Vanport, Smith & Bybee, Ridgefield

One freezing day in January, I went on a bird-binge. It was mostly unintentional because I arrived at Vanport Wetlands to find the water frozen.

Geese on ice

Geese on ice

Then I went to Smith and Bybee Lakes and the water was frozen there too! I saw a fair amount of birds between the two locations despite the chilly temps, including a Downy Woodpecker that appeared frozen in place.

Downy Woodpecker

And Varied Thrushes.

Varied Thrush

I got to practice one of my 2016 goals: get better pictures of Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The best I could manage:

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

I still have a ways to go with those fast, wily birds.

Along the way, I even caught a glimpse of the local Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owl

Sleeping Yoda

And I saw other birds including Northern Pintail, Pileated Woodpecker, Song Sparrow, Brown Creeper…but the trip felt quiet and slow. I missed the early new-birder days when every bird was a new surprise. Nostalgia already?! I wanted more. It was late afternoon and considering options, I decided to try a third location, Ridgefield NWR.

It paid off.

Ridgefield NWR

Granted some lakes were still frozen, but the afternoon sun warmed and shone over the refuge. The birds and I both appreciated the relief from the dark, cold morning.

I got a better look at the Tundra Swans with the yellow “teardrop” at the base of the bill.

Tundra Swans

Happy Swans were happy.

Tundra Swan

Northern Harriers were hunting.

Northern Harrier

Northern Shovelers were shoveling.

Northern Shoveler

American Coots were…cooting? Okay, I’ll stop.

American Coot

I took some of my favorite pictures that day. I Finally caught the American Kestrel before it quickly flew off.

American Kestrel

Here’s a few more favorites of a Cackling Goose, Great Blue Heron, Gadwall and Savannah Sparrow.

Cackling Goose

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Savannah Sparrow

Still pretty common birds, but I was thrilled. And maybe a little delirious from the sunshine. It’s been a wet winter.

Here are a few more.

My time at Ridgefield definitely made the day and scratched that birding itch. Wouldn’t you agree?

Savannah Sparrow

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

P.S. #Support Malheur

Christmas Bird Count 2015

Last weekend I participated in the 115th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. What a treat! Originally I was hesitant because of my beginner skill level, but was assured all skill levels are welcome and I’m happy I participated.

I was shocked when I learned the history of the census. The holiday tradition started in response to what was called a “side hunt” where people went out and shot as many mammals and birds as they could find, and the “winner” was who killed the most. Heartbreaking (and infuriating…).

Bird populations declined, and the concept of conservation emerged. We can thank early Audubon ornithologist Frank Chapman for proposing a “Christmas Bird Census” to count rather than kill birds beginning on Christmas day 1900. More about this fascinating bit of history here. And here.

On January 3, 2015 our group of 12 volunteers spotted 71 different species in Area 1; the entire Columbian riparian area totaled 108 species.

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Image credits: http://audubonportland.org/local-birding/cbc

Portland’s 89th Christmas count is still being tallied (I’ll update), but per my insider information from Wink Gross, CBC compiler:

“The 89th Portland CBC was held today in chilly weather under overcast skies (i.e., “fog that you walk under”).    Over 230 field observers found 118 species, significantly below our 5-year running average of 124 and change.  The best bird was a PELAGIC CORMORANT, which is a new species for the Count and earned Adrian Hinkle the coveted “Eagle Eye Award”.  (Adrian also shared the award with his brother Christopher in 2009 for a Black-billed Magpie.)  Congratulations, Adrian!

Other good birds were, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, RED-NECKED GREBE, COMMON TEAL (aka “Eurasian Green-winged Teal”), GLAUCOUS GULL, and BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD.  There were no howling misses, but many of the species that “could go either way” went the wrong way.”

Wink mentions Adrian and Christopher Hinkle, who I met on the bird count. They are twins who are celebrities in the birder community. Their eye-sight, speed, attention to detail is incredible. According to an Oregonian article the boys have had an interest in birding since they were 5. They’re ~18 now and have evolved into birding savants.

Birding with experts blew my mind, and it was also exhilarating (to have the answers to the puzzles right next to you!). I saw way more birds than I would have on my own and I learned so much. To share the joy of birding with others who feel the same passion was refreshing and I look forward to joining more group birding experiences.

I didn’t take as many pictures as I normally would (busy counting birds!):

Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of the TWO GREAT HORNED OWLS we saw! A major highlight of my day. As a consolation, I have this video of a great blue heron ice-skating on a frozen pond:

Total new-to-me species I personally witnessed during the CBC:

Cackling Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bushtit
Brown Creeper
Bewick’s Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Lincoln Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Anna’s Hummingbird
Red-winged Blackbird

 

So thankful to be a part of this awesome event. Here is an Audubon Magazine article with highlights: 7 Surprises from the Christmas Bird Count