Bird of the Year

Each year the American Birding Association declares a “Bird of the Year.” The 2015 ABA Bird of the Year was the Green Heron. I had some fun Green Heron encounters, but my favorite bird of 2015 was the Rufous Hummingbird. (Amusingly, RUHU was 2014 ABA Bird of the Year).

The Yellow-breasted Chat and Northern Pygmy-Owl were close runners-up. The chat was certainly the coolest vocalist in the bunch and the pygmy owl sightings were most surprising. But meeting the handsome Rufous brought me such joy. It was one of those encounters I’ve read about. You research a bird, imagine it, and then when you see it in real life, it blows you away. The Unicorn Effect. Fittingly, it has a horn of sorts.

Rufous Hummingbird

The 2016 ABA Bird of the Year is the Chestnut-collared Longspur. This longspur’s range doesn’t quite extend to my neck of the woods, but I wouldn’t rule out a sighting. I might have to fly to it though.

ABA Bird of the Year

On the BirdNote podcast, I learned the “first bird of the new year” is also a thing. The first bird you see becomes your “theme bird.” It sets the tone for things to come or reveals a new perspective. The first bird I saw this year was a Chestnut-backed Chickadee. I’m not superstitious, but I am happy to play along and pay homage to chickadees. They certainly bring me plenty of cheer.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

I’m curious what other birds will star in 2016! Stay tuned.

Tweets, chirps, and chestnut-chickadees,

Audrey

Johnson Road

Regardless of the grey overcast skies over Memorial Day weekend, I set out on an adventure to Johnson Road, hot with warbler fever. Johnson Road is in the middle of nowhere, but it was the center my universe this weekend since Hermit Warblers were sighted there recently. The forest land surrounding the road is owned by Weyerhaeuser who permits public day-use recreation. The road is also not far north from Stub Stewart State park, one of my favorite state parks and also the site of my first birding trip.

I arrived early on the scene.

Johnson Road

It was kind of eerie to be alone in the middle of nowhere…in a place where people leave the remains of…ceramic frogs?

WTH?

WTH?

Weird. But once I heard the birds chirping, I forgot about the remoteness and creepy frog head and it was game on!

Dive-bombing left and right were Rufous Hummingbirds.

Rufous Hummingbird

From the treetops fly-catchers chirped, sang, and chased after insects.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

This one above is an Olive-sided Flycatcher. How do I know that? Because it sang, “Quick, THREE beers.” I’m thankful for my Warblers and Flycatchers class and my birding by ear trips with Audubon. Also note, the bird’s bulky build and dark “vest.”

Here’s another flycatcher:

Willow Flycatcher

This smaller one with two light wing bars ( and sometimes a thin eye-ring- none in this case), sangFitz-bew” so I know it to be a Willow Flycatcher.

Also in the treetops (and more recognizable) were Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and a Bewick’s Wren.

A surprise treat low in the shrubs was a peek at this Swainson’s Thrush (I think it’s a Swainson’s – buffy eye-ring, lack of the rusty-contrasted tail associated with Hermit):

Swainson's Thrush

I also heard warblers, lots of them all around me. I had flash-backs of the Western Meadowlark incident at Coyote Labyrinth hike when I heard birds, but never found them, and I wondered if today would be the same.

Indeed, it was looking to be a repeat story for new warblers until far off I spotted it.

Far away

It never fails to spark that cheesy 1970s Carole King song in my head, “So Far Away”…

A teeny moving spec that my eyes and camera had to work really hard to see, but the payoff was worth it. A MacGillivray’s Warbler! Neat! Oh, you can’t see it? A closer look:

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler

Looks like he’s serenading the Rufous Hummingbird on the higher branch. Such a cool bird! I hope to hear and see more of these little fellas up close on future birding trips.

One last bird I came upon on the drive home was another flycatcher. I will share too many pictures of this one.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

While it did not sing, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m calling this one an Olive-sided Flycatcher based on its bulky build, large bill, and “vest.”. My best flycatcher sighting to date! Cheers to that!

FITZ-bew and more beers!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Sundial Beach Loop Hike

I had super-fun at a former Superfund clean-up site a couple of weeks ago! A place now called the “Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park” that just so happens to include the Sundial Beach Loop Hike. It’s not much of a hike since most of the trail is a paved levee road that is part of Portland’s 40-mile loop.

The trailhead is next to the Troutdale airport and a sewage treatment plant. Along the trail, huge powerlines loom overhead, and a giant substation sits on one side. Paradoxically, lush riparian forests, wide fields, and vibrant wetlands, including Company Lake, make up the rest of the park.

Power view

I also just noticed on OregonHikers.org: “A note of caution should be added: the wooded areas are sometimes the camping places of transients and some may not feel safe straying from the paved trail, especially when alone.” So, yeah. There’s that. I saw camps on the sandbar at the “beach” (poor access through thickets, not much of a shoreline), but didn’t run into anyone besides dog-walkers and hikers along the trail.

What the heck was I doing here, you ask? Well, I was here for the birds of course! This area includes a confluence of the Sandy River and the Columbia River and is buzzing with wildlife and birds. To be completely honest, I’d seen several Rufous Hummingbird sightings reported on E-bird here and I had to take a look.

I’m glad I did.

Rufous Hummingbird

I love this bird.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Giddy, after watching the Rufous Hummingbird for a bit, I got turned around and ran into these charming birds:

Greater Yellowlegs

Solitary Sandpiper

I had to do a bit of research (gah- shorebirds!), and I came up with the top as a Greater Yellowlegs (extensive dark bars on the flanks), and the bottom as a Solitary Sandpiper (white “spectacles,” short bill, dark breast). For the Solitary ID I triple checked, since most of the maps show this is uncommon or rare even for this region, however, as someone pointed out, “they’re unusual but far from unheard of in that part of the state.” E-bird also had some sightings in the area, so, Solitary Sandpiper it is!

Additional shorebirds, difficult to see, determined to be Least Sandpipers (yellow legs, dark brown on top, and droopy bills).

Least Sandpipers

There were several birds at this park: Wood Duck, Canada Geese (with goslings!), Kingfisher, Orange-crowned Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Goldfinch, Savannah Sparrow, Western Scrub-Jay, Spotted Towhee, Killdeer, and Swallows. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

Spotted Towhee

Western Scrub-Jay

Another bird I happened upon this day was a Great Horned Owl. Some people “chase the dragon,” I chase “cat ears” in the woods. I’m hooked on scanning tree-tops for those telltale “horns.”

Great Horned Owl

And this one had a little owlet.

Great Horned Owl & Owlet

I watched the “owl muppet show” for a while. My boyfriend is convinced they’re muppets because of the way they move their heads in circular motions, even though I know they’ve really got “binocular vision,” and are judging objects shapes and distances, but, yeah muppets are fun. It was this owl enocounter in particular, along with a post on Facebook by Scott Carpenter, that inspired me to join the Put an Owl on It team for Birdathon. Because owls.

And that’s not all! After I’d exhausted myself hiking around the industrial park/bird paradise, I hopped on my bike to ride home and included a bit of birding-by-bike along the way. Here’s a small sample of what I found.

Osprey

Bunny

Savannah Sparrow

An Osprey, a tatter-eared bunny, and my favorite picture so far, of a Savannah Sparrow!

Super-fun!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey