Chickadee Trifecta

I had three species of chickadees attending my feeder recently. The Black-capped Chickadees are year-round residents and visit every day.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees appear occasionally, most often in winter, although I have been seeing them more often in recent months.

The star attraction on this day was a Mountain Chickadee. While common along the crest of the Cascades and points east, they are a rare treat in the Willamette Valley. This bird is the seventh record for Washington County.

I believe the Pacific Northwest is the only place where you might find three species of chickadees in one flock. Range maps indicate that in southeastern Alaska, you might be able to find four species in the same area. That sounds like a worthy birding challenge.

Flu Birding

As luck would have it, a recent streak of clear sunny days has coincided with my battle with an influenza virus. So rather than traversing the state enjoying birds in the sunshine, I have been stuck on the couch and at my work station watching the birds at the feeder. The feeder has been very busy, however, thanks to a new batch of large clean sunflower hearts and an influx of ravenous finches.


Prior to this week, I had only seen a few Pine Siskins this winter. But now a flock of several dozen are present most of the day.


The American Goldfinches are starting to show some summer color.


One Purple Finch has been joining the fray. I only see them once or twice a year at the feeder.


The resident House Finches have had a hard time finding room at the feeder, and have been waiting until the flock of smaller finches move on for the day.


Two male Varied Thrushes are competing with the squirrels for seeds under the feeder.


With the increased activity, the local Dark-eyed Juncos have given up trying to use the feeder, opting to scratch around the periphery instead.


As always, the Black-capped Chickadees sneak in and grab the occasional seed.

I am hoping the weather holds and my lungs clear so I can go a little farther afield next week.

Stalled Spring

This March has been one of the coolest and wettest on record in the Portland area. Aside from keeping me indoors far more than I would like, the weather has created a bit of a stall in spring’s progress.


The winter residents, like this skulking Varied Thrush, have started to thin out. There are still a lot of waterfowl around, but gull numbers are greatly reduced.


A long walk on the beach north of Gearhart produced a few Sanderlings, but the northbound shorebirds haven’t arrived yet.


Activity at the bird feeder has slowed down as the winter flocks are breaking up and the local birds start pairing up. Here is one of the resident Black-capped Chickadees.


A Norway Rat has been taking advantage of the seeds the birds drop.


Despite the dreary weather, there are signs of the coming breeding season. This Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s race) is showing off his fresh breeding plumage.

When we experience long bouts of bad weather, and spending the month of March in Arizona sounds very appealing, we still need to get out into the field. Spring may be slow in coming, but there are still birds out there. Slow birding gives you the chance to study the common local species more carefully, and you never know what might turn up.

Northern Flickers

northern flicker male front
Northern Flickers have been visiting the bird feeder lately. Their bills are not designed to crack open seeds, so they just pull all the seeds out of the feeder until they find one that is already open.

northern flicker female
Females lack the red mustaches found on the males.

northern flicker male
Since they are a common backyard species, we tend to take Northern Flickers for granted, or focus on their destructive habit of drilling into house siding. But on close inspection, we see that these are truly stunning birds.

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This Black-capped Chickadee, a more common species at bird feeders, is dwarfed by the monstrous flicker. Northern Flickers normally eat ants and other insects, but will come to feeders offering suet or sunflower seeds.

Finley NWR

I walked around much of William L. Finley NWR, one of the three in the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Of the three, Finley has the greatest diversity of habitats, as it lies right at the edge of the Coast Range.


At the heart of the refuge is Cabell Marsh, home to waterfowl, herons, and a small flock of American White Pelicans. Notable flyovers that day included White-tailed Kite and Red-shouldered Hawk.


Black-capped Chickadees were everywhere, in the woods where you would expect them, and in the cattails which seemed a little odd.


Lazuli Buntings inhabit brushy areas in the oak savannahs.


A family of Bewick’s Wrens were in a brush pile near the top of Pigeon Butte.


On the way home I stopped by Baskett Slough NWR, another refuge in the Willamette Valley complex. Most of the wetlands here were dry. South Slough Pond was actually being plowed. Cottonwood Pond still held water and was hosting these three American White Pelicans.


This Black-tailed Deer was panting as she walked across the dry grassland and crossed the road.