Curry County

I’d survived a pelagic trip and a night in the dorms. I was five hours from home and ready for my next adventure. It was the perfect time to visit Curry County, one of the counties in Oregon I’d never previously birded in.

This is my favorite kind of birding. New county, all new birds, no schedule and completely on my own agenda. I could sit for hours looking for sparrows if I wanted to. And of course I did want to. There were reports of Clay-colored Sparrows in the area so I had good reason. I spent a lot of time at Arizona Beach State Recreation Site.

My favorite sighting started with a soft warbling song I heard through the trees and brush. I thought it might be a catbird, but eventually I caught sight of the little songster.

An American Dipper! There was only a tiny portion of stream flowing and it was right above it singing its little heart out. I may have melted.

Back at the pond across the highway there were two Blue-winged Teal best identified as they’re flying away.

And many unmistakable Black Phoebe.

I got a good look at this young Red-shouldered Hawk looking for a meal.

And on the way out I saw a HUGE flock of California Quail.


I saw a few sparrows.

Golden, golden, song, white-crowned, golden

But it took a many tries to get this blurry photo of a Chipping Sparrow.

To find shorebirds it was suggested I try out Floras Lake, especially at the end of the trail by Floras Creek through the grassy dunes.

It was beautiful. But unfortunately both times I visited winds were blowing 20+mph.

Reenactment at Cape Blanco State Park

Not ideal shorebirding conditions. So instead I drove farther south to Gold Beach “where the Pacific meets the Rogue” and where I met a few birds like this bright Yellow Warbler.

Still no shorebirds or terns I could find, but eventually I spotted a sparrow flock that looked interesting. Indeed.

Clay-colored Sparrow!

It looks similar to Chipping Sparrows but has pale lores and is more buffy. They’re an unusual treat to see in Oregon and I was thrilled to see this one.

Back in Port Orford I stayed at the Castaway By the Sea Motel that has thin walls but excellent views.

In the bay below I found Common Murre, a few gulls, and three types of loons that I’ve included all together in one convenient photo.

The largest-billed loon on far left is a Common Loon, the one in the middle with the chin strap is a Pacific Loon, and on far right with the upturned bill is a Red-throated Loon (not to scale). If only they would always swim together like this.

Such good times. I left Curry County having seen 70 species! On the way home I stopped at Cape Arago State Park in Coos County for Harlequin Ducks.

And I re-visited Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge for White-tailed Kites that were missed during the shorebird festival. They were very distant but there were two!

Bringing me to 101 species in Coos County. Not bad. And because there are a lot of places to stop in the four hours from before home, I decided to stick with the shorebird theme and visit the American Avocet at Finley National Wildlife Refuge.

If this isn’t a shorebird festival, I don’t know what is.

Tweets and chirps,


Birdathon 2018

First, a big THANK YOU to my donators! I couldn’t raise money for the Audubon Society of Portland without you. This year I joined two teams, The Murre the Merrier and Brewery Blackbirds. The Murre the Merrier, led by Sarah Swanson and Max Smith was a 12-hour day, starting from the Pittock Mansion in Portland, continuing at the coast in the afternoon, and ending back at Dawson Creek in Hillsboro.

Colleen McMeadowlark

Birdathons are intense! We try to see as many species possible in a day and this time was no different. Some of the highlights included Purple Finch, Western Tanager, Wilson’s Warbler, and a FOY Western Wood-Pewee at Pittock Mansion.

Best view in the house

We stopped at Smith Homestead in the Tillamook Forest along Hwy 6 for Hermit Warbler, American Dipper, excellent sounds of Evening Grosbeak, and even better looks at perched Violet-green Swallows.

At the coast we visited Sitka Sedge State Natural Area, Oregon’s newest state park, that has an excellent trail through a saltwater marsh. We found Marsh Wren, Spotted Sandpiper, and two Black-bellied Plovers decked out in breeding plumage. We missed a normally reliable Wrentit, and instead got lovely looks at a Rufous Hummingbird that flashed us his golden gorget.

The perfect topper

We stopped for lunch at Sarah’s family beach house in Pacific City as we scoped Tufted Puffins on Cape Kiwanda’s Haystack Rock and watched a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese fly by.

We picked up a few other coastal species including Pigeon Guillemot and we made a special stop to add Common Murre (The Murre the Merrier!). While scoping birds a woman asked us what we were doing, and she was rewarded by having to take our group photo. So nice of her.

Back inland, after seeing no woodpeckers all day it was decided we’d end at Dawson Creek where Acorn Woodpeckers were a sure bet. And they were, along with Wood Duck, Yellow Warbler, Bewick’s Wren, and a FOY Olive-sided Flycatcher that brought our total species count for the day to 101! Great job team!

Saturday’s Brewery Blackbird Birdathon trip, led by Colleen McDaniel, was spent at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. This was a great day. The park promised baby Virginia Rails and it actually delivered!

Soak it in. Because it’ll never be seen out in the open again.

Other highlights included Lazuli Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak, a singing Swainson’s Thrush, Willow Flycatcher, and the most cooperative Yellow-breasted Chat.

We saw Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, and Green-winged Teal (teal slam!), and a Bald Eagle defy gravity while battling a Red-tailed Hawk. Quite the display.

Along the forest trail, Sarah spotted a Great Horned Owl surprisingly perched on an open maple branch. And another highlight was this Wood Duck family on a log.

Quite a handful!

After four hours we ended with 74 species. But because we’re good birders, we added a House Finch outside Stickman Brewery after pizza and beer bringing our total to 75.

Such good birders

Is May the best month for birding? It sure feels like it. So many great birds seen with great people! All for a great cause.

For the birds.

Tweets and chirps,


Crescent City. Redwoods. Birthday Birds Part II

The last day of my birthday weekend spent exploring California’s redwood coast was a sensational treat. Mostly thanks to two pygmy owls.


But before the owls.

On the way to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park I stopped at a small pond, Lagoon Pond, and found a Black Phoebe!

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

This chatty, energetic flycatcher is common in this area, but rare near Portland. I was happy I got the chance to see one.

Continuing along Highway 101 we passed herds of elk.




Lawn ornaments


Elk moons rising

They weren’t in Elk Meadow like they’re supposed to be. Instead, I found an American Kestrel.

American Kestrel

Turning onto Davison Road, we continued past Gold Bluffs Beach, and proceeded toward Fern Canyon for a hike. Until we came across a small stream crossing in the road.


Undeterred, we walked the remaining distance to the trailhead. This was a good call, because moments later we encountered two bull elk grazing by the road. Reminded of the moose in Alaska, we followed the same guidelines for the elk. We gave them space, and spoke loudly and calmly so as not to startle the animals, and we passed without incident.


Watching elk

Further down the road, I noticed a chubby song bird silhouette in the distance. Oh wait, I recognize that silhouette!

Northern Pygmy-Owl

A Northern Pygmy-Owl! The above picture is pretty much only good for perspective (the owl is about the same size as the Doug-fir cones on the tree to the right). So here are some better pictures.

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

What a cutie. The last occurrence of a NOPO I had was during Birdathon this summer. Our team heard and briefly caught a glimpse of one in flight high above the trees in an urban park.

I haven’t had this intimate a sighting since my first “official” day birding at Stubb Stewart State Park almost a year ago. In fact, because of that first encounter, I consider the Northern Pygmy-Owl the “spark bird” that ignited my passion for birding. It was thrilling to find another, especially in this beautiful setting.


And we hadn’t even gotten to the trailhead yet. Honestly, I could have gone back to the car and been perfectly content, but I’m glad we continued on.

Fern Canyon

Fern canyon is awesome. Canyon walls covered in five types of ferns tower overhead while the trail meanders along the stream.


It feels prehistoric. In fact, this was a film location for a scene in Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. Tiny Compsognathus dinosaurs attack and eat bad-guy hunter Dieter Stark. See that excellent film clip here.

No dinosaurs this time. But there was an American Dipper!

American Dipper

American Dipper

Ferocious if you’re a worm or aquatic insect.

We returned to the car via the beach where we passed flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the swampy bits.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

And found bird bones.

What bird

And yet another elk.


But that’s not how the story ends.

Driving back on 101, I spotted another Northern Pygmy-Owl on a small Douglas-fir as we whizzed by. Owl! I shouted. Tomas asked, Are you sure? Yes, of course I was sure. So he cautiously made a U-turn on the highway to get to the shoulder where we could get a better look and not be smashed by semis.

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

I couldn’t believe it. What luck to run into two pygmy owls in one day. As if I needed another reason to love the redwood forests. Now I had two more.

Happy bird-day to me.

Birthday Owl

Tweets and chirps,