Ending 2019 5MR on a high note

December 10, 2019 1 By Audrey

Happy December! It’s the final stretch of this year’s 5-mile radius birding. I’m not going to lie, the last couple of months have been tough. Of course, that’s expected after putting so much energy into the year, but I’m all about follow-through to the end.

5MR BT

A Pacific Loon and Surf Scoter brought my total to 189, then my 190th species came in a 12-pack, a group of Eared Grebes floating in the Columbia River on a very windy day.

A better EAGR photo from Hayden Island a while back:

The day before I was set to leave for Panama, Nick Mjrvel found a Pelagic Cormorant at Broughton Beach, a really great bird for this part of the river, and a first record for Broughton (according to eBird).

#191 for me

Here’s a good comparison of the lighter bill on the Double-crested Cormorant (L) and the thinner darker billed Pelagic Cormorant on the right.

DOCO vs PECO

I wish that all 5MR birds were this convenient to my schedule, but alas, while I was in Panama seeing 144 life birds I missed three 5MR birds: White-winged Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, and Franklins’ Gull. I still have a small chance for the scoter and merganser, but the gull is long gone (tragic, I know).

At least there’s no shortage of Short-eared Owl.

It was a long and mostly fruitless 41 5MR days between Pelagic Cormorant #191 and this lovely hawk gifted to me by my favorite slough.

I thought it was a Red-shouldered Hawk. Then it morphed into a Red-tailed Hawk, and then back to Red-shouldered. I stared at it for a long time. I didn’t want to make it a RSHA just because I wanted it to be one. But eventually it flew, giving me the solid confirmation that I needed.

Boom. Red shoulders, translucent crescents, and probably more field marks.

And just as quickly #192 morphed back into anything hawk. I need to get better at these.

When you hit a 5MR wall you do crazy things, like drive to Hood River to look for Snow Buntings and do not find them, but you get a consolation Black-crowned Night Heron instead.

Then you drive to Mt Hood, hike 8 miles looking for a Pine Grosbeak, and don’t find that either, but you get a nice consolation mountain view.

You’ll finally look at a pair of (escapee) Mandarin Ducks that ebird alerts are all the rage about.

Male Mandarin
M’lady Mandarin

Best of all, you’ll drive to Sauvie Island to look for a goose. Chasing a goose is not really fun, scanning through thousands of geese is even less fun, but seeing an Emperor Goose is fun! (thanks Colby!)

All hail Emperor Goose

Then you push your luck to look for said goose (or a Brant, or Ross’s Goose) in your own county and find none of those. So you slink back into your 5MR where you belong, return to the river and get a Tundra Swan flyover (#193).

So the story goes. Recently I’ve missed a one-minute wonder Snow Bunting at Broughton Beach and a fly-by Black-legged Kittiwake at Columbia Point. Unless a Christmas miracle happens, I’ll likely not reach 200 species, but I can’t be disappointed. I’ve done my best to see as many as I can this year while working full time and traveling in my 3000 mile-radius. It’s been a fun ride and finding 190+ species is amazing. I’m grateful for all that I’ve seen and for the awesome team of friends I have both inside and outside my radius.

No matter how it ends, 190+ or 200 (+!) after all is said and done, I’ll end on a high note.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey