Posted by: atowhee | November 27, 2018


A quintet of McMinnville birders made the pilgrimage to Sauvie Island on Monday after Thanksgiving.  Thankfully the weather brought only fog, a bit of rain and not much wind…and the birds were all around.  One highlight was watching a pair of Bald Eagles building their 2019 nest near Coon Point.egl nest2_LIThere were two eagles working on the nest.  One was mining the cottonwood grove for sticks. At some times both were on the nest, arranging, remodelling, moving sticks about. Click on any image for larger version:

At one point an eagle flew down into a nearby field, landed and then flew back to the nest with its left foot talons full of straw for nest lining.
We saw at least a dozen eagles on the island, most adults:

For me, the best single reason to visit Sauvie in winter, is to watch and wonder at the cranes, hear their ancient bugling sound, watch their territorial dances, count the family groups, watch their elegant flight:cranz awayx2cranz fam

In the above image, the youngster, lacking the red skull cap, is on the far right; parents to the left.  A healthy crane family winters together and manages migration as family in both directions.  Next spring this teenager will have to join his fellow youngsters in loose gangs, leaving the parents to nest anew.

Yes, all those little dark fellows are hundreds of Cackling Geese, out-numbering every other species on the island it seemed.

A matter of spacing in craneworld:

kf facingkf-side

How many hundreds, or thousands, of birders visit Sauvie in a year?  Nowhere do I see any evidence that here on this island began one of the most important sagas in the history of American ornithology.  Here, accompanying Wyeth’s fur-trappers, stayed two of the North America’s most important naturalists who were to added a number of new species to science’s list of North American bird species*.  In addition their trip up the Missouri and down the Columbia and eventual presence led to discovery of dozens of new plant species, molluscs, etc. etc.
These two men who came from Boston with the Wyeth party are uncommemorated on Sauvie Island, but their names live on…Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Townsend’s Warbler.  Thomas Nuttall had quit his job teaching at Harvard and his protege Dr. John Townsend agreed to come along.  They explored the northwest, California, even visited Hawaii.  Townsend worked for some months as a physician for the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company. Nuttall finally returned to the East Coast aboard the same ship as his former student, Richard Henry Dana (Two Years Before the Mast).nuttallnuttall2This is how dry the pond at Wapato is now, only a small puddle of water in the far northeast corner, Cacklers and 3 Greater Yellowlegs, no ducks.wapato dry

A cormorant sequence:

*New species N & T brought to science include Townsend’s Warbler, Harris’s Sparrow, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Sage Thrasher, Vaux’s Swift, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hermit Warbler, Bushtit, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Lark Bunting, Mountain Plover, Black Oystercatcher, Yellow-billed Magpie, Western Gull, Black-footed Albatross, Green-tailed Towhee.

Sauvie Island–Multnomah, Multnomah, Oregon, US
Nov 26, 2018. 28 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  2000
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  40
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  12
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)  3
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  1
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  3
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  2
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  X
American Coot (Fulica americana)  100
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)  3
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  X
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  1
Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)  X
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  X
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  X
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  X
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  4
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  3
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  X
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  X
Steller’s Jay (Coastal) (Cyanocitta stelleri [stelleri Group])  X
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X

Sauvie’s Island Lower–Columbia Cty, Columbia, Oregon, US
Nov 26, 2018.  21 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  X
Canada Goose (moffitti/maxima) (Branta canadensis moffitti/maxima)  X
Gadwall (Mareca strepera)  X
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  2
Common Merganser (North American) (Mergus merganser americanus)  10
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  X
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  X
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) (Ardea herodias [herodias Group])  X
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  X
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  X
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  X
Steller’s Jay (Coastal) (Cyanocitta stelleri [stelleri Group])  X
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  4
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  X
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X

Sauvie Island–Reeder Rd. Dike (Coon Pt.), Multnomah, Oregon, US
Nov 26, 2018.  15 species

Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens)  40
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata)  10
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  X
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  2
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  15
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  4
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  2     nest building
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  10Wapato Access Greenway SP, Multnomah, Oregon, US
Nov 26, 2018.  3 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  30
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)  3
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1


I will be the guide on this trip to benefit Klamath Bird Observatory.

This birding trip will focus on wintering birds of the Pacific Northwest that spend the summer in nesting territories further north.  The focus is on the birds and the land around the Puget Sound area.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Our birding begins at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.   From there we will proceed to Lacey to our motel and dinner.   Glaucous-winged Gull, Varied Thrush, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Pintail, Bufflehead, Pileated Woodpecker, both kinglets are likely birds on this first day.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Breakfast at motel.  Head north on US 101 to bird along Hood Canal.  Lunch at Hama Hama oyster farm.  We will make stops at various parks and overlooks along the canal which is actually a natural, narrow finger of ocean reaching down from the top of Puget Sound complex.  Birds we should see include Red-breasted Merganser, Brant, Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye, Red-necked and Western Grebe, Common Loon, Bald Eagle, Pelagic Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot, Long-tailed Duck (nee Oldsquaw), Black Oystercatcher, Belted Kingfisher, various gulls.

Dinner and overnight in Sequim for next two nights.

Wednesday ,March 6, 2019

Breakfast at motel.  Bird upper Olympic Peninsula including Ediz Hook in Port Angeles and Dungeness NWR in Sequim.  Target birds for the day: flocks of Harlequin, floats of Rhino Auklets, Trumpeter Swans, Red-throated Loons, more Long-tailed Ducks, all three scoter species, Brandt’s Cormorant. Dinner at Sequim restaurant.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

We will take the ferry from Pt. Townsend north to Whidbey Island, thence north to Skagit Flats.  Possible birds today include Rough-legged Hawk, Gyrfalcon, Short-eared Owl, Trumpeter Swan, Snow Geese, Peregrine, Merlin, all three cormorant species…perchance a try for a Yellow-billed Loon which usually shows  up along the route each winter.  Overnight along I-5 north of Seattle at Marysville.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Depart for home.arriving at keystone on whidbeybird tride on ferryboatc-loon flapport angelesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtrumpsWhidbey Is Feb 9, 2011 071

COST:  $782.00 per person.  Includes accommodations for sharing a double room, travel expenses r/t travel in a van, fees for having experienced bird guide for 5 days and 4 nights.  Breakfasts are provided at the motels we are staying.

Participants will pay for other meals:  lunch and dinner. Folks are encouraged to bring lunch type foods as we will eat outdoors while we are birding.

$200 of the cost is a tax deductible contribution to the Klamath Bird Observatory.

Contact Shannon Rio at or by calling 541-840-4655 if you are interested in signing up or if you have questions.

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