If January could be summed up by snow, February can be summed up by RAIN. All caps because it’s ridiculous. We can’t seem to catch a break. Luckily, birds still have stuff to do regardless of the weather. They’re out there and occasionally I joined them. Yesterday, Tomas and I went to Ridgefield NWR for some comfy drive-thru birding.
Would you like fries with that?
Swans have returned to the refuge, both Trumpeter and Tundra though the Tundra Swans stood out more to me with their yellow lores.
This one flew in for a nice photo-op.
Red-winged Blackbirds were singing in the rain.
And this American Coot couldn’t give a coot.
There were Bald Eagles, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, and of course Red-tailed Hawks along the route.
But we got the biggest surprise when approaching the park exit.
Not one, but two Rough-legged Hawks! I’ve seen this type of hawk a couple of times, but only as a passenger in a vehicle flying along the highway with no time to enjoy. This time we could observe from the heated car as long as we pleased.
They have a small bill, light head and dark belly. One had a paler eyes, a juvenile bird, while the other had dark eyes, an adult bird. Both appear to have the light morph color pattern.
And of course they have feathered tarsi, or those “rough legs.”
They perched for a long time, sometimes fanning their wings out to dry. Until finally one flew from the tree and this was when we learned how they hunt. They face into the wind and hover! Similar to American Kestrels. The hover and scan the ground looking for small mammals. I made an animated gif to show the hovering in action:
One thing I really appreciate about Portland is the love of art. It’s hard to turn a street corner without bumping into a sculpture, installation, yarn bomb, or mural. It sparks conversation and brightens up this notoriously rainy town.
On my walk to work. (NE Regents/Ridgewood, Artist: Sharyn Smith)
I’m especially delighted to see so many birds in the designs. It shows just how integrated they are in our culture and lives.
On way to happy hour at NEPO42 (NE 42nd/Emerson, Artist: L.P. and/or J.R.)
Even at the schools. On my bus route home I was surprised to see a Belted Kingfisher among the critter paintings outside Access Academy at NE 57th/Thompson.
The artists are George Hambov aka Apeseven, based in Sydney Australia and “Klutch,” a Portland based artist. Some of my favorite bird murals in Portland are collaboration pieces by these two accomplished artists. A couple more:
Carpark of Anatomy Tattoo in Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood
At a printshop in N Portland, St Johns Neighborhood
I want this painted on all of my doors.
It’s stunning and hard to pick a favorite. A portion of another goodie by Apeseven and Jeremy Nichols aka PlasticBirdie:
If I’m going to live in a concrete jungle of a city surrounded by buildings, I want those buildings covered in street art.
Here’s a Bald Eagle piece by Native American artist Yatika Fields.
This mural at SE Stark/28th on Bonfire Lounge first caught my eye because of the dove.
If you’re feeling down look around and maybe some work of art will lift you up. All these murals make me happy and smile as I pass them by providing much needed uplift in these trying times. They brighten my days.
Inspired by a fellow local birder friend, Jen, I’m trying out birding a 5 mile radius from home and using eBird’s “patch” options to track species. Basically, pick a few places to regularly bird and add them to a patch. It’s a good way to explore nearby parks, maybe save some time driving, and it’s a fun challenge to find new species in regular patches. I started off strong on January 1st with 55 species including a visiting Burrowing Owl at Broughton Beach!
Then the snow came.
8-14″ in some places. My 5 mile radius turned into about 5 feet outside my front door. Luckily I had some decent snowy yard birds. Including a Varied Thrush!
The birds seemed appreciative of the extra suet and seeds I put out. The bird bath turned into an elevated feeder dish.
Dark-eyed Junco and Black-capped Chickadee
Most of the common yard birds made an appearance.
I think my most favorite to watch were the Dark-eyed Juncos. They seemed right at home in the snow.
I even had a Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco, a less common winter-visiting variety. Note the lack of contrasting hood.
They don’t call them snowbirds for nothing. One bird that is most certainly not a snowbird is the Anna’s Hummingbird. It took effort to keep the feeder thawed and free from ice and snow but it was totally worth it to help the hummers through this extraordinarily harsh winter.
Before the big snowstorm I took time off from work to make it out to see the (normally east coast) Black-throated Blue Warbler that wintered in SW Portland.
Black-throated Blue Warbler (right)
Found just outside my 5mi radius. I have a new mission to figure out how to attract rarities to the yard.
One rare bird that did find it’s way to a local patch was a Bohemian Waxwing at Mt Tabor. I geared up in a snow-tire equipped Subaru to make it up there and search.
Icy stairs of doom
I arrived on the scene to find a birder who had just seen a bohemian fly overhead. Something I love-hate to hear. At least the bird was here, but I’d just missed an easy sighting. I made my way down the icy trail to check out hawthorne trees.
Where there are berries, there are birds. I found about 300-400 American Robins, a handful of Cedar Waxwings, and one blurry Bohemian Waxwing!
It happened so fast. The bird flew in, I tried to get my bearings, change my camera settings and it was gone. I searched and searched while my hands froze, then I finally found it again high up in the tree.
Pretty exciting. As I circled around to get a better view, a Sharp-shinned Hawk darted in and spooked all the birds away.
Kind of annoying for scaring the rarity, but also kind of awesome to see the hawk so close. I enjoyed the looks I got and called it a day.
On another snowy day I made it out to Smith and Bybee wetlands to tromp through snow and find a reported shrike. The park was “closed” which made it perfectly quiet and lovely.
The snow was deep, not “Larch Mtn deep“, but novel enough to still make it fun.
And since the ground was frozen it made it easier to access the normally marshy-flooded parts of the park. And that’s where I found it.
Northern Shrike! It tormented the poor juncos and sparrows that tried to drink water along the pond’s edge where the snow melted. Birds gotta do what a birds gotta do. I left the hunter in peace, happy I’d taken the chance to find it.
Back in my 5 mile radius at Whitaker Ponds I lucked out last weekend when I found Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Common Goldeneye, and this sleepy Barred Owl.
Right where it’s supposed to be.
Each time I went around the 1/2 mi walking loop I found another species, so I kept going and on the third loop I heard an unusual song worth investigating. I was right because not long after, out popped a Hutton’s Vireo!
Gah. So cute. And not a Ruby-crowned Kinglet because of the song, but also the bill color (grey vs black) and the feet color (grey vs yellow). This is the first I’ve seen in Oregon (I saw one very briefly once in Washington). And precisely what makes the local patch thing so rewarding.
Now back at home I’ve geared up for spring. I’ve added a second seed feeder, new window hummingbird feeder, and a birdhouse that will hopefully make a chickadee couple very happy. We shall see.
Pledge of allegiance to the sugar-water
Home tweet home
And I picked up a “hum button” from the Backyard Birdship to try hand-feeding the hummers. It worked on the first try!
It’ll all be perfect once the ice melts. February has a lot to live up to!