December 31, 2014

Washington County BIG YEAR Recap

This post will most likely bore you to death. But since I want to keep a record of my Washington County, Oregon BIG YEAR, I am going to jot down a few tidbits of data and stats so I can remember it all. My Big Year Partner (BYP) and I  have been birding Washington County hard this year. We were lame and didn't really hit it hard till February.

It's safe to say we are quite familiar with Washington County, Oregon after this year of birding. If you desire to see a certain species around these parts, just ask.

The county is 726 square miles. South Saddle Mountain is the highest point at 3464'. We went there.
The lowest point is not noted anywhere that I can find, but we assume that it is Nyberg Wetlands. We went there. Henry Hagg Lake is the largest lake in the county.We went there.

County birding records indicate that 200 is the most species seen in the county in any year.
273 species have been recorded on eBird in the county.
  •  I did 367 checklists in the county this year using eBird to record them.
  • 146 of those were my yard checklists. (33 birds in my yard were county year birds)
  • The highest number of county year birds were seen at Jackson Bottom: 36 (probably because that was our first big county outing of the year)
  • I visited over 90 individual county locations this year, many of them multiple times.

Rusty Blackbird, February, Dawson Creek

The Rusty was around in 2013, but we were lucky it stuck around for counting in 2014!

 Mew Gull, March, Amberglen Business Park

At some point I realized I needed to start looking at gulls if I wanted to get anywhere with county birding. Ugh.

Eurasian Wigeon, February, Dawson Creek

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, March, Milne Rd.

This was a good county rarity that I was fortunate to get to see and tick off.

Red-breasted Sapsucker, at my "Patch": Cedar Mill Wetlands

In March I started birding my patch. I got 7 county year birds in my patch. A Chipping Sparrow was probably the best county year bird I saw there.

Brewer's Sparrow, April, Jacobson-Croeni Ponds

The Brewer's Sparrow was the rarest bird I found and saw this year and too bad I only got a digi-bin photo. I wish my BYP had been with me to get to see this one.

Hairy Woodpecker, May, Storey Burn Rd.

Mountain Quail, August, Round Top Road

We tried SO hard to find this bird and then we not only saw adults, but babies too! Our persistence paid off!

We were rewarded with grand views when we ventured into the mountains in the truck.
But most of these trips on windy gravel roads lead to dead ends full of shotgun shells, beer cans, clear-cuts and litter. Our state forest, folks.

 Solitary Sandpiper, August, Cedar Mill Wetlands

We saw a Solitary Sandpiper in May at Jackson Bottom, but this bird in my patch was up close and fun to discover.

Green Heron, August, Commonwealth Lake

Commonwealth Lake is a reliable place to find these birds. We got our county year bird in February, but in August there were many there and they put on a good show.

 Hagg Lake, Me, and the Scope

After shorebird season in August I was starting to get more comfortable with the scope....just in time for some serious lake birding.We went out there at least four times in the fall/winter. Hagg Lake produced 12 county year birds for me (Geesh. Is that all?!) Some of those were from our trip in the spring too. Sadly, no Clark's Grebe could be found and I didn't see a Eared Grebe. Boo-hoo.

So what did I learn about myself and birding?
I know that staring through chain link fences looking at birds as cars and planes go whizzing by is not for me (Hillsboro Airport=American Pipit).
I know I will never be confident about gulls and as much as I feel like I should take the time to learn about them, I probably won't (Amberglen Business Park= Ring-billed Gull).
I know that looking at ducks half a mile away across a lake with a scope isn't for me (Hagg Lake= is that a Greater Scaup or a Lesser Scaup?= who really cares).
I learned I like to see my scope views of birds up close and personal (Koller Wetlands= Common Goldeneye).
I like taking the pick-up truck with snacks, tea, and lunch to country roads and finding sweet birds (Round Top Road= Mountain Quail).
It's fun to explore new spots. You never know what you might find by accident (Lousignont Rd=Common Nighthawk).
I learned that taking time for refreshments is important:
    South Store Cafe, Scholls area
    Insomnia Coffee, Amberglen area
    Poppa's Haven Coffee House, Cedar Mill area

On the last days of our BIG YEAR we birded Amberglen where I got my last two county birds in one day:Gulls.
Then we headed out to the flooded fields on Fernhill Road. A white goose way in the distance flew by, but we were unable to call it. A Ross's Goose would have been a new county bird for both of us. We went back to Hagg Lake one more time too. We were unsuccessful in adding any new county year birds at the lake.

There is a Bald Eagle in the middle of the swans.

Then on Monday we took it easy and birded some local spots. The sunshine was nice, but the east winds were picking up. That always puts a damper on bird action. We hit a new spot on the Tualatin Hills Westside Trail. The trail is super long and we have really only birded the Mt. Williams section. It was good for sparrows and the Linear Trail section looked good too. We found the usual suspects. We were dreaming of an American Tree Sparrow to cap off the BIG YEAR.

We went over to Mt. Williams too. Finally I put my bins away, got out the camera and just enjoyed the "regular" birds and the sunshine. I used to bird with just my camera a lot. Maybe I will do more of that in 2015.

 Pish all you want, this is the best photo you will get.

The Anna's Hummingbirds were feisty. I think some territorial mating stuff is starting up.

Although the end number was important to me, the hunt for county birds was the fun part. Crunching eBird data, reviewing species maps, planning the next spot to visit, and tracking our progress on my county map tacked to the wall made for a fun year long project with my BYP.

Final species count : 189
Last bird counted:  Western Gull (oh the irony)
eBird county ranking for 2014: #3
eBird county ranking all time: #11 (I'll be working on that!)

Curious how my BYP did? He got 193, ranking #1 in the county. Pretty hot stuff.


  1. Yayyyyyyy!!!!!! You guys kicked some major ass this year. I totally would have given up in like June. Number 1 and Number 3!!! So awesome.

    Also, this post was not boring AT ALL. Did you say how many birds you added to your county list in 2014? I assume quite a few.

    1. Thanks, Jen! I added 56 new county birds to my list. I really only started using eBird in 2013 and even then only sporadically. 19 were life birds. Isn't it fun to sort all the data on eBird? :)

  2. What a journey! Congrats! A master birder & adventurer, you've become. It's been fun to follow your journey all year and cheer you on. Wahooooooo

  3. No, not boring at all. Hey, I read a whole book about a big year! This is more interesting because I actually know you :) Great job, you two. I'm with Jen...woulda thrown in the towel. Who made the button? V Cute.

  4. Great job! You mentioned so many spots in Washington Co. that I've never even been. Any goals for this year?

    1. Thanks! No big goals other than take more photos.


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