Backyard Birding

I’m not sure why I didn’t think to put out bird feeders a long time ago! We’ve always had a hummingbird feeder attracting frequent long-billed tiny visitors, but I had yet to put out a seed feeder – until now! After a visit to our local Backyard Bird Shop the helpful and friendly staff pointed me to an Aspects bird feeder and a bag of black oil sunflower seeds. I also picked up a suet feeder.

What fun it is to watch the birds from home! It’s low-maintenance, entertaining, and has the most comfortable vantage point. Also, I’m sure the birds appreciate the winter treats. We are lucky to live in a part of the city that still has large Douglas-fir nearby, as well as shrubs and bushes that provide favorable habitat for birds. The lilac trees in front of the house make a wonderful setting to hang feeders.

Several species have since visited including Black-capped Chickadees, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Western Scrub-Jay, Bushtits, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Song Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Juncos.

The following pictures show a good example of the differences between the Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees:

On a rainy late afternoon one mysterious visitor prompted me to reach out to the What Bird forum:

At first glance, I thought surely it’s some type of finch, but it doesn’t have the classic heavy/curved bill of a finch, instead the bill is slender and long. It has white wing-bars and a light “eye-brow.” The bird turned so I could also see it has a streaked belly.

My next best guess was the Pine Siskin based on the bill size and shape, but the lack of typical yellow accents on the wings gave me pause. Confirmed by the birding community, the bird is in fact a Pine Siskin! Some apparently have more yellow than others, and the heavy streaking and facial features differentiate it from a house finch. Pretty cool to see a new species and I didn’t even have to leave the house!

Finally, as with any new hobby, there’s a learning curve and I quickly realized I’ll have to reinforce the suet feeder to keep pesky “squirrel-birds” out. đŸ˜‰


Tweets and chirps,


Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens

Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks!

Okay, that’s not exactly how the day started yesterday morning…it sounded more akin to me whining about birding in the rain. I signed up for one of Audubon’s free birding outings, a chance to learn more about  local wintering waterfowl at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens. I thought surely they would cancel due to the 2-3″ of rain predicted, but it was a rain or shine event, so I pulled my gear on and my butt out of the house and I’m glad I did!

The outing was led by Ron Escano, a birder of 40 years – he knows his stuff! He provided bird ID handouts, specifically on how to identify waterfowl using identification markers other than color field marks. This is important in low-lighted, cloudy, or rainy areas – basically anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll follow-up with a more detailed identification post, but for now, some highlights.

The Key Characters Used to Identify Waterfowl are:

  1. Relative Size
  2. Profile and Shape
  3. Behavior
  4. Black and White Field Marks
  5. Vocalizations
  6. Color Field Marks

Feeding behavior is extremely helpful for waterfowl identification.
Ducks can be broken into two groups depending on how they feed:

Dabblers– can walk on land, can launch off the water into flight without a long take off, and they feed with their rear-ends tipped up in the water. Examples: Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Wood Duck.

Divers– cannot walk on land, need a long take-off to fly from water, and they feed by diving under water. Examples: Scaups, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, Canvasback, Goldeneyes, Harlequin Duck, Ruddy Duck, and all other “sea” ducks.

Just observing a waterbird’s feeding behavior can quickly eliminate half of the species for identification. Easy peasy, right?

The park was beautiful. I can only imagine what it looks like in the spring with the flowers blooming. The birds also seem at ease here, providing a wonderful opportunity to see them up-close. I look forward to a return trip!

Oh and of course I saw Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks!

Species to Add to My List: 4

Wood Duck
Lesser Scaup
Pied-billed Grebe

Thanks for following!

Powell Butte

Because it was still daylight (therefore more birds to see), after Whitaker Ponds I went to Powell Butte Nature Park. This extinct cinder cone volcano in the city of Portland serves as wonderful wildlife habitat with wide open fields, surrounding woodlands, wild hawthorn trees, and Johnson Creek running at the base.

The park website describes ring-neck pheasants as a visiting bird – what a sight that would be! Not this day however, instead the bird of the day was the American Kestrel. I counted about eight individuals; many perched in trees, soaring overhead, and a pair hunting on the ground. I decided the park should change its name to Kestrel Butte.

I only saw a few other bird species: a Great Blue Heron, a Western Scrub-Jay and I heard a humming bird.There was one larger raptor-like bird that puzzled me:


Hoping it was a Northern Harrier (as I’ve heard they reside here), I concluded it was more likely a Red-tailed Hawk due to the darker head, lighter chest, and lack of the “owl-like facial disc” (present on Northern Harriers).

No new species to add from this trip, but I gained a lot of experience identifying Kestrels and I’ll certainly re-visit another time to search for the pheasant!

Tweets and chirps,