Springtime Birds

Back home from Texas and it’s spring in Portland? I’m okay with that.

My 5 mi radius has blown up lately. The evening before I left for Texas, a Rufous Hummingbird paid our feeder a visit.  First time for the yard!

And on a more recent morning, I found an unlucky Anna’s Hummingbird knocked out on our doorstep (I think after a territory dispute). It was barely alive and a tragic find. But with Tomas’s help and a little warmth and sugar-water, the little guy bounced back a little and got a second chance. Tomas wrote a heartfelt post about the experience.

In other yard news, after a big wind storm a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a metal box-lid lifted on a contraption next to the garage door.

Inside I found a nest!

Not knowing if it was viable or not, I waited and checked back a week later.

Three more eggs! I had assumed they were likely House Finch (based on size, color and nest location), but after checking on the nest tonight, I accidentally spooked mama-bird.

It’s a Bewick’s Wren nest! So exciting. She picked a high-traffic spot, but we will have to make a point to give her space. Love our backyard birds.

Also this month I spent some time at Broughton Beach after reading reports of a reliable Red-throated Loon. Unfortunately, on my first attempt I ended up loon-less.

And soaking wet after a huge rainstorm. But just before the downpour I found an American Pipit.

And a Savannah Sparrow! I’ve missed them at the beach.

So it was all rainbows.

And the following morning I returned and successfully located the loon! So easy.

X’s 2 when a second loon flew by! Doubly reliable! A few other lucky flybys at Broughton included a Cliff Swallow.

An Osprey carrying nesting materials.

And a flock of unmistakable American White Pelicans.

More good finds were had nearby at Whitaker Ponds, including an Orange-crowned Warbler.

And the most amazing looks of Black-throated Gray Warblers.

More warblers, yes, please. Mt Tabor Park happily oblidged. Plenty more Orange-crowned Warblers.

And FOY Nashville Warblers! Hooray!

I also officially identified a Purple Finch singing on top of a high perch. A good clue to ID was it sounded like a warbler. It’s a long over-due life-bird and a solid 5mi radius species. Hopefully I’ll get better visuals in the future.

I also played hide-and-seek with a Hermit Thrush. And lost.

But I won a Pacific-slope Flycatcher when it popped into my binocular view.

And a small surprise flock of Evening Grosbeak.

There’s something about their warm, striking color pattern that blows my mind.

I’m so happy it’s springtime! Bring on the flowers, sunshine, and birds!

Tweets and chirps,


Alaska By Land – Denali Part II

We saw five grizzly bears from the shuttle bus on the way towards our unit.

Grizzly, Caribou carcass, Ravens!

Grizzly, Caribou carcass, Ravens!

Grizzly, devouring soap berries

Grizzly in the distance devouring soap berries

Two bears!

Two bears!

Luckily, viewed from shuttle

Too close! (View from the safety of the shuttle bus.)

Intimidating, much? We prepared for such encounters as best we could before setting off into the backcountry.

Hiking in Denali has a few requirements. Contrary to Pacific Northwest training to walk single file along trails, Denali hikers are to spread out, preventing new trails and minimizing impact. Hiking alone is not recommended. And when in areas with limited visibility, make noise. Talk loudly, sing, or call out, “Hey bear!” at regular intervals, so as not to startle any bears. No kidding. This tactic gives wildlife a heads-up of your approach so they’ll (presumably) scatter.

That last tip is probably the worst for birding. But, determined to survive (*and* see birds), we tromped through the thick, brushy alder, and repeatedly announced “Hey bear!,” spoke loudly, and sang silly songs like “99 Bottles of Bears,” “Alphabet-booze-bear-bird,” or anything else we could come up with. It’s a fun challenge to see where the mind goes when you’re hiking for miles over tundra, tired, and talking non-stop.

Despite the singing, I found a few new birds!

I feel pretty lucky to have glimpsed this Arctic Warbler, that was “solitary, secretive, and skulking” in vegetation. Phylloscopus borealis, Greek origin, Phyllon – leaf, scopio – seek, appropriately “spends much of it’s time feeding in the leafy canopies of trees.”  Amazingly, this little bird breeds in North America (Alaska), then migrates across the Bering Strait to winter in Asia.

Arctic Warbler

Another great find was this Northern WaterthrushParkesia noveboracensis – Latinized form of “Parkes’s” (named after the ornithologist, Kenneth Carroll Parkes) and “New York.” The Northern Waterthrush is a ground dweller that walks rather than hops, bobs its tail rapidly, and is a similar species to the Louisiana Waterthrush.

Northern Waterthrush

We saw what is sometimes called the “snowbird” in Alaska, the Dark-eyed Junco- Slate-colored model! (and juvenile below).

Dark-eyed Junco, Slate-colored

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored), juvenile

Other birds found in Denali backcountry:

American Pipit, a species I once saw by the Columbia River near home, flocked along the Alaskan riverbars.

American Pipit

American Pipit

Gray Jays. Gregarious. And everywhere.

Gray Jay

Olive-sided Flycatcher. I totally recognized it.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Orange-crowned Warblers. Totally didn’t recognize them.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Nor did I recognize this Yellow Warbler, since it was wearing it’s “first-year buffy/brown” outfit. So tricky.

Yellow Warbler

Savannah Sparrow. 

Savannah Sparrow

Wilson’s Warbler (female).

Wilson's Warbler

And, everyone’s favorite, Yellow-rumped Warbler. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler

And because these pictures turned out the best, more yellow-rumped beauty.

Denali backcountry is amazing. I’m in love with the park for keeping it simple. There aren’t millions of RVs, cars, and people obscuring the view. We saw no signs of humans in the backcountry aside from footprints. It’s wild and beautiful (as national parks should be). Bears, snow, remote, and birds? It’s all worth it, keep exploring.

Grizzly prints

Hey bear!

Tweets and chirps,


Birding by Bike

As I sit listening to the thunder, rain, and hail outside, I’m thankful it was sunny-ish last weekend because I went birding by bike!

There are fewer joys greater than pedaling around Portland on a spring day.


It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to hop on the saddle to go birding, but this day I was determined to find new species by bike and opted to try my luck looping around the airport.

Starting at Alderwood Trail, I locked up and walked along the calm, quiet trail. I noticed how few waterbirds there were since mid-winter. Merely one Ring-necked Duck and a couple of Mallards hanging in the slough. YAWN. Just kidding, they’re cool birds, but I was looking for something more this day.

A couple of other common birds cooperated for a picture.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

American Robin

American Robin

I’m making a strong effort to figure out how to work my new camera. Normally, there are three settings on my cameras: Frustrated, Angry, and Happy. I usually have it set to Frustrated, but lately, I’ve found a couple of Happy settings. I’m counting down the days until my camera class next month (17)!

Alder Trail felt like a bust, so I moved on towards the Marine Drive Bike Path, and found a Savannah Sparrow along the way!

Savannah Sparrow

I recently took the Little Brown Birds class with Portland Audubon and feeling only slightly more confident about identifying them I focused my attention on the field marks. I also learned to ask: Why are you not a Song Sparrow? Because, most often it is, so the Song Sparrow makes a good “reference species.” The bird pictured above has a short, forked tail, and yellow lores making it a Savannah Sparrow.

I continued biking along the Columbia River, until I spotted two active birds flying around and calling out in high pitched notes.

American Pipit

American Pipit

American Pipit

American Pipit

What the heck is it I wondered. These are little brown birds that weren’t in my little brown birds class…uh oh…I turned to the field marks: buffy chest with light streaking, long slender pointed bills, pale lores…it still didn’t connect until I flipped through the different species in Sibley and came across the Wagtails and Pipits. Ground-dwelling open country song birds that wag their tails up and down – this bird wagged its tail! The little brown bird’s identity was uncovered: American Pipit!

Following this excitement, I was further spoiled by two more newbies in the Columbia! A Horned Grebe and a Common Loon (my 100th!).

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

Common Loon

Common Loon

Looking up these birds on the Cornell website makes me want to take a trip to Alaska or Canada to see them in their breeding plumages in the summer. At the very least I want to some day hear the Common Loon’s haunting, wolf-like calls in person. It’s on my birding-bucket list.

Here are some other birds I saw along my bike ride.


Soft bird on a sharp fence - Mourning Dove

Soft bird on a sharp fence – Mourning Dove

A great ride and seeing beautiful birds makes for a satisfying and happy day.

Speaking of beautiful birds, please help Audubon stop the Cormorants from being killed along the Columbia River. More information and how to help HERE.

Thank you.

Tweets and chirps,