Posted by: atowhee | November 18, 2022


Our small group of birders had over 40 species while roadside birding part of Sauvie Island this morning. We picked today becAuse it ws a no-hunting day, quiet and the b irds a bit less frightened of our species. The others had to leave at 1pm. Then I spent some time along Oak Island Road to add some land birds–Junco, sapsucker. We were showing off our wildlife to a visiting birder from India, so we were mostly on the road or near it. We did walk to Wapato Pond–little water, zero waterbirds. We did not get to Rentenaar Road.

Best spot this morning for cranes was Raccoon Point. Some in the shallow lake near parking area and hundreds in fields east of the dog kennels. That is where we saw our lone Snow Goose in with some dozens of Canadas. The swans were on the main body of Sturgeon Lake which is furthest from parking. They were barely visible through the trees. The Common Mergansers we saw were all in the Multnomah Channel and all were males! Most of the other ducks we saw were at the Sauvie Island Wildlife Viewing Area (the elevated bird blind) on NW Reeder Road, north of the road to Willow Bar. Ducks there included Redhead and Canvasbacks.

There were numerous kestrels, none wanting to be photographed, However, one harrier flew right down the road in front of us. We saw no male harriers. The Peregrine was perched, the Merlin was speeding, the eagles all distant. One seemed to be hanging out above a group of fishing cormorants.

For me the main reason to visit Sauvie–the cranes. I am grateful that Oregon is not one of the states that allows crane hunting–seventeen states do. Many of California’s nesting crane populations were extirpated–killed so they could be served in San Francisco’s restaurants for the hungry gold miners, et al. in mid-19th Century. Plenty of bugling but no dancing. There were numerous pairs, out-numbering trios which mean mated couples had trouble raising young this year. My crane quote collection is at the bottom.

SAUVIE GALLERY, click on any image for full screen view:

Above: kestrel on crossbar; cacklers galore; the image with the corn stalks, look for the doe head; a quintet of shots of the non-chalant harrier who soared around our car; fancy a few pumpkins?; sapsucker shots; scrub-jay gets benched; crane family trio; marsh on NW Reeder Rd.

Sauvie Island (Multnomah Co.), Multnomah, Oregon, US
Nov 18, 2022
47 species (+1 other taxa)

Snow Goose  1f the do
Cackling Goose  4000
Canada Goose  X
Trumpeter Swan  4
Northern Shoveler  X
Gadwall  X
American Wigeon  X
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Canvasback  6
Redhead  1
Ring-necked Duck  X
Hooded Merganser  4
Common Merganser  15
Ruddy Duck  X
Pied-billed Grebe  X
Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Mourning Dove  X
American Coot  X
Sandhill Crane  400
Killdeer  4
Wilson’s Snipe  4
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  1
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Great Blue Heron  6
Great Egret  2
Northern Harrier  3
Bald Eagle  2
Rough-legged Hawk  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  2
American Kestrel  6
Merlin  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
California Scrub-Jay  5
American Crow  X
Common Raven  2
Pacific Wren  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Song Sparrow  X
Spotted Towhee  3
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Sauvie’s Island Lower–Columbia Cty, Columbia, Oregon, US
Nov 18, 2022
22 species

Cackling Goose  X
Gadwall  X
American Wigeon  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Common Merganser  X
Pied-billed Grebe  X
Horned Grebe  X
Mourning Dove  X
Sandhill Crane  150
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Double-crested Cormorant  X
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  2
Northern Harrier  3
Bald Eagle  2
American Kestrel  4
California Scrub-Jay  X
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Red-winged Blackbird  X

SAUVIE’S VIEWS OF MT. ST. HELENS--Our most recently eruptive volcano in the Pacific Northwest, been nearly four decades…


“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 in “Marshland Elegy” in SAND COUNTY ALMANAC.

‘Our appreciation of cranes grows with the slow unraveling of earthly history.  His tribe, we now know, stems out of the remote Eocene.  The other members of the fauna in which he originated are long since entombed within the hills.  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 the incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.”  –Leopold

Spring in Nebraska: “Then the Sandhill Cranes return and the coming of spring is no longer in doubt.  Their voices rise from afar like the bugles of a distant regiment.  It is difficult to pick out the rattling garooo-a-a-a of an individual bird, for the great mass lives and moves and calls as if it were single organism composed of a hundred thousand working parts, awesome and seemingly unstoppable as it approaches…it is the collective voice of the flock that lingers in one’s memory.  There is something wild and untouchable in it something primeval that reaches back through the millennia to a spring when the cranes inhabit the earth unencumbered by humans.”  Paul Johnsgard in The Wonder of Birds

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 Cranes

“Flock after flock came weaving across the sky, often in mile-long skeins, changing shape, flowing without a pause. The air, before and behind us, seemed filled with their moving forms, filled also with the clamor of their voices. The wild chorus rose and fell, changed continually. At one time it suggested brant in flight, at another the rough purring of a cat, but in the end it remained unique, the commingled calling of many cranes…
“More than once, as the twilight deepened, a long skein of returning cranes passed directly across the luminous disk of the moon, each bird in turn standing out in sharp-cut silhouette. Each performer in this silhouette parade flew easily, buoyantly, riding the air on wings whose spread exceeded the extreme length of the bird by as much as three feet.”
Wandering Through Winter by Edwin Way Teale

“In all of North America, only a handful of animal calls have the power to stir the human soul as profoundly as these crane calls. The yodeling of loons on a northwoods lake, the bugling of elk across a misty meadow, the lugubrious howling of a wolf pack in a wilderness forest—these are sounds that bypass the ears to sink their teeth into a nerve deep within the listener, these and the ancient gurgling cries of cranes echoing over a dark river.”
The Cry of the Sandhill Crane, by Steve Grooms.

“The Romans noted the changing of the seasons by the raucous trumpeting of the cranes. In Greek mythology the alphabet was said to have been invented by the god Mercury which observing cranes in flight.”
The Book of Cranes, Claire Cooley

“There are now only two seasons in my personal calendar—crane season and the rest of the year… I would far rather see and listen to cranes than gaze once more on Arizona’s magnificent Grand Canyon, or listen to a concert performed by the finest of the world’s choirs…” Sandhill and Whooping Cranes, Paul Johnsgard [an ornithologist in Nebraska who has written as well and lovingly of the Sandhill Crane as any man who ever lived. Johnsgard himself is tall and crane-like.]

“High horns, low horns, silence, and finally pandemonium of trumpets, rattles, croaks, and cries that almost shakes the bog with its nearness, but without yet disclosing whence it comes. At last a glint of sun reveals the approach of a great echelon of birds. On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day had begun on the crane marsh.
Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold

“This morning we were awakened by the loud cries of the sandhill crane, performing evolutions in the air, high over their feeding grounds… This crane is a social bird, sometimes assembling in great numbers, soaring aloft in the air, flying with an irregular kind of gyratory motion, each individual describing a large circle in the air independently of his associates, and uttering loud, dissonant, and repeated cries. They sometimes continue thus to wing their flight upwards, gradually receding from the earth, until they become mere specks upon the sight, and finally disappear altogether, leaving only the discordant music of their concert to fall faintly upon the ear.”
Journal, Thomas Say, 1820

“savanna crane”  “When these birds move their wings in flight, their strokes are slow, moderate, and regular. And even when at a considerable distance or high above us, we plainly hear the quill-feathers, their shafts and web s upon one another creak as the joints of working of a vessel in a tempestuous sea.
“ We had this fowl for supper, and it made excellent soup; nevertheless, as long as I can get any other necessary food, I shall prefer their seraphic music in the ethereal skies, and my eyes and understanding gratified in observing their economy and social communities.”  William Bartram in The Travels; 1791.


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