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,


Cape Lookout State Park

One of my favorite bike-camping destinations along the Oregon coast is Cape Lookout State Park. The hiker-biker campground here is tough to beat: thick stands of sitka-hemlock forest AKA hammock-trees galore, seclusion from car-campers, miles of hiking nearby, and mere steps from the ocean.

Cape Lookout SP

A tip from me to you: Don’t feel like biking 72 miles from Portland to the park? As suggested by the Tillamook Chamber of Commerce, park at the Blue Heron French Cheese Factory (confirm with management), pick up some awesome cheese goodies and check out their petting zoo (complete with emu), then ride the (only slightly harrowing) 14 miles along 131 and Netarts Bay Rd to Cape Lookout. It’s a great way to go camping on busy holiday weekends, no park reservations required. Video demonstration here.

On this trip, we were lucky enough to see whale spouts and breaching along the ocean horizon. It’s incredibly difficult to predict where/when the whales would breach, thus basically impossible to get pictures. My best shot:


No, really, there’s a whale out there! Black blob = whale. I guess humpback, but there were rumors of grey and even orca. Hmmmm. A little closer.


And because this is the first time I’ve seen whales along the Oregon coast in the 10 years I’ve lived here, a few more photos. So neat.

When not whale-watching, I got to know the gulls as best I could.


I was proud of myself for noticing some of these birds are not like the others. ♪

I noticed the gull with the red toned bill, all grey body, and black feet, a Heermann’s Gull. Interesting fact about Heermann’s, in true gull fashion, they are pirate birds, who coincide their northward migration with Brown Pelicans in order to steal food from the pelican’s gullet.

Pretty pirate.


With a Western Gull for size comparison.

Heermann's Gull

Heermann's Gull

I also noticed gulls with red and black marks on their bill, yellow-green legs, and dark irises, the California Gull. 

California Gull

California Gull

I noticed gulls with thick yellow bills with a red spot on the lower mandible, pink legs, white heads, and light irises, BEHOLD, the Western Gull.

Western Gull


Western Gull

I noticed some gulls had a staring problem.

California Gull

Western Gull

Heermann's Gull

California Gull

Western Gull

The more I watched the gulls, the more I appreciated their personality.

I noticed a few other species of birds and mammals.

The longer I observe this natural world the more I notice.

Pelicans and sunset

And the more I fall in love with it.

Tweets and chirps,


If you build it, they will bathe

I’m pretty proud of this one.

I’ve been meaning to purchase a bird bath for the yard, but winced at the average $100 price tag. How am I supposed to save for new mega camera lenses if I spend so much on yard accessories? So I went the DIY route instead. Inspired by this idea, I picked up a few items from the local hardware store and got to work.

Ingredients: chain, carabiner, 5 key rings, and a glazed planter saucer.

Nuts and bolts

I had to purchase cutting pliers, so the total cost was around $25, but those with the items on-hand could get away with an even cheaper lot. I cut the chain, re-connected in the appropriate places with key rings, and attached the four chain ends to a carabiner and chain-ring around the tree limb. Simple.



I couldn’t beilive it. Within the first hour a female Lesser Golfinch took the bait.

Female Lesser Goldfinch

Female Lesser Goldfinch


And then…shortly after, a female Red Crossbill!!! A new bird! Unbelievable.

Female Red Crossbill

Pretty stoked. At the same time, birds at the feeders:

Lesser Goldfinch

Anna's Hummingbird

I love sharing my world with these cool creatures. I worried though…about the new set-up leaving the birds vulnerable to neighborhood cats. A neighbor brought to my attention they’d witnessed cats stalking the trees and the last thing I want to do is to put the birds at risk. So, today I stopped by the Backyard Bird Shop with the intention of getting squirrel baffles to somehow deter the cats. But, the sales associate had a better idea…wrap the tree limbs with blackberry vines! Ultra genius.

Cat repellent

The Game of Thorns

Cat repellent

Cat repellent

It looks a little funky now, but the green will die off, and the brown will blend in with the bark. But the thorns will remain. I hope it’s effective. What do you think, Miss Humbird?

Anna's Hummingbird

Mega ultra tweets and chirps,