My unintentional now intentional Oregon big year is going pretty well. Since I returned from vacation I’ve chased a lot of birds. I’ve seen a lot and I’ve missed a lot. But that is the risk of the chase. The first bird I hoped to see the day after my plane landed back in PDX was a Magnolia Warbler at Ona Beach in Newport.
The bird had been seen in a mixed flock frequenting the birch trees next to the parking lot. And after a short search that’s where I saw it too!
Magnolia Warbler! State bird 301 life bird 501! Great numbers and a great bird. After my five minutes in heaven with the MAWA I took a tip from Sarah and drove north to Tillamook to look for a Swamp Sparrow. I was in luck because Sarah drew me a legit treasure map.
Past the draft horse and the mini donkey.
In the marshy field next to the parking area exactly as described on the map I pished up my first Oregon Swamp Sparrow! #302. One of the more secretive and hard to see sparrows.
A life bird and a state bird in one day is a good day! I pushed my luck the following day and drove east to the Hook in Hood River to look for another lifer, a Tufted Duck hanging out in a flock of scaup.
As per usual it was freezing cold and windy and occasionally Bald Eagles moved the flock around not making for easy duck spotting conditions. After finding no tufts a few birders gave up and left. And that’s when I saw it! Tufted Duck! #303.
In my photos it looks more like the Loch Ness but that is a diagnostic black back and mullet. I texted the other birders and after a few more tries everyone saw it. Whew!
I had so much fun in eastern Oregon I headed out there again the following weekend. It was more leisurely than targeted which made birding more relaxing.
I drove to my favorite canyon in the gorge, Philippi Canyon, where I almost always find something good. Indeed.
And the best surprise was a Harris’s Sparrow!
I’ve since been told this is the first verified Gilliam County record of a Harris’s Sparrow which is pretty amazing.
I continued exploring east finding harriers, red-tailed hawks, and at least six Rough-legged Hawks.
They are so handsome!
It never gets old. I ended up birding too far from home and it got dark so I spent the night in Umatilla thinking I could visit McNary Wildlife Nature Area early in the morning. I got up excited to find the Black-crowned Night Herons that roost here. And I found them!
But it was so dark and so foggy they were very hard to see. I slowly made my way out looking for something-anything else, a Bohemian Waxwing perhaps? But the fog refused to lift so I birded my way back home instead.
I followed Ken Chamberlain and the OBA crew’s footsteps and checked out some pretty underrated small ponds in the industrial areas along the Columbia River picking up great Wasco County birds: Virginia Rail, Northern Shrike, Pacific Wren, and the best, I refound a Swamp Sparrow at a pond by the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center!
Slightly more visible than my first Swamp Sparrow. By then it was getting dark so I had to call it a day. I’m reminded how awesome and challenging winter birding is in Oregon. With the cold, rain, and shorter days it’s important to make the most out of the daylight!
Gone birding from dawn till dusk.
Tweets and chirps,