Spring is here! I’m 10-weeks post ankle surgery and finally crutch-(and scooter)-free. I’m still in a walking boot for stabilization, but I have my hands available now to hold important things like cameras and binoculars.
So I can look at important yard birds like Rufous Hummingbirds!
Such a good yard bird
And I finally got photo evidence of a Brown Creeper in the yard.
Creepers gonna creep
We don’t have too many large trees in the neighborhood, so this one’s a real treat.
I was hopeful when I saw someone interested in the nesting box we put up.
But we checked the box again a couple of weeks later and it’s still empty. I wish I knew how to make it more appealing to Mr and Mrs Chickadee.
Someone who does like a box I put up is the Mason Bees. They are our friendly neighborhood pollinators.
I put up the box, bought some live cocoons, (then bought more cocoons after the first were eaten), a few days of warm weather later and voila, a bee!
Another great success was the Anna’s Hummingbird nest in the park by my office.
I’ve been so lucky to witness this little family grow up. Even luckier, 32 days after I learned about the nest, I got to see one fledge.
Once out of the nest, it stretched its wings, preened, and flew like a drunk torpedo.
It was interesting to see it react to flowers instinctively.
Of course that’s not how flowers work, but calling for mom does.
The feeding activity was how I found the second fledgling higher up in the canopy.
Eventually the two littles found each other.
And acted like typical siblings.
I’m going to miss these two! Since they’ve fledged work is now duller now and I’ve got empty nest syndrome.
It’s a good thing there are a lot of distractions out there. Like yard tanagers! Hopefully not snacking on a Mason Bee.
Spring surprises are the best.
I’m participating in Portland Audubon’s Birdathon again this spring (team Murre the Merrier!), if you feel inspired to surprise me with a donation to help birds, click here!
I went back to basics this year for my birdaversary. Back to Stub Stewart State Park where it all began three years ago when I was first inspired inspired by the curiosity and wonder of birds.
It was rainier and foggier this time, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this classic Pacific Northwest forest. Knowing what I know now, this park in winter is not exactly a birding hotspot. At least to find a lot of species, but don’t tell that to my former self. It’s the type of place where you can walk for miles and see nothing, or you might bump into a Northern Pygmy Owl like I did on day one.
No owls this time, but I did find a flock of 90+ Pine Siskins.
I wouldn’t have known what to do with these back then, but this time I knew to scan for Common Redpolls. Nope, not that lucky.
Nobody here but us siskins.
I hung out with my corvid pals, Steller’s Jay and Gray Jays that hopped around the cabin deck looking for a lost crumb.
I reconnected with the Red-breasted Sapsucker which was my second-place winner for spark bird (after the Pygmy Owl).
Second is the best
I saw at least a half dozen Brown Creepers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and perky Pacific Wrens.
Which I’m now confident is the mystery bird I saw on day one. Three years later, mystery solved! I saw only 12 species this time compared to 14 then, but it was still fun remembering that amazing day. Much thanks to forest birds like this Varied Thrush.
It’s been an awesome year! Not a Big Year, but an awesome one. Between Texas, Florida, and the Pacific Northwest I’ve seen 412 species bringing my life list to 469. It’s hard to believe I’ve seen so much in such a short time period. It goes by so quickly sometimes I don’t get the chance to write about everything. But I feel some things deserve mentioning.
Like my 200th Multnomah County bird, the White-winged Scoter that I saw in the pouring rain the day before I left for Florida.
The Broad-tailed Hummingbird I met this summer in Colorado while visiting a friend.
And who could forget the happy hummers in the yard when I turned on the sprinkler during the 100+ degree summer days?
Yard-birds bring me great joy. While I haven’t yet seen a returning Townsend’s Warbler yet, we’ve had new sparrows this year, the Fox Sparrow who likes scratching in the leaves.
And my new favorite, White-throated Sparrow.
Appropriately at the Birds and Beers white elephant gift exchange I won an awesome White-throated Sparrow painting by my friend Max! It’s bright and cheery and I love it.
This wouldn’t be an update post without mention of my 5 mi-radius. On the way home from the coast last weekend I picked up a few more, Red-necked Grebe, Black Phoebe, and a Spotted Sandpiper that’s roughly the size of a goose head.
One of the best things I’ve done this year was volunteer at the Portland Audubon Wildlife Care Center. No photos due to patient sensitivity, but I can talk about how rewarding it was to give back. Some of my favorite moments were feeding young crows that gobble down food with a “ang-ang-ang,” seeing adorable little hummingbirds, and hearing the mysterious calls from baby Black-headed Grosbeaks.
I held an Osprey while it was gavaged, fed a recovering Great Blue Heron whole fish, and assisted with owls whenever possible. Such amazing creatures. I can’t say I miss the baby duckling poop. So. Much. Duck. Poop. But it’s all worth it to give nature a second chance. I can share a video of a rehabilitated Cedar Waxwing I was able to release this summer. (Good luck, Cedrick!)
The best of times! Coming up I have much to look forward to and am thinking of goals for next year. I’d like to beef up the yard bird list, but that requires me to be at home more. Currently, we’re at 51 species, the most recent addition being a Barred Owl calling outside the window at 4:30am (Who cooks for you-all!).
I still haven’t found a Western Screech Owl on Mt Tabor. Maybe I’ll get to the bow of a boat next year. Do White-tailed Ptarmigan exist? And there are six counties in Oregon where I haven’t seen a single bird, (Yamhill, Marion, Wallowa, Curry, Jackson, and Malheur county), so that is a good excuse to do some road trippin.
All in one week. Unintentional (and preventable) but it started with a gull. A very rare gull, which is how I explained it to Tomas when I asked if he minded we leave for vacation a little later than planned. With his blessing I left work immediately, hopped in the car with Jen and we made our way towards Seattle.
The detour paid off with good scope views and terrible photos of a…
Nope, not that goose. Much farther out.
Swallow-tailed Gull! The one on the left (use some imagination). But it was there! All the way from the Galápagos. A gull that feeds nocturnally on fish and squid. Don’t ask how it got there, but I’m glad it did. Some day hopefully I’ll get better looks at the islands, because we couldn’t hang out with this one longer this day.
Four hours later, back in Portland I met Tomas to start our four hour drive southeast. I volunteered to drive and pay for a hotel room since we got off to such a late start. Tomas drove an additional two and by midnight we’d made it to Burns. In the morning we found the desert.
Not long after, I found birds. We visited “The Narrows,” a small channel once much larger connecting Mud Lake and Malheur Lake. Due to various reasons including drought and carp, there isn’t much water left now. Even still, many birds congregate at this muddy stopover. Some of the highlights:
More White-faced Ibis
Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
Gobs of Gadwall
The occasional Peregrine flyover
Franklin’s Gull (and Black-necked Stilt)
Pied-billed Grebe or bowling pin
There were also egrets and heron on site, easy ones like Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, and these next couple of complicated birds that I almost don’t want to mention. They are difficult birds to ID and neither one fits neatly in a box. Some call them Hegrets. They’re somewhere between a Little Blue Heron and Cattle Egret with features of each.
Don’t look so innocent with those dusky tail feathers. What are you?
The weirdest find were two dead Red-necked Phalaropes near the road. Wth.
We got stuck in a few cattle drives which was entertaining at first, but grew old quickly after dodging endless piles of stubborn cows.
It was nice to see it in the hands of the park service. As it should be. Nothing unusual bird-wise here, Rufous Hummingbird, Caspian Tern, Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Say’s Phoebe, and so many Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
While I birded the grounds, Tomas spent time in the museum sketching a Golden Eagle.
It was late afternoon and hot, hot, hot by this time so we headed towards our lodging destination, the Frenchglen Hotel.
We were excited to see what else we could find in the desert.
(No grasshoppers were harmed in the making of this blog post.)