Last Friday I went to Sauvie Island to scout out locations for my class field trip on Saturday. The birding was great, not only for sparrows (which was the topic of the class) but for other birds as well. Along Rentenaar Road I found large flocks of White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, several Lincoln’s Sparrows and a Fox Sparrow. More unusual were three Common Ravens, a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk, and a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers flying over the farm fields. California Quail were calling from the blackberry thickets along the road.
The following morning, with my class in tow, I walked the same stretch of road. The White-crowned flock was much smaller. We saw only one distant Lincoln’s. The ravens, Rough-legged, and Pileateds were nowhere to be seen, and the California Quail called from way back in the fields. But we did find a White-throated Sparrow, a Peregrine Falcon, and a Red-breasted Sapsucker, which I hadn’t seen the day before.
This brings up an obvious, but often forgotten tenet of birding: Those who find the greatest diversity of species and the most rarities are those that spend the most time in the field. If it seems like other birders are finding a lot more birds than you are, take a look at how often you actually go birding. Successful birding is not entirely dependent on skill and experience. Sometimes it is just a matter of getting out to where the birds are.