October-November yard birds

Who’s excited about Downy Woodpeckers in their yard? This gal!

Confirmed male.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

And female.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

 

Downy Woodpecker

Pretty exciting news. I hope they stick around. And I hope they make little downy chicks in the spring for cuteness’ sake.

This week has been all about gobs of Pine Siskins eating gobs of sunflower seeds.

Pine Siskin

(and a House Finch amidst the drama)

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

I still find the Pine Siskin entertaining. They were, after all, one of the first new-to-me birds I identified at home when I put the feeders up in January. It’s neat to realize how far I’ve come since then. A couple of weeks ago, there was an exciting day when I counted 14 bird different species in the yard. Including a Western Tanager (Yellow Warbler).

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Other highlights from that day:

Bewick’s Wren

Bewick's Wren

Bewick's Wren

Black-capped Chickadee.

Black-capped Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

House Finch

House Finch

House Finch

I also saw this Swainson’s Thrush that looks to have a puncture on its side. Though I’ve not heard it from the house, I have a soft spot for these birds because of their beautiful song. I hope this one recovers okay.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush

The Western Scrub-Jays were also nearby.

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

And one of my all time favorite yard friends, the Anna’s Hummingbird in all of its amusing postures. Narwhal or hummingbird?

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

So much personality in a tiny feathered package.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

One surprise in the neighborhood was this Red-tailed Hawk perched and looking around while crows mobbed it.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

I’m curious if this apex predator is just passing through or looking for a more permanent residence. I’ll keep an eye out.

This morning, I walked outside to Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco flocks, a Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrows, and a Varied Thrush! This was the first time I’ve seen a Varied Thrush in the yard. I startled it and it flew away before I could get a photo. Hopefully next time!

It’s a bird-iful day in the neighborhood!

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

Coyote Wall – The Labyrinth Hike

Monday, I took a trip to eastern Washington to hike the Coyote Wall-Labyrinth Loop. It was gorgeous! The sun was shining, the wildflowers blooming, and yes, the birds were singing! A perfect spring day to skip work and go for a hike.

Labyrinth Trail

The labyrinth trails are just that- a tangle of trails up, over, and around the basalt hills, but because the hike is so exposed and the highway nearby to the south, it’s pretty easy to meander without worry of getting lost. The beautiful white oak woodlands and grassland prairies of Oregon and Washington are limited and in decline yet they provide critical habitat to many important species. Hopefully management efforts will get it together to save and preserve these significant spaces.

One species that benefits from grasslands is the Western Meadowlark. Though it’s Oregon’s state bird (and 5 other states: Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming) I’ve never seen one before and have been anticipating an encounter since I began paying attention to birds.

Upon my arrival, I immediately heard the meadowlark’s song!…but didn’t see anything. I continued along the trail, noticing all the flutters and chirps of so many birds. I saw some common ones I’ve grown to know better, Western Scrub-Jay, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Flicker, Spotted Towhee, and even a Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Kestrel, and Red-tailed Hawk. I also came across some uncommon birds, like this funny pink blob. Is that even a bird?

Lewis's Woodpecker

Yes, it is! It’s the Lewis’s Woodpecker! I so wish I had the chance to take a better picture, but the next moment a hiker joined by two dogs rounded the corner and the bird flew off. Still, it was a cool sighting, and knowing this bird is there is a great excuse to go back to try and find it again.

Other eastern birds I took better-ish pictures of:

Canyon Wren

I heard the Canyon Wren before I saw it. Such a unique song! I think the hike should be called “Canyon Wren Wall,” there were at least three pairs I saw throughout the day.


 
I also came across a pouty looking Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Maybe he could learn a thing or two from the bluebird of happiness.

Western Bluebird

A Western Bluebird! What a treat!

By this point in the hike, I thought surely I would have seen a Western Meadowlark. I continued to hear the song, but I started to doubt that it was a Western Meadowlark. Maybe it was a thrush instead? Hmph. I wanted to find that bird.

I followed the sound back up the canyon. Then down. At one point it sounded like it was right in front of my face.


 
Definitely a Western Meadowlark, but I still couldn’t see it. Sometimes you see the bird, sometimes the bird sees you. There, on the ground! Is that a meadowlark?

Northern Flicker

Let’s take a closer look.

Northern Flicker

It’s a good thing I’ve taken a beginner’s birding class so know to focus on the field marks. As I compared this photo to the meadowlark in the field guides, I could see that the spots on the belly and back don’t quite match. And the tail is definitely wrong. It looks too long, and the black tip at the end…that’s the tail of a Northern Flicker. Outbirded again!

But here. Here is the only picture I got of a Western Meadowlark.

Western Meadowlark

It’s pretty comical how bad the single photo I got of the bird is after how much effort I put in trying to find it. Oh well, next time! Here’s a nice picture of a Common Raven instead.

Common Raven

Nevermore, tweets, and chirps,

Audrey