Cooper Mountain Bird Song Walks 2016
There are a lot of different approaches to bird identification – some people get into super detailed analysis of specific feathers. Others have encyclopedic knowledge of ranges/age groups/migration patterns and always seem to just know what is around. Some people engage in patient stakeouts and take gorgeous photos. I’m not the most detail oriented, study-inclined, or patient person around. But someone once told me that I had a good ear and I credit that one nice comment with my obsession with ear birding.
As a result of hanging around for years and insisting that people listen to “that one weird noise over there”, I was invited to lead morning bird song walks for Portland Audubon this year (if you’re curious about the walks you can learn more here). I was assigned to Cooper Mountain Nature Park in Beaverton, which is not exactly close to home. Challenge number one was to wake up early enough to make that commute and be ready to lead a walk at 7am every week. It was a bit daunting for me, but I somehow made it happen and only forgot to set my alarm once (it was a pretty near miss but an early morning text from my co-leader Christine saved me that week).
The walk at Cooper Mountain had been going on for years already and I was taking over for a long time leader. Most of the crew that I met on day one already knew each other and knew the park itself way better than I did. And, as is often the case for me at birding events, I was younger than everyone else there. So challenge number two was showing up as a total stranger, a few decades under the average age of an experienced group, and hoping they would follow when I started to lead.
I had some pretty good luck from the start. We didn’t have rain, which is always a miracle on an Oregon spring morning. Somehow that trend held up for our full 9 weeks.
The group that went on the walk was helpful, welcoming, and interested. That trend got even better over time too.
And just to be sure that the good omens were unmistakable, one of our group spotted a snoozing Great Horned Owl. This is always an exciting bird, but I was so thrilled that it showed up for us on day one. We looked for him every week after that and he didn’t reappear, but we were definitely off to a great start.
By the end of the first walk I was totally hooked. Cooper Mountain is such a gorgeous spot to bird. And even though I am absolutely not a morning person at all, by the time we got going I was always so glad I had somehow slogged my way through waking up and made it out there. I really wasn’t sure what I would be getting into when we got started but I was so, so glad I did it. I’m already looking forward to next year.
If you’d like to see our eBird checklists for the 9 weeks and find out what species we saw, you can view them here: