Hailey Walls

Oaks Bottom Bird Song Walk 4/25

Pretty Western Tanager courtesy of Kayla. He appeared at a birding brunch last year, so it’s not the exact tanager but I thought you all deserved the ray of sunshine too!

Round 4 of bird song walk and the last one for April! We managed to do this one in the two hour window where there was no rain this morning. I was pretty sleepy and definitely running late, which was a huge mistake apparently because I missed the parking lot warbler bonanza. The group reported seeing Orange-crowned, Nashville, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, AND Townsend’s warblers in the 10 minutes before I arrived. We also had our White-breasted Nuthatches hanging out in their usual spot, a very active Downy Woodpecker drumming away, and we found a pair of Northern Flickers working on their nest just near where we start the walk. Every week now I show up thinking to myself “it’s getting later in spring, we probably won’t find another new nest this time” and every week I am somehow wrong.

We took our loop past the Bushtit nest (which was still there but not active today) and the Cooper’s Hawk nest which did have some activity this time, then down to the trees in Sellwood Park where we have been listening for our high pitched birds like the Brown Creeper and the Golden-crowned Kinglet. As we walked down the path I was talking about how I’d heard rumor that Western Tanagers had been spotted a bit further south which meant they’d be in our area soon. As soon as I told the group how excited I was about the return of tanagers I heard a “bud-a-beep!” way off to my left and stopped. The call happened again, and again, and again, totally unmistakable to me. I pointed it out to the group and asked if everyone wanted to follow the noise and see if we could chase down the tanager and someone replied “I can’t think of a single reason why not!” so off we went.

Here’s a clip of a Western Tanager calling.

When we got to the end of the path it seemed like the bird quieted down, but once again someone with much better eyes noticed it high up in the trees – in a huge Douglas Fir tree behind a bunch of camellias, since my group is holding me to higher and higher plant name standards every week (“big tree behind the rose bush lookin things” didn’t cut it). Western Tanagers are convenient with their nice bright yellow and red, so eventually everyone was able to spot it. We spent a bunch of time appreciating the bird and its implicit reminder that yes, despite all the rain and gray days we’ve had, it is spring, and summer is coming up, and we probably will see the sun again someday. There may have been a tear of joy or two.

When we finally had had enough tanager time we headed back down our route, slowly but surely, discussing which birds we should conjure up next as we went. The consensus was that a bird of prey would do nicely and about then I noticed a bunch of angry sounding crows that seemed to be mobbing one spot on a tree. I thought the tanager was pretty solid bird magic so we had a chance that the crows were pointing us towards an owl or another bird of prey. We watched them for quite a while and eventually gave up on the idea that they were up to anything other than standard crow business. Which, of course, is when the Common Raven flew out from the top of the tree. Not quite a bird of prey, but still something that felt special for our area!

Our next great bird was a Hammond’s Flycatcher that was both ID’d and spotted by a talented birder in the crew. It was a good reminder to me (like the tanager) that our spring and summer birds really are here. Which means I definitely need to relearn my flycatchers. Whoops.

The “peek!” contact call of the Hammond’s Flycatcher. As I was listening my brain first went to the “pik!” call of a Downy Woodpecker but it didn’t feel right for that species. I was still failing to process it when someone else pointed it out to me as a Hammond’s! I would say it is given more quickly and consistently, and sounds less “sharp” than the Downy call.

Here’s the Downy’s “pik” for comparison with our Hammond’s “peek!”.

We took a shorter loop today after spending a lot of time with our tanager and flycatcher, but still collected an impressive 48 species as a group. That was despite skipping our more marshy, pond area part of the day and forfeiting some probable ducks and other species down that path. Some other species highlights were our full complement of swallows (Tree, Violet-green, Barn, and Cliff), and the return of our Red-breasted Sapsucker.

The drumming of a Red-breasted Sapsucker – ours is fond of a metal telephone pole. Their drumming starts off fast and strong, then slows down. 

I was too busy with the birds and completely forgot to take even a single photo this time (if anyone took one and is willing to share I’d really appreciate it). Thanks to our 18 awesome participants this morning! You can see the whole eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S36257204  and if you want me to add you to that shoot me an email here: hailey@haileywalls.com

If you want to support Portland Audubon (which organizes these walks every spring, among many other great things!) you can donate to my Birdathon fundraiser here: http://birdathon.audubonportland.org/participantpage.asp?fundid=1907&uid=4231&fkroledescid=3