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Posts Tagged ‘Dark-eyed Junco’

white-throated sparrowRentenaar Road, on Sauvie Island, is one of the better sparrow patches in the Portland area. I found ten species this morning, about typical for this time of year. This boldly patterned White-throated Sparrow was one of the prettier ones.

dark-eyed juncoDark-eyed Junco

golden-crowned sparrowGolden-crowned Sparrows are the most common sparrows along this stretch of road.

lincoln's sparrowLincoln’s Sparrow, one of my favorites and one of the hardest to photograph

song sparrowSong Sparrow

white-crowned sparrowWhite-crowned Sparrow

spotted towheeSpotted Towhee with two Golden-crowned Sparrows

harris's frontThe rarest bird of the day was this Harris’s Sparrow. This is the third winter in a row that a Harris’s (perhaps the same bird) has been wintering at this location.

harris's and golden-crownedHarris’s Sparrow with Golden-crowns

harris's and white-crownedHarris’s with White-crowned

harris's and white-throatedand finally, the Harris’s with a tan-morph White-throated Sparrow in the background. It’s nice that this visitor from the Great Plains gets along with everyone.

robinWhile certainly not a sparrow, this American Robin was just begging to be photographed, so here you go.

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In honor of the winter solstice, in a month that brought Portland 7″ of rain, here are a few dark grainy images from recent weeks.

orange-crowned warblerOrange-crowned Warbler

anna's hummingbirdAnna’s Hummingbird

dark-eyed juncoDark-eyed Junco

american and lesser goldfinchHere is a nice comparison of American (foreground) and Lesser Goldfinches. Notice that the American Goldfinch has white undertail coverts, while the Lesser has yellow.

american goldfinchHere is a very dull American Goldfinch (probable first-year female) in front of a Lesser (probable first-year male).

chestnut-backed chickadeeChestnut-backed Chickadee, looking ever perky

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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.

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I finally had a few hours to get out birding, and had planned to visit some of the Washington County wetlands. But a Brambling visiting a feeder in Woodburn presented me with a dilemma. Should I spend my birding time standing around in someone’s back yard hoping to see a particular bird, or should I explore large areas of habitat and find birds on my own?

The Brambling, an uncommon visitor from Asia, was only a 30 minute drive from home, well within my “chase radius.” (I will drive up to an hour and a half to chase a rarity, although it had better be a darned good bird if it is over an hour away.) The species would be a lifer for me, a nice tick on my Oregon list, and this would perhaps be my only chance to see this species. Then again, if the bird didn’t show up, I would have spent my limited birding time not looking at birds. With some reluctance, I decided to go for the twitch.

When I arrived at the stake-out site, a small group of birders informed me that I had just missed the Brambling. How typical is that? So I began my wait, hoping that the bird would maintain her schedule of repeated visits to her favorite feeder. I had come this far, so I might as well stick it out.


As luck would have it, this yard was very birdy. A small flock of Evening Grosbeaks was a rare treat. Several species of finches and sparrows worked the feeders, interrupted occasionally by a hungry Cooper’s Hawk. After about an hour of waiting, three things happened; my cell phone rang, the owner of the home came out to offer me a cup of coffee, and the Brambling appeared.


So with one hand holding my phone (it was an important call), I used the other hand to hold my binocular to get a brief look at the bird, then snap a few photos, all while thanking my host for the coffee (he didn’t realize that I was on the phone, and didn’t know that I don’t drink coffee). Then the Brambling flew away.

So now what? I had gotten a brief glimpse of the Brambling, although not a very satisfying view of a lifer, and had no idea if any of my photos would be usable or not. The bird had established a pattern of visiting the yard about once an hour for less than a minute. Do I hang out for another hour (did I mention it was really cold?), or do I cut my losses and go do some real birding? I was leaning toward the latter when an acquaintance of mine arrived to look for the bird. The prospect of visiting with him, along with the general birdiness of the this yard, convinced me to stay and try for another look at the Brambling.


This Downy Woodpecker worked on the suet feeder.


Notice that the Dark-eyed Junco on the left has some dark gray on the sides and a darker back than the typical Oregon race birds.

Here is the same bird from the back. The brownish cast on the bird’s back is not right for a pure Slate-colored Junco, so I think this bird is an intergrade Slate-colored/Oregon.


After about an hour, the Brambling returned for less than twenty seconds. I spent the entire time watching her with my binocular, making up for the fleeting view of the previous visit.

So I had gotten my lifer, adding my twitch to the checklist, but I had also gotten some actual birding in, as well. I had seen about 20 species in that little yard, and had a nice visit with some other birders. While I really enjoy getting out and finding large numbers of species, there is often birding to be had in confined situations such as this. I will still struggle with the choice of birding or twitching, but hopefully I will allow myself to find the joy in either.

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Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, located just a few miles southwest of Portland on Hwy 99W, is a wonderful refuge for wintering waterfowl, despite its location in such an urban area.


The dikes around the wetland areas are closed to public access in the winter to prevent disturbance to the birds. But the trail leading through the wooded habitat beyond the wetland is open year round.


Northern Pintails and a Ruddy Duck


several Double-crested Cormorants perched on a log


a congregation of Northern Pintails, Mallards, and Ring-necked Ducks


The star of the refuge in recent weeks has been a lone Emperor Goose. He is the pale gray blob with the white neck tucked under his wings, right in the center of the photo. No, really.


This Dark-eyed Junco was a little more photogenic than the goose was.


Given the amount of brown on the crown and hind neck of this Dark-eyed Junco, I’m guessing she is a first-year female.


Golden-crowned Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco

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I spent the morning in Scappoose, OR, this morning looking for a Brambling that was seen about a week ago. I didn’t have any luck with the Brambling, but it was great fun watching the variety of sparrows that were feeding in the area. Winter brings great flocks of sparrows to the Portland area. I saw the eight species pictured below, all within a few minutes, while sitting at the edge of the trail.


Dark-eyed Junco


Song Sparrow


Lincoln’s Sparrows are among the most beautiful sparrows in North America, but are also rather shy, so they tend to stay out of range of point-and-shoot photography.


Lincoln’s Sparrow, with a Song Sparrow in the background


Fox Sparrows tend to lurk in the thicker cover.


He finally emerged for some millet.


White-crowned Sparrow


White-crowned Sparrow, first winter


Golden-crowned Sparrow


White-throated Sparrow, with a Golden-crowned in the background


Spotted Towhee

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Between Portland’s worst snow storm in forty years and working more hours for the holiday season, I have not ventured out birding lately. I am ever grateful for those birds that come to the feeder and provide me with a birding fix. The most common visitors are Dark-eyed Juncos.

junco1
Here is an adult female Dark-eyed Junco.  Note the bit of brown on the crown and nape and how the hood is not an intense gray.

junco2
This male shows a solid dark gray hood (the light flecks on the crown are water droplets).

amercian-goldfinch
This American Goldfinch is already showing flecks of yellow.

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