Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kind of a Big Day

I went out and joined the Portland Audubon Society walk on Sauvie Island yesterday, March 15th.  This was my first real bird walk in Portland and I was looking forward to seeing Sauvie Island and what was up there.  I met the group, which turned out to be a big one, and we got started.  The target were sparrows.  Sometimes up to 8 different species (not counting Towhees) could be found along the road which we would hike.  This area actually offered some varied habitat in a short distance, open fields, flooded fields, streams and woodlots were all found.  And thick blackberry plants lined the road.
Sparrows were the goal, and sparrows we saw.  The most plentiful were Golden-Crowned Warblers.  I think back to November and being so excited to see a single one at Bosque del Apache, and here I am tripping over them in Oregon.

Golden Crown Sparrow
Golden-Crowned Sparrow - Sauvie Island Oregon
We also saw some Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows (Sooty type), Savannah Sparrows, White-Crowned and White-Throated Sparrows.

White-Crowned and White-Throated Sparrows
White-Crowned (L) and White-Throated (R) Sparrows - Sauvie Island Oregon
And I was lucky enough to spot the sole Lincoln's Sparrow of the day, which gave us 7 total.  No Vesper, Lark or Brewer's were lucky enough to be along the road that morning. 
We saw many, many Bald Eagles.  By the end of the day I would see almost twice as many as Red-Tailed Hawks even.  The first birds that we saw were a pair of Bald Eagles doing some courting by synchronized flying.  This immature Bald Eagle was out over some flooded fields looking to bother some ducks.

Immature Bald Eagle
Imm Bald Eagle - Sauvie Island Oregon
We even managed to see some shorebirds, although I would miss a Snipe which some people in the group had seen fly off, and some of them would lead to a large debate on identity.  These small sandpipers caused quite the stir, they were first ID'd as Least Sandpipers, but then some other people felt that their legs weren't exactly yellow.

Greater Yellow Legs and Dunlin
Dunlin and Greater Yellow Legs - Sauvie Island Oregon
Then we went down the list and settled on Dunlin in non-breeding plumage.  The field marks to settle the debate came down to leg color and very clean under-wings when they shortly flew off to another part of the fields.  Either way they were lifers for me.  One thing that I really need work on, besides gulls, are shorebirds.  Especially now that I live near much more variety than I had in New Mexico.
At the end of the list we tallied up the group totals and they counted 64 or so species, my list was 45.  There were birds that I missed, and some of the group were there early enough to hear Owls and do a bit of extra birding.  But that was really a good day for me, and it was barely morning.  Most of the group went up to look at deep water along the river and saw some gulls, a tree full of Cormorants, another Bald Eagle, some Common Mergansers and a Greater Scaup.
After the quick stop, we drove to a roadside viewing platform to see a few hundred Snow Geese hanging out, which included a couple of the Blue Goose type.

Snow Geese
Snow Geese, Blue Goose and Cackling Geese - Sauvie Island Oregon
We also watched some recently returned Tree Swallows flying around some nest boxes, and these 2 sat still long enough for a decent photo.

Tree Sparrows
Tree Swallows - Sauvie Island Oregon
And even more Bald Eagles were about.  We counted 3 Immatures in the same tree and got to watch one try really hard to catch a Cackling Goose.

Bald Eagle scaring Snow Geese
Bald Eagle in hot pursuit - Sauvie Island Oregon
We watched the eagle try a few times to grab the goose after it sat on the water, but every time the Eagle got close, the goose dove under the water!  I tried to make a GIF from some images, but I think that I missed a shot or 2, but here it is anyway.  This happened 3 or 5 times before the Eagle gave up and flew to a tree to rest up.

The scene from the observation tower reminded me again of Bosque del Apache, lots of different birds on the ground with an Eagle over-head bothering everyone. 

Sauvie Island Oregon
Bald Eagle above Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans and assorted Ducks - Sauvie Island Oregon
Sitting in my car after leaving the observation deck, I realized that I had quite the list of birds already that day, over 50 by this point.  I wasn't sure what my person best for a day was, but I knew that it wasn't above 65.  So I decided to give a half-hearted shot at seeing how many more I can get that day.  I made a few more stops on Sauvie Island.  I got to see some awkward neighbors, an amazing Great-Blue Heron rookery.

Great-Blue Heron Rookery
Heron Rookery - Sauvie Island Oregon
And not more than a hundred feet away was a Bald Eagle nest (you can just make out the female on the nest).

Bald Eagle nest
Bald Eagles at nest - Sauvie Island Oregon
Soon after I saw my first Turkey Vulture in Oregon (I had seen a bunch in California on my move up the coast).

Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture - Sauvie Island Oregon
I watched this American Kestrel fly up with a mouse in it's talons, here it is flying off after it was done feeding.

American Kestrel
American Kestrel - Sauvie Island Oregon
I made one last stop on the island where I added a Golden-Crowned Kinglet and Red-Breasted Sapsucker to my day list.  I then went into Portland to grab lunch, and a Rock Pigeon, and cruised out to the Portland Audubon Center.  I knew that I could see Chestnut-Backed Chickadees and some Hummingbirds there.

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird - Portland Audubon Center
 But I also got a Pacific Wren, who really wanted to be on my list.  It jumped up and started singing to me.
Pacific Wren
Pacific Wren - Portland Audubon Center
I was also hoping to finally see the one bird that I most wanted to see in Oregon, but hadn't yet, Varied Thrush.  I got really lucky and got to see a pair of them under the feeders. Wow, what great looking birds.

Varied Thrush
Varied Thrush, female - Portland Audubon Center

Varied Thrush Pair
Varied Thrushes - Portland Audubon Center
I was on a high after this point. From the Audubon Center I drove to Commonwealth Lake Park in Beaverton where I added Cedar Waxwings, Eurasian Wigeon, Pied-Billed Grebes, Lesser Goldfinches and a Brown Creeper to the list.  There was a report of a Townsend's Warbler there, but none that I could find.  I actually had a Red-Tailed Hawk fly up into a tree about 10 feet from me.  But I didn't have my camera with me!  It was getting dark and there were lots of kids around the lake and I don't like to bring my camera into that kind of place.  Parents give me weird looks.
I'm pretty sure that I also heard a Virginia Rail, but I don't list birds that I only hear, yet.  But time was running out.  I made one last stop at the Tualatin Hills Nature Park were I got to add Bewick's Wren and a lifer Hutton's Vireo to the list. I was hoping for Pileated or Hairy Woodpecker but no luck.  I also didn't hear or see any owls there or at my apartment complex.  But I finished the day with 76 species and a handful of lifers: Dunlin, California Quail, California Gull, Hutton's Vireo and Varied Thrush.  And that was with no Accipiters or Nuthatches and just a few types of gulls.  I bet that I could have had a hundred with some planning and a shorter lunch break.  I'm hoping to get down to see a Yellow-Throated Warbler near Salem and out to the shore soon.  

Thanks for making it this far,



  1. Nice report, sounds like a fun day, always fun to get lifers. Bird on. Don

  2. Really great photos. It's always interesting when someone moves to a new area, and the birds that locals would take for granted (like Varied Thrush) are really exciting to them.

  3. Sweet pictures Steve, love the Pacific Wren and Varied Thrush!

  4. Hi Steve, Glad to hear that you got your Varied Thrush, they are getting a bit thin in the valley. It is good that you got the Zono's on Rentenaaur Road with Ron (I bet my friend Judi was there too), the Harris' is the most difficult (and not on my list yet). That is a great list and fine photos, I don't know if I've ever been in the 70's for a day. Keep on birding. -Doug.

  5. Really nice photos!

  6. Welcome to Oregon! Great post and photos… My husband & I were out at Sauvie Island too on Saturday (among other places) beautiful day for birding. Being new to the area here are a couple places that may be of interest: Nature Photographers of the Pacific Northwest - (next meeting April 5) ~ Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge - ~ Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden - - Good Birding!