Ridgefield 11-23 and 11-24-10

It's been cold.  Yesterday, according to KATU, was the coldest November morning in 25 years.  I like it... It's my inner New Englander that craves sunny freezing cold days.  They're a rarity here so I've been pretty psyched about the last few days. 

Of course what better way to spend a freezing cold morning than inside the comfort of your heated car (once you get the doors pried open!) on the Ridgefield Auto Route hoping to find the Snow Bunting?

Tuesday morning was gorgeous... Snow dusted almost everything... The numbered markers were useless.

There were flocks of Golden-crowned Sparrows and mixed finches...

Golden-crowned Sparrow

House Finch

 House Finch (Yellow Variant)

I could not find the Snow Bunting for sure that day.  I flushed a bird I was nearly positive was the bunting but the combined effect of a flock of blackbirds, a harrier swooping in, and a car passing me made it impossible for me to relocate.

Sure was pretty though! 

Wednesday morning I decided what the hell, I'll go back up and try again.  The first thing I noticed were the Sandhill Cranes.  They were passing overhead, 20-30 at a time, non-stop.  Hundreds of them.  Flying northwest from what I could tell.  Was it not cold enough for them??

Warning: the next photo is a bummer.

 That made me sad even though I know it happens...  I finished up my trip around the refuge with some Tundra Swans...

Oh and Ralph saw his first coyote.  He's not a fan from what I could tell.

I reached the end of the route bummed that despite a lot of searching, I could not find the bunting.  I had stuff to do back in Portland... Thanksgiving dinner shopping, a birthday present to buy, oh and work of course..  Eh... I figured screw all that nonsense, I'll try one more time.. So I drove around again.

I watched this next bird for a bit.  Something about him didn't sit right with me.  I can't quite pinpoint it.


As I approached marker 12 I saw a few cars stopped ahead.. I got excited.  I was really hoping it wasn't a bunch of people looking at swans or something.  I got closer and closer... A nice fella in one of the cars pulled over asked if I was looking for the bunting.... Of course.  Yep, it was there!  I waited my turn and took a million pictures of the tolerant bird....

Such a gorgeous bird!!!  I am so glad to have seen it...

And one more, where he's actually in the snow...



  1. Awesome! You have the best luck! Did you see it posted on OBOL? Could the one bird be a white-throated sparrow? The throat isn't very white though,but the yellow markings are right.

  2. Definitely cool stuff!
    I need a western field guide now...

  3. I'm glad you persevered with locating the Snow Bunting ... superb images Jen.
    I hunted through my copy of Sibley and can only suggest White-throated Sparrow.

  4. We went up today to find the bunting with success! We also saw a Black Phoebe on the frozen waters of Quibley Lake, as well as a lone swallow over the lake that was in bad lighting and flying away from us so we couldn't ID it to species.

    Your sparrow looks like a first winter Golden Crown to me.


  5. That frozen duck image is a bummer alright. Reminds me of the time I saw a coyote attacking a Canada Goose and it's gosling at TRNWR.
    I hope the bunting is still there tomorrow. It's the first chance I'll have to get up there.
    Nice stuff as usual.

  6. I love the snow bunting! So, so pretty.

  7. @ Nut: I actually saw the bunting on the Portland birds google group (http://groups.google.com/group/portland-area-birds/topics?pli=1) though I'm sure it was on OBOL too.

    As for the sparrow- I don't know! It doesn't look like either a GC or a WT to me.. At least not 100%...

  8. Loved the Snow Bunting. Isn't it great when a plan comes together?

  9. Your mystery sparrow may be a Golden-crowned with either an injury or a deformation on its bill and crown.

    The first picture shows a distorted and unusually small upper mandible, and from the base of the bill, the crown looks dented in. A dented crown would certainly throw off its markings there.

    This deformation (if that's what it is) should be enough to make you say "something's weird".

    That's my guess...

  10. Ah the elusive Snow Bunting. I saw a flock of 20 or so last year, but the didn't sit still long enough for me to photograph. Nice array of photos. I took a week biring in Louisiana so stay tuned for my uploads.


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