Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winter Tour Part IV: A Brambling Finale

A white as Snow Bunting. Also, a white-ass Snow Bunting. Found in an old parking lot next to the PDX airport, OR.

After a week in Port Angeles, I was ready for a change of scenery. A storm chased me out of the Olympic Peninsula and I ended up at Pinko's house in Northeast Portland. Aside from going to some good bars and restraunts, I ended up going birding with the one who calls herself "Jen", who owns and operates I Used To Hate Birds. It turns out she is a crude, perverse woman who Still Hates Birds, and we had a horrible time birding together.

Kidding! Jen is rad. She even showed me this glowing little Snow Bunting, which I had struck out on earlier in my road trip.

Behold the Snow Bunting in it's ivory awesomeness. This is a particularly white individual that had some birders trying to twist it into a McKay's, or some sort of hybrid.

When it time came to leave Portland, a brutal storm had moved onto the West Coast and I was seriously stressed about dealing with the snow and ice that lay on the high passes of Highway 5. What was even more stressful was that no other than a BRAMBLING has conveniently been wintering in someone's backyard just south of Portland, which was where I happened to be going. On top of that, it was rumored that The Gatekeeper of the Brambling would be at work that day, and I would have to stand creepily/pathetically on the sidewalk and hope to get a glimpse of it as it went to and from the back yard.

Luckily, The Gatekeeper had stayed home sick that day, and birders had full access to Brambling Goodness. Despite the rain, the Brambling arrived in less than an hour, and a few of us got some solid views. I had seen a number of them in the Aleutian Islands before, but this was my first for the Lower 48 (not that I keep that list). Only a tiny minority of North American birders have been lucky enough to see one of these, and this was a pretty abiding bird.

Brambling. Dark-eyed Junco. Brambling > Junco. Woodburn, OR.

Brambling. Hella rare, and very colorful. Or perhaps I should say, "hella colourful".

Eurasian Wigeon. Easy to find, but hard to photograph in a rainstorm. Westmoreland Park, Portland, OR.

Broadside Eurasian Wigeon. Birders interested in the Global Birding Ranking System may want to know you have to be able to identify female Eurasian Wigeons in order to qualify for the upper 50%.

Jen and I saw a number of Thayer's Gulls at Westmoreland Park. I'm still having trouble reconciling the fact that I see so many all the time...Thayer's was a relatively rare and extremely difficult bird to identify in my formative birding years in Southern California.

Buffleheads don't mind a little rain...or even a lot. Being distant (yet obvious) relatives of buffaloes, they are strong. Westmoreland Park, OR.

Anna's Hummingbirds can provide some much-needed color to the Pacific Northwest in winter. Woodburn, OR.

As a final note, there was a father and son who were in attendance at the Brambling. The son looked to be 9 or 10 years old. After the Brambling came and went, the father explained they had just flown out from Cincinnati, specifically to see the Brambling and a nearby Emperor Goose. Last fall, Pops explained that he had taken his son to see The Big Year...and after the movie was over, his son said "I want to do a big year". And that's what they were doing. If I were capable of human emotion (I only experience avian emotion, at this point), I may have shed a cheesey/nerdy tear or two.

After the Brambling, I made it safely to Corvallis, Arcata and back to San Francisco. Thanks to Whitney, Sam, Lena, Jerome, Seanessy, Debbiebaby, Cass, Liz, and Pinko for the hospitality and good company, as well as Stilt, Alex (Arex), Charlie and Anne for being heroic and rad.

Happy times! Great success!


  1. Looks like a pretty sweet trip. It'd be a pretty swell weekend to go hunting for a Bunting and scrambling for a Brambling, especially one that's so colareiful.
    That's a fine looking Hummingbird too, and it's pretty neat that a Eurasian Wigeon gave you a full broadside and you lived to tell the tale.

    I had always wondered where on the buffalo those spicy wings come from, but your pointing put the obvious taxonomical similarities between the Bufflehead and the buffalo has finally cleared up that confusion for me--Buffalo wings are, in fact, Bufflehead wings.

    Excellent post, thanks for sharing.

    1. That is some brutal rare bird rhyming. And yes...Bufflehead wings come naturally spicy...the sauce is actually just regular Bufflehead blood. Buffleblood.

      Thanks for reading the mundane banalities of my birding life.

  2. It's true, I still hate birds (mostly just Tufted Ducks) and am both crude and perverse. Part of my charm.

    Pretty cute story about the kid and his dad. They should have a blog.

  3. Snow Bunting + Brambling = JEALOUS!

    1. Yeah Jeremy, I thought it was a pretty good combo!

  4. i need a snow bunting friend. it's all i want .