Washington County, Oregon, Big Day: 28 April 2007

Greay Jay. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Gray Jay up Scoggins Valley Road 3 miles past Hagg Lake was one of the day's first birds.

It was a tough work week. I needed to go out and see some birds as a catharsis. By Friday it was clear that a couple of hours would not do. I needed to watch birds all day! Thus this was an impromptu Big Day, with no planning or scouting (other than pevious familiarity with the area).

Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Chestnut-backed Chickadee up Scoggins Valley Road 3 miles past Hagg Lake.

Last year Tim Shelmerdine, Jay Withgott, and I set the county record with 123 species. One of things I remembered was that we "wasted" 2 hours driving to Tualatin Hills Nature Park to pick up a couple of stake-out birds. I thought that the time would be better spent birding, rather than driving out of the way. So I decided to go slower and bird more thoroughly. Owling would end at Hagg Lake, so that's where I would start the day's birding. That should provide all the forest and land birds. Fernhill Wetlands should provide most of the waterbirds. Based on previous attempts, those two locations would provide at least 100 species, and I'd be done by noon. From their I'd try to pick up any species missed by hitting Jackson Bottom Wetlands and Killin Wetlands. The last couple of hours would be spent trying to find any odd species that had eluded me earlier in the day.

Townsend's Warbler. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Townsend's Warbler up Scoggins Valley Road 3 miles past Hagg Lake.

Owling started very slowly. By 4:15 am, I had been driving farm roads from Hillsboro to Cherry Grove without encountering an owl. In fact, after and hour and 29 miles, I hadn't heard a single bird of any kind! I picked up several Western Screech-Owls immediately when reaching Hagg Lake. A couple of screeches was all I got from the Northern Saw-whet Owls (they were the only birds calling there in March). By 5:00 am I was up to only 4 species, with and American Robins and Great Horned Owls added to the list. Pitiful.

Orange-crowned Warbler. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Orange-crowned Warbler at Hagg Lake.

As dawn spread from the east toward me, the birds song picked up. I headed up into the Coast Range, just 3 miles from the lake. As soon as I got out of the car, I heard Mountain Quail calling. Hairy Woodpeckers and Red-breasted Sapsuckers were tapping out their distinctive drum calls. White-crowned Sparrows were calling from the clear cuts and, well, the game was afoot!

Common Loon. Photo by Greg Gillson
  There were at least 8 Common Loons on Hagg Lake. Though they do not breed here, they yodel their eerie song every spring during migration.

I brought my camera in order to force myself to slow down. The result was that I remained in areas longer and picked up more of the species present than I might normally for a Big Day. I never felt like I was behind schedule, because my planned route was barely 30 miles long, though I would criss-cross it at the end of the day. How different from State Big Days where time and vast distances to travel are the enemy!

Spotted Sandpiper. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Spotted Sandpiper on Scoggins Creek.

I walked up a logging road on the only parcel of Weyerhauser land surrounded by off-limits Stimson Lumber Company holdings. About a half mile up the road I came to the Gray Jay woods and was not disappointed. It was barely light enough to try my camera and play with the exposure compensation settings. A Western Bluebird called, eliminating a stop later in the day. A Sooty Grouse hooted from the woods. At 7:30 am I was back at the car and my list was 46. I drove slowly back 3 miles down to the lake, stopping at several pull-outs. I reached Hagg Lake and drove to the fee booth to buy a day's pass. My species list at 8:00 am was 57.

Band-tailed Pigeon. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Band-tailed Pigeons at Scoggins Creek Park.

At this point I determined to bird my way around the whole lake. This involved walking on the trails below Lee Road, Tanner Creek, and the abandoned Recreation Area East, a total of about 4 miles.

Hutton's Vireo. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Hutton's Vireo at Nelson Road at Hagg Lake.

The thorough birding of Hagg Lake found most of the birds I had already seen, plus many more. [Big Day tip: ] The birds that I saw only in the hills above Hagg Lake were Sooty Grouse, Mountain Quail, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Gray Jay, House Wren, Western Bluebird, and Hermit Thrush.

Black-throated Gray Warbler. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Black-throated Gray Warbler at Nelson Road at Hagg Lake.

At 11:40 am I finished Hagg Lake, 3-1/2 hours to bird fairly thoroughly around the lake. I had detected 76 total species for the day.

Tree Swallow. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Tree Swallow at Fernhill Wetlands.

Next I picked up Acorn Woodpecker at Rogers Park in Forest Grove, then hit a drive-thru for lunch, then headed to Fernhill Wetlands.

Wood duck. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Wood Duck at Fernhill Wetlands.

Water levels were high, so the shorebirds that were here were all in the back vegetation. I saw flocks fly around, so picked up most of the species. I also was still carrying my camera, not my scope, so I risked missing distant ducks or shorebirds.

Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler at Fernhill Wetlands.

After 1-1/2 hours I had finished birding Fernhill Wetlands. It was 1:50 pm and my day's list was right on schedule at 104 species.

Mallard. Photo by Greg Gillson
  A pair of Mallards at Fernhill Wetlands.

Next stop was Jackson Bottom Wetlands in Hillsboro. Again, I should have taken my scope to check out the shorebirds up close. Interesting was a thermal of 10 Red-tailed Hawks. A couple of Lincoln Sparrow's flushed from the grassy area in the back woods. On leaving Jackson Bottom it was 3:50 pm and I had 112 species.

American Goldfinch. Photo by Greg Gillson
  American Goldfinch at Jackson Bottom Wetlands.

At his point I was quite tired and stopped by my house in Hillsboro to rest and refuel with some food and cold drink. The half hour rest did me good, and reinvigorated me for the final chase. I had 112 species; I thought I might reasonably get to 120.

A puddle on Cedar Canyon Road at Hartwick Road contained the first of the day's 4 Solitary Sandpipers #113 and a Wilson's Snipe #114. Killin Wetlands yielded the expected American Bitterns #115 and Virginia Rails #116. It is a good thing that I had heard a Sora at Jackson Bottom because none called while I was here. A mile up Killin road at Narup Road were 3 more Solitary Sandpipers.

Spotted Towhee. Photo by Greg Gillson
  Spotted Towhee at Jackson Bottom Wetlands.

The American Dipper #117 just up the road at the Highway 6/8 interchange was under the bridge, on cue. I drove the Old Wilson River Highway and checked the tree farms and filbert orchards, but finally heard a Chipping Sparrow #118 on Stringtown Road in Forest Grove. There were now only five species likely: Blue-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, California Quail, Vaux's Swift, and Cliff Swallow. Of course there were a dozen other species possible, including early migratory species such as Warbling Vireo, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and others. But driving through the farmlands and to Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom again only yielded one new species: Cliff Swallow #119. And that was the end of the day. 3:00 am to 8:00 pm, 145 miles of driving, 7 miles walking, and 119 species, tied for the second highest county listing record. Hmm... I bet by next weekend there'll be a dozen more species moved in, with none lost. With a little help and good weather there's a new county Big Day record waiting... is 130 possible?

This report was mailed for Greg Gillson by http://birdnotes.net

Date: April 28, 2007
Location: Washington County, Oregon

Low temperature: 50 degrees fahrenheit High temperature: 73 degrees fahrenheit
Prevailing wind speed: 6-11 km/h
Percentage of sky covered by clouds: 20%
Precipitation: none

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) 1 [1] 
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
American Wigeon (Anas americana)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Green-Winged Teal (Anas crecca)
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) 1 [2] 
Blue Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) 1 [3] 
Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus) 4 [4] 
Common Loon (Gavia immer) 8 [5] 
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Green Heron (Butorides virescens)
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)
Sora (Porzana carolina)
American Coot (Fulica americana)
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)
Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) 4 [6] 
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia)
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 1
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Glaucous-winged x Western Gull (Larus glaucescens x occidentalis) 1
Rock Dove (Columba livia)
Band-tailed Pigeon (Columba fasciata)
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Western Screech-Owl (Otus kennicottii)
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)
Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
Hammond's Flycatcher (Empidonax hammondii) [7] 
Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis) [8] 
Hutton's Vireo (Vireo huttoni)
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) 2 [9] 
Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Common Raven (Corvus corax)
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)
Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)
Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)
American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata)
Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
Black-throated Gray Warbler (Dendroica nigrescens)
Townsend's Warbler (Dendroica townsendi)
Hermit Warbler (Dendroica occidentalis) 1
MacGillivray's Warbler (Oporornis tolmiei)
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
Wilson's Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) 1
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) 2 [10] 
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus)
Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria)
American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)


[1] Greater White-fronted Goose: Hagg Lake
[2] Ruffed Grouse: Tanner Creek at Hagg Lake
[3] Blue Grouse: Scoggins Valley Road, 3 miles up from Hagg Lake.
[4] Mountain Quail: Scoggins Valley Road, 3 miles up from Hagg Lake.
[5] Common Loon: Hagg Lake
[6] Solitary Sandpiper: 3 up Killin Road at Narup, 1 about 1-1/2
miles east on Cedar Canyon Road.
[7] Hammond's Flycatcher: Hagg Lake migrant
[8] Pacific-slope Flycatcher: Scoggins Valley Road, 3 miles up from
Hagg Lake.
[9] Gray Jay: Scoggins Valley Road, 3 miles up from Hagg Lake.
[10] Lincoln's Sparrow: Jackson Bottom

Total number of species seen: 119

Read about the 2006 Big Day.