Birdathon 2018

First, a big THANK YOU to my donators! I couldn’t raise money for the Audubon Society of Portland without you. This year I joined two teams, The Murre the Merrier and Brewery Blackbirds. The Murre the Merrier, led by Sarah Swanson and Max Smith was a 12-hour day, starting from the Pittock Mansion in Portland, continuing at the coast in the afternoon, and ending back at Dawson Creek in Hillsboro.

Colleen McMeadowlark

Birdathons are intense! We try to see as many species possible in a day and this time was no different. Some of the highlights included Purple Finch, Western Tanager, Wilson’s Warbler, and a FOY Western Wood-Pewee at Pittock Mansion.

Best view in the house

We stopped at Smith Homestead in the Tillamook Forest along Hwy 6 for Hermit Warbler, American Dipper, excellent sounds of Evening Grosbeak, and even better looks at perched Violet-green Swallows.

At the coast we visited Sitka Sedge State Natural Area, Oregon’s newest state park, that has an excellent trail through a saltwater marsh. We found Marsh Wren, Spotted Sandpiper, and two Black-bellied Plovers decked out in breeding plumage. We missed a normally reliable Wrentit, and instead got lovely looks at a Rufous Hummingbird that flashed us his golden gorget.

The perfect topper

We stopped for lunch at Sarah’s family beach house in Pacific City as we scoped Tufted Puffins on Cape Kiwanda’s Haystack Rock and watched a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese fly by.

We picked up a few other coastal species including Pigeon Guillemot and we made a special stop to add Common Murre (The Murre the Merrier!). While scoping birds a woman asked us what we were doing, and she was rewarded by having to take our group photo. So nice of her.

Back inland, after seeing no woodpeckers all day it was decided we’d end at Dawson Creek where Acorn Woodpeckers were a sure bet. And they were, along with Wood Duck, Yellow Warbler, Bewick’s Wren, and a FOY Olive-sided Flycatcher that brought our total species count for the day to 101! Great job team!

Saturday’s Brewery Blackbird Birdathon trip, led by Colleen McDaniel, was spent at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. This was a great day. The park promised baby Virginia Rails and it actually delivered!

Soak it in. Because it’ll never be seen out in the open again.

Other highlights included Lazuli Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak, a singing Swainson’s Thrush, Willow Flycatcher, and the most cooperative Yellow-breasted Chat.

We saw Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, and Green-winged Teal (teal slam!), and a Bald Eagle defy gravity while battling a Red-tailed Hawk. Quite the display.

Along the forest trail, Sarah spotted a Great Horned Owl surprisingly perched on an open maple branch. And another highlight was this Wood Duck family on a log.

Quite a handful!

After four hours we ended with 74 species. But because we’re good birders, we added a House Finch outside Stickman Brewery after pizza and beer bringing our total to 75.

Such good birders

Is May the best month for birding? It sure feels like it. So many great birds seen with great people! All for a great cause.

For the birds.

Tweets and chirps,


Mount Margaret Backcountry

In an attempt to escape the city for a weekend, my boyfriend and I headed to Mount Margaret Backcountry, a rugged and gorgeous setting north of Mt St Helens in the Blast Zone of the 1980 eruption.

Mt St Helens

We hiked 6 miles in to Panhandle Lake.

Panhandle Lake

It was here at our campsite that I was spoiled with an entire weekend of just the sounds of nature. One of the songsters that stood out was the Yellow Warbler! Yay! I was thrilled to spend more quality time with this one.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Another vocal singer I heard long before I spotted it on the treetops was the Slate-colored Fox Sparrow. The “chevrons” on the chest helped me narrow it down to Fox Sparrow, and the greyish upperparts and unique song helped me distinguish it from the four subspecies of Fox Sparrows.

Slate-colored Fox Sparrow Slate-colored Fox Sparrow IMG_9002

Many Flycatchers perched and sang near the campsite, including Olive-sided and Willow Flycatchers.

Olive-sided Flycatcher Olive-sided Flycatcher Willow Flycatcher

Near the lake I got up-close views of a Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper Spotted Sandpiper

And the millions of tadpoles in the lake. I’m glad we brought the water filter.

Tadpoles Tadpoles

And finally, one of the more common fellas, the Yellow-rumped Warbler, was fluttering around the branches and snapping up delicious insects.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

What a fun trip! And a great getaway. Some more pics:


Tweets and chirps,


Larch Mountain Part I

I hadn’t given up hope on finding a Hermit Warbler after my Johnson Road trip.

The following weekend, I conferred with BirdsEye and decided to try my luck at Larch Mountain. Funny thing about Larch Mountain, larch trees don’t actually grow there. Noble fir is the dominant species that was once marketed and sold by early loggers as the more profitable timber, “larch.” Hence, how the mountain got its name. Tsk, tsk.

Anyways, my love for abandoned logging roads is growing. I pulled over on the first one I could find.

There were Dark-eyed Juncos trilling.

Dark-eyed Juncos

And Orange-crowned Warblers trilling that sounded like Dark-eyed Juncos.

Orange-crowned Warbler

I got a better view of the MacGillivray’s Warbler.

MacGillivray's Warbler

And I saw some birds I didn’t recognize, like this one:

Western Kingbird (?)

Consensus on Whatbird was mixed, but the best guess (I think) is Myiarchus sp. possibly an Ash-throated Flycatcher (?), based on the pale yellow belly and dark upperparts. I didn’t get a look at its tail and didn’t hear a song. Western Kingbird was another consideration, however, to me the yellow on the above bird’s belly looks too pale in comparison with kingbirds. Toughie!

I was luckier with these flycatchers who identified themselves by song. I propose re-naming them according to their bird song to make their names easier to remember. I saw Fitz-bews, Quick THREE beers, and Tseet pwe-eet tsips – okay, maybe that one should remain Pacific-slope.

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Hidden in the trees, I’m glad this Pacific-slope Flycatcher sang!

Other lovely singers on the scene:

House Wren

House Wren

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

There were bugs, butterflies, and birds galore…it was just plain wonderful. Still though, no sign of the Hermit Warbler at this point, so I continued to the main parking lot area at the top of Larch Mountain, where…

Huzzah! The hermit finally came out of hiding.

Hermit Warbler

It’s funny how little effort it took once I got there. I exited my car, took two steps onto the trail, and bam – there it was, perched in the trees less than 5ft from my face (of course, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get that shot). I followed it as it flew back towards the parking lot area and I hung out for a while, listening to it’s chipper song, zee-zoo-zee-zoo-zeezee-zeet.

Hermit Warbler

What a sweet little bird!

Tweets and chirps!