Posted by: atowhee | January 1, 2023


The first bird of the year gets remarked, quietly thanked even. It promises there will be more birds, then eventually the annual spring chorus. The calendar has changed but the birds and their nature, within nature, persevere. Most years my first bird is something to be expected. In San Francisco it was usually the voice of a Western Gull passing by. In Ashland it was usually a crow complaining…or a hungry junco on the snow before dawn. Here in the Willamette Valley it has continued to be: 1) crow
2) junco or 3) robin. They are usually the early risers. Not Bushtit or nuthatch, neither jay nor Mourning Dove–slugabeds all, waiting for more light, maybe a smidgen of warmth even.

If I could choose my place and species…it might be Shoebill in East Africa….Hoopoe in Spain or on a Greek isle…Sandhill Crane on Sauvie…or an aracari in Quito…the frigatebird above the ship off a Galapagos island…a tui in New Zealand (kiwi far too much to ask). But the nature of nature is to be natural and before dawn this morning there was dim light. Heavy clouds darkened the sky even as some sunlight crept in from the east. Juncos love that dim light, but another bird that dwells in dense forest beneath the sun-screening canopy also likes dim light.

There he was–a male, with dark orange and jet black pattern. I consider this the most beautiful bird that now is within a mile of our home. In May, when a Townsend’s Warbler might be around, I’d have to weight the competition considerations, but in winter? We don’t get Wood Ducks or male harriers on our lawn.
Here is the first piece of bird art my wife and I bought. It was over thirty years ago. A signed, limited edition print by J. Fenwick Lansdowne. This Canadian was one of bird artist geniuses of the late 20th Century–click here.

So even after the early bird flew off, I could look up from breakfast and see his fine portrayal, bigger than life size on our dining room wall. A beautiful beginning for 2023.
I must note that Jay Withgott reports from Portland that his wife’s first bird was also a Varied Thrush…great karma for 2023 birding!

When the turkeys came, there were 20. Down one from New Year’s Eve?

Chickadees–two species, two of each:

Fox Sparrow, practicing the jump and scratch maneuver, wings aflailin’. Click on image for full screen.

Small things can be a big deal, if it’s Bushtits.

Last flash of color for today, Mrs. Towhee in afternoon.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 1, 2023 7:45 AM
Protocol: Incidental
25 species

Canada Goose  X
Wild Turkey  20
Mourning Dove  14
Glaucous-winged Gull  1
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  2
California Scrub-Jay  4
American Crow  25     noise and mobbing nearby; couldn’t find target
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  2
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  2
Varied Thrush  1
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  X
Lesser Goldfinch  X
American Goldfinch  30
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  40
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1

Only likely birds that didn’t show today: collared-dove, downy, Bewick’s Wren, robin and yellow-rump. It was first time in days for Chestnut-backed Chickadees and gulls are only sporadic fly-overs. Six sparrow species is most I’ve had in one day–white crowns and savannahs and Lincoln’s unlikely here outside of migration.



  1. Varied thrush: nice first bird of the year! For the second year in a row, the brown creeper is my first bird of the year. Saw one on my hike up Greyback mountain in the Applegate Valley.

    Sent from my iPhone

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