October-November yard birds

Who’s excited about Downy Woodpeckers in their yard? This gal!

Confirmed male.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

And female.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

 

Downy Woodpecker

Pretty exciting news. I hope they stick around. And I hope they make little downy chicks in the spring for cuteness’ sake.

This week has been all about gobs of Pine Siskins eating gobs of sunflower seeds.

Pine Siskin

(and a House Finch amidst the drama)

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

I still find the Pine Siskin entertaining. They were, after all, one of the first new-to-me birds I identified at home when I put the feeders up in January. It’s neat to realize how far I’ve come since then. A couple of weeks ago, there was an exciting day when I counted 14 bird different species in the yard. Including a Western Tanager (Yellow Warbler).

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Other highlights from that day:

Bewick’s Wren

Bewick's Wren

Bewick's Wren

Black-capped Chickadee.

Black-capped Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

House Finch

House Finch

House Finch

I also saw this Swainson’s Thrush that looks to have a puncture on its side. Though I’ve not heard it from the house, I have a soft spot for these birds because of their beautiful song. I hope this one recovers okay.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush

The Western Scrub-Jays were also nearby.

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

And one of my all time favorite yard friends, the Anna’s Hummingbird in all of its amusing postures. Narwhal or hummingbird?

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

So much personality in a tiny feathered package.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

One surprise in the neighborhood was this Red-tailed Hawk perched and looking around while crows mobbed it.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

I’m curious if this apex predator is just passing through or looking for a more permanent residence. I’ll keep an eye out.

This morning, I walked outside to Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco flocks, a Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrows, and a Varied Thrush! This was the first time I’ve seen a Varied Thrush in the yard. I startled it and it flew away before I could get a photo. Hopefully next time!

It’s a bird-iful day in the neighborhood!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

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.

Bike

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,

Audrey

Coyote Wall – The Labyrinth Hike

Monday, I took a trip to eastern Washington to hike the Coyote Wall-Labyrinth Loop. It was gorgeous! The sun was shining, the wildflowers blooming, and yes, the birds were singing! A perfect spring day to skip work and go for a hike.

Labyrinth Trail

The labyrinth trails are just that- a tangle of trails up, over, and around the basalt hills, but because the hike is so exposed and the highway nearby to the south, it’s pretty easy to meander without worry of getting lost. The beautiful white oak woodlands and grassland prairies of Oregon and Washington are limited and in decline yet they provide critical habitat to many important species. Hopefully management efforts will get it together to save and preserve these significant spaces.

One species that benefits from grasslands is the Western Meadowlark. Though it’s Oregon’s state bird (and 5 other states: Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming) I’ve never seen one before and have been anticipating an encounter since I began paying attention to birds.

Upon my arrival, I immediately heard the meadowlark’s song!…but didn’t see anything. I continued along the trail, noticing all the flutters and chirps of so many birds. I saw some common ones I’ve grown to know better, Western Scrub-Jay, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Flicker, Spotted Towhee, and even a Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Kestrel, and Red-tailed Hawk. I also came across some uncommon birds, like this funny pink blob. Is that even a bird?

Lewis's Woodpecker

Yes, it is! It’s the Lewis’s Woodpecker! I so wish I had the chance to take a better picture, but the next moment a hiker joined by two dogs rounded the corner and the bird flew off. Still, it was a cool sighting, and knowing this bird is there is a great excuse to go back to try and find it again.

Other eastern birds I took better-ish pictures of:

Canyon Wren

I heard the Canyon Wren before I saw it. Such a unique song! I think the hike should be called “Canyon Wren Wall,” there were at least three pairs I saw throughout the day.


 
I also came across a pouty looking Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Maybe he could learn a thing or two from the bluebird of happiness.

Western Bluebird

A Western Bluebird! What a treat!

By this point in the hike, I thought surely I would have seen a Western Meadowlark. I continued to hear the song, but I started to doubt that it was a Western Meadowlark. Maybe it was a thrush instead? Hmph. I wanted to find that bird.

I followed the sound back up the canyon. Then down. At one point it sounded like it was right in front of my face.


 
Definitely a Western Meadowlark, but I still couldn’t see it. Sometimes you see the bird, sometimes the bird sees you. There, on the ground! Is that a meadowlark?

Northern Flicker

Let’s take a closer look.

Northern Flicker

It’s a good thing I’ve taken a beginner’s birding class so know to focus on the field marks. As I compared this photo to the meadowlark in the field guides, I could see that the spots on the belly and back don’t quite match. And the tail is definitely wrong. It looks too long, and the black tip at the end…that’s the tail of a Northern Flicker. Outbirded again!

But here. Here is the only picture I got of a Western Meadowlark.

Western Meadowlark

It’s pretty comical how bad the single photo I got of the bird is after how much effort I put in trying to find it. Oh well, next time! Here’s a nice picture of a Common Raven instead.

Common Raven

Nevermore, tweets, and chirps,

Audrey