Hailey Walls

Oaks Bottom Bird Song Walk 4/18

I went to bed listening to pouring rain, completely convinced that it would be my first morning bird song walk with awful weather. When I got up I piled on the rain gear and warm clothes and then walked outside to… this?

I wasn’t the only person who was fooled this time around. Turn out was a bit lower than our last two weeks at 18 people (though I saw lots of new faces this time!) The birds weren’t fooled like we were – we had 45 species during the day and a ton of activity.

This round felt like a classroom for song ID at several moments. First thing in the parking lot we got to listen to a Dark-eyed Junco trilling on one side, and an Orange-crowned Warbler trilling on the other, each seeming to take turns for us while a Spotted Towhee trilled in the back. It was such a nice opportunity to hear those species in direct comparison and discuss the features of the trills – juncos with their long, consistent, fairly mechanical trill, compared to the more musical and variable Orange-crowned Warbler, with the up-and-down wavering quality near the end of the song. And of course the towhees, with their shorter, much more mechanical and buzzy trill. I couldn’t have set it up better. This trio even repeated a few times along our trail later in the morning so we had plenty of chances to practice.

We also got to do some fun/frustrating learning about Golden-crowned Kinglet, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Brown Creeper song overlaps. Right in the tall trees in the picture above we stopped to listen for the creeper and heard it’s high pitched call. And, a few of us heard the Chestnut-backed Chickadee with its squeaky toy version of a Black-capped Chickadee call. At the same time, a few others were hearing the high rising si-si-si and chickadee style chattering of the Golden-crowned Kinglet. We spent a ton of time as a group trying to pick apart where each part was coming from. Was that high thin note the creeper or the kinglet? Was that chatter a kinglet or a chickadee? One member of the group shared her trick for remembering the Golden-crowned Kinglet song – “I-am-not-a” (for our high pitched rising notes) “chesnut-backed-chickdee” (for the fast tumbling chatter). We did eventually decide that all 3 birds were happening, sometimes simultaneously, and the group managed to actually spot each one to confirm it, which is lucky for my sanity.

After our intensive song comparisons in Sellwood Park, we walked further up the trail in Oaks Bottom towards the viewing platform. Several of the trees were just going crazy with warbler activity, and someone with much better bird spotting skills than I have found a lovely bright Nashville Warbler moving around in excellent view. Nashville Warbler is a bird I personally don’t seem to see much so that was a nice surprise among our Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Not long after that I was getting worried that we may end up making it through a week without finding another new species nest, but then we spotted a Bewick’s Wren carrying a bit of trash into its nest. It hardly counts because the bird was both screaming at us and carrying garbage, making itself as obvious as possible, but I’ll take it. As far as I’m concerned we are the reigning champions of nest spotting.

From there the walk was mostly me getting tripped up by our standard birds inexplicably (did you know that Red-winged Blackbirds make a nasal “keep” call, not a whole lot unlike a Sora? I sure didn’t and I sure do now). Oh, and of course all that gorgeous spring morning sun that I was so sure we’d be missing.

I think this is both the pretty morning sun and me getting tripped up and insisting that an Orange-crowned Warbler just might be something else.

Thanks to Kayla for all the nice photos of the morning and for everyone who showed up and listened to the birds! The full list of our morning can be found here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S36069295