Birding during a global pandemic.

Birders are lucky, we can still do the thing that we love while COVID 19 rages: we can still make lists!

Any birding plans I had for the next month (or ten) have been replaced with yard birding and motorless birding.  That's two lists.  Luckily we have two homes, so that's four lists.  I can live with four lists.

House Finch with nesting material

The day after I proposed a yard bird challenge to the 5MR Facebook group a Varied Thrush appeared in our backyard.  This is not an easy yard bird for us.

Every spring the Song Sparrows do a little a dance back and forth along the chain link fence. 

 Black-capped Chickadees always investigate our lighthouse, either for nesting or for snacks.  There's no way in unless they make the hole bigger that a Downy Woodpeckers started.

 Lesser Goldfinches offer the most color in the yard now.

 Violet-green Swallows returned to the yard yesterday and will hopefully nest in the vents of the neighboring apartment building again.

 This junco showed up that looks almost good enough for slate-colored but I'm not sure.

Yesterday I heard a Steller's Jay which is another good yard bird for us.  If I-205 isn't being too loud we can sometimes hear them in the pines to the west, but they never actually come to the yard.  Except this time!

 As they've bulldozed all of the habitat surrounding us to build apartments and townhouses our bird numbers have decreased.  It's a bummer but hopefully our yard is a tiny refuge for them. 

I knew a yard list wouldn't cut it for me during the pandemic so I decided to start a new motorless list also.  The ECAS website offers printable checklists for each Oregon county so I printed the Multnomah one to keep track of this new list.

My first outing was a walk to my patch, Meadowbrook Marsh, which I had somehow not birded in three months. 

Rufous Hummingbird (Motorless bird #16)

 Purple Finch

My first lucky encounter was an American Kestrel flying over, an unreliable 5MR bird.


Spotted Towhee

My next bit of luck was a Virginia Rail calling from the marsh.  Never reliable!

 This marsh extends off and on for many miles of Burnt Bridge Creek Trail though I only consider the first mile and a half part of my patch.  I like to walk to this little pond just east of Andresen because there's more marsh next to it and good duck potential.

 Coot! (Motorless bird #33)


My only Cinnamon Teal spot in my 5MR

 Hooded Merganser

 American Goldfinch

This little pond netted me five duck species (plus coot) as well as the goldfinch and Golden-crowned Kinglet.  I was at 40 species when I turned around here, then 41 when a Wilson's Snipe flushed from the marsh close to the trail.  So lucky!

American shrewmole, says iNat.  

On my walk back I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk flying in.  They nest along the trail but I don't know exactly where so I was hoping to find out.  But then I got distracted by another soaring raptor:

Northern Harrier!  Extremely unreliable in my 5MR

Then a Cooper's Hawk flew over while I was still watching the harrier.  What the what!  Three raptors in sixty seconds.  I made it only a few feet before a Marsh Wren started calling from a random section of marsh that's usually quiet.  I was feeling incredibly lucky right then.

I picked up Fox Sparrow for #46 and back at home, White-crowned Sparrow made for 47 species for the day. 

After a day of rain and being cooped up I was eager to take another walk, despite the damp weather.  I chose my "Walmart patch" where I've had many good birds in the past.  A couple blocks from home I spotted a few Killdeer in a gravel lot, #48. Then I spotted this tree:

There are plenty of cedars around and it was certainly not something I had paid attention to before. 

"This cedar tree planted by John Peter Bersch 1858.  He came here by ox team from St. Louis in the 1853 wagon train.  He was 30, his wife 21." 

"This tree blew down during the Columbus Day storm. Was placed back up by owner Loui C. Petersen."
Pretty cool that in 1962 they saved a hundred year old tree, and now it's 162 years old. 

Also along the way:

Looks like it hasn't been messed with at all, which is interesting
After an hour and a half I made it to my birding destination where the rain had picked up and the birds were minimal.  A flock of blackbirds yielded one new bird, Brewer's Blackbird. 

Also, lots of crap someone dumped, maybe because the Goodwill nearby is closed.

 I walked home defeated with only two new motorless birds, both of which I will likely see or hear in the yard in the next month.  At least I went for a 7.7 mile walk. 

Yesterday morning I wanted to walk again though not so far.  I took Rexi for a walk up to the cemetery near our house, barely a twenty minute walk with several birds species I needed.

 Fox Sparrow

 Hutton's Vireo, recently consistent here (Motorless bird #54)

 Bewick's Wren collecting nesting material

On our walk around the cemetery I also picked up Pacific Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  Back at home in the afternoon Violet-green Swallow became #55.

There's plenty to be freaked out about right now but I'm so grateful that I can obsess over birds and forget about it for awhile.  (Without touching anything or going near other people or doing anything that endangers others of course).

If you're on Facebook and want to check out a global yard birding event I recommend the group #birdthefeckathome, which Emma in Australia shared.  The goal is to see how many bird species people can record in their yards on one master list.  As of this post, 1307 species have been recorded!

Hope you are all safe and healthy!  If you need to work on managing your stress, check out this free course offered by OSU.  Virtual hugs all around.


  1. Thanks for sharing the spreadsheet for that worldwide yard challenge. I was able to add 4 species!

  2. There is always so much to see right in your own backyard!

    1. It's true. The hardest part is not going to buy plants!

  3. You're in a great spot for self-isolating - so much to see around you!

    And thanks for sharing the FB group. I can't contribute species-wise but hopefully sharing will help add a few more birds!

    Stay well and take care x

    1. The FB group has been pretty fun since it's heavy on Australian birds. I haven't been able to add anything new either, but that's ok.

  4. You are keeping good company! This week the barn swallows returned as well as the Eastern Kingbird...and my hummers are back too. Today a Brown Thrasher decided to sing his head off up in a tree in the yard, he had some amazing tunes!!


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