March 17, 2017

Yesterday brought a rare dry day to Sauvie Island.  That’s just a dozen miles of central Portland, Oregon.  Occasionally a leak in clouds let sunlight spill across the land.  Geese were cackling and honking, a pair of Osprey were whistling from their nest. Wigeon and mallards contributed squeak and quack to the cacophony.  Yet over it all spread the bugling of Sandhill Cranes.  Their calls made the air vibrate, hinting of primitive compulsions carried across time from ages when long-gone species ran and swam in seas and prairies that are gone as well.  The sound of the crane reverberates through an elongated and convoluted trachea that can only have evolved to produce such music.  We humans can only listen and marvel that such a sound pre-dates cave art, villages, stone tools and even digital recordings.  The crane sound is both ancient and inimitable.  I much  hope their kind can out-live the damage humans are determined to commit upon this earth.  Whatever sentient creatures are about in some future millennia will be sure to halt and listen when those yet-to-be cranes bugle.


“When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men…The sadness discernible in some marshes arises, perhaps, from their once having harbored cranes. Now they stand humbled, adrift in history.”  –Aldo Leopoldc and sIn several marshes the Trumpeter Swans and cranes were feeding side by side.crane feedcrane feed2Sauvie Island usually has the northernmost wintering populations of cranes in North America.  In Europe the Common Crane may winter even further north, not far from Troyes, France.

In late winter the crane population is augmented by the arrival of cranes heading north from California. The cranes using Sauvie as a stopover are traveling the Pacific Coast Flyway.  That population is less than 5% of the total Sandhill population.  Cranes we saw yesterday included both the lesser and greater sized cranes.CRANE-F1CRANE-F2CRAnE-F3


Compelled by nature’s uncaring demand for survival and adaptation the cranes now have a flight that is elegant, graceful and strong.  With wings moving in fluid flaps, the long. thin legs trailing like a streamer, the sharp spade of a beak thrust toward the future, a flying crane is kinetic art of the finest.CRANEFLY1

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins as in art with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language. The quality of cranes lies, I think, in this higher gamut, as yet beyond the reach of words.”    –Aldo Leopold


Cranes often gather together in big flocks for migration or simply to find better forage.CRAN-LIN2CRAN-LIN1Riding tail winds or seeking thermals cranes may migrate at elevations up to 15,000 feet.  Some cranes in Asia fly over the Himalayas thus topping 20,000 feet elevation.CRAn-LIN4

For sixty million years, the call of the sandhill crane has echoed across the world’s wetlands and waterways, and it’s been heard in North America for at least 9 million years.  Sandhill cranes, the oldest living bird species, have seen the violent birthing of entire mountain ranges, and then watched these same experience slow death at the hands of wind and rain… Long before man first took feeble steps on two legs, or raised a rock in anger, sandhills were already ancient.”  Jim Miller in Valley of the CranesCRANE-TWOCRASNE-TWO1If you would like to see these cranes, Trumpeter Swans, Wrentit, Black Oystercatcher, Rhino Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, all three scoters and other Pacific Northwest specialties, contact us about a winter visit to the Pacific Northwest.


November 8, 2016

Want to see a busy Bewick’s Wren?  PIB has numerous trips into territory where these busy birds feed year round.bw1bw2bw3bw4bw5bw6bw7bw8bw9bw10bw11bw12Our guide, Harry Fuller, got these images while birding in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where he lives.


November 4, 2016

The Great Gray Owl has been on the California Endangered Species List for some time.  Current estimates say there may be fewer than 300 of these  marvelous birds in the entire state.  Their modern range is limited. They may once have lived in the Sacramento River Valley but they are now limited to relict populations in scattered bits of suitable habitat in the central Sierra from 1800 to 7000 feet elevation. One recent study of Yosemite, where the birds were first confirmed nesting in 1914, found less than 10 percent of that giant park is suitable GGO habitat. There is also a tiny sliver of the Oregon population that dips across the border into Modoc County north of Alturas. Human alteration of the habitat has not been positive for the Great Gray Owl.  Now climate change just adds stress and more uncertainty about their ability to survive.  Vehicles and Great Horned Owls are lead natural enemies.  Introduced West Nile Virus is a potential game-ender…though so far there is no evidence it has struck California’s population. An Oregon owl in the northeastern part of that state died of West Nile last year.  The GGO is highly susceptible to the disease.bdger2

The most crucial and thorough study of Great Gray Owls ever done anywhere in North America is now completed and has been presented to the California government and the public.  It calls for serious action to help this species survive.  You can click here to read the report and its conclusions.

The research also shows that the central California population has been genetically cut off from more northerly populations for over 25,000 years and should be given sub-species status which in turn could allow federal designation as a national endangered species.  None of the breeding birds along the Pacific Slope south of Canada are migratory.  The Yosemite owls will never meet an Oregon cousin.


Union County and Jackson County in Oregon may each have as many GGOs as the entire state of California.  Yet it is unlikely there are as many of the birds in Oregon as there are people in McMinnville, Oregon (33,000).  We should be aware of what is recommended in California and what gets done and what effects that may have.

Washington State has few Great Gray Owls apparently and only a handful of nesting records have ever been confirmed.  The first one in the state did not come until 1991.

If you are interested in Harry Fuller’s book on this species, click here for the link.

If you really want to see one of these owls, in broad daylight, and not in mid-winter  Minnesota, contact PIB about the birding trip to Oregon.


October 9, 2016

Our guide, Harry Fuller, is co-founder of the Mountain Bird Festival in Ashland, Oregon.  He is author of a book on Great Gray Owls in Oregon and neighboring states and began leading regional trips into the owls’ breeding and wintering grounds in the southern Cascades.  Here’s a description of an field trip on October 8, 2016…

This morning Klamatth Bird Observatory’s “Talk and Walk” program took a group of birders up inot the Cascades east of Ashland, the topic: Great Gray Owls.  And they saw two of the birds.  Here’s KBO board president, Shannon Rio’s brief summary of the day: “it was beautiful this morning up on the mountain.  bird time was as usual timeless.  we enjoyed two views of a ggo, one at the beginning of the day and one at the end of the journey and in between:  pelicans, widgeons, bald eagle, bluebirds, vesper sparrows, coots,american goldfinches and pine siskens, red tailed hawks, a bobcat sighting, an osprey sighting.  and lots of nature.  thank you all for another journey with the birds and nature and each other100816-005_edited-1-1280x853 Both pictures by Mel Clements, top bird at Two Pine Meadow, the lower bird west of Howard Prairie Lake on private land. Both locations can be checked from public roads without disturbing the owls’ hunting territory.100816-010_edited-1-1280x853Jackson County, Oregon, may have as many or more GGOs than any other county south of Canada.  Evidence you do not need to spend big bucks and suffer a Minnesota winter to see Great Gray Owls in the U.S.


July 4, 2016

Research shows that Magnificent Frigatebirds are not only magnificent, they fly…endlessly.  Over 250 miles per day, non-stop, no resting on the water. They may fly that for days, weeks…they do land to lay eggs and incubate them.

Here are some pictures I took of frigatebirds around the Galapagos a few years back.  It was a trip organized by Partnership for International Birding.  Haven’t been there?  GO!  Enjoy these champion flyers:FRIGATE ALOFT Frigatebird Dive frigatebird flying by frigatebird on mast Frigatebird Profile FRIG-BIRD EYELEVEL frig-pbird provile


July 4, 2016

Here is a great reason to go birding in western Ecuador.  This is the endemic White-tailed Jay:White-tailed_JayAnd now the Princeton University Press has issued a photographic guide to the birds of Western Ecuador.  Living here in the Pacific Northwest I first notice the birds that aren’t found in this part of the Neotropics.  No scoters, no alcids. But then you settle in to thumb through the book and you notice 8 raptors named “kite,”  over 20 members of the dove/pigeon family, three pages of tinamous and guans (think big pheasants in the forest).  Toucans, barbets (my favorite gang of tropical thugs), hummingbirds for page after page, Tanagers, endless tyrant flycatchers, antwrens and antvireos and antbirds,  Finally near the back of the book you get to the euphonias, dressed like a junior high marching band.euphoniaThis is a Thick-billed Euphonia.

The book includes range maps for each species showing its range across Ecuador.  The book does NOT include the Galapagos.   If you go after that White-tailed Jay, take this book along. Partnership for International Birding offers a panoply of birding trips to Ecuador.  Check ’em out.

ecuador cover

Birds of Western Ecuador:
A Photographic Guide
Nick Athanas & Paul J. Greenfield
With special contributions from Iain Campbell, Pablo Cervantes Daza, Andrew Spencer & Sam Woods

Paperback | 2016 | $45.00 |  ISBN: 9780691157801
448 pp. | 6 1/2 x 10 | 1,500 color photos. 946 maps.  It is also available as an ebook.


July 2, 2016

Here are the birds we saw on our early June trip through the Pacific Northwest over eight days.  Portland to Astoria to Florence to Bend, then back through Portland and north to Nisqually, then Sequim, then Victoria, BC.


  1. Brant: 3 on sand spit in Dungeness NWR, seen from Three Crabs Road, Sequim
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Wood Duck, Nisqually NWR, et al.
  4. Mallard
  5. Gadwall
  6. Pintail
  7. Blue-winged Teal: Wapato Pond, Sauvie Island
  8. Shoveler
  9. Harlequin, first seen at Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach; many seen on Olympic Peninsula, esp. Port Townsend
  10. Surf Scoter
  11. White-winged Scoter, one seen briefly off Oregon Coast
  12. Hooded Merganser, Sauvie Island and Nisqually
  13. Common Merganser
  14. Ruddy Duck
  15. California Quail
  16. Sooty Grouse, heard in Deschutes Natl. Forest west of Sisters
  17. Common Loon, some seen in breeding plumage
  18. Pacific Loon
  19. Red-throated Loon
  20. Western Grebe
  21. Pied-billed Grebe
  22. Brandt’s Cormorant
  23. Pelagic Cormorant
  24. Double-crested Cormorant
  25. American White Pelican, along Columbia River west of Portland
  26. Brown Pelican
  27. Great Blue Heron
  28. Great Egret
  29. Turkey Vulture
  30. Northern Harrier
  31. Osprey
  32. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  33. Cooper’s Hawk
  34. Red-tailed Hawk
  35. Bald Eagle
  36. American Coot
  37. Virginia Rail, marsh at Ona Beach State Park
  38. Black-bellied Plover, Dungeness NWR
  39. Killdeer
  40. Black Oystercatcher
  41. Spotted Sandpiper
  42. Ring-billed Gull
  43. California Gull
  44. Glaucous-winged Gull, and numerous Glaucous-winged X Western (known locally as “Olympic”)
  45. Western Gull
  46. Heermann’s Gull, Ediz Hook, Port Townsend
  47. Caspian Tern
  48. Pigeon Guillemot
  49. Common Murre
  50. Ancient Murrelet, ferryboat on US side of border north of Port Townsend
  51. Marbled Murrlet
  52. Tufted Puffin, many flying around Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, one seen from ferryboat
  53. Rhinoceros Auklet, first seen at John Wayne Marina, Sequim, then many from ferryboat
  54. Rock Pigeon
  55. Band-tailed Pigeon
  56. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  57. Mourning Dove
  58. Great Horned Owl, west of Sisters
  59. Vaux’s Swift
  60. Anna’s Hummingbird
  61. Rufous Hummingbird
  62. Belted Kingfisher
  63. Williamson’s Sapsucker, Deschutes Natl. Forest, first near Suttle Lake
  64. Red-breasted Sapsucker, numerous along Oregon Coast
  65. Red-naped Sapsucker, Calliope Crossing west of Sisters
  66. White-headed Woodpecker, Deschutes National Forest
  67. Downy Woodpecker
  68. Hairy Woodpecker
  69. American Three-toed Woodpecker, Deschutes Natl. Forest
  70. Black-backed Woodpecker, Deschutes Natl. Forest
  71. Northern Flicker
  72. Kestrel
  73. Peregrine
  74. Western Wood-Pewee
  75. Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Ona Beach SP
  76. Willow Flycatcher
  77. Dusky Flycatcher
  78. Western Kingbird
  79. Warbling Vireo
  80. Steller’s Jay
  81. Western Scrub-Jay
  82. Pinyon Jay
  83. Clark’s Nutcracker, Mt. Hood
  84. Common Raven
  85. American Crow
  86. Northwestern Crow, Vancouver Island, BC
  87. Skylark, Victoria Airport, BC
  88. Purple Martin
  89. Tree Swallow
  90. Violet-green swallow
  91. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  92. Cliff Swallow
  93. Barn Swallow
  94. Mountain Chickadee, Deschutes Natl.Forest
  95. Black-capped Chickadee
  96. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  97. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  98. White-breasted Nuthatch
  99. Pygmy Nuthatch, several seen, one nesting pair in Sawyer Park, Bend
  100. Brown Creeper
  101. Bewick’s Wren
  102. Marsh Wren, heard but not seen
  103. Pacific Wren, first at Coffeeberry Lake, Forest Stevens SP
  104. House Wren
  105. American Dipper, Suttle Lake
  106. Wrentit, Coffeeberry Lake in Fort Stevens SP
  107. Western Bluebird
  108. Mountain Bluebird, Mt. Hood
  109. Swainson’s Thrush
  110. American Robin
  111. Varied Thrush
  112. Starling
  113. Cedar Waxwing
  114. Orange-crowned Warbler
  115. Common Yellowthroat
  116. Yellow Warbler
  117. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  118. Hermit Warbler
  119. Townsend’s Warbler
  120. Wilson’s Warbler, first good viewing at Coffeeberry Lake
  121. Spotted Towhee
  122. Chipping Sparrow
  123. Savannah Sparrow
  124. Fox Sparrow, Deschutes National Forest
  125. Song Sparrow
  126. Dark-eyed Junco
  127. White-crowned Sparrow
  128. Western Tanager
  129. Black-headed Grosbeak
  130. Lazuli Bunting
  131. Brewer’s Blackbird
  132. Red-winged Blackbird
  133. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  134. Brown-headed Cowbird
  135. Bullock’s Oriole
  136. Purple Finch
  137. Cassin’s Finch, Mt. Hood
  138. House Finch
  139. Red Crossbill near Darlingtonia Reserve on Oregon Coast
  140. Pine Siskin
  141. American Goldfinch
  142. Lesser Goldfinch
  143. Evening Grosbeak, Palo Alto Road above Sequim
  144. House Sparrow



June 26, 2016

Birder Nan Perkins from Wimberley, Texas, goT these three images on a Partnership for International Birding trip around Oregon and Washington in early June:Mountain Chickadee Willow Flycatcher ? Red Cross-billThis Crossbill was near the Darlingtonia Preserve along US 101 on the Oregon Coast.  The Mountain Chickadee was in the Deschutes National Forest on the eastern slop of the Cascades.  The Wood-Pewee was one of dozens we saw on our trip.


June 23, 2016

Here are some images from the Partnership for International Birding that I (Harry Fuller) co-led in early June.  A pitcher plant reserve along the Oregon Coast:PITCHER PLANT2PITCHER PLANT3PTCHR PLANT1`pelco on rok (1280x960)Pelagic Cormorant on rock offshore.  Below: Pigeon Guillemot.pigu air1 (1280x960)pigu air2 (1280x960)Pigu air3 (1280x960)pigu flot (1280x960)foggy dayFrom the foggy coast we headed inland to the sunny Cascades:3-fingersbeargrassburnedce-an-othuschipperAt Suttle Lake, a Dipper:DIPP FLIEZAt Calliope Crossing west of Sisters, OR, a Red-naped Sapsucker:RNS4RNS-BACKRNS-BEST


June 23, 2016

The well-known, often published birdsong expert, Dr. Donald Kroodsma and his son biked across the nation, starting on the East Coast and ending in Oregon where Kroodsma first studied ornithology in graduate school.  The resulting book is an exciting and useful introduction to birdsong, where and when and how to listen.KRRODSMAHere’s a sample page, and publishers have now graduated from CDs to on page links to websites with all the relevant birgsongs, accessible for free:


Listening to a Continent Sing:
Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific
By Donald Kroodsma

Princeton Press.  Hardcover | 2016 | $29.95 | £22.95 | ISBN: 9780691166810
336 pp. | 6 x 9 | 125 line illus.