I didn’t intend to chase the rarity, but I brought my camera and binoculars to work just in case, and when a second report of the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (originally found by Nick Mrvelj) came in at Kelley Point Park, I decided to go for it.
I arrived and immediately felt overwhelmed. Tiny bird, big park. Walking along the trails I tried to find clues but found only people and dogs. I’d all but given up until when I got back to the parking lot and bumped into more birders. Fresh eyes and more people looking couldn’t hurt so I joined the search party.
We managed to find even more birders, including Adrian Hinkle, who’d seen the gnatcatcher just 30 min prior. They kindly walked us to the area it was last seen, and in one minute, Adrian said “stop” and pointed up high in a cottonwood. He’d heard the bird a mile away, basically. And lucky for us because we were able to catch a quick glimpse before it moved on. I got one unflattering photo.
I was surprised to get it the frame, it moved around quickly high up in the tree as the light faded fast. There’s talk that this may be the eastern variety based on this bird’s characteristics (lighter undersides, position high up in the trees, and higher-pitched call notes), but it’s still under discussion. That reminds me, check out this website, Xeno-canto where you can listen to and share bird songs and easily compare songs from different regions. Cool stuff.
Feeling extremely lucky to have seen this bird, I pressed my luck further and stopped at Columbia Point near Hayden Island Marina to see if any Surf Scoters were still around. They weren’t but a Red-necked Grebe was.
As was a Ruddy Duck (on the left). Also, I wasn’t positive, but I thought I saw the Clark’s Grebe that had been reported by Andy Frank earlier in the week.
Maybe? The light was so terrible. I needed to investigate further, so I returned the following day. This time I brought along my new scope.
It worked! I found four Surf Scoters (and one Lesser Scaup in the middle).
And grebes. So many grebes.
With a handful of perky-tailed Ruddy Ducks in the mix.
Back to the grebes. There was Western Grebe.
Western and Horned Grebes.
Horned (top) and eared (bottom) grebes together for a nice comparison. Note the peaked head and darker cheek on the eared.
Western, Eared, and Horned.
And my best combo: Western, Eared, Horned, and Clark’s. In that order.
There was safely one Clark’s Grebe with more white around the eye and an orangeish bill.
I was surprised to see the variation of black around the eye among the grebes.
That or it was one giant Loch Ness Western-Clark’s Grebe.
Anyways, I passed a couple of cool cats along the marina. One bengal-looking kitty wearing a bell and another the stylish Birdsbesafe collar. I hope those things work.
I found the sixth and final grebe species safe from cats in the water, Pied-billed Grebes.
That’s it. At one location in two days I found all six species of grebes that can be seen in Oregon: Red-necked, Western, Clark’s, Horned, Eared, and Pied-billed.
I might as well throw in a Least Grebe from Texas.
That’s all the grebes of North America! What’s next? Great Grebe? Great-crested Grebe? Hoary-headed Grebe? All real. I had no idea there were so many grebes in the world, 19 species remain, and some like the gorgeous Hooded Grebe, one of the rarest birds in South America, are critically endangered. There’s even a documentary about them: Tango in the Wind.
How lucky we are to have all the grebes.
If there is no bird, there is no tango.
Tango and chirps,