Snowy goose chase

I was most thankful for hand warmers, an ice-scraper, and new snow tires this past weekend when I drove to eastern Washington in hopes of seeing a Snowy Owl. The backroads were frozen, covered in ice but I barely noticed until I got out of the car (hooray snow tires!). Worth every penny.

Are those paw prints?

I passed flocks of Horned Larks in the snow along the road.

And frozen Red-tailed Hawks (!).

Are those icicles?

And bright Western Meadowlark on icy fences.

For two days I searched and scanned the horizon unsuccessful at finding a Snowy Owl.

G’luck finding any owls

But I wasn’t alone.

I saw a few other cars driving slowly by fields where birders before us had been so lucky. There had been 13 sightings in the area, and one just the day prior. I thought the odds were pretty good, but that’s owls for you. Unreliable.

Instead I was lucky to find Rough-legged Hawks.

And when Jen texted suggesting I try for nearby Common Redpolls I conceded. I was happy for the distraction and it’s a good thing because it worked!

There were about 90 of them, spooked into my view by a Prairie Falcon.

Thanks to that falcon for stirring things up.

I did see some owls on my way out the first evening.

I’d recognize that beefy Great Horned Owl shape anywhere, especially in a leafless tree.

And I saw the heart-shaped face of a Barn Owl in a small cave on the rock wall. Nice to see one in a natural cliff habitat.

After my Snowy Owl dreams melted, I gave up and drove five and a half hours to Bend to look for a goose. Because that’s what you do when you have time, good audiobooks, and cooperative weather.

It’s not just any goose, it’s an Emperor Goose. I arrived at Farewell Bend Park at daybreak, and got out of my car as two other people were returning to their car. They saw me and asked if I was here for the goose. Why, yes, yes I am. They gave me directions, I walked 5 minutes along the river and bam, there was the goose. It’s that easy.

Such a good goose. I watched as it reigned mightily over its kingdom.

I couldn’t believe it, I’d found the goose and it was still so early. What to do next? My growling stomach demanded I first stop at Chow in Bend for the most amazing farm-to-table breakfast. Afterwards I headed to Pine Nursery Park where a Harris’s Sparrow had been sighted recently.

Not the H. Sparrow you’re looking for

Sadly, I dipped on the sparrow. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a Williamson’s Sapsucker!

It took me a minute on the ID which was fun; it’s a female, with a heavily barred back, brownish head, yellow belly, and white rump.

And if I’m reading eBird correclty it was the only WISA sighting in Oregon this December!

Their range map indicates they are in Oregon mainly in the summer, but I’ve been told they’re around in winter in very small numbers. Confirmed and so cool! (IMO, judging from eBird species counts Pine Nursery Park is severely under-birded – if you’re in Bend, you know what to do),

Feeling pretty content afterwards I headed home to spend New Year’s with Tomas. Despite dipping on the owI I had such a fun adventure and I look forward to many more in 2018.

Adventure time

Happy New Year!

Tweets and chirps,


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.


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,



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.


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!