Happy New Year!

I managed to squeeze in a few more birds at the end of 2015. On Christmas Day I went to Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. I hadn’t visited since June and what a difference record winter rains make.





The trails were completely flooded with water, but looking around the upland part of the park I still saw many birds: Fox Sparrows, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Spotted Towhees. On a tree nearby I also saw Red-shouldered Hawk!

Red-shouldered Hawk

Say, whaaa? Curious because I didn’t think Oregon was included in their typical range. Bib of dark streaks, rufous underparts, black and white bands on tails. I’ll take it!

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

It eventually ended up in the same tree as this unhappy Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk

Looking up in fury

The stare-down proved too much for the Red-shouldered Hawk and it flew away (giving a glance of its rufous underwing coverts) while it called “kee-aah, kee-aah, kee-aah!” in disgust.

I returned to the bird feeders by the main building and got an up-close and personal visit from an Anna’s Hummingbird. This flashy fella and I became besties.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Okay, maybe not. Back to the trees I saw a Northern Shrike! Nice! Or, rather, not nice. This predatory songbird “feeds on small birds, mammals, and insects, sometimes impaling them on spines or barbed wire fences.” Yikes.

Northern Shrike

I had hoped to see White-throated Sparrows but insted came up with Golden-crowned Sparrows that sort of look like tan-striped White-Throated Sparrows. It needs yellow lores, stronger facial marks, and a mottled breast. Nice try.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

I left and went to Fernhill Wetlands since it is close by. I had not been before and I’ll have to try again once the water recedes.


The road was closed as was the gate to the park. But I was able to admire Ruddy Ducks, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Ducks, and Scaup in the nearby flooded farmlands. And, wait, what is that larger bird-blob in the middle?

Mixed waterbirds

Canvasback! A new species. What a great silhouette.


I walked along nearby roads, still not finding White-throated Sparrows, but I did find a handsome Lincoln’s Sparrow. This and the Canvasback made the trip worth it.

Lincoln's Sparrow

The next morning I set off for Vancouver Lake in Washington. This turned out to be a disappointing spot not for lack of birds, but because the air was ripe with gunfire.


Hunters. Even though I was in a “safe” hunting-off limits section of land, it was close enough to hear plenty of shooting. I have to say, I was unnerved listening to gunfire while birding. I’ve heard it before, but never this close, loud, or rapid. I stayed just long enough to see a few birds before I couldn’t take it anymore.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

And another Red-shouldered Hawk!

Invasion of the Red-shouldered Hawks

Invasion of the Red-shouldered Hawks

I saw one new species at Vancouver Lake, Eared Grebes. (Common Merganser on the left for scale).

Eared Grebe

The last day of the long weekend I considered going to Sauvie Island to look for White-Throated Sparrows again, but I couldn’t take the idea of listening to more shooting. So I headed the complete opposite direction towards Franz Lake in the Columbia River Gorge. This was a good choice.

A herd of elk along the way!


And swans. Peaceful, graceful, lovely swans.

Trumpeter Swan

I read Tundra swans like to winter at the lake and I rounded out my year learning the difference between Trumpeter and Tundra Swans.

Trumpeter Swans have a larger bill with red on the lower mandible.

Trumpeter Swan

While Tundra Swans have a small yellow “teardrop” on the lore.

Tundra Swan

Subtle differences. Below is Tundra on the left, Trumpeter on the right.

Tundra and Trumpeter

The swans were a perfect way to close out 2015.

Time to do it all over again!!!

Tweets, chirps, and cheers to 2016!



I had a total birdgasm when I got a close-up look at this fierce beauty:


My boyfriend and I took the Bolt bus from Portland up to Seattle to celebrate 4 fun years together. Before leaving, we discussed our expectations for the trip (because that’s what you do after 4 years together). Would we A: Spend the weekend visiting museums if the weather’s dreary? B: Visit shops and eateries and walk around Pike Place Market like we usually do? C: Lounge around like walruses in the Airbnb loft? Or D: Bird, bird, bird, because birds!

We compromised with E: Most of the above. My boyfriend shares my love of nature and adventure, yet he doesn’t quite share the same enthusiasm for birding (understandable). He would prefer to sit, observe, and journal about or illustrate nature around him – which I totally admire because I can’t draw worth a twig.

The weather cooperated, so outdoors we went. We first stopped at the Seattle Audubon Society for local birding recommendations. From there we traveled to Warren G. Magnusun Park Seattle’s second largest park, rich with military history….also, rich with birds.

We saw: Anna’s Hummingbird, Bufflehead, American and a Eurasian Wigeon (!), Mallard, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Scaup (too far away for me to identify Greater vs Lesser), Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, American Robin, and American Coot. Highlights:

The next day we visited Union Bay Natural Area and weren’t disappointed. This 74 acre park claims to be one of the best bird-watching sites in the city and I believe it. Walking in, not 10 feet from the parking lot something caught my eye perched low in an ornamental tree…was it?…no way…a hawk! Not five feet from our faces:

The best part, the bird wasn’t spooked by our presence so we were lucky enough to spend time observing and taking a variety of pictures. Even with such close proximity and crystal clear identifying features, my inexperience prevented a confident species call. I narrowed it down to an Accipiter genus, the banded tail, the smaller size, the streaks on the belly….in my mind it was either Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned, or Goshawk. The pictures in Sybley field guide told me this was a juvenile.

I took a few dozen pictures to study and confirmed once home using WhatBird, it is in fact a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. I’ve yet to see a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but I believe they are smaller, with a less defined neck. The Goshawk has a more defined light “eye-brow.” Not a new species (I’ve seen one adult Cooper’s Hawk during the X-mas count), but still a cool sighting!

5 new species on this trip: American Goldfinch, House Finch, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Marsh Wren, Trumpeter Swan

Before birding I wouldn’t have sought out parks on a trip like this. It is a fun new perspective and a refreshing way to look at the city. I look forward to the next trip.