Oregon and Washington: Fall 2021

Fall 2021: 1 Aug–30 Nov

Eric Heisey

Adrian Hinkle

Christopher Hinkle

Alex Patia

Recommended citation: Heisey, E., Hinkle, A., Hinkle, C., Patia, A. 2021. Fall 2021: Oregon-Washington. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-cYW> North American Birds.

Washington recorded its hottest, driest year on record in 2021, resulting in a staggering number of wildfires throughout the state that burned nearly 1.5 million acres. Conditions in August were very hot and dry throughout Oregon and Washington, with temperatures lingering in the triple digits on the eastside of the Cascades. These historically dry conditions gave way to sharply contrasting record-setting total rainfall between September and November, preceding a La Niña winter. Several major storms hit the region, including a “bomb cyclone” that hit land just north of the region on coastal Vancouver Island, bringing gale force winds that pushed many seabirds to shore along the coast and throughout the Puget Sound region. This event combined with several atmospheric river events resulted in substantial rainfall and flooding throughout western Washington, with heavy rain but less severe flooding in Oregon. 

Birding coverage was again altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. While pelagic trips ran at full capacity, many birders stayed closer to home, and Neah Bay remained closed. Lack of access to Neah Bay was counterbalanced by reinvigorated coverage in eastern Washington vagrant traps, such as Washtucna. Washington had a solid fall for vagrants, with two second state records and its first photo-documented Philadelphia Vireo, which had several prior sight records. Oregon received typical coverage throughout the state with minimal COVID-related closures. A Dusky Warbler provided Oregon with its third state-first of the year. 

Sub-Regional Compilers

Tim Rodenkirk (Coos and Curry Cos, Oregon).


East of the Cascade Mountains (eastside), Habitat Management Area (HMA), National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), State Park (SP), Washington Bird Records Committee (WBRC), West of the Cascade Mountains (westside).

Waterfowl through Swifts

Emperor Geese, generally recorded only a couple times each winter, had an exceptional showing. A juvenile graced Southridge High School, Washington Co 12–28 Oct (Dave Irons), a different juvenile was at Raccoon Point, Multnomah Co 17 Oct (ph. Douglas McKay), and one consorted with Canada Geese at McNary Dam, Umatilla Co 26 Oct–12 Nov (Mark Ludwick). The juvenile McNary Dam bird was also seen on the Washington side of the river 28–30 Oct, providing a very rare eastside sighting for both states. Lastly, an adult Emperor Goose in Puyallup, Pierce Co 4–6 Nov (Bryan Hanson) provided the region with its fourth record of the fall. Additional individuals showed up in December. Ross’s Geese are locally abundant in southeast Oregon in spring and rare-but-regular statewide in fall, but barely annual in Washington. Two westside and one eastside Ross’s Geese in Washington were a respectable fall tally. 

A far-less-than-annual summering male Eurasian Wigeon at Finley NWR 27 Aug–6 Sep was likely continuing from earlier in the summer. Many if not most of the region’s recent Tufted Duck records have come from large scaup flocks on the Columbia. A male Tufted Duck was on the Columbia in Hood River 12 Nov (Conor Scotland), and another male was among a large scaup flock at the Everett Sewage Lagoons, Snohomish Co 23–29 Nov (Dorian Anderson). A Tufted Duck x scaup sp. hybrid was found at the same sewage lagoon 25–30 Nov (Greg Harrington). A female Black Scoter found in Mill Canyon, Lincoln Co 19 Oct (Terry Little) was the 10th Eastern Washington record in the last 10 years. In Oregon, at least nine Black Scoters were reported from five inland locations, including county-first singles in Maupin, Wasco Co 31 Oct (Silas Lewis) and at Foster Reservoir, Linn Co 2 Nov (Jamie Simmons). High counts of three males were at Hayden Island, Multnomah Co 23 Oct (Nick Mrvelj) and three female-types were at Wickiup Reservoir 1–3 Nov (ph. Matt Cahill). Most inland records are from the past decade, and the only previous record of multiple inland Black Scoters together was in Portland in 2014. The increase of inland Black Scoters has mirrored that of more regular inland “sea” ducks, including White-winged Scoters, Surf Scoters, and Long-tailed Ducks as well as Red-necked Grebes. A high of 48 Surf Scoters at Hayden Island, Multnomah Co 20 Oct (Andy Frank) made this the third fall in the past four falls with groups of 40+ Surf Scoters at this location; previously such numbers were almost unheard of. Scaup numbers remain historically high on the Columbia River.

Gunsight Pass is a saddle in a long, forested, east-west ridge in the central Oregon Coast Range, Benton Co, between the Willamette Valley and the coast. It began receiving attention in fall of 2020 for its concentrated morning migration flights. The most notable high count this year included 610 Band-tailed Pigeons on 25 Sep (W. Douglas Robinson), one of the highest counts ever for the state. 

Late-season Vaux’s Swifts have increased in recent years, including an individual at Hagg Lake, Washington Co 26 Oct (Jay Withgott). An immature male Costa’s Hummingbird was in Bend 16 Sep (ph. Tom Crabtree), and an adult male graced Rogue Valley Manor, Jackson Co 28 Nov+ (ph., m.ob.). A late young male Rufous Hummingbird visited a residence outside Creswell 1–11 Nov (Noah Strycker). Daily coverage at that location suggested that this was an accurate range of the bird’s stay as a late migrant.

Rails through Shorebirds

A Yellow Rail was found killed by a cat at Irish Bend County Park, Benton Co 10 Oct (ph. Kylie Meyer). Yellow Rails are exceedingly rare in the region away from breeding locations in south-central Oregon. There are five previous westside Oregon reports between September and May, including a Feb 1900 specimen from Scio, Linn Co. There is also a single Eastern Oregon report away from suitable breeding habitat, from Morrow Co in the 1970s, but this record as well as most of the westside reports are poorly documented with only brief mention in the Birds of Oregon: A General Reference (Contreras, Marshall, and Hunter, 2006). 

Washington had a great fall for westside Black-necked Stilts 5 Aug–18 Oct, with six in Skagit and singles in Snohomish and Clark Cos. Stilts are traditionally rare on the westside especially in fall but have increased over the last decade. Of similar rarity, four American Avocet were reported on Washington’s westside this fall, with two at the Hayton Reserve, Skagit Co 18 Aug (Bob Kuntz), one at Eide Rd., Snohomish Co 11 Sep (Nathan O’Reilly), and one at Nisqually NWR, Thurston Co 27 Oct–1 Nov (Liam Hutcheson et al.). A Snowy Plover found in Discovery Park, King Co 4–5 Sep (Alan Grenon) was only about the eighth record for the Puget Trough. Snowy Plovers are endangered in Washington and only regularly found in Pacific and Grays Harbor Co, although the species is drastically increasing in Oregon thanks to active conservation measures. 

It was an excellent fall for Bar-tailed Godwit in Washington with an individual found at Dungeness Landing, Clallam Co 11–14 Sep (Bob Bokelheide), one at Jetty Island, Snohomish Co 22 Jul (Maxine Reid), one at Tulalip Bay, Snohomish Co 22 Aug–2 Sep (Maxine Reid), and one at the Tokeland marina, Pacific Co 3 Sep–Oct 17 (Nick Lethaby). Westport marina in Grays Harbor Co is the most reliable place in the lower 48 states for Bar-tailed Godwits, including several 29 Jul+ of this year with an excellent count of four on 18 Sep (Westport Seabirds). Bar-tailed Godwits remain far less than annual in Oregon, where Marbled Godwits are much scarcer, but Bar-tailed Godwits seem to be increasing in Washington and are increasing drastically in California. 

A juvenile Hudsonian Godwit was found in Saltese, Spokane Co 15–22 Aug (Kevin Waggoner) in the same location where two individuals were seen in early May. A juvenile Hudsonian Godwit at Fern Ridge Reservoir 8–11 Aug (Alan Contreras, Vjera Thompson) provided Oregon with its 33rd record. A rise in Hudsonian Godwit records throughout the western U.S. is interesting given their global decline; 15 of Oregon’s 33 records have come since 2009. In Washington, only 10 were recorded through 1995 before a glut of 22 records between 1996 and 2010 led to its removal from their review list. 

Ruffs have always been annual in the region, and a total of eight migrant juveniles on the westside—four in Washington and four in Oregon—from 27 Aug–21 Sep was a typical showing. One at Prineville Reservoir 6 Sep (ph. Charles Gates) was notably a Crook Co first and a fourth for the tri-county Central Oregon region. An additional Ruff lingered at Ankeny NWR 19 Sep–26 Nov (Paul Sullivan) and will only be the fifth wintering individual in the state if it sticks around—surprisingly few for a species that winters annually in California. A typical total of five juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpipers made an appearance on the westside this fall, three in Washington and two in Oregon. Rarer were two eastside reports: an exceptional adult at Lind Coulee, Grant Co 31 Jul–13 Aug (Maxine Reid) was only about the third record of an adult for Washington, whereas a juvenile at Wickiup Reservoir 30–31 Oct (Peter Low, m.ob.) fit the pattern of juveniles in October but was very rare for the eastside, and represented Central Oregon’s first documented record. Six westside and four eastside Stilt Sandpipers in Oregon made for an average showing; Stilt Sandpipers are also scarce in Washington, but less so than in Oregon. An adult Red-necked Stint at Sunset Beach, Clatsop Co 9 Aug (ph. Owen Schmidt) provided Oregon with its 13th record, in keeping with the general trend of early-season adults, which are easier to identify than juveniles or winter-plumaged individuals. 

Buff-breasted Sandpipers are annual in small numbers in fall, but had an exceptionally poor showing on the entire West Coast from British Columbia to California. Oregon only had one report, a twosome at New River, Coos Co 28 Aug (Tim Rodenkirk). Washington only had three, including one at Leadbetter Point, Pacific Co 2 Sep (Nick Lethaby). Records from Puyallup, Pierce Co 6 Sep (Adam Sedgley) and west of Enumclaw, King Co 11–20 Oct (Sam Terry) would be unexpected for the Puget Sound even in a good year, and the latter established a new late date for the state. 

Wandering Tattlers are only reported a few times in the Puget Sound every fall; this fall’s five individuals from the Puget Trough was above average, with records from Thurston, Pierce and King Cos. A county-first Wandering Tattler, a juvenile, was at La Grande Sewage Ponds, Union Co 11–16 Aug (Dave Trochlell). Wandering Tattlers are exceedingly rare inland, with a couple reported per decade, evenly split between the westside and eastside. 

Gulls through Tubenoses 

Eleven inland Parasitic Jaegers for the region, all in September, represented a slightly-above-average but not surprising interior showing for this species. Four Puget Sound records of Long-tailed Jaeger were on par with previous years. At least one Thick-billed Murre was spotted off Dune Peninsula, Pierce Co 16 Nov (Charlie Wright), the state’s 25th record and a first for Pierce Co. This was the furthest south record on the Puget Sound, as most records of this species are from the Strait of Juan de Fuca or the outer coast. A small influx of Cassin’s Auklets in the Puget Sound coincided with other out-of-place seabirds following big storms off the coast, with records in Snohomish, King, and Pierce Cos.

It was an excellent fall for Sabine’s Gull in Washington, with 26+ inland records and above average numbers in the Puget Sound and Salish Sea. Oregon also had over a dozen inland sightings, mostly in September and early October, as is the long-term pattern. A Little Gull graced McNary NWR, Walla Walla Co 26–28 Sep (Lars Hovde). Formerly regular in the state with an all-time high count of three individuals, Little Gulls reports have declined over the past two decades; this is only the sixth Washington record since being added to the WBRC list in 2011. Two Heermann’s Gulls were reported inland: one was at McNary Dam, Umatilla Co 12 Sep (Dave Trochlell, ph. Mark Ludwik) and one touched down on the Deschutes River in Bend 19 Oct (ph. Donald Sutherland). Lesser Black-backed Gulls continue to increase in the region, with five eastside records—four in Washington and one in Oregon. An intriguing gull, thought to have been a regional-first taimyrensis or heuglini Lesser Black-backed Gull, was present in North Portland, Multnomah Co 27 Oct–1 Nov (ph. Nick Mrvelj). An identical-looking gull was seen in Klamath Falls 28+ Nov (Dave Haupt), and although some observers felt convinced it was the same individual as the Portland bird, it is difficult to be sure given the birds were over two hundred miles apart. Both sightings are currently being reviewed for subspecies determination by the Oregon Bird Records Committee, as Lesser Black-backed Gull is still a review species in the state. 

The eastside’s first Slaty-backed Gull continued for at least the fifth straight year in the Tri Cities area, primarily viewed at Columbia Park Marina, Benton Co 14 Oct+ (Elke Davis). Two Slaty-backed Gulls were found on the westside, where almost annual—one at the Cedar River Mouth, King Co 19–27 Oct (Greg Harrington) and one in Clallam Bay, Clallam Co 26–30 Oct (Will Brooks, Jason Vassallo), the state’s 30th and 31st records respectively.

A Black Tern at the Hayton Reserve, Skagit Co 14 Aug (Gary Bletsch) furnished a rare fall westside record for Washington. A first-fall Arctic Tern in The Dalles 16 Sep (ph. Stefan Schlick) fell within the expected range for a species seen once or twice a fall inland in Oregon. An Arctic Tern spotted off Dune Peninsula, Pierce Co 27 Aug (Charlie Wright) was similarly rare for the Puget Sound, while an individual off Moclips-Taholah, Grays Harbor Co 25 Oct (Ryan Shaw, Brad Waggoner) was late. It was an above-average fall for Red-throated Loon in interior Washington, with records from Potholes SP, Grant Co 22 Oct (Matt Yawney), Wallula, Walla Walla Co 3–6 Nov (Mike and MerryLynn Denny), and a long overdue county first for Okanogan Co in Brewster, 13 Nov (Kevin Waggoner, Dan Waggoner). Red-throated Loons are the rarest of the three regular loon species on the eastside. 

Fall cold fronts in the region tend to produce strong southerly winds with a weak or very brief westerly component, meaning the timing rarely lines up for the strong westerly winds that produce ideal seawatching conditions. This fall, several strong October and November storms with onshore winds resulted in spectacular seawatching along the coast. The afternoon of 15 Nov produced a compressed movement, including 2100 Leach’s Storm-Petrels and 2 Mottled Petrels passing Boiler Bay in a 2.5-hour window (Phil Pickering). Two Mottled Petrels were also seen off Silver Point, Clatsop Co that afternoon (David Bailey). Mottled Petrels are regular very far offshore, though rare and sporadic even on deepwater pelagic trips; records from land are extremely unusual even after strong storms. 

Short-tailed Shearwaters are uncommon in the region, most prevalent in late fall and winter, but high numbers were present this entire fall. At least 10 were on a pelagic day trip out of Newport 15 Aug (Oregon Pelagic Tours), including one between the Yaquina Bay jetties. Numbers from shore in Oregon peaked in October and November, with 200 passing Boiler Bay 6 Nov (Phil Pickering). In Washington, Short-tailed Shearwaters were observed in virtually every westside county that borders salt water, notably including Thurston, Whatcom, and Skagit Cos, where this species is usually exceedingly rare. Unseasonal numbers were reported from pelagic trips out of Westport, Grays Harbor Co including counts of several hundred as early as late August, peaking in September with a count of almost 2000 individuals, with many hundreds seen on virtually every September pelagic. In an average fall, a count of more than 15 individuals on a trip before October would be exceptional. 

As opposed to the outer coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, tubenoses of any species are always rare in the Puget Sound. A Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel was spotted at Carkeek Park, King and Kitsap Co 29 Oct (Ryan Merrill) and one was off Dungeness Spit, Clallam Co 16 Nov (Steve Hampton). About six storm-blown Leach’s Storm-Petrels were also noted in the sound 22 Oct–16 Nov, coinciding with larger numbers on the outer coast. More notable was a non-storm-blown individual in Seattle on 27 Aug (Ryan Merrill, Sam Terry), one in Edmonds 8 Sep (Mark Walton), and one at Nisqually NWR, Thurston Co 13 Sep (Jayson D.) There is a surprising disparity of Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel records for the Puget Sound when compared to Leach’s Storm-Petrels, with only a couple of records over the last decade for the former, while the latter is virtually annual. A number of Northern Fulmar were pushed into the Puget Sound, with records from interior Clallam and Jefferson, Island, San Juan and King Cos. At least three Manx Shearwaters were seen off the coast this fall at Point Brown Jetty, Grays Harbor Co 18 Aug–26 Sep (Gautem Apte, Rachel Hudson, Henry Lehman) and Ocean Park, Pacific Co 9 Nov (Steve Hampton).

Boobies through Owls

Brown Boobies increased in the Pacific Northwest throughout the 2010s, mostly during the fall, but have tapered to barely annual in recent years. One was photographed on a buoy at the BLM boat launch in Coos Bay 24 Aug+ (Sabine Berzins). Washington had one off Island and San Juan Cos 12–14 Sep (Amanda Colbert), and one offshore Carkeek and Discovery Park, King Co 26–30 Oct (Ryan Merrill, Eric Hope) that could have been the same individual.

Single Brown Pelicans over the Columbia River in North Portland 25 Aug and 2 Oct and one at Roehr City Park, Clackamas Co 28 Oct (ph. Lorin Wilkerson) could theoretically have involved the same individual. American Bittern was confirmed breeding in San Juan Co for the first time this year and continued into the fall at several locations on northern San Juan Island, San Juan Co 3 Aug–10 Oct (Breck Tyler). There were only a couple of county records before this year. At least five White-faced Ibis were seen on Fir Island, Skagit Co 24 Sep–17 Oct (Rich Schwab). Another two individuals at Saltese Wetlands, Spokane Co 25 Aug (River Corcoran, Forrest Corcoran) provided one of only a couple fall records for northeastern Washington.

It was a banner season for Red-shouldered Hawk in Washington, with reports as far north as Hart’s Pass, Okanogan Co 19 Sep (Scott Downes, Sierra Downes). This explosion of reports will likely continue as this raptor keeps pushing its range northward. It was also a good year for Broad-winged Hawk in Washington, with 13 reports on the eastside 3–28 Sep and two reports on the westside 20 Sep. In Oregon, Broad-winged Hawks were reported from Malheur NWR, from three hawkwatch locations in or near the Cascade Mountains, and most notably in Seaside, where a flyover juvenile was observed 30 Oct (ph. Mark Ludwick). This was just the fourth record for the Oregon coast. Two adult Swainson’s Hawks were reported on the westside this fall from Woodland Bottoms, Cowlitz Co 26 Sep (Jim Danzenbaker) and Ridgefield, Clark Co 6 Oct (Robert Flores).

Two Snowy Owls were in Lincoln Co, WA 21 Nov+, where they are regular even during non-irruption years like this one. Burrowing Owls winter locally in the southern Willamette Valley and rarely in the Rogue Valley and on the southern Oregon Coast, but they are exceedingly rare elsewhere on the region’s westside. A one-year-old female lingered in a junkyard near the waterfront in southeast Portland approximately 7 Nov+ (Bettina Ishimaru). It had been banded in British Columbia by the Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia. Further north, single Burrowing Owls at the Cedar River Mouth, King Co 23–31 Oct (Henry Lehman) and on Mercer Island, King Co 12–16 Nov (Krystal Johnson) were about the 10th and 11th for Washington’s most heavily-covered county. Six westside Long-eared Owls—three in Washington, three in Oregon—was about average for this scarce westside inhabitant. 

Woodpeckers through Flycatchers

A less-than-annual lowland Williamson’s Sapsucker in Vantage, Kittitas Co 27 Aug (Brad Waggoner) was of note, with only a few fall lowland sightings in eastern Washington. A roughly annual lowland September Red-breasted Sapsucker in Walla Walla, 21 Sep (Mike and MerryLynn Denny) was one of few September records for Walla Walla Co, and among the earliest. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were surprisingly absent, with no reports; two or three per fall has become the norm for the region. Westside Red-naped Sapsuckers, which are slightly rarer than Yellow-bellied, also went unreported. Lewis’s Woodpeckers made an above-average showing on the westside. Records in Clark, Lewis and Skamania Cos were highlighted by a count of 31 at Strawberry Island, Skamania Co 16 Sep (Cindy McCormack, Wilson Cady, Les Carlson). A state high count of 12 Acorn Woodpeckers was reported from Klickitat Wildlife Area, Klickitat Co 18 Sep (Susan Saul), while a rare westside Acorn Woodpecker continued where it was initially found in June at Weir Prairie, Thurston Co 19 Aug (Timothy Leque).

At least three and likely six to eight Black-backed Woodpeckers frequented an area as low as 1200 feet elevation north of Larch Mountain, Multnomah Co, in an area heavily burned in 2017. The species usually occurs at much higher elevations in Oregon, primarily over 3000 feet, although it is unclear if that reflects tree species preferences, a scarcity of lower-elevation fires and beetle infestations, or other factors. This north-facing area of the Columbia River Gorge does support other species of animals, such as American Pika, which are generally known from higher elevations. 

Gyrfalcons are regular in small numbers each fall in Washington, and this year’s smattering of reports came from Whatcom, Douglas and Pacific Cos 8 Oct–24 Nov. Gyrfalcons are rarer in Oregon. A Gyrfalcon was found near Junction City, Lane Co 18–24 Nov (Rich Hoyer). One lingered near Langlois, Curry Co 30 Sep–23 Oct (Rick McKenzie, Brodie Cass Talbot). Gyrfalcons are very rare elsewhere that far south in Oregon, but show up almost annually in ranchland around Floras Lake, Curry Co, where they prey on staging Aleutian Cackling Geese. Elsewhere, a Gyrfalcon was reported 30+ Nov from Wallowa Co. About a half-dozen Prairie Falcons were in the Willamette Valley by late fall, an expected wintering tally for a species otherwise rare north of the Rogue Valley on the westside.  

Washington’s second Eastern Wood-Pewee was seen and recorded singing by a lucky few near Port Townsend, Jefferson Co 1 Aug (Steve Hampton). A Least Flycatcher was well-photographed on Wahl Ranch near Cape Blanco, Curry Co, 24+ Nov (Terry Wahl, et al.). Least Flycatcher is very rare in the region after September or October, but probably the third-most likely wintering Empidonax species after Hammond’s and Pacific-slope. A rare westside Gray Flycatcher from the Hayton Reserve, Skagit Co 14 Sep (Pamela Myers) was only the sixth fall record in the last decade. Dusky Flycatchers made one of their best westside fall showings ever, only rivaled by fall 2019, with multiple records from Larch Mountain, Clark Co 29 Aug–3 Sep (Jim Danzenbaker), Sunrise on Mount Rainier, Pierce Co 16–29 Aug (Adrian Hinkle, Marcus Roening), and several lingering breeders in Skamania Co 9–10 Aug (Cindy McCormack, John Bishop). 

Black Phoebes continue to expand in the Pacific Northwest. A total of four in Harney County this fall was the highest ever for so far east; the species is now regular in the Klamath Basin and increasing in Deschutes Co. A Black Phoebe in Washtucna, Adams Co 4–9 Aug (Robert Flores) was likely a first for Adams Co and was only the eighth record for the eastside of the state, though seven of these records have come since 2017, with three records in 2021. This rapidly expanding flycatcher has increased considerably in Washington in the last five years alone, now breeding at several locations after the state’s first confirmed breeding record in 2018. 

A total of 20 Tropical Kingbirds marked a mediocre showing compared to 33 last fall, with 10 on the Oregon coast and nine on the outer Washington coast along with one further inland in Sequim, Clallam Co on 23 Oct (Vincent Thrutchley). Numbers were still much higher than they were two decades ago, when the species would set off rare bird alerts. Tropical Kingbirds are the default yellow-bellied kingbird after the end of September, when the last Westerns usually pass through. A well-seen Western Kingbird at Wahl Ranch on 1–2 Nov was one of the latest ever for the region, with only a few previous November records. 

Vireos through Wrens

Washington’s fifth accepted and first photo-documented Philadelphia Vireo was photographed in Washtucna, Adams Co 22 Sep (Will Brooks). Blue Jay reports dropped to average numbers after an exceptional fall and winter a year ago. Five Blue Jays were reported in Oregon, compared to at least thirty in Fall 2020. Washington generally gets higher numbers than Oregon, and had 10 individuals this fall, including an impressive count of 5 individuals from Chief Timothy Park, Asotin Co 25–30 Oct (Dave Koehler). A rare westside record from Port Townsend, Jefferson Co 7 Nov+ (Steve Hampton) was one of very few Blue Jay records for Jefferson Co. A continuing westside Black-billed Magpie was seen periodically over the course of the fall at Van Asselt Park, King Co 3 Aug–1 Nov (John Pushcock). Magpies are very rare anywhere on the westside, and while status is unproven, due to behavioral and distributional patterns westside reports are generally treated as natural vagrants as opposed to escapees.

Oregon’s first Dusky Warbler skulked in the willows and brambles at Stonefield Beach Wayside, Lane Co. 711 Oct (Alan Contreras). The timing nicely matched California’s 23 records, including two from this fall, all of which have fallen between 24 September and 3 November. Oregon’s Dusky Warbler, though long-awaited, was notably the first North American record north of the California Bay Area excluding Alaska; their skulky tendency and Fox Sparrow-like call note may make them disproportionately hard to find in the heavily vegetated Pacific Northwest.  

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are regular in southern and southeastern Oregon, but generally depart by early October. Early fall birds found out-of-place on the westside, such as one this fall near Gold Beach, Curry Co on 12 Aug (Mick Bressler, Whitney Michaelis), are generally of the Western obscura subspecies. Late fall and winter Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are often suspected to be of the caerulea subspecies from Eastern North America. A bird seen and audio-recorded at Wahl Ranch, Curry Co 24+ Nov was thought to be of the caerulea subspecies based on vocalizations (Christopher Hinkle, Tim Rodenkirk, Terry Wahl). In Washington, two caerulea Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were found this fall on the Olympic Peninsula: individuals were seen at Clallam Bay, Clallam Co 1 Oct (Steve Hampton, Will Brooks) and the Elwha River Mouth, Clallam Co 18–31 Oct (Steve Hampton, Will Brooks). Further scrutiny of late-fall gnatcatchers is warranted on the West Coast, where identification is still murky, and the issue has only received attention in the last decade since the first regional record from Neah Bay in 2014. 

Stray Rock Wrens usually show up about once a fall in western Washington, often on driftwood-laden rocky beaches. This fall’s lone westside showing was enjoyed by many at Sandy Point, Whatcom Co 19 Oct+ (Chandler Rothell). Canyon Wrens were reported from Wahclella Falls, Multnomah Co and two locations near Multnomah Falls. The species is regular across the river in Washington on the drier south-facing slope of the Columbia River Gorge, but is historically very rare and elusive in Multnomah County, where the habitat may be too lush. It is possible Canyon Wrens were overlooked on the Oregon side previously, or potentially the Eagle Creek Fire of September 2017 improved habitat by burning off tree cover that previously shaded many of the rocky cliffs and talus fields. If Canyon Wrens establish themselves in the county, this would mark a notable local range expansion. 

Thrashers through Blackbirds

A very rare Puget Lowlands Gray Catbird, and the latest ever westside record, was found at Magnuson Park, King Co 20–21 Nov (Nathan Wall). A warm, very recently dead Brown Thrasher was photographed on the beach at South Beach State Park, Lincoln Co 25 Sep (Justin Rodecap). Brown Thrashers are barely annual in the region, but they can show up anywhere during any season. Northern Mockingbirds are still scarce away from Jackson Co, Oregon, where they are established in small numbers; five on the westside and five on the eastside was about typical. Mockingbirds have yet to become commonplace in Washington. Records from Cape Disappointment SP, Pacific Co 15 Aug (Lamont McLachlan) and Horse Lake Reserve, Chelan Co 28–30 Sep (Joe Veverka) both represented good records for their respective counties. 

At least two Mountain Bluebirds seen south of Friday Harbor, San Juan Co 2 Nov+ (Ross Lockwood) were the only lowland westside Washington records of the fall. Three westside Oregon Mountain Bluebird reports was about typical, including an out-of-context flyover bird at Gunsight Pass, Benton Co 2 Oct in part of a morning passerine flight (W. Douglas Robinson). It was an average fall for Bohemian Waxwing, with only one record from Mt. Spokane SP, Spokane Co 8–9 Oct (Terry Little) coming before early November, heralding what is shaping up to be an average winter showing. Oregon’s 15th Brambling visited a rural homestead near Deadwood in the Lane Co Coast Range 29 Oct4 Nov (Kaki Burruss), fitting a trend of late fall or overwintering westside Bramblings found by homeowners. 

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches are annual but rare in the Oregon Coast Range. This year’s lone Coast Range report was a flyover at Gunsight Pass, Benton Co 16 Oct (W. Douglas Robinson). This fall has set the table for what looks to be an excellent winter for Common Redpoll on the West Coast, perhaps the best since the exceptional 2017 invasion. While tremendous numbers have yet to be reported, four individuals in Port Angeles, Clallam Co 18–22 Nov (Scott Gremel, Mike and MerryLynn Denny) represent a rare record for the Olympic Peninsula. By November there were hundreds in northeast Oregon, a scattering in central Oregon, two unusually far south at Hagelstein Park, Klamath Co 19 Nov+ (Elijah Hayes), and three on the Oregon coast: one in Cutler City, Lincoln Co 28 Nov (Carl Lundblad), one at Siletz Bay NWR, Lincoln Co on 30 Nov (Susan Kirkbride), and two in Neskowin, Tillamook Co, 2526 Nov (Nolan Clements, Arlene Blumton). Some years few if any redpolls show up in Oregon, and they are less-than-annual on the westside.  

Red Crossbills were widespread but not in large numbers. No Type 2 “Ponderosa Pine” Red Crossbills were reported on the westside, compared to dozens from many westside locations in fall 2020. A singing White-winged Crossbill near Diamond Peak, Klamath Co (Carl Lundblad) and two calling birds in the Cascades of Linn Co 25 Sep (Carl Lundblad) heralded a White-winged Crossbill invasion that did not ramp up in Oregon until November. Several individuals and small flocks were reported in the Central Oregon Cascades, and hundreds were reported in northeast Oregon in flocks of up to 70. Even during irruption years, it is unusual to see more than low double-digit numbers. Washington’s White-winged Crossbill irruption, its most extensive irruption in at least a decade, began earlier, in fall of 2020. Reports in fall 2021 from 2 Aug+ were restricted to high elevations in montane areas of the state, with sizable flocks of up to 75 individuals reported from nearly the entire span of the Cascade Mountains, as well as from the northeastern corner of the state. Snow Buntings made an average showing, with individual birds straying as far as Curry Co and Coos Co where less-than-annual, in October. 

Clay-colored Sparrow is expected in small numbers each fall and winter. Eight westside Oregon reports was about typical; none were on the eastside, which gets much less coverage in fall. It was also an average fall for Clay-colored Sparrow in Washington, with three records on the eastside 14–26 Aug and four records on the westside 9 Sep–18 Oct. A mega-flock of 445 Chipping Sparrows at Sunrise on Mount Rainier, Pierce Co 8 Aug (Charlie Wright) was an exceptional count of the state, while a late individual was present at Kettle River Campground, Ferry Co 23 Nov (Donna Bragg).

Brewer’s Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, and American Tree Sparrow are all rare annual strays west of the Cascades. Two Brewer’s Sparrow reports in the southern Willamette Valley fit the traditional pattern of late-summer reports for the valley, while one atop Marys Peak, Benton Co 18 Aug (W. Douglas Robinson) and a scruffy hatch year bird at Euchre Mountain, Lincoln Co (Phil Pickering) represented rare Coast Range records. A Brewer’s Sparrow at Waite Ranch, Lane Co 12 Oct (Tye Jeske, Alan Contreras) was notably late, although they do very rarely occur into late fall. Lark Sparrow had two westside Washington reports and one westside Oregon report, which is about typical. American Tree Sparrow had one westside Oregon report but westside Washington had an exceptional eight individuals, including six in King Co, its highest fall tally in at least a decade. Harris’s Sparrow is rare but annual, especially on the eastside. Three westside and four eastside reports, with the first arrival in late October, was a typical tally for Oregon, while Washington had an expected tally of five on the eastside and five on the westside.

Bobolink is a rare, annual fall vagrant to the westside. Singles in Harbor, Curry Co 1 Sep (Tom Love), at Philomath STP, Benton Co. 19 Sep (W. Douglas Robinson), in Gold Beach, Curry Co 11–12 Sep (Sally Hill, Diane Pettey), in Ocean Shores, Grays Harbor Co 22 Sep (Wildside Nature Tours), and at Pistol River, Curry Co 3 Oct (Tim Rodenkirk) fit that pattern. Washington’s 21st Orchard Oriole in Hoquiam, Grays Harbor Co 8–9 Oct (Jordan Gunn) was the fourth record for Grays Harbor Co. All but one record of this species have been from the west side of the state, with an astounding 13 records from Neah Bay alone, almost all of which are from the last decade. A late eastside Bullock’s Oriole at Hood Park, Walla Walla Co 1 Nov (Michael Barrett) was only the sixth ever eastside record between November and the end of February. While Bullock’s Orioles are not unheard of in late fall and winter on the westside, eastside records are very rare after late September.  

Rusty Blackbird is traditionally very rare in Oregon, with about a report a year, but has increased over the past decade and is now expected several times a winter. Fitting the trend, one was at Fords Pond, Douglas Co 8 Nov (ph., Kayla McCurry) and one was in the town of Culver, Jefferson Co 1618 Nov (Judy Meridith). A Rusty Blackbird at Millet Pond, Walla Walla Co 24 Sep (Mike and MerryLynn Denny) tied the earliest ever fall record for the state, while a record from Mount Vernon, Skagit Co 17 Oct (Gary Bletsch) fell within the expected window for this globally declining eastern icterid. A Common Grackle visited a feeder in Port Orford, Curry Co, 2326 Oct (Carrie Rogers and Jim Rogers). Oregon has over 40 records, most from spring. A male Great-tailed Grackle in Fall City, King Co 11–19 (John Pushcock) was Washington’s 17th record and a first for King Co. All but one record of this rapidly expanding species have come in the last 20 years, and it is likely that Washington will see sightings increase in regularity, similar to Oregon, where Great-tailed Grackles have been scarce but regular for about 10 years. 

Warblers through Grosbeaks

A healthy smattering of vagrant warblers was reported. Oregon has historically received twice as many vagrant warblers as Washington, as evidenced by the fact that Black-and-white, Tennessee, and Chestnut-sided warblers were only removed from the Washington Bird Records Committee review list in 2018, compared to 1982, 1984, and 2001 respectively in Oregon. Washington’s 35th Ovenbird in Ritzville, Adams Co 8 Sep (Will Brooks) brought the state to its highest-ever yearly total of three. An expected handful of Northern Waterthrushes occurred in late August and September, including three on the eastside in Oregon, three on the westside Oregon, three on the eastside Washington, and two on the westside in Washington. One was at Wylie Slough, Skagit Co 21 Nov+, the only place in Oregon or Washington where waterthrush has been found with any regularity in winter. A Tennessee Warbler in Washtucna, Adams Co 23 Sep (David Swayne) was the only regional report; a small handful would be expected most years.

Black-and-white Warblers, rare but annual in fall, made an average showing. In Oregon, one was at Sauvie Island, Columbia Co on 23 Sep (Kyle Fuchs), one was near Powers, Coos Co 26 Sep (Tim Rodenkirk), and one was at Malheur NWR Headquarters 8 Oct (Susan Dietderich). In Washington, one was at Leadbetter Point, Pacific Co 13 Sep (Marilyn Miller). A very late Black-and-white Warbler in Garibaldi, Tillamook Co, 23 Nov (Cliff Cordy) was likely attempting to overwinter. Black-and-white Warblers are one of the more regular of the vagrant Eastern warblers in late fall and winter, with five for the region in the past six winters. Washington’s sixth Prothonotary Warbler was seen outside of Spokane, Spokane Co 6 Sep (Kim Thorburn). 

Although seven migrant American Redstarts were found in lowland eastern Washington 21 Aug–24 Sep, on par for this regular vagrant and low-density breeder, it was a poor fall for American Redstarts in Oregon, with the single report from Bend, Deschutes Co 30 Sep–6 Oct (Diane Burgess). A half dozen are found in Oregon most falls. A ratty adult Northern Parula was at Fourmile Creek, Coos Co 18 Aug–4 Sep (Tim Rodenkirk). A mid- to late-August spike in parula records in Oregon and northern California suggests either early migrants or dispersing birds that summered locally. A Magnolia Warbler was in Waldport, Lincoln Co 19 Oct (Jill Oertley). One per fall for the region is typical. Oregon’s 16th Blackburnian Warbler was in Cannon Beach, Clatsop Co on 7 Oct (ph., Jay Withgott). Only four records come from the Oregon Coast in fall, although Blackburnians would likely be annual on the coast in fall with better coverage. Washington’s tenth Blackburnian Warbler was photographed and enjoyed by many at Home Valley Park, Skamania Co 5–19 Nov (John Davis). This is the second latest record for Washington, and one of only five records occurring after 1 Nov between Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.

In Oregon, Chestnut-sided Warblers were reported from Florence, Lane Co 8 Sep (Daniel Farrar) and Malheur NWR Headquarters 9 Sep (William Hemstrom). Washington had an exceptional fall for Chestnut-sided Warblers including one at Washtucna, Adams Co 29 Aug (Ben Meredyk) and 5 Sep (RJ Baltierra), at W.E. Johnson Park, Benton Co 9 Sep (Nancy and Bill LaFramboise), and one at Lost Island HMA, Franklin Co 23 Sep (Will Brooks). A molting Blackpoll Warbler foraged in a patch of spruce trees at Ona Beach, Lincoln Co from 416 Aug (Marty Bray). Fall vagrant Blackpolls regularly appear on the West Coast starting in late August, but early-August Blackpolls are almost unheard of. Together with three Blackpolls reported in California in the first half of August, this fall’s early Blackpoll tally was unprecedented for recent decades. A Blackpoll Warbler at Washtucna, Adams Co 24 Sep (Jordan Gunn) was more expected, though always a vagrant in the region.  

Palm Warbler reports rebounded after a very slow winter a year ago, with a high count of three at Cape Blanco, Curry Co in November (Tim Rodenkirk), but numbers were still below peak years when flocks of up to 20 can be found on the coast. Inland Palms are always rarer; one on 16 Oct flew over Gunsight Pass, Benton Co as a part of a morning songbird flight (W. Douglas Robinson). Another Palm Warbler at Kirtland Ponds, Jackson Co on 9 Oct (Janet Kelly) was a more typical circumstance. 

A Prairie Warbler, Oregon’s 18th, was in Gold Beach, Curry Co 7 Sep (ph., Mick Bressler, Whitney Michaelis). Two-thirds of those records are from the coast in fall, which is notable considering inland vagrant traps receive an order of magnitude better observer coverage. A Canada Warbler at Malheur NWR Headquarters 2 Sep (ph., Donald Sutherland) was Oregon’s 13th, eight of which occurred in the month of September, mostly at well-covered eastside vagrant traps. Washington’s second Canada Warbler was in Ephrata, Grant Co 5–6 Sep (Matt Yawney). Notably, California had an excellent showing of Canada Warblers this fall. A Black-throated Gray Warbler on the Washington State University campus, Whitman Co 8 Sep (Mason Maron) was far northeast for the species, and may be a first county record.

A male Summer Tanager, Oregon’s 30th, visited a bird bath in Bend, Deschutes Co. 20 Sep (James Moodie). Summer Tanagers are very rare in September, more likely in late spring or late fall and winter. The only Rose-breasted Grosbeak of the season in Oregon was a female in Coos Bay 4 Aug (Tim Rodenkirk). Single young male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were reported from feeders in Friday Harbor, San Juan Co 2 Aug (Phil Green) and Spokane, Spokane Co 18–20 Sep (Andrew Thomas).

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 31 Mar 2022.

Photos–Oregon and Washington: Fall 2021

Five Emperor Geese in Oregon and Washington during October and November were among the 12+ that showed up between northwest Washington and northern California between October and December. This hatch year individual was photographed on 17 Oct 2021 in Beaverton, Oregon on the day it was discovered. Photo © David Irons.

Black Scoters are increasing inland across the region. These three were photographed at Wickiup Reservoir, Deschutes Co, Oregon 1 Nov 2021. Photo © Tom Crabtree.

Yellow Rails have only been documented a few times in the region away from localized breeding sites in Klamath and Lake Cos. This individual was killed by a cat in rural Benton Co, Oregon 10 Oct 2021. It was thought to have been captured in a grass seed field, about 300 meters from the nearest body of water. Photo © Kylie Meyer.

Black-necked Stilt made an exceptional showing in western Washington this fall, with nine individuals reported from three counties. This individual was photographed at the Hayton Reserve, Skagit Co, one of six individuals at this location this fall 2021. Photo © Marcus Vorwaller.

This adult Red-necked Stint showed up during peak “stint season” on Sunset Beach, Clatsop Co 9 Aug 2021. Though Oregon’s 13th, it was the first since 2012. Photo © Owen Schmidt.

Ruffs are rare east of the Cascades. This juvenile provided Crook Co with its first record when it showed up at Prineville Reservoir 6 Sep 2021. Photo © Chuck Gates.

This adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper photographed at Lind Coulee, Grant Co was only the third adult noted in Washington, and furnished an excellent record of the eastside in 2021. Photo © Maxine Reid.

This Little Gull, photographed in Walla Walla Co 26 Sep 2021 was only the sixth record for the state in the last 10 years. Little Gull was once much more regular in Washington, with reports decreasing in regularity over the last few decades. Photo © Bill LaFramboise.

This gull present in North Portland, Multnomah Co 27 Oct–1 Nov 2021 is thought to have been a taimyrensis or heuglini Lesser Black-backed Gull. It is currently being reviewed by the Oregon Bird Records Committee, as Lesser Black-backed Gull only recently became annual in the state and is still on the review list. Photo © Philip Kline.

Philadelphia Vireo was photo-documented in Washington for the first time in fall 2021. This individual from the well-known vagrant trap of Washtucna, Adams Co was the fifth accepted record of this difficult to identify species. Photo © Will Brooks.

This skulky Dusky Warbler became Oregon’s 547th species when it was discovered 7 Oct 2021 at Stonefield Beach, Lane Co. Nicely documented here on the first day of its 4-day stay, it is the first North American record outside Alaska or California. Photo © Anne Heyerly.

Oregon’s fifteenth Brambling visited feeders at a rural home near Deadwood, Lane Co 29 Oct – 4 Nov 2021. It was photographed here on 3 Nov. Photo © Gerald Meenaghan.

It was a good fall in 2021 for vagrant warblers in Washington, with this Blackburnian Warbler in Skamania Co representing one of the latest records in the state. Photo © Will Brooks.

A highlight of the fall 2021 for Washington was this Canada Warbler photographed at a small park in Ephrata, Grant Co, only the second record for the state. Photo © RJ Baltierra.