Powell Butte to Broughton Beach

Every day is a big day when you bird by bike. At least the way I do it. I was away from home for 9 hours, rode 35 miles, and saw 52 species of birds. My first stop of the day was one of the three highest locations in my 5 mile radius: Powell Butte. The whole ride there was a headwind. I felt like I was in purgatory. I need to get stronger…

The reason for tackling such a hill so early in the year was that there was a report of a Northern Shrike.

Shrikes are great because they are killer songbirds. That, and they impale their prey on pokey things. They are great birds and they are by no means a guarantee in anyone’s 5mr. This Shrike was well worth the climb and 2 hours searching. I’m happy I got it on my first try!

While on Powell Butte, I saw most of the expected winter raptors. I got my year Norther Harrier, I saw an American Kestrel harass a Red-tail Hawk, and two other Red-tails soaring. It was soooooooo windy up there, I saw almost no smaller birds, and felt very lucky to find my shrike.

On the edge of the forest, on my way down the butte, this male Anna’s Hummingbird bid me farewell and congratulated me on finding my shrike. I think.
It was a very forward little guy. While I was walking my bike it flew right up to me, about 5 feet away, and just hovered in front of my face. It was a weird experience.

As it landed I took this photo. I guess it could have just been eating the insects that were attracted to my bike-induced stink.

Though the trip up to Powell Butte was difficult, it was literally all downhill from there. I rode from the southeast most corner of my 5mr all the way to the Mighty Columbia. It was very fast and easy. I was surprised.

Once on the bike path I stopped to look at every group of ducks. I tried my hardest to turn one of the 100+ Common Goldeneyes I saw into a Barrow’s Goldeneye, but my efforts bore no Barrow’s fruit.

I’ll try again next weekend.

The whole day was fairly windy. Fortunately I had a nice tail wind while surveying the Columbia for secretive ducks.

Broughton Beach, and the trail to the east was fairly birdy. I added 3 new year birds: Common Loon, California Gull, and this menacing killdeer.

Last stop of the day was Whitaker Ponds. A reliable great egret spot, that also had reports of a spotted sandpiper. The Egret eventually flew right over me into the setting sun.

I ran into Audrey there, who asked,
“Did you see the Great Horned Owl or the Spotted Sandpiper?”
Wait, what? An Owl?
And then she walked me 25 yards, said it was in that tree, and I looked up and saw it immediately.
Normally, if there is an owl in a tree I don’t see it. Or, I do see it, after walking around like an idiot for an indeterminate amount of time.
I was very happy! Also, I didn’t expect to get an owl in the 5mr challenge so early!

Hurray Audrey!

Right after that she walked me over to where she said she saw the Spotted Sandpiper. It was right there waiting for me! Double Wow!

Oh yeah, and perhaps most importantly of all… I saw the Bald Eagle everyone has been talking about. Somehow I made it 13 days without seein’ it. Bald Eagle was bird 81, and my last bird for the day. Also, Audrey found this one too, so I owe her the majority of my birdwatching success.

If anyone was wondering what I look like, this is me.
I am smiling because I saw the Bald Eagle. Also, because I know at this time that there is pizza and beer in my future.

Big ol’ Birdin’ by Bike day

Wow, I am tired.

I rode my bike 24 miles today. I did a big loop on the northern half of my five mile radius. I saw 56 species of birds! 25 of which were new birds.
Hurray me!

I haven’t ridden my bike this much since I was 17!

This pace of one new bird per mile ridden is unfortunately not sustainable.
Soon, I fear, it will be one bird per 10 or even 20 miles. Hopefully I will be stronger by then.

Such a relief to see these guys this year. Weird that the best bird I might find this year was found on day 4…

My first stop of the morning, was the Eastern Bluebirds I have missed before/after work for the last 3 days. They are lazy little dudes. I could have slept in. I arrived at 8:45, and Just as I was about to leave at 10, like a little present from the heavens, they flew almost directly to me. They modeled for me, and I got the best photos of them that I can reasonably expect. I saw them choke down huge berries, and hunt for big wormy insects in the tall grass.

Gettin’ messed up on fermented berries (maybe).

After success with the bluebirds (and Lincoln’s sparrow, and cedar waxwings), I decided I wanted to be the first one this year to see a Black Phoebe in my county. It had been reported last year, so it is not an incredible feat or anything, but I was first to re-find it this year. And it is a good bird, and I am happy to have found it in my 5mr. Yay!

Photos are terrible, but if you wanna look at my ebird checklist… go for it.

I was two for two. Next priority was the recently re-found rarity: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Apparently, it is only the third ever January record of seeing one in the pacific NW.

It took about an hour of searching. I had a fleeting glance, and then nothing for about thirty minutes. rode my bike down and back on this trail, stopped where I saw it the first time… and it graciously popped up and perched for a solid 4 seconds.


I was able to successfully relocate the two best lost birds in the county, and they were just a moderate bike ride away. Wowsers!

Really great news is that this trail was very birdy, easy to get to, and fun to bird by bike. I will definitely be back soon.

hey that’s not a bird

The biggest surprise about birding by bike, is that it is fun.
I thought it would just be hard. But, I get to feel fast, stop wherever I want, whenever I want. If I hear something exciting or interesting I can zoom over to it, and I can cover way more ground than just walking, while being able to scan for interesting and exciting birds and animals.

Unexpected picnic break

The only bad thing about birding by bike, I have noticed thus far, is that getting a flat tire is a thing. Today I had two. This may be from inexperience, or just bad luck.

Bike path is just a warm spot, but this goose could have been hiding whatever popped my tire.

Today was incredibly fun. I rode my bike a bunch, I got up to 62 birds for my 5mr, I got more exercise than I have had in 3 months, and I had a delicious beer! I wish I could do this every weekend!

Cheers to bird beers!

New Year – New Challenge

I sure do love starting a new challenge.
The hardest part, if you have read my blog, or ever talked to me, is finishing them. But, I love starting fresh… So… here we go again!

Oh, that fresh feeling of zeroing out the year. Everything counts, everything matters.

This year my goal is to see as many birds as possible, by bike, in the 5 miles radius around my house. It is great to start from zero: the first crow, the first song sparrow, they all matter. My first bird of the day was an Anna’s hummingbird, sipping some sweet sweet sugar water outside of my window.

New Year, new bike, new satchel full of bird seed.

January 1st was a frosty one. I went to the Dharma Rain Zen Center in an effort to locate my Eastern bluebirds. I failed, but I was able to see a Merlin, a couple Yellow-rumped warblers, and some cackling geese fly in to this non-frozen seasonal puddle.

Tough urban geese hiding in the tall grass

I ran out of time here and had to rush off to work. The hour after I left someone found my bluebirds, so it is good to know that they were just hiding from me…

On my way to work I stopped to take some quick photos of gulls at my local gull wad that I would be able to sort out later in the comfort of my home.

Good looking ring-bill stood out.

I picked up most of the gulls I will probably see this year, all in one stop. Ring-billed, Herring, Glaucus-winged, Western, Icelandic. 5 Gulls for the day, and in my time bird watching in Multnomah County I have only ever seen 10 species.

Gull goal: tie that lofty number of 10 gull species in a year. #yeargulls

Herring Gull, you can tell by its mean look, light eye, and sloped forehead.

Pizza work was calling. Had to be there in order to help people achieve their resolutions of eating pizza every day. No leftovers… and it was slow. I ducked out a bit early, and tried for the Eastern Bluebird again.

Very menacing little Golden-crowned Sparrow

You can tell by the lack of blue/orange that this is not a bluebird. I missed them again. But, the good news is someone else saw them the hour before I got there. I was just the bookend of bluebird failure that the zen center needed today.

Regardless of my bird misses. I saw 29 species in my 5mr, rode my bike 9 miles (half of it in freezing fog), and got a couple of good photos. Happy with the start of my year.

If you are interested in doing a 5-mile radius challenge around your house, I urge you to join us in our facebook 5mr group.