January 24-26, 2020
I got home late on January 23 from my four-week birthday vacation in Brazil. I was working on my laptop most of the next day rather than spending time in the yard, but I did glance out the window frequently. My neighbors have been keeping my feeders full while I was gone, and there was plenty of activity. At one point in the early afternoon I noticed some movement farther away when something strangely mottled flew in beyond my southern fence and landed on a trunk of a cedar tree. It just sat there, so I jumped and scrambled to find my binoculars in my piles of luggage in the living room. I couldn’t believe my eyes – a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! This is a very rare bird in Oregon, and I remember when there were fewer than 10 records for the state. It’s now seen regularly enough (almost every year, some years 2 or 3 statewide) so that it’s no longer on the review list, but it still classifies as a genuine eastern vagrant, the principle winter range being the SE quarter United States and southward into Central America. It stayed long enough for me to find my camera and sneak outside for a close shot. I’m writing this two months after the fact, and despite my and other birders’ looking over the next days, I never saw this bird again.
Another nice rarity waiting for me was this female Vermilion Flycatcher at Alton Baker Park in Eugene. I had heard about its discovery while I was a Cristalino Jungle Lodge: found by Roger Robb while on a jog, who thought it might be a Say’s Phoebe, and relocated and correctly identified by Ramiro Aragon the next day. I wasn’t panicked to see it, as I was among the listers in the early 1990’s when Bend, Oregon hosted Oregon’s first record. Still, it’s fun to see such a “mega” that’s only a half-hour bike ride away, and so I was lucky that this bird appeared to be successfully wintering here. I think this is the sixth record for the state.
I was very grateful that my neighbors have kept the neighborhood wintering birds happy and well-fed. Here are two of the half dozen or so Townsend’s Warblers that have been visiting my homemade peanut butter suet blocks.