Fink Family Farm Bird List

Fink Family Farm Bird List

The only list I faithfully keep is a list of all the birds seen on our farm since we moved here in 1977. I thought it would be fun to ad...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Red-breasted Sapsucker Peek-a-Boo

Every morning when I come back through the orchard after feeding the horses, a Red-breasted Sapsucker scolds me from "his" apple tree, as though worried I will steal his sap wells. Sometimes he flies to the next apple tree and pecks on a dead top, where it seems I should be able to get a clear view of him. All the while he keeps an eye on me and periodically scolds. When I remember to take my camera along, he seems determined to keep a twig between me and him. Pictured are some of my attempts and his evasions. This has been going on for weeks. I may be anthropomorphizing, but it sure seems deliberate to me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Okay, the votes are in. My Golden Plover is a Black-bellied and my Western Sandpiper is a Dunlin. The Plover has a "big head and steep forehead". I'll add more reasons for its identity if they're sent to me. How ever do people learn how to identify shorebirds? The only one I'm good at is Black Oystercatcher.

Addendum: Hendrik Herlyn added some very helpful reasons: "...Overall very grayish plumage, no brownish or golden tones at all. Pacific Golden would show a lot of gold, and even American Golden should have some. Your bird has a rather big head and huge eye. Both Golden-Plovers have smaller heads and don't appear so big-eyed. Black-belly is overall chunkier and shorter-legged. In flight, it shows a pale rump and dark axillaries (not visible in your pics). It also has much bolder white wingbars than the two Golden-Plovers, which shows up nicely in your first photo." Thank you, Hendrik!

Original post:

At Whelan Island today we saw what I called a Golden-Plover. I am confused by the apparent white wingstripe and pretty big bill. Do Goldens have wing stripes or is this a Black-bellied? This bird was a long way off so the photos are not good. It was keeping company with a single peep with dark legs which I presumed to be a Western Sandpiper. (Photo at right.) Click on the photos to enlarge.

More Plover photos:

Addendum: Do I have these right? Semi-palmated Plovers... (Yes, the pros say I finally got something right.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hawk ID HELP!!

While wandering through my old photos from this year, I came across this photo of what I thought at the time was a Cooper's Hawk, which we see here frequently. But now, looking at the photo, I notice that it has uneven tail bands. Could this be a young Goshawk?? Please comment here or email Thank you!!!

...Okay, the votes are in. And all three accipiters were named. However, several people gave good reasons why it is *not* a Goshawk. Shawneen Finnegan said:
"Goshawks, both adults and young birds, are more robust, have large pale superciliums that are often flared behind the eye, and the underpart streaking extends down onto the leg feathers and on the belly to the undertail coverts."

The moral of the story is, don't rely on one field mark. All accipiters, I've learned, can have uneven tail banding on the ventral side, depending on feather molt and positioning.

This photo was taken in February. According to Brian Wheeler's book, "Raptors of Western North America", a young Cooper's Hawk will have eye color more yellow (as in this photo) than the other two accipiters. But the most telling difference between Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks is the shape of the head. Coops tend to have flat heads with no abrupt forehead.

I had no doubt when I took the photo that this was a Cooper's Hawk, so I most likely had very good looks at the bird from several angles, may have heard it vocalize and likely saw it fly. Only after looking at the photo many months later, did I question that identification... on the basis of one poorly understood field mark... the unevenly banded tail. Live and learn.

Thanks to all who helped educate me today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Farm Bird #144: Red-shouldered Hawk

A hawk screamed KREER KREER KREER as it flew past my milk room window this morning. It did not sound like any of the hawks we normally have around here so I dashed outside with my binoculars to see if it was still in view. There was a buteo sitting on top of the big dead tree along our little creek. A Red-tailed Hawk sits there most every morning and this had the buteo shape. But even at that considerable distance, through binoculars I could see red barring on the front. I ran to the house for camera and scope (and Johnny to set up the scope while I fired off photos).

The photos are lousy but diagnostic. It was, indeed, a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk of the California subspecies that has been rapidly expanding its range northward out of California. A pair we believe nested near Willamina, not too far from us, and this just might be their offspring.

I do not keep a life list anymore, since it became too confusing with all the splits and groups and I grew tired of crossing out numbers and either adding or subtracting one. But I do keep a list of all the birds ever seen on our farm since we moved here in 1977. This Red-shouldered Hawk makes farm bird #144. Hopefully, it will come back for closer, better pictures.

I wonder if it has been here before and I just assumed the buteo on the snag was a Red-tail? From now on, I check each one! And listen for that diagnostic KREER KREER KREER.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yellowlegs: Greater or Lesser?

This is driving me crazy. I can tell Greater from Lesser Yellowlegs when they are side by side or when they are near another species whose relative size I know (or can look up). Otherwise, I'm clueless. I have studied Paulson's Shorebirds of North America, The Shorebird Guide by O'Brien, Crossley and Karlson, plus Sibley, etc. If anyone can help, I'd be eternally grateful. First photo is of a Yellowlegs taken an Baskett Slough on Sept. 19. Second photo is of a Yellowlegs taken an Baskett Slough on Sept. 20. Is it possible to tell what they are from these photos? If so, how?

I am making progress on the Western vs. Least problem: I just look at the legs.

Addendum: Two knowledgeable birders have responded to say these are both Greaters. The base of the bills are bulky. Lessers have needle-like bills. Okay, here's a photo I took at the Oregon Shorebird Festival of 2 Greaters and 1 Lesser. (I know because of the size difference.) I"m not sure I would be able to call the Lesser's bill needle-like if I didn't see it with the Greater. Is there anything else to be seen in this photo that is different between the two (other than size)?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mystery Shorebird

Since there seemed to be some confusion as to which bird I was asking about, I'm adding the photo that John Woodhouse somehow managed to put an arrow on. And yes, the arrow is pointing to the bird in question. Please now send or resend your comments to Thanks all!

I fired off photos Saturday on our windy canoe trip at the Oregon Shorebird Festival without having a clue what I was taking pictures of, since I was, at the same time, trying to keep the canoe from zooming upstream with the tide and wind. I heard what our canoe leader Tom was saying was there and I did manage to catch a glimpse of a Black Turnstone (and a zillion peeps). However, once I put the photos on the computer, I could see, in the photo above, a zillion Western Sandpipers, 3 Black Turnstones, at least 3 Red-necked Phalaropes and one mystery bird. Another photo shows a Yellowlegs and those were the only species I remember Tom mentioning (he had a scope mounted on the front of his kayak). He did say he did not see any Least Sandpipers. So... what is my mystery bird? It is on the right side of the photo with its back to the camera and appears brown instead of gray.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Green Heron

Every year, I suspect the Green Herons are nesting nearby. And every year, a juvenile turns up on our pond, so I was expecting a juvenile when this one appeared Aug. 19. But it has the rufous, not streaked, neck of an adult. However, I don't know the molt sequence of Green Herons so perhaps the slight irregularities of color on the neck mean this is a young one nearly completing its molt into adult plumage. Or not.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Dowitcher Puzzle

Greg Gillson has written an excellent article on telling Short-billed from Long-billed Dowitchers. But I'm still not doing well. The photos I've taken at Baskett Slough are not the greatest, which is my excuse for not being able to figure out who is what. I'll try to do better on my next trip to the feed store, via Baskett Slough. Here is the pertinent part (for me, this time of year, in this area) of Greg's article:

"A fall adult with little or no color on the underparts, but retaining extensive thick, solid alternate breast markings is almost certainly a Short-billed, while a fall adult retaining smooth reddish color throughout the underparts including the belly, but with very thin-looking, worn breast markings is almost certainly a Long-billed.


Juveniles (young birds in their first set of feathers after the downy plumage) are the easiest dowitchers to tell apart. The plumage is fresh and new with crisp, bright, colorful edges--very unlike the worn and faded adult fall dress.

Juvenile Short-billeds arrive in early August and migrate through until the end of September. Juvenile Long-billeds arrive in early September and remain in this plumage into November. They then molt sequentially into basic plumage. The tertials are among the last feathers to molt.

Juvenile Short-billed Dowitchers are very bright and highly colored. The upper breast is bright buff with spots, fading to white on the belly. The scapulars and tertials are widely fringed and patterned with reddish [see Figure 3]. The coverts are barred and fringed with buff.

Long-billed Dowitcher juveniles are rather plain. The scapulars have cinnamon margins, but the coverts and tertials have thin buff margins. The breast is buff and gray with little spotting, which fades into a white belly."

Some good photos of Dowitchers with identities revealed (or not and why not) are here:

Okay, my bad photos at the top were taken Aug. 3, 2011. My bad photo below, Aug. 8. Opinions welcome. I'm going to guess that the bird in the last photo above with the very long bill is a female Long-billed Dowitcher... because the female Longbills have the longest bills... and birds inland should be Long-billed. I'll try to get better photos. I was going for art, not identification.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mid-summer Bird Photos

Birding friend Marilyn and I watched on July 31 as a parent Osprey fed one of the nearly-ready-to-fledge chicks in a nest near Willamina. Four big birds were a lot for one nest!

On my way home from the feed store on August 3rd, I visited The Narrows on Coville Rd. at Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge and saw the lovely Pacific Golden Plover that had been spotted there. Birder Joel Geier pointed it out to me.

Also at The Narrows were preening White Pelicans and a ruffled Great Egret (along with several unruffled.) On another road within the refuge I found this Horned Lark.

Back at home, two Belted Kingfishers have been flying around our pond making a terrific racket for two days. I have no idea why. Here is one after it settled down.

Mama California Quail guards her five surviving (as of Aug. 8) chicks. I think this group started with nine. A Cooper's Hawk tried today, Aug. 8, for one of them but they escaped into the bushes in time.

Birding friends from Tillamook, Barbara and John, joined me today for a trip to Baskett Slough with stops along the way. At a stop near Sheridan we found this Green Heron.

There were at least six lovely Great Egrets at The Narrows (along with many Dowitchers, Yellowlegs, a Red-necked Phalarope, Western Sandpipers and other unphotographed-by-me birds). We found a very cooperative Horned Lark on Livermore Road but none of my photos came out very well. I'm happy with this Egret, though, reflected in water at The Narrows.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What is this bird?

Thanks to Dave Irons for identifying this little sparrow as a juvenile Chipping Sparrow. He says that Spizella sparrows retain this streaked plumage for a few months only. He explains in the comments after my post.

It was seen August 7, 2011, picking around on the ground in front of the barn. It did not hang out with the others eating seed I'd thrown out for them... California Quail, Spottted Towhee, Song Sparrow, House Sparrows. It was smaller and slimmer than the House Sparrows. I thought at first it was a Savannah Sparrow, but the ones we have on our northwestern Oregon farm in the foothills of the coast range usually have yellow lores. This bird had a notched tail, but it was long not short. I'd like to know what it is so am posting nearly all the photos I took in hopes someone will tell me why it is whatever it is. Click on an image to enlarge it. Either comment here or send to my email address: