5MR Updates

With only a month and a half of this year left, looking back I think I’ve done a pretty good job finding birds in my 5 mile radius. I haven’t done the best job of updating, but so far I’ve seen 143 species.

The most recent additions were found at Broughton Beach, including winter visitors like this Dunlin.

I added a couple of species while looking through bad photos, like these barely identifiable Greater White-fronted Geese.

Sometimes I have to take what I can get, like fly-by Surf Scoters.

Then other times I get lucky with a fly-by Short-eared Owl!

Aw, man I love those owls, they’re the best.

This past weekend, also at Broughton were fly-over Tundra Swans.

A confident addition of an Iceland Gull (formerly known as Thayer’s Gull); pink legs, medium-pale mantle, black primaries, dark iris.

So easy to identify

And a couple of uncommon visitors, including a Pacific Loon.

And a trio of Red-breasted Mergansers, that differ from Common with a longer, thinner bill, a shaggy crest, and no white chin patch.

Hello ladies

Not all the birds come from Broughton, one evening I got a lucky brief look of a hawk flying over Mt Tabor that surprisingly wasn’t a Red-tailed Hawk.

Pale head, dark belly, white underside of primaries – and no patagial marks – a Rough-legged Hawk! I was at the right place at the right time for my 199th Multnomah County bird!

What was #198? I’m so glad you asked. My best 5MR bird to-date showed up at my friend Casey Cunningham’s house just 4.1 miles away. He’d reported a Virginia’s Warbler occasionally visiting his suet feeder, and many other birders and I spent quality time in the cold, rain (questioning life choices) while staking out his yard hoping for a look.

Warbler at the end of the rainbow? Nope.

But most, including myself struck out on too many occasions. Right place, wrong times. That was until this weekend, while happily out birding with friends, we immediately detoured over to Casey’s yard after seeing an encouraging warbler report. It’s so hard to know when to take the gamble, but this time it truly paid off.
Virginia’s Warbler – YES!

It might not look like much, but this subdued gray warbler with a yellow undertail is normally found far away in southwest deserts and is often difficult to observe in it’s own brushy chaparral habitat. But here was one in NE Portland, wagging its tail, chowing down on suet.

Black-capped Chickadee meet Virginia

Oh you want to come out and perch in the sunshine? Okay, then. *gushes*

The crowd cheered and applauded as the warbler put on a great show, it was an unforgettable moment shared with great friends.

The crowd goes wild

The 5MR has been helpful for keeping FOMO (a fear of missing out) at bay. It’s still challenging when new temptation lands every day, but there are always birds close to home keeping things interesting. This week I’ll say goodbye to my 5MR and local birds as I travel back to Florida for a family visit. I have much to be grateful for near and far.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks and chirps,


Dad visit and incidental birding

I managed to squeeze in a bit of birding while my dad (from Florida) and aunt (from Texas) visited at the end of September. Luckily, my dad’s almost as enthusiastic about birds as I am, and, well, my aunt was outnumbered (and a good sport).

I first took my jet-lagged relatives to Chapman Elementary School to watch Vaux’s Swifts roost in the chimney. During late August/September, thousands of swifts roost here before continuing their migration to Venezuela and Central America. This natural event attracts thousands of Portlanders who flock to the school to picnic, slide down the hills on cardboard, and witness the awesomeness of nature. It’s quite the sight.

Chapman Chimney

I forgot my camera AND my binoculars, so I had to rely on my eyeballs and iphone for adequate, but blurry documentation. At sunset, the birds swirl into the chimney, resembling a cloud of smoke. I’ve attended in years past, and this year there were fewer birds it seemed, and they waited a bit longer after sunset to make their descent. I wonder what’s up with that?

Vaux's Swifts

The next day, we headed to Cannon Beach to check out birds at Haystack Rock. The usual suspects were present: cormorants, gulls, oystercatchers, pelicans, murres, and we spotted one female Harlequin Duck. The Oregon coast did not disappoint, we caught glimpses of whales breaching out in the sea as well. Thrilling times!

Whale watching

A major part of their visit included a trip to Crater Lake. The weather conditions were absolutely perfect.

Crater Lake

As were the views of the Red Crossbills!

Red Crossbill

Since these turned out best, here’s too many pictures of Red Crossbills. Such fascinating bird faces.

I’d hoped we would see Clark’s Nutcrackers, instead we saw Gray Jays.

Gray Jay

And hawks! A Red-tailed Hawk ( I believe).

Red-tailed Hawk

While hiking Watchman’s Peak, we saw a smaller, soaring hunter. I’m pretty confident it’s an Accipiter based on the shape of the wings and streaked underside. I first thought Cooper’s (based on perceived relative head size), but the curved leading wing edges make me feel better calling it Sharp-shinned.



At some point, Greater White-fronted Geese flew overhead.

Greater White-fronted Geese

Hello fall migration.


Back in Portland, our final birding destination was Leach Botanical Gardens. I took a Beginning Birding class here months ago, but the class was indoors and late at night. I looked forward to seeing the grounds in daylight.

We were greeted by a flock of Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwing

Followed by a singing Song Sparrow.

Song Sparrow

And hummingbirds buzzed and zipped around, creating quite a scene.

Anna's Hummingbird

As we departed the gardens, we were fortunate to see (and hear) a raucous pair of Pileated Woodpeckers. Here’s one of my dad’s pictures.

Pileated Woodpecker

Fun times birding with family!

Tweets and chirps,


The Coast

Last Saturday I took my first birding trip to the Oregon coast of the year! I arrived with binoculars and camera in hand and expectations high.

Ecola State Park was first. The coastline views are stunning! The views of the birds? Not so much. At least during my short visit. A scope might have improved the situation. Most of the seabirds were resting on rocks far beyond the reaches of my binocular’s 8X42 magnification. Also, the trail to the main lookout was closed due to erosion (though someone had bent the closure gate).

So off I went to another stop in Ecola state park, Indian Beach. But I didn’t have much luck here either. By this time more people were hiking the beach and surfing in the waters keeping birds at bay. I did get a good glimpse of a gull here.

Western Gull

Since I’m new to birding, gulls are a huge challenge. It seems easy, right? Aren’t they all seagulls? No. There’s no such thing as a sea gull. In my Sibley guide there are roughly 25 species of gulls that can occur in Oregon and they all have a name (none seagull), subtle field mark differences, and several confusing plumages: juvenile, 1st winter, second winter, summer plumage, adult breeding, non-breeding. Not to mention the hybrids. Still reading?

Because they’re so challenging, I have a strong desire to learn them. They’re the Mt Everest of bird ID. If I can successfully identify gulls, I’ll be able to identify anything. That’s how it works, right? I would love to take a class, but for now, I’ll start with one gull.

Probably the most common gull on the Oregon Coast, the Western Gull. It has a virtually unmarked white head, a heavy yellow bill with some red on the lower mandible, pink legs, a dark grey back, and an iris that varies from dark to pale. According to Sibley, it is the only regularly occurring dark-backed gull in most of its range. Alrighty then.

I left Ecola State Park to try my luck at Cannon Beach. Here, I had more luck indeed…more gulls! Pretty sure there were Ring-billed Gulls, California Gulls, Herring Gulls, and of course more Western Gulls. Instead of identifying them, here’s a fun video of them bathing; dipping their heads in the water and vigorously flapping their wings on the water surface.

It wasn’t all gulls. Here at Cannon Beach the infamous Haystack Rock hosts a handsome winter visitor, the Harlequin Duck. Seeing these ducks made my day.

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin DucksHarlequin Ducks & Scoter

This last photo above is unique in that it’s not all Harlequin Ducks. In the upper right corner, there’s a Surf Scoter! In my head, I called it a Surf “Scooter.” When I researched the pronunciation, I came across Birding is Fun blog, and found I wasn’t alone in the mispronunciation. Disappointingly, it’s pronounced SKOH-ter. Scooter sounds way more fun, but it’s a cool looking bird anyways.

Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

Other cool (some new!) birds and non-birdy things I saw on this trip:

Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock

While the coast wasn’t as birdy as I expected (I thought I’d see a shorebird or two), this only gives me more reasons to go back!

Tweets and chirps,