every January when the Bald Eagle population is at its fullest.

I arrived super early hoping for a sunrise shot, but alas it was a gray morning.  However, because of my early arrival I had a pretty nice spot for watching eagles fish.

I ran into many of my birding friends there, especially after the sun came out!

California sea lions also came to the party at The Dalles Dam!

It was truly a glorious day.

I like taking long scenic drives to see what I can find.  This abandoned house had a young bald eagle perched at the top of a craggy old tree next to it.

The Klickitat River runs through many little towns in our area.

You can get down right next to it or view it from a great height.

This time of year it might be snowing or the clouds below so thick that the river is hidden.

You can almost always find a Bald Eagle near the Klickitat River.

That about sums it up, I think we’re caught up now.  Well except …

We put in a trail cam and now know what eats our bird seed every night!

Oh, and my really big winter news is I’m going to NORWAY where my paternal ancestors came from!!  I didn’t know I wanted to go until invited by a loved one.  I’m working overtime selling my remaining art glass to fund this surprise trip.  More about that in an upcoming post!

3.19.17 I saw a Prairie Falcon sitting high on a cliff while doing my raptor survey for East Cascades Audubon Society.  I knew from experienced friends to not directly look at, point to or otherwise make myself known to him so I slowly slid the tip of my lens out my barely rolled down window, took aim & quietly grabbed these shots.

He perched for a bit at this nest site, then back up to the cliff.

He flew overhead several times then landed below the nest, looking around as if determining whether or not this was a good spot.  I didn’t want to discourage him, so quickly left, hoping he’d choose that spot for a nest.

It was a beautiful sunny spring day in the Gorge.  This nest will be “the western-most PRFA scrape we know of on the Washington side of the river”, according to wildlife research scientist, Jim Watson of WDFW…I’m ever so grateful for his sharing of information with me.

3.23.17  A few days later I was thrilled to see the Prairie Falcon IN THE NEST!!  He seemed to be skittishly looking around and I hadn’t seen a mate so didn’t know if this would be the final nest choice yet.  Again I quickly left.

3.28.17  Prairie Falcon sitting in front of nest on cliff, I was excited to see him still here!

4.9.17   He’s still there!

4.20.17  My day began with a sunrise at Catherine Creek.

Darn, no Prairie Falcon today…..

4.25.17  There was no one home again at the nest, but I spotted a Prairie Falcon close to an historical nest site a couple of miles away from the nest I’m watching.

I only observed him a few minutes before he flew.

5.2.17  My friend, cjflick joined me at the nest site to help me confirm whether or not the Prairie Falcon was indeed using this as a nest.  Typically falcons don’t build nests, they use a ‘scrape’ (bare rock) or cliffside dwelling previously made by other raptors.  Once again there was no Prairie Falcon at the stick nest site that I’d found.

5.4.17   No sighting again, but I’m learning more about these falcons.  They begin breeding at about two years old.  During courtship the pair visit potential nest sites together for about a month.  They eat small mammals, birds and insects and on average only live 2.5 to 5 yrs in the wild. Why do they not live longer?  Sadly the top three causes of death are gunshot, hit by cars and run into fences.  Fourth is owl predation.         

5.11.17  No action in the nest again today….should I give up on this one?  cjflick encouraged me to keep watching.

5.19.17   After not observing any activity for a month, I am thrilled to see a Prairie Falcon on the nest today!

Later, when I zoomed in on today’s photos, I saw a parent’s head in the far back of the nest!  Had they been incubating all this time?  I learned they incubate for 29 – 39 days, so my answer is YES!  You can barely see the falcon’s head behind a front stick that stands up at an angle.

5.23.17  today I see one parent at the edge of the nest.

5.25.17  I spot a Prairie Falcon on a ledge near the nest.

I can’t see any action IN the nest.   If only my camera could zoom UP and IN!!

5.27.17  was an exciting day.  I watched a Prairie Falcon take off from a cliff above the nest…..

He flies down towards the nest…..

It happened so fast I couldn’t keep my camera focused on the raptor, but I think what happened is he grabbed a rodent, took it to the nest and now the mate is flying out of the nest with said rodent.

Then she repositions the rodent from her beak to her  talons while in flight!

She now has the rodent in her talons, while still in flight, and heads back up to the cliffside perch above the nest.

Her mate stays back at the nest, presumably with the young chicks…or Eyases as their technically called (if used for falconry).  I’d rather call them Falconettes.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, an Aurora is predicted tonight.  I decide to stay up and watch it despite my 4am wake up call this morning.  I had to quit about midnight but heard that I should have waited for the better show only 30 minutes later.

5.30.17  LOOK!!  WE HAVE CHICKS!!  Another exciting day for me in my ‘Prairie Falcon Nest Watch’!!  You can barely see their fuzzy white heads above the sticks.  The ‘nestling’ time is 29 to 47 days.

Looking at their size and comparing them to other chicks I’m watching, they are probably the same age as the Peregrine Falcons.  I’ll share a link to that page as soon as it’s written.

Falconettes stretch their wings while a parent gets out for a breath of fresh air.  Just kidding.  The nest stays clean because they eliminate out the front door ~ you can see the white stain on the front rocks.

Trying to remember to post pictures of my surroundings while I am enroute to or at all my ‘Nest Check’ locations.

6.3.17   THREE Falconettes in the nest!  How adorable they are!!  At three weeks brown juvenile feathers poke through the white fuzz, so I’m guessing they could be four weeks here.

6.8.17  Did I say three?  We have three Falconettes and what a difference five days make!  At 5 to 6 weeks old, the white fuzz disappears and their brown feathers have grown in.  I’d better check in on them more frequently.

They flap their wings and race from side to side of the nest.  What fun to hear them call to one another or their parents.

It was enough to make this parent fly out the front door!

6.10.17  Two days later, they’re still racing back and forth across the nest opening.  Their wings are darker and as you can see they’re taller!

Yes, they can be still.  They settle down for a short while….

…then resume practicing future flight techniques.

6.13.17  The triplets call and wait for a parent to bring lunch.

A parent must be getting closer, the Falconettes act excited and race across the nest opening.

The parent is closer, the Falconettes race toward the direction of her arrival.

She drops off lunch then leaves immediately after feeding.

Back to hunting for the family.

6.15.17   omg the kids are out of the nest!  Technically, when they leave the nest, they’ve ‘fledged’.

I did not see them go further than the front porch and they scramble back into the nest when a parent flies in with food.

The parent stayed long enough to deliver lunch, then took off again.

Back to the job of hunting for a hungry family.

6.17.17  A beautiful sunny Gorge day.

When I arrive at the nest I find it EMPTY!!  Falconettes have Fledged!  Where are they???

Movement caught my eye up on the cliffs.  Oh just look at them outside practicing flight techniques together!

I watched the fledglings practicing their take-offs and landings on this cliff and a grassy spot nearby.

Perched high on a cliff, they also appeared to chase down prey but I couldn’t tell if they caught anything.

They appeared to feed each other….licking lunch off each otter’s beaks?

I wondered where the third sibling was, then found him nearby on a grassy slope near the cliffs.

6.19.17   I’m told the Prairie Falcon fledglings will hang around as their muscles further develop, perfecting their flight and hunting skills for a couple weeks.

I found all three today, this one is practicing take-offs and landings.

This one was racing around the neighborhood.

6.22.17  Falcon fledglings still hanging around.  Only found two today up on the cliffs but the third is probably nearby.

6.23.17   Prairie Falcons practice hunting skills!  They had bloody beaks, so they must have caught prey themselves.

6.24.17  Prairie Falcon fledgling practicing flight skills.

He takes off, flies a bit, then lands not too far away from where he started.

Taking a little rest in the shade while his siblings are beyond the edge of the cliff.

6.27.17   Prairie Falcon fledglings were difficult to find until they moved while hunting on the rocks below their nest.

As the morning wore on they were easier to find when the sun lit them up.

All three are still near their original nest.

6.29.17  Prairie Falcon fledgling taking off in flight below their nest. They’ve become more graceful in flight.

Another Prairie Falcon fledgling in flight above the cliffs…

Third fledgling hunts in an area also near their nest.

7.2.17   Prairie Falcon fledglings chasing each other across the cliff.

They’re still so much fun to watch.  Like kids, having races, calling each other, and generally having a good time learning life skills.

7.4.17   Prairie Falcons are still near their nest, practicing, learning, and maturing.

This was my last visit but I may go check to see if they’re still there once I finish this series of blog posts.

If you’d like to learn more about Prairie Falcons, in addition to All About Birds I found more information at

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and Seattle Audubon

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I write them is Empty Nest

Steider Studios.Bird Walk.6.12.16.16

June’s bird outing with the ‘Bird Nerds’ began north of Trout Lake.  We found one of my favorites, a Lazuli Bunting along with a surprising number of other species.

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Cedar Waxwings were plentiful and not necessarily a surprise.  We also saw or heard Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Western Wood Pewee, Violet-green Swallow, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, a Western Tanager and many more.

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A CATBIRD was definitely a surprise for me.  I didn’t know they were in our area!  Last year one of our members, John heard one in Hood River’s Powerhouse Corridor but this is my first sighting!

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Half our group headed for Glenwood and were delighted to find this White-headed Woodpecker feeding her young.

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You know I took a gazillion photos ~ there are at least two in the nest, a boy & a girl.

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As long as we were in Glenwood we took a little hike at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge where we found Eastern Kingbirds including one sitting on a nest!!

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We watched this Red-breasted Sapsucker delivering lunch to a nest cavity that we watched last year.

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Birds ate from feeders in front of the headquarters office while this Black-chinned Hummingbird buzzed about.

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Our group parted ways leaving me to drive a couple of my favorite Glenwood routes.  The song of Red-winged Blackbirds was everywhere.

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There was no traffic on a Sunday afternoon, so I drove the refuge perimeter leisurely.

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I found a large Wood Duck family.

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Mama kept the ducklings swimming away from me.

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I pretended not to care.

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I found many more Eastern Kingbirds.

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I also found Western Kingbirds.  I think this is a young one.

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I saw a lot of fledglings including this Western Bluebird.

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Here’s it’s parent, encouraging it.

It was a fabulous day leaving me with way too many photos to go through.  These are just a few of my favorites!

Klickitat Wildlife Area

April 11, 2016

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The Klickitat Wildlife area isn’t that well-known or used and I traversed it for the first time this past week.  It’s a vast wide open space about 5 miles northwest from the junction of Glenwood Hwy and Hwy 142.

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The manager, Sue gave me a quick tour and as we drove in, our first sighting was a small group of deer jumping over a boundary fence.

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I specifically went there to find an Acorn Woodpecker after hearing about a pair seen in the area.  This snag is a good sign they’re here!

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We saw Warblers flitting from branch to branch, so fun to watch.

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Several Robins warily watched us as we walked around a stand of oak trees.

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A couple of Western Bluebirds allowed us to view them before flying off.

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The view of Mt Adams is spectacular, but we did not see the elusive Acorn Woodpecker, so Sue & I parted ways after my morning tour.

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Of course I wasn’t satisfied ~ I knew the woodpeckers were there, so I went back.  An American Kestrel greeted me in the snag I stalked.

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With delight, I watched more Warblers catch bugs in flight, stopping to rest and even pose for me.

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It was a gorgeous warm spring day and as I watched a hawk fly overhead, getting my fill of little birds may have to be enough for now, I thought.

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Just as I was ever so close to giving up, look what landed in the snag!  I’m told Acorn Woodpeckers are a rare find in the state of Washington.  I felt such joy as I watched this little bird move from branch to branch with his ‘catch’.

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Unbelievably, moments later his mate landed at the top of the snag!  I concentrated on the new arrival and didn’t even notice the original woodpecker leaving until I saw this image later at home.

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The second Acorn Woodpecker stayed for about 20 minutes in the same place, then flew off just as suddenly as it had arrived.  I am one happy woman!

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Three or four Turkey Vultures flew overhead to see me off as I headed back to my car.

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A wonderful spot in Klickitat County, I’ll be heading back soon!  Thanks again to Sue for spending some time with me!!

Steider Studios.Prairie Falcon.11.20.15

I signed on for a route in Audubon’s Winter Raptor Survey.  My route is basically along Hwy 14 between Bingen and Dallesport along the Columbia River.  The first run yielded my first ever sighting of a Prairie Falcon!!

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I expected to find Red-tailed Hawks, and did find six of them.

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Non resident Eagles are returning to the Gorge ~ I found these four in one snag and six more along the river.

Steider Studios.American Kestrel

 

I also counted three American Kestrels, but not close enough for a good shot.  This shot is from Sauvie Island in January.

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The following day broke with a beautiful clear blue sky so I followed my route hoping to recreate my photos with better light and composition.  Alas I saw no eagles, but the Klickitat River was gorgeous.

Steider Studios.Northern Shrike.11.21.15And on a little side trip I found a Northern Shrike across the road from the entrance to Balfour Park!  Told this is a rare sighting, I ‘penned’ my first entry into ebird.org.  He is a hatch-year (1st winter ~ thanks to my friend Cathy for that info!)

Steider Studios.Goldfinch Trio.11.21.15I also found a huge flock of Lesser Goldfinches in their ‘pantry’, a field of weeds.

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I love these little birds and couldn’t believe how close they allowed me to get.  This is a male Lesser Goldfinch.

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The day before my route I’d gone looking for eagles with my friend Carolyn.  Although we didn’t see eagles that day, we found tons of Lewis’s Woodpeckers, one of my favorites!!

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We watched a heron fishing on ‘golden pond’ from afar.

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A Cormorant flew by pretty close!

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And we saw a lot of Ruby-crowned Kinglets!  See his Ruby Crown?!!

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He’s a bit blurred, too fast for me to keep up with his movement, but I wanted to show you his front too!

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In spite of only finding Bald eagles on my official ‘Raptor Count Day’, we saw many beautiful birds including a Kingfisher, Wood Ducks, Robins, and Meadowlarks.  It’s always a good day driving through the Gorge.

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September 20th I participated in the Klickitat County Bird Count at Conboy National Wildlife Refuge, one of my favorite places.  We arrived just as the sun rose on a cool morning with mist hanging in the air below the hills.  An explosion of birds took off as I pulled my car into a sheltered spot – sorry, I didn’t mean to wake or alarm you!  We counted over 300 birds, traversing just over 50 miles in 9 hours time.  A long but very fun day with 1954 images on my memory cards!

Steider Studios.Heron in TreeWe saw 13 herons that we could count, but think there were more.

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Flying high in the sky, we could clearly see that two of those black silhouettes were Turkey Vultures.

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We counted three Wood Ducks – not these three, but aren’t they cute?!!

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We watched several groups of Mallards take off – in one blurry photo that I blew up I counted 84!

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I do not know ducks so asked for help with these Green-winged Teal.  Hope that’s what they are so I don’t mess up the official bird count with wrong identifications!

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We counted one Ring-necked Duck, but think we saw 3 more.  I had help identifying her also, thanks so much to the Backyard Bird Counters!

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We watched 10 or 11 Northern Harriers hunt from the sky and in the marshes.

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I spotted an American Kestrel on a utility wire with another on a stump nearby – love these little guys!

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We saw 8 wild turkeys, but not until we were leaving, late in the afternoon.

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One American Coot identified, but there were probably more in the canals.

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We heard 1 or 2 Sandhill Cranes but did not see them.  I’m hoping to see hundreds at Ridgefield’s Birdfest next weekend!

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Forgive this blurry shot, but I’d not seen a California Gull before!  At least not here in the Pacific Northwest.

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As we waited quietly in the canal area hoping more waterfowl would appear we heard a loud rustling in the tall grass. Much to our shock and awe, a herd of Elk appeared instead!  We startled them as much as they startled us.

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Our attention turned back to birds – six Northern Flickers tried to hide from us, but we spotted them.

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We couldn’t find, but heard 1 Pileated Woodpecker through the woods.  This shot is a snag outside my back door.

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There were so many Ravens that again I had to blow up a blurry picture to count all 30 but I think there were more.  American crows in the fields were just as plentiful, more than 40.

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Three Mountain Chickadees were scampering from cone to cone.

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We counted four Western Bluebirds, but there were more that we couldn’t properly identify.

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Only two American Robins presented themselves to us.

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We counted nine sweet little Yellow-rumped Warblers.

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The sparrows gave me a headache trying to identify them!  I think this one is a Rufous-winged…

Steider Studios. Savannah Sparrow

I had help with this Savannah…

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and more help with this Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Steider Studios.White Crowned Sparrow at Conboy 9.20.14 I DO know the White-crowned Sparrows because they’re in my garden.  Maybe the others are too and I’ve been calling them finches!!

Steider Studios.Dragonfly on Reed Flower

At the end of the day a swarm of dragonflies captured our attention and away we went on a new adventure…You can see more dragonflies in my Facebook album.

Between our notes, photos, Peterson’s & Audubon’s field guides and help from birding groups on Facebook I finished our report and turned it in.  Hoping to have helped in some small way even though we weren’t at all sure what we were doing!

Over 300 birds within about 50 miles in 9 hours time…whew!!

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