January Birds

January was a good month for birds.

Happy New Year

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

California Scrub-Jay

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Most of the common yard birds made an appearance.

Bushtits

House Finch

Downy Woodpecker

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.

Crowd-pleaser

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!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Ridgefield NWR

Here are some highlights from a recent summer trip I took to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. I saw two new species!

One, a Blue-winged Teal. If I’d realized at the time, I would have attempted better pictures.

Blue-winged Teal

And Two. This barely recognizable silhouette that looks more like a deflated balloon torpedoing away, is none other than a Wilson’s Snipe. The unusual winnowing flight sound of their tail “hu-hu-hu” cracks me up for some reason.

I know I’m not supposed to care about European Starlings because they’re introduced and invasive, but they are here, and their nestlings look like muppets, so…

European Starling

European Starling

European Starling

European Starling

European Starling

The Red-winged Blackbirds posed nicely.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

I also got a good look at a handsome Cinnamon Teal couple.

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal

It was easy to recognize the Steller’s Jay crest.

Steller's Jay

I don’t know why, but I love when birds sit on signs. Like Savannah Sparrows often do.

Savannah Sparrow

And finally, tree swallows were zipping around in the forest, except when they were perched and looking over their shoulders.

Tree Swallow

It’s hot out there folks!

Stay cool.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Birduary

Since I started purposefully birding a month ago I’ve been on 12 trips and seen 67 species! It has been a joy to venture out and see what I can find. Even on cold rainy days like today.

I made a quick trip to Whittaker Ponds and saw Canada Geese, Steller’s Jay, Ring-necked Ducks, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Mallard. I also saw evidence of tree/shrub restoration along the path which is encouraging for the future of this nature area.

Restoration

At home today I saw more species at the feeder than I did at the ponds!

I saw 13 species: Pine Siskin, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Song Sparrow, Western Scrub-Jay, European Starlings, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin, Northern Flicker, Anna’s Hummingbird, Golden-crowned Sparrow (a treat!) and a new one for the list: House Sparrow.

 

Even though the first witnessed new species of February is an introduced (and some would say invasive) Old World Sparrow it’s still a bird and it still counts.

Cornell Ornithology Lab explains the House Sparrow was first brought to New York in 1851 and in only 50 years it spread to the Rockies. It is now common all across North America. These birds blend exceptionally well with humans and urban areas, even preferring to nest in man-made buildings, rooftops, and boxes instead of natural tree holes. Like the European Starling and Rock Pigeon, they are “beneficiaries of our own success.”

This next month I’ve signed up for a Beginning Birding class with Audubon, the Great Backyard Bird Count, I have a trip to Montana, and spring is right around the corner…I can’t wait to bird more birds!

Tweets,

Audrey