Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fall at Finley NWR

Ever since we announced our move to Oregon, it seemed like everyone we told who was even slightly familiar with the state told us, “Ohhh, it rains a lot!” We don’t mind the rain much, as we faced plenty of rain before in Florida, albeit a much different type of rain. We were told that it was the dreariness that might get us. However, I can’t say we faced much typical “Oregon weather” until just recently in December. The end of spring was an absolute delight, summer was warm but with no humidity (a foreign thing to me), and fall was nice and crisp, and even sometimes downright freezing. Winter has given us a bit of that typical rain and dreariness – including a full day of rain during the Salem Christmas Bird Count. Yikes. 

Northern Harrier over the Marsh

But who wants to think about that right now? I want to think about those lovely, sunny and crisp fall days, particularly at Finley National Wildlife Refuge. You may recall that Finley NWR was where we had our first encounters with my beloved Acorn Woodpecker. Knowing that there is a resident family there makes me very happy, and the sight of these fastidious woodpeckers always tickles me.

We were able to visit Finley before most of the trails closed for the winter for the birds’ protection. Geese and ducks were starting to gather in the lake, but not yet in big numbers during the peak of winter. Nonetheless, we were treated by a few American White Pelicans that swam by – bold splashes of white in a sea of greens, grays, and browns. 

American White Pelicans
The colors of fall Lungwort lichen
Can you spot the moth?
The feeders at the visitor center were especially busy. Groups of Golden-Crowned Sparrows and Juncos were scattered about. A nice Fox Sparrow made a very brief appearance. It’s always a treat to see these very sleek and handsome sparrows. Everyone was coming out to enjoy some solid sunshine, which would seen be a rarity for the upcoming winter season. 

Golden-Crowned Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Western Scrub-Jay 

Although most of Cabell Marsh Trail was closed, the short path to the observation deck was open and full of fun birds. Waterfowl are great, but it was the little guys that were stealing the show that day. Golden-Crowned Kinglets were chirping all over the place and giving great close looks. A Brown Creeper stayed still long enough for me to capture a shot of him in a somewhat still position. A darling little Marsh Wren jumped up and out from the reeds to show off a bit. These are one of my favorite wrens – such tough guys in small bodies. If you ever use playback to call one out, he will fuss at you for quite a while, making you feel like you’re being berated.

Golden-Crowned Kinglet 

Brown Creeper
Marsh Wren

There were still fall apples on the trees, which made for a lovely setting for a Spotted Towhee. And I couldn’t have asked for a more cooperative and gorgeous Varied Thrush. These birds are unreal – such gorgeous hues of burnt orange and slatey grayish-blue. There was a pair of them munching on the apples (or maybe the bugs and grubs in the apples). 

Spotted Towhee
Varied Thrush

Even the undertail of the Varied Thrush is lovely.
We’re always thrilled to see these relatively new birds, but the surprise of the day was a ninja-like Wrentit. We spotted him and watched him for about 30 seconds before he flew off never to be seen again. We had only seen one once just barely in a little wooded area just off the coast, and we were surprised to see one this far inland, but I guess it’s not out of the question. In any case, it was fun to catch even a fleeting glance at this Kabuki mask-faced little bird. He was a lovely way to end our last fall trip to Finley. 

Skulky Wrentit


  1. Gorgeoso! That Varied Thrush is leaving me gasping for breath. A wonderful tour de force before the the Pacific Northwest remembers its poor manners.

    1. Thanks, Laurence! Isn't that Varied Thrush a beaut! I'm always so thrilled to see one.