Winter Birds


February is generally regarded as one of the slowest months for birding in the Portland area, at least in regard to finding rarities. But there are a lot of birds around to brighten up this dreary month. This Ring-necked Duck was making quite a wake in a pond at Dawson Creek Park.

Tundra Swans are common on Sauvie Island.

Black-crowned Night-Heron lurking in the brush at Koll Center Wetlands

Red-winged Blackbirds are ubiquitous around any wetland in the area, but they are a striking bird.

Another species that tends to be overlooked is American Coot.

The Acorn Woodpeckers at Dawson Creek tend to be perched high and backlit, but this individual came down low for some cracked corn that someone had put out.

Check out the tongue holding the corn kernel.

Despite the recent winter weather, migration should be kicking in at any moment.

Happy winter birding.


Our team for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Birdathon made a 360-mile loop through the Willamette Valley, across the Cascades, and east to the high desert. We tallied 110 species for the day. Here are a few.

Acorn Woodpeckers are reliable near Ankeny NWR. This one was hanging out in a nest hole.

Also at Ankeny, this Yellow-breasted Chat posed and sang for us.

This Pygmy Nuthatch was nesting at Black Butte Ranch, just east of Sisters.

Calliope Crossing, north of Sisters, came through with several examples of its namesake hummingbird. The feeder, placed by one of my teammates on a scouting trip, made watching these little guys easier.

Mountain Chickadees were nesting in a hollow stump just inches from the ground.

Calliope Crossing is also famous for hosting a great variety of woodpeckers. This is a hybrid Red-naped X Red-breasted Sapsucker.

At Smith Rock, we watched this Golden Eagle nest with one downy chick.

Bald Eagles were also nesting at Smith Rock.

Ogden Wayside hosted a colony of ground Squirrels. I believe these are Merriam’s Ground Squirrels, although I have trouble distinguishing Merriam’s from¬†Belding’s Ground Squirrel. I need to do some rodent research.

It was a fun, albeit exhausting, day. There is still time to contribute to Portland Audubon’s fundraiser. Click here for more information.



Ash Canyon, AZ

The Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast is one of the must-visit sites in southeastern Arizona. It is hardly hard-core birding, as you are sitting around in Mary Jo Ballator’s back yard watching the feeders, but the diversity of birds is great. I shared some of the hummingbird species in an earlier post. Here are a few other species seen in the yard.

white-winged doveOne White-winged Dove is gorgeous and wonderful. Dozens and dozens of White-winged Doves are loud and obnoxious.

scott's oriole1Scott’s Orioles were attracted to oranges and grape jelly.


mexican jayMexican Jay

Lark SparrowLark Sparrow, with a Chipping Sparrow in the background

chipping sparrowChipping Sparrow

Gila WoodpeckerGila Woodpecker

acorn woodpeckerAcorn Woodpecker

curve-billed thrasher 2Curve-billed Thrasher

rock squirrelSeveral rodents were enjoying the bounty along with the birds. This is a Rock Squirrel.

arizona gray squirrelArizona Gray Squirrels have huge tails, which they use as parasols in the hot sun.

cotton ratThe cutest critter of the trip was this Cotton Rat.

red-faced warblerThis Red-faced Warbler was seen in nearby Miller Canyon. Of course, before I got my camera out, he was on a low perch singing his little heart out. Once the camera came out, he felt the need to fly to this high back-lit perch.

Madera Canyon, AZ

I spent a few days in Madera Canyon, the famous birding hotspot in southeastern Arizona. Days consisted of long hikes, interspersed with relaxing periods sitting on the patio watching the bird feeders.

moonriseMoonrise over the Santa Rita Mountains

cardinal 2Like other “Sky Island” sites in Arizona, the bird life in Madera Canyon changes with the elevation. The lower canyon was home to this Northern Cardinal, a bird of my youth in Indiana.

turkey trot1A couple of miles up the canyon, Wild Turkeys were common visitors to bird feeding stations.

turkey feeding

painted redstart below1Painted Redstarts are flashy and conspicuous.
painted redstart

acorn woodpeckerAcorn Woodpecker

rufous-crowned sparrowRufous-crowned Sparrow

Coues White-tailed DeerCoues White-tailed Deer were a common sight.

elegant trogonOne of the most sought-after birds in Madera Canyon is Elegant Trogon. They nest in the big sycamores along the creek in the upper canyon.

top of Madera CanyonThis is a view from the rim surrounding the canyon. It was a long climb to this point, to the land of Grace’s Warblers and Greater Pewees.

yellow-eyed junco3Yellow-eyed Junco was one of my favorite birds in the canyon, not as flashy as the warblers and trogons, but beautiful nonetheless. yellow-eyed junco1

Washington County

I checked some of the birding sites in Washington County recently. The first stop was Rogers Park in Forest Grove (Birding Oregon p. 62). This is the home of one of the northernmost colonies of Acorn Woodpeckers. These are fascinating woodpeckers, both for their habit of storing acorns in tree bark, utility poles, wooden siding, etc., and for their interesting pattern. One this particular day, a young Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out in the park, driving the woodpeckers and most other species into hiding.

The next stop was Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61). While this is one of the best birding spots in Oregon, it is currently in the summer doldrums. The breeding season has about wrapped up, and the fall migrants haven’t begun in earnest. Shorebirds are starting to come through. There isn’t a lot of mudflat habitat available yet, but as water levels continue to drop conditions should improve.

Long-billed Dowitchers

Here is a first cycle California Gull munching on a dead carp. (who says birding isn’t glamorous?) I know what you’re thinking. “It’s only August. Is he going to start with the gulls already?” You betcha! We know this is a young California Gull by the long thin bill with the clearly demarcated dark tip, and by the long dark wingtips that extend well beyond the tail. My friend, the Northwest Nature Nut, has not yet developed a love of gull ID, but I hope to gradually chip away her resistance.

An exploration of Haag Lake in Scoggins Valley Park didn’t reveal a lot of birds, but a Beaver lounging in one of the quiet arms of the reservoir was a nice treat. I don’t get to see Beaver out in the daylight very often.