Shillapoo and Frenchman’s Bar

As soon as I typed “breakfast burrito” into the search bar, that’s when the magic happened.

Let me back up.

Some time passed since I last visited Shillapoo National Wildlife Refuge so I decided to give it another go. Part of what makes birding fun is visiting regular haunts and seeing different birds each time. Indeed, I saw some newbies this trip.

Like this Lazuli Bunting.

Lazuli Bunting

And from blue head to the Brown-headed Cowbird. A bizarre thing I read about these birds is they lay eggs in other bird’s nests instead of making their own. A strategy known as “brood parasitism.” Some birds, like the Yellow Warbler, evolved to recognize the imposter eggs, but because the bird is too small to remove the eggs it builds a new nest on top, hoping the cowbird doesn’t return. It’s a tough nesting world out there.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Another competitive nester and loud vocalist I saw this day, the House Wren.

House Wren

House Wren

I was entertained for while by this Anna’s Humbingbird. So much so, I took a video. I love that flashy face.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Also fun was watching the Common Yellowthroat twitter around in the cattails.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

The park was alive with yellow birds, like these American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch

How many do you see?

How many do you see?

I’ll be honest, there was one yellow bird I had hoped to find this day, the Yellow Warbler. There are lots of yellow warblers, but there is only one Yellow Warbler. I thought I might see one at Shillapoo, but no luck, so I headed to nearby Frenchman’s Bar Park since I saw a sighting posted on E-bird the day prior. I headed out.

I saw a couple of tricky birds I had to look up.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Broken eye ring, greyish head, drab-yellow underneath = Orange-crowned Warbler

Western Tanager

Drab olive head, dusky grey back, light wing bars = female Western Tanager

Also noteworthy at this sight is the Osprey nest visible from the beach.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

A few other birds I saw.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

This brings me back to my burrito. By this point it was getting late in the morning and I was thinking of leaving. Though I’d seen so much, I was sort of bummed to miss out on the Yellow Warbler. While second-breakfast was on my mind, I glanced up from my phone, and this happened.

Bullock's Oriole

I did a double-take. It’s not yellow, but it’s a bright orange bird! I’ll take it! Squee! My heart raced as I watched and followed the Bullock’s Oriole pair around the park. It was such a great sighting I had trouble pulling myself away. What burrito?

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Warblers and Flycatchers

Oh happy May migration!

In honor of the new birds in town, I took Audubon’s Warblers and Flycatchers class, taught by John Rakestraw, accomplished birder and blogger, instructor, and author of Birding Oregon. I learned that Oregon has 41 species of wood-warblers and 23 species of tyrant flycatchers, and Portland regularly has 11 of each visit during migration.

What makes a warbler a wood-warbler? Wood-warblers, or New World Warblers, are any species in the songbird family, Parulidae. They are usually cute, often colorful, and can cause “warbler’s neck,” a pain in the neck from trying to see them high in the tree-tops. I’m refining my birding stance by keeping my shoulders down. John Rakestraw’s post on warbler’s neck describes the proper way to gaze above at these beauties without injury.

Why are flycatchers “tyrants”? Tyrant is a family name that “reflects the aggressive nature of some species, which drive away much larger birds that venture too near their nests.” Business birds mean business.

We met on a Saturday morning for a field trip to Mt Tabor. We saw a variety of warblers, including: Townsend’s Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and even a Nashville Warbler.

A few pictures.

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

My new favorite, the female Black-throated Gray Warbler which lacks the black throat, so, technically she is a white-throated Black-throated Gray Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler (gray hood, yellow throat, full white eye-ring)

We witnessed a couple of flycatchers perched high atop the Douglas-fir, but were unable to positively identify them. There are subtle differences between flycatchers and the best way to distinguish them is by their song. But these birds didn’t make it that easy.

Birding at Mt Tabor

Birding at Tabor

Here’s a sub-par picture of a flycatcher from a more recent trip to Mt. Tabor that was ID’ed as an Olive-sided Flycatcher, based on the bulky build and dark “vest.”

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

A couple of non-warbler-flycatchers we saw at Mt Tabor:

Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon

Hermit Thrush (cutie!)

Hermit Thrush (cutie!)

A funny thing happened when I returned home from the birding trip. I heard the sound of a warbler I hadn’t seen during the day! The song consisted of a series of fast chatter-like notes, that drop downward in pitch toward the end. It was the song of a Wilson’s Warbler, I was sure of it! I stalked the shrubs in our yard for a good hour, intermittently hearing the song, but only catching a glimpse of movement.

I almost gave up, until I went to show my boyfriend the Raccoon I found curled up sleeping in the tall Douglas-fir along the property.

Sleeping ball of trouble

Sleeping ball of trouble

Immediately after, there it was! Blurry-rocket-smudge-bird!

Bird? Plane? Raccoon minion?

Bird? Plane? Raccoon minion?

I stalked the trees another good half hour, then followed (okay ran) after it towards the back yard. Got it! Yellow warbler with a “bad toupée” – Wilson’s Warbler!

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Oh happy day.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

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.

image_preview

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