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An Early Holiday Gift

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

Yesterday, I was at the central Oregon Coast, enjoying spectacular sunny, warm weather and great bird sightings. I went in hopes of photographing a flock of Snow Buntings, an arctic species that shows up in Oregon, especially along the coast in winter. I was lucky enough to find the flock and get close enough for some great photos. My butterfly photography skills came in very handy as I did my slow-as-molasses-in-winter "Tai Chi Walk" down the beach towards where I saw the flock land, and got surprisingly close.

Snow Bunting striking a pose, just north of Florence, Oregon

About an hour later, I was in Yachats, looking for another bird from the north that shows up in Oregon only along the coast in winter, the Rock Sandpiper. This species is seen in Oregon every year, in stretches of the coast with very rocky shorelines, but I had never been in the right time at the right place to see one. Yachats it a prime example of that habitat, and a friend had seen a Rock Sandpiper here a few weeks earlier. I saw and photographed several other species that inhabit the splash zone, but struck out on the Rock Sandpiper.

Just after I had decided to pack it in for the day, I made one more round down the 804 Trail in Smelt Sands State Park. As I was scanning the black rocks for surfbirds and turnstones, I saw something totally unexpected. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something small fly lickety-split past me and land in the vegetation about 30 feet in front of me. My many years of watching butterflies gave me a strong sense that it was a butterfly! I invoked the Tai Chi Walk one more time, and with my birding camera on my tripod, I photographed this freshly eclosed adult American Lady. On December 16!

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

Happy Holidays to you all, and may you be blessed with many gifts from nature!

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