Bonus zono

I birded so efficiently at the coast it left me ample time the next day to look for a rare Harris’s Sparrow. It was a first-year bird found by James Cook along Sundial Loop Trail near the Troutdale Airport.

It’d been a while since I birded this hotspot. My first trip in the spring of 2015 I biked there and saw my first Rufous Hummingbird and found a Great Horned Owl nest. That was a good day.

I checked on that nest again and sadly this time, no owls.

This morning it was dark and rainy but I was hopeful anyways. I came across two birders on the trail that I’ve met before and we reintroduced ourselves. Dena Turner and Mary Ratcliff and I then continued along, looking for “zonos” birder slang for Zonotrichia, the genus of five American sparrows included in the Emberizidae family; White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and Harris’s Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula).

Zonotrichia is from Greek origin, zone “band” and thrix, trikhos, “hair.”

Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)

I could see that.

Querula is Latin for “plaintive” or “complaining” in reference to the Harris’s song.  And while we’re going there, Harris’s Sparrow is named after Edward Harris (1799-1863), (not the actor), but ornithologist and friend of Jonn James Audubon.

Unfortunately, the morning resulted in zero zonos. But we did see some Lesser Goldfinch or maybe call them “spins,” short for Spinus?

Of course as soon as I got home, someone reported the Harris’s Sparrow. *face-palm* And at this point, Tomas had taken the car to go mountain biking. What was a good birder to do? Since it was my last chance before the work week started again and I’d have no time to bird, I grabbed a Car2Go rental and headed back. It was only a 20-minute drive from my house, and I figured, I’ve spent more on a bird before. Justified.

Within minutes of exiting the car, I saw my friend, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Bill and another birder on site, and moments later I was on the bird.

Zono friend!

The Harris’s Sparrow hopped to the ground to munch on seeds that someone put out for the birds (thanks for that!).

Two other zonos were present, White-crowned Sparrow (no photos), and Golden-Crowned Sparrows.

I got a glimpse overhead of a Pileated Woodpecker that I’d only heard earlier.

And every once in a while a California Scrub-Jay would drop in and stir up all ground-feeders.

Dark-eyed Juncos scattered.

Spotted Towhees didn’t care much.

And eventually the handsome Harris’s would come back.

He was an ambassador for wildlife after all.

I was so glad I’d gone back! It was worth every penny.

Tweets and zonos,


Shillapoo and Frenchman’s Bar

As soon as I typed “breakfast burrito” into the search bar, that’s when the magic happened.

Let me back up.

Some time passed since I last visited Shillapoo National Wildlife Refuge so I decided to give it another go. Part of what makes birding fun is visiting regular haunts and seeing different birds each time. Indeed, I saw some newbies this trip.

Like this Lazuli Bunting.

Lazuli Bunting

And from blue head to the Brown-headed Cowbird. A bizarre thing I read about these birds is they lay eggs in other bird’s nests instead of making their own. A strategy known as “brood parasitism.” Some birds, like the Yellow Warbler, evolved to recognize the imposter eggs, but because the bird is too small to remove the eggs it builds a new nest on top, hoping the cowbird doesn’t return. It’s a tough nesting world out there.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Another competitive nester and loud vocalist I saw this day, the House Wren.

House Wren

House Wren

I was entertained for while by this Anna’s Humbingbird. So much so, I took a video. I love that flashy face.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Also fun was watching the Common Yellowthroat twitter around in the cattails.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

The park was alive with yellow birds, like these American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch

How many do you see?

How many do you see?

I’ll be honest, there was one yellow bird I had hoped to find this day, the Yellow Warbler. There are lots of yellow warblers, but there is only one Yellow Warbler. I thought I might see one at Shillapoo, but no luck, so I headed to nearby Frenchman’s Bar Park since I saw a sighting posted on E-bird the day prior. I headed out.

I saw a couple of tricky birds I had to look up.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Broken eye ring, greyish head, drab-yellow underneath = Orange-crowned Warbler

Western Tanager

Drab olive head, dusky grey back, light wing bars = female Western Tanager

Also noteworthy at this sight is the Osprey nest visible from the beach.




A few other birds I saw.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

This brings me back to my burrito. By this point it was getting late in the morning and I was thinking of leaving. Though I’d seen so much, I was sort of bummed to miss out on the Yellow Warbler. While second-breakfast was on my mind, I glanced up from my phone, and this happened.

Bullock's Oriole

I did a double-take. It’s not yellow, but it’s a bright orange bird! I’ll take it! Squee! My heart raced as I watched and followed the Bullock’s Oriole pair around the park. It was such a great sighting I had trouble pulling myself away. What burrito?

Tweets and chirps,


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 “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.



Savannah Sparrow

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


Tweets and chirps,