Fall Birding in the Pacific Northwest with the OSU Bird Nerds

This article comes to us from the Oregon State University Bird Nerds. The Bird Nerds organize weekly or monthly birding trips to view bird species in the Pacific Northwest. Celestron was delighted to provide the Bird Nerds with Celestron sport optics to expand their outreach efforts. We look forward to reading more about their activities!

It is interesting that most of our world’s people have never been out at sea to any applicable degree. Indeed, I at least often forget that it exists at all: my daily life is little concerned with the ocean, and I find little reason to think of it on a regular basis. However, roughly 71% of the Earth is covered by water, and most of that is ocean. Therefore, as tempting or easy as it may be to disregard this portion of the planet, it is very rarely appropriate. Indeed from our weather to the food on our tables, our lives are influenced by the ocean to a degree we rarely appreciate it.

It should not be surprising, therefore, that the ocean is home to quite a few species of birds: according to my highly accurate source (see: Wikipedia.com), there are 471 species that belong to “seabird” families. I, for one, have seen just about none of these. Apparently, neither have most of the Bird Nerds.

This fall, we set out to remedy this. We found a local pelagic birding trip which seemed promising; however, it was also very expensive. For some undefinable, incomprehensible reason, the Bird Nerds are not a heavily funded student group. Therefore, to raise the ~120$ each individual was required to pay to attend the tour, we undertook that most arduous of school-group endeavors: fundraising. We were surprisingly successful: after a week of bake-sailing (you would not believe the kind of ships that required), and with a very gracious donation from OSU’s Biology department, we managed to raise enough to cover the cost of 12 students. Needless to say, we were quite excited by this, and the hallowed halls of our clubhouse (read: the local coffee shop) rang with our cries of joy.

But nature is fickle. The week of our trip, dark clouds began to gather. Then, tired of merely hanging around ominously, they started shoveling snow down upon us. While this was fun for them, perhaps, it was unfortunate for us—due to poor road conditions, the trip was canceled. Heartbreak. Despair. These things did we become. Our halls, which so recently rang with happy cries (as described above), were now home only to the Sounds of Silence. Then, once someone—annoyed, possibly, at Garfunkel’s crooning—turned off the stereo, they did not have even that.

But life continues. Amongst the frenzied spinning of car tires (Oregonians, at least in this part of the state, are very poor at driving on snow and ice—myself, I must sheepishly admit, included), beautiful creatures did make themselves known. Varied Thrush, usually a rare woodland treat, made their way into our backyards and onto our bird feeders. Bright in orange and black against the ghostly white skeletons of deciduous trees, they were stunning in their beauty. Likewise, normally elusive Fox Sparrows emerged in barking masses to dig noisily in those areas sheltered from the snow, much to the delight of Emberizidophiles everywhere. While nature might have been cruel to us, it was also quite clearly lovely in its vindictiveness.

Golden Crowned Kinglet
Golden Crowned Kinglet

Variedthrush
Varied Thrush

And so the oceans remain unexplored by the Oregon State Bird Nerds, at least for now. But fall has not found us entirely defeated: I’m sure our chance to brave the seas will come in time, and I at least cannot regret the early snow and the unanticipated wonders it brought.