January 1st 2018 started with a nice sunrise and a Song Sparrow scratching leaves in our garden in the dark as I peeked my head outside the door.
I didn’t mean to bird as hard as I did on day 1, but first of year birding is too exciting. Every bird is new, every one a year bird!
The plan was to meet Sarah and Max in the morning and there’d been a report of a Black Scoter at Columbia Point so that seemed like a good place to start. But it turned out to be a terrible place because thick fog made it almost impossible to see any birds on the water. Even still we managed to ID this a Greater Scaup.
Plan B was climbing out of the fog to visit Casey’s Virginia’s Warbler sill sticking around and stuffing it’s beak with homemade suet. We watched this reliable warbler take a chunk of suet to the ground, smash it like it would a bug, then fly up to a tree to eventually choke it down.
Bonus this time was an
yellow-shafted intergrade Northern Flicker, the first one I’ve seen! This subspecies is normally found in the east and far north in the northern boreal forest.
It lacks the red malar (cheek) of the more common Red-shafted, and it has a red crescent on its nape (back of the neck). Edited: But this bird has more gray than tan color on its cheeks and throat, eliminating pure yellow-shafted.
There are also intergrade flickers with features of both to look out for in the Pacific Northwest. I’m going to make more of an attempt to pay attention to flicker features this year.
After spending some quality time with Casey’s yellow-bottomed birds we went to Whitaker Ponds for more year birds. We found 39 species including Townsend’s Warbler and a Black Phoebe vocalizing loudly at the edge of the pond.
We dipped on the Spotted Sandpiper seen there earlier, but bumped into a new birding friend, Brodie, and his family, also out for New Year’s birding.
The sun was shining by then so we felt encouraged to try Columbia Point for a second scoter attempt.
No luck on the scoter, but we did run into Em Scattaregia, her son Chris Hinkle, and Andy Frank, who does the majority of his birding by bike, including on this day. We picked up Horned Grebe, Western Grebe, and one conspicuous Clark’s Grebe; lighter flanks, yellow-orange bill, white on three sides of the eye.
We also saw a distant Red-necked Grebe, but this Common Loon was much more cooperative for photos.
Feeling we’d done our due diligence searching for the scoter we were about to call it a day when Sarah’s birding buddy Dwight texted letting her know he’d found a Northern Mockingbird in her patch. No question what we’d do next. Stop for lunch at Hotlips Pizza, then go for the mockingbird.
It was easy. Not really, but it was very lucky. Year bird, county bird, and only the second I’ve seen in Oregon.
Here we also saw a FOY White-breasted Nuthatch.
And a Red-breasted Sapsucker.
Which reminded me I was in Beaverton and there’d been a rare Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at nearby Commonwealth Lake Park. So I went and found it.
With just enough daylight left I circled the park looking for a male Redhead spotted earlier. I found the Redhead and I also found Scott Carpenter!
Inspiring as ever, he jumped into the mud to take primo pictures of birds. Nicely done, Scott.
Here’s the best I came up with.
What a great first day of the year! Starting with a Song Sparrow and ending with a Redhead, I saw 61 species, and had 7 birding-friend cameos throughout the day.
Cheers to good friends and to a new year.
Tweets and chirps,