Oregon: Fall 2020

Fall 2020: 1 Aug–30 Nov

Adrian Hinkle

Christopher Hinkle

Recommended citation:

Hinkle, A., and Hinkle, C. 2021. Fall 2020: Oregon. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-a2A> North American Birds.

A warm, dry August and September brought record wildfires that burned over a million acres, mostly on forested public land on the west slope of the Cascades. Wildfire smoke blanketed the entire state in mid-September, prompting health advisories and giving Portland the worst air quality of any world city 13 September. Smoke was so thick that starlings and pigeons were noted lining up to roost on powerlines at eleven in the morning in Curry 9 Sep. October and November were mild, with a notable lack of major cold snaps.

Offshore coverage was limited due to COVID-19, with a near-average total of four day-trip pelagics off Newport, but no repositioning cruises. Seawatching conditions were mediocre, and no notable rarities or high counts were reported. Hawkwatch coverage in the Cascades was also limited due to COVID-19, and some sites, including Bonney Butte, were formally closed. Passerine vagrants made an above-average showing, including three first state records and two second state records. Of Oregon’s twenty state firsts in the past decade, almost three quarters were in fall—four in September, six in October, and four in November. Five were Asian passerines.


East of the Cascade Mountains (eastside), Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, Harney (Malheur HQ), sewage treatment ponds (STP), West of the Cascades (westside).

Waterfowl through Shorebirds

The only inland Brant was noted 13 Oct at Fernhill Wetlands, Washington (Susan Kirkbride). A Eurasian Wigeon 7 Sep at Davis Lake, Deschutes was a couple weeks earlier than typical first-of-fall reports (Peter Low). A female Tufted Duck appeared at Philomath Sewage Ponds, Benton 14 Nov+ (Doug Robinson). Barely annual inland, a female-type Black Scoter was at Hayden Island, Multnomah 23 Oct (Andrew Aldrich), and one was at Warehouse Beach, Umatilla 20 Nov (MerryLynn Denny, Mike Denny). A better-than-average 13 inland Long-tailed Ducks were noted, including an exceptional high count of 4 at Harbor View Park, Multnomah 25 Oct (N. Mrvelj).

Red-necked Grebes have increased inland in recent years; a record inland count of 14 was tallied between Broughton Beach and east Hayden Island, Multnomah 12 Nov (K. Vanderkamp). Nine at Mayer State Park, Wasco 11 Nov may have been an eastside record (Brodie Cass Talbot). A Band-tailed Pigeon at Fields, Harney 25–27 Aug (Shawneen Finnegan, David Irons), and one at Malheur HQ 15 Sep (S. Finnegan, D. Irons) provided less-than-annual sightings for this large and well-covered county. A female-type Broad-tailed Hummingbird was in Bend, Deschutes 6–17 Aug (ph. Matt Cahill), while one was at Marys Peak, Benton 4 Aug (ph. D. Robinson). The species is poorly known from the eastside and a vagrant to the westside, where some reports may pertain to misidentified Anna’s x Rufous Hummingbirds.

Two Black-necked Stilts in Curry, one in Coos and one in Lane in September provided a good showing for a species detected about once a year on the coast. An expected 15 Pacific Golden-Plovers were reported on the westside, as were an above-average 11 American Golden-Plovers including 3 at Bayocean Spit, Tillamook 24 Sep (ph. Colby Neuman). An adult female Bar-tailed Godwit at Lost Creek State Park, Lincoln 28 Jul–5 Aug (ph. Marty Bray) furnished Oregon’s 17th fall record. Oregon’s 32nd Hudsonian Godwit, an adult, turned up first at Yachats, Lincoln 26 Aug (ph. A. Frank), and subsequently was seen twenty miles north at Yaquina Bay, Lincoln 27–31 Aug (ph. Rick Bennett, Susan Kirkbride). The eastside’s eighth Ruff, a juvenile, was adjacent to Cove STP, Union 30 Aug–6 Sep (John Sullivan), while a juvenile Ruff at Potter Rd., Linn 19 Nov provided the only westside record for a species that averages two to four reports per fall. Juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were at Fernhill Wetlands, Washington 27–28 Sep (Rick Benetton), Tualatin River NWR, Washington 8 Oct (Alex Foote), and at Cold Springs NWR, Umatilla 28 Sep–2 Oct (Mark Ludwick) for a typical showing. The only Stilt Sandpiper was at Thief Valley Reservoir, Union 11 Oct (Trent Bray), a poor showing for a species that sometimes occurs in small flocks. At least eight Buff-breasted Sandpipers were reported, including an early individual at Stanley Lake, Clatsop 9 Aug (ph. David Bailey), and a very rare eastside bird at Davis Lake, Klamath 2 Sep (D. Robinson). A high count of 26 Red Phalaropes offshore and only a few singles from land was the lowest total in years. There has not been a major onshore wreck since the Nov 2016 storm that blew hundreds inland. Three inland Red Phalaropes 31 Aug–8 Oct, and one in Klamath 22 Oct, was a typical total for non-storm related migrants. Oregon’s second Wood Sandpiper was enjoyed by many at Ankeny NWR, Marion 14–24 Oct (ph. Georges Kleinbaum).

Gulls through Hawks

Typical totals of nine inland Parasitic Jaegers and 19 inland Sabine’s Gulls were noted. Three Franklin’s Gulls on the coast 16 Oct–9 Nov fit the expected timeframe, while one 58 km west of Waldport, Lincoln 4 Oct (Russ Namitz) provided a very rare offshore sighting. An adult Black-headed Gull at Fern Ridge Reservoir, Lane 6 Sep (ph. Leith McKenzie) furnished Oregon’s ninth record, and its first earlier than mid-Oct. Three inland Heermann’s Gull reports was an about-average total: reports came from Sheridan WTP, Yamhill 12 Oct (Paul Sullivan); Pixie Park, Columbia 19 Oct (Tom Myers); and Riverside Park, Josephine 7 Nov (Jack Maynard, Kelli Van Norman). First recorded in 2001 and not again until 2008, Lesser Black-backed Gulls are now annual in small numbers; an adult was at D River, Lincoln 26 Oct (ph. Phil Pickering) and up to two were in The Dalles, Wasco 19 Oct+ (ph., Ken Hansen, Bill Tweit). A first-cycle Glaucous Gull at Davis Lake, Deschutes 7–9 Nov (ph. P. Low) was a first for the eastside’s most heavily birded county.

An adult Arctic Tern with Common Terns at Warehouse Beach, Umatilla 12 Aug (M. Ludwick) provided the only inland report. A completely unexpected Elegant Tern at Hank’s Marsh, Klamath 18–21 Sep (ph. R. Namitz) furnished Oregon’s second inland record and its first for the eastside. The now-annual fall Elegant Tern influx on the coast rebounded for its best showing since 2016, with a peak of 77 in Hammond, Clatsop in late Aug, and as many as 113 in southern Curry in Aug and Sep. Thirty-six of Oregon’s 40 Brown Boobies have occurred since 2012, two thirds of them between Sep and Nov, but one at Yaquina Bay, Lincoln 25 Sep (Craig Tumer) provided only the second fall report since 2016. Snowy Egrets have decreased coastally in recent decades but have increased inland; one near Toledo, Lincoln 23–27 Sep joined one from Coos and three from Curry as the only coastal individuals. A wintering Snowy Egret was at Fern Ridge Reservoir, Lane 14 Nov+ (Anne Heyerly, Dan Heyerly), and up to two were at Smith & Bybee Lakes, Multnomah through 6 Sep, where at least one individual has been present nine of the past ten years. The Multnomah birds may account for the one to two wintering individuals at nearby Vancouver Lowlands in Clark, Washington, six of the past seven winters.

White-tailed Kite has declined north of Tillamook over the past two decades. One at Sunset Beach, Clatsop 24 Oct (Tate Pyle) was far north, while one in Gaston, Washington 18 Nov (Rick Bennett) was outside the receding Willamette Valley range. Broad-winged Hawks provided an expected eastside showing during Sep, with one sighting each in Burns and Fields, Harney and another at Goose Lake, Lake. A westside adult Broad-winged Hawk at Lone Ranch State Wayside, Curry was only the third for the Oregon coast (T. Rodenkirk). A total of seven Ferruginous Hawks photographed in Polk, Benton, and Linn 25 Oct+ was impressive for a species only reported every few years on the westside. Even more unexpected were a coastal individual at Boiler Bay, Lincoln 13 Sep (ph. Abigail Harris) and a moribund bird recovered from Rockaway Beach, Tillamook 19 Sep (fide Wildlife Center of the North Coast).

Woodpeckers through Thrushes

A male Williamson’s Sapsucker at 600’ along Quosatana Creek, Curry 28 Sep (Mick Bressler) furnished a less-than-annual westside report away from the Cascades. One westside and two eastside Yellow-bellied Spasuckers 29 Sep+ was a typical scattering. An adult Red-naped Sapsucker at Illinois River Forks State Park, Josephine 7–8 Oct (ph. Jim Johnson) was notable for the westside, where many reports pertain to hybrids with Red-breasted. An Acorn Woodpecker at Mt. Hebo, Tillamook 2 Sep (Mike Patterson) provided the first coastal slope record north of Lincoln.

A Gyrfalcon was seen by many on Perrydale Rd., Polk 6 Nov+ (ph. Roy Gerig); the species is reported once or twice a winter on the westside. A hatch-year Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at Fields, Harney 16 Sep (S. Finnegan, ph. D. Irons) furnished an overdue state first at an anticipated location and date. Oregon’s seventh Vermilion Flycatcher graced Lost Lake in the foothills of the Cascades, Linn 28 Oct (ph. Thomas Gilg). Although less than annual prior to the mid-1990s, a total of 21 Tropical Kingbirds along the coast 12 Oct+ was typical for recent years. Two nesting pairs of Eastern Kingbird with a total of five nestlings in juniper woodlands at Willow Valley Reservoir, Klamath 7 Aug (K. Spencer) provided a first confirmed breeding record for the county.

Oregon’s sixth Yellow-throated Vireo was at Commonwealth Lake Park, Washington 21 Sep (Craig Tumer). A Plumbeous Vireo returned for the fourth year to Page Springs Campground, Harney 4–23 Sep, though only one was noted on the heels of three individuals last year. A Philadelphia Vireo photographed in Manzanita, Tillamook 27 Sep (ph. Diana Byrne, Gary Fugle, Lars Norgren) furnished a long-overdue first for the coast. There were surprisingly no vagrant Red-eyed Vireos on the coast or in the desert, but migrants were found at Thief Valley Reservoir, Union 20 Aug (Nolan Clements) and at Philomath STP, Benton 28 Aug (D. Robinson).

Nine Pinyon Jays just outside Fossil, Wheeler 13 Aug (MerryLynn Denny, Mike Denny) stretched the limits of their usual range. Blue Jays followed up a banner fall 2019 with an even better showing in fall 2020; at least 33 were on the eastside, including as many as six in Quail Hollow, Baker 7 Nov (Hayley Sanders). One at Garrison Lake, Curry 27 Oct (fide Ann Vileisis) was the sole westside individual. The only westside Clark’s Nutcracker was at Mary’s Peak, Benton 22 Oct (D. Robinson) after an excellent westside showing in fall 2019.

Single Mountain Chickadees at Mount Angel, Marion 22 Sep (John Thomas), Giggs, Linn 3 Oct–16 Nov (Jeff Harding), and at Nadaka Nature Park, Multnomah 21 Oct (D. van den Broek) were the only ones for the westside lowlands north of Jackson. A Bank Swallow at Warrenton STP, Clatsop 25 Sep (M. Patterson) was late for this local summer breeder and early-fall migrant on the westside.

Oregon’s first Phylloscopus warbler, a silent Arctic/Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, was found a few yards north of the California border at Goose Lake State Park, Lake 19 Sep (S. Finnegan, ph. D. Irons). Amazingly, one was in Orange, California the next day, and a week later, Oregon’s second Arctic/Kamchatka Leaf Warbler was embedded in a chickadee flock at Salishan Nature Trail, Lincoln 26 Sep (ph. Phil Pickering).

Out-of-range Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, all identified as or suspected to involve the “Western” obscura group, were reported from Winchuck River Mouth, Curry 9 Sep (Chris Hinkle); Buena Vista, Polk 29 Sep (Paul Adamus); Neskowin, Tillamook 1 Oct (Jim Allen); and Newport, Lincoln 8 Oct (Chuck Philo). The continuing stakeout California Thrasher in Talent, Jackson was seen 5 Sep (Maureen Leong-Kee, Nicholas Martens); previous sightings in 2019 and 2020 fell between April and July, when the bird sang conspicuously. Northern Mockingbirds are now regular breeders in Jackson and Harney, but their range has not expanded appreciably in recent years. Two juveniles at Fields, Harney represented the first likely breeding record for that well-birded oasis (C. Hinkle). Swainson’s Thrushes have only been properly documented in Oregon a handful of times after late Oct, but this year furnished records in Corvallis, Benton 4 Nov (ph. Kim Nelson, Will Wright); Eugene, Lane 11 Nov (ph. Alan Contreras); Dexter Reservoir, Lane 22 Nov (ph. A. Contreras, Rich Hoyer); and North Portland, Multnomah 26 Nov (ph. Susan Keller).

Waxwings through Blackbirds

Bohemian Waxwings generally show up later in winter and went unreported this fall. Up to four Pine Grosbeaks at Larch Mountain, Multnomah 21–26 Nov (C. Hinkle) and two on Marys Peak, Benton 22 Nov+ (Hendrik Herlyn) constituted a good tally for this irruptive and less-than-annual finch on the westside. “Hepburn’s” Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch is annual atop Marys Peak, Benton, but two there 29 Sep (D. Robinson) were about a month earlier than expected, and up to six at Larch Mountain, Multnomah 2–21 Nov (Nick Mrvelj, Philip Kline) were the first for the location in fifteen years. Cassin’s Finch had an exceptional fall in the coast range, including up to four at Marys Peak, Benton 29 Sep+ (D. Robinson); a high count of six at Gunsight Pass, Benton 7 Oct (D. Robinson); and one at Bald Mountain, Polk, 29 Nov (C. Centanni, C. Kelly Jett).

Oregon’s first Oriental Greenfinch at the Port of Siuslaw Campground in Florence, Lane 17–18 Oct (ph. N. Clements, Torrey Gage-Tomlinson, Forest Tomlinson, m. obs.) provided only the third North American record south of Alaska. A Common Redpoll in Lostine, Wallowa 24 Nov (Joella Manske Arment) was the only report. Red Crossbills were widespread, mostly representing the expected types, but also including a good showing of at least 16 westside “Type 3” reports of up to 45 birds, and a group of 10 “Type 5,” which are poorly known from the westside, at Vedanta Retreat, Multnomah 29 Nov (P. Kline). White-winged Crossbills showed well, including one in Lincoln City, Lincoln 1–12 Aug (ph. Jen Sanford, Jacob Durrent); eight at Green Ridge, Jefferson 5 Oct (Peter Low); and six at Larch Mountain, Multnomah 21 Nov (C. Hinkle, E. Scattaregia). Pine Siskins were widespread and abundant, with a high count of 6550 moving north in 45 minutes at New River, Coos 18 Oct (T. Rodenkirk).

A Chestnut-collared Longspur was at North Spit Coos Bay, Coos on 5 Oct (T. Rodenkirk); the species is reported about once a year in Oregon. Snow Buntings were slightly more numerous and widespread than usual, with individuals or small groups as far south as Lane, along with much rarer singles at Mt. Ashland, Jackson 9–12 Nov (F. Lospalluto) and at Wood River Wetland, Klamath 3 Nov (Kevin Spencer).

Oregon’s second Cassin’s Sparrow at Bond Rd. near the Eugene Airport, Lane 20–26 Oct (ph. Ramiro Aragon) was especially notable as the most northerly ever for the West Coast, and only its second inland record for fall. Clay-colored Sparrows had an average and widely scattered showing, with eight along the coast, three in the Willamette Valley, and five on the eastside. A Brewer’s Sparrow, less than annual on the coast, was at Floras Lake, Curry 12–13 September (C. Centanni, C. Kelly Jett, Colby Neuman), and one was at Bay City, Tillamook 24–25 Sep (Beverly Hallberg), while one inland at Tualatin NWR, Washington 25 Aug–5 Sep (B. Cass Talbot) was more expected. A Sagebrush Sparrow photographed at Denman Wildlife Management Area, Jackson 16–21 Nov (ph. Jim Livaudais) may have constituted the first substantiated fall westside record; there are fewer than 20 total reports of the species from the westside. A Black-throated Sparrow at Indian Creek Marsh, Curry 12 Sep (A. Hinkle, C. Hinkle, E. Scattaregia) was the sixth coastal record and only the third fall westside report. A Lark Sparrow in Eugene 27 Aug (R. Hoyer), along with one in Brookings, Curry 3 Sep (Steven Hunter, Viviana Wolinsky), and two near Arlie, Polk 3 Sep (Joel Geier) fit the expected number and window for fall westside migrants. American Tree Sparrow is a rare westside visitor, and individuals at Mt. Tabor Park, Multnomah, 9 Nov (E. Scattaregia); Cape Meares Village 14 Nov+ (Kevin Scaldeferri); Scappoose Bottoms, Columbia 19-22 Nov (A. Beerman); and Livermore Rd., Polk 20–27 Nov (Gerry Meenaghan) put in an average showing for the species. Five Harris’s Sparrows—two in the Willamette Valley and two in NE Oregon—was on par for this scarce winterer. Oregon’s sixth LeConte’s Sparrow was in Fields, Harney 17 Sep (ph. N. Clements et al.), the third Sep–Oct record for that vagrant trap.

Tricolored Blackbirds are rare and sporadic away from known breeding areas: two were at Agate Lake, Jackson 6 Sep (Forrest English); one was at Lower Fourmile Road, Coos 11–14 Sep (T. Rodenkirk); three were in Eagle Point, Jackson 16–30 Nov (Forrest English); and one sporadically appeared at Philomath STP 26 Oct+ (N. Clements, T. Gage-Tomlinson). A Rusty Blackbird at River Meadows south of Bend, Deschutes 3–6 Nov (Sevilla Rhoads) was the state’s 30th in the past 20 years. Great-tailed Grackles are now well-established in Ontario, Malheur; Klamath Falls, Klamath; and the Rogue Valley, Jackson; elsewhere, the only reports were those of a pair at Broughton Beach, Multnomah 20 Aug (Andy Frank) and a male at a nearby McDonald’s in North Portland 19 Nov+.

Warblers through Buntings

Northern Waterthrushes put in an average showing, with five eastside reports 28 Aug–23 Sep and one from the coast at Arizona Beach, Curry 27 Aug (Rowly Willis). A total of three Black-and-white Warblers were reported, one each from Lone Ranch State Wayside 9–12 Sep (C. Hinkle, E. Scattaregia); Indian Creek Marsh in Gold Beach 12–13 Sep (T. Rodenkirk); and Arizona Beach 11–12 Sep (R. Namitz). Tennessee Warblers were reported from Woodchuck River Mouth, Curry 13 Sep (A. Hinkle); Chetco Point, Curry, 30 Sep (Rich Hoyer); and Willamette Park, Benton 11 Oct (Isaac Denzer, Kai Frueh), for an average showing. Eight American Redstarts—all females or immatures—was an expected total, with six in SE Oregon 6–28 Sep, one at Thief Valley Reservoir, Union 14 Sep (Trent Bray), and one at Beaver Creek, Lincoln 4 Oct (Jeannie Bray, Marty Bray). Northern Parulas were well represented, with reports from Goose Lake State Park, Lake 28–30 Aug (Samantha Marois, Dan Maxwell, Joe Russel) and 20 Sep (A. Beerman); Tumalo Reservoir, Deschutes 29 Aug–7 Sep (Matt Cahill); and Indian Creek Marsh, Curry 12–14 Sep (A. Hinkle, C. Hinkle, E. Scattaregia). One Magnolia Warbler was at Malheur HQ, Harney 23–24 Sep (Teresa Wicks), and another was at Yaquina Head, Lincoln 9 Oct (Laura Paulson, Nancy Thomas).

Oregon’s best fall ever for Chestnut-sided Warblers corroborated the long-term upward trend. One was at Roaring Springs, Harney 16 Sep (D. Irons, S. Finnegan); one visited Sodhouse Ranch, Harney 22–24 Sep (C. Hinkle); at least one graced Malheur HQ 18, 20, 23, & 26 Sep (A. Beerman); and one was in Brookings, Curry 30 Sep (A. Contreras, R. Hoyer) & 3 Oct (T. Rodenkirk). A typical total of Blackpoll Warbler reports came from Lone Ranch State Wayside, Curry 9 Sep (C. Hinkle); Thief Valley Reservoir, Union, 9–11 Sep (N. Clements); Page Springs Campground, Harney 12 Sep (N. Clements, Russ Morgan); Philomath STP, Benton 19 Sep (H. Herlyn); and Sodhouse Ranch, Harney 23 Sep (C. Hinkle). Palm Warblers were reported in average numbers inland, with singles at Hagelstein Park, Klamath 18 Sep (R. Namitz); Smith-and-Bybee Lakes, Multnomah in mid-Oct. (ph. unknown obs.); and Betty Griffiths Trail in Corvallis, Benton 24 Oct (ph. Robert Jilek). However, the coast tallied a lackluster 15 Palm Warbler reports totaling 18 individuals, with the earliest appearing 28 Sep at North Spit Coos Bay, Coos (T. Rodenkirk). Oregon’s 12th Canada Warbler was in Manzanita, Tillamook 26 Sep (S. Finnegan, ph. D. Irons).

Summer Tanager is mostly a spring or late fall and winter vagrant. Only three of the state’s 30 previous records occurred in September, making this September’s haul of four even more remarkable. A male was in a fruit orchard in Kimberly, Grant 25 Aug–19 Sep (ph. Jeff Nordstrom); a male was in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Portland, Multnomah 6 Sep (Jeff Gilligan); a male was 6 miles up the Rogue River, Curry 12 Sep (ph. Mick Bressler, W. Michaelis), and a male was in downtown Bend, Deschutes 13–27 Sep (ph. Ken Murphy). Only two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were reported: a female at Page Springs Campground, Harney 18 Sep (ph. Pam Otley), and a male at Indian Creek Marsh, Curry 24 Sep (ph. Jay Withgott). Lastly, an Indigo Bunting, not quite annual in fall, was near the summit of Steens Mountain, Harney 27 Aug (ph. S. Finnegan, D. Irons).

Report processed by Amy Davis, 4 Mar 2021.

Photos–Oregon: Fall 2020

Click image to view fullscreen with caption.