Oregon: Summer 2021

Summer 2021: 1 Jun–31 Jul

Adrian Hinkle

Christopher Hinkle

Recommended citation: 

Hinkle, A. W., and C. Hinkle. 2021. Summer 2021: Oregon. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-bE1> North American Birds.

Portland hit an all-time record of 116 °F in the end of June, while spots on the North Coast topped 100 °F. Much of the state’s lowlands reported temperatures in the 90s or higher for several weeks. Many spots in the Willamette Valley, including Portland, had no measurable rain after mid-June, and the whole state suffered from drought. 

It was an average summer for birds, with few rare shorebirds, no significant out-of-range nesters, and no notable high counts. The paltry spring for eastern vagrants bled into June, perhaps due to unusually persistent north winds—Malheur NWR Headquarters and Fields Oasis in southeast Oregon produced only one vagrant apiece in June, capping off the worst spring vagrant season in recent memory. 

The surprise of the summer was a bedraggled Flammulated Owl rescued from a coastal tide pool at Yaquina Head in late June, marking the first record for the Oregon or Washington coasts. A White-rumped Sandpiper at Summer Lake in early June—part of a region-wide invasion—and a lingering Phainopepla in Jackson Co rounded out the short list of notable records. 

Sub-Regional Compilers 

Tim Rodenkirk (Coos and Curry Cos, Oregon).


East of the Cascade Mountains (Eastside), West of the Cascade Mountains (Westside). 

Swans through Swifts

Loner Tundra Swans summered in Crook Co, Washington Co, and Lake Co, while singles lingered into June in Columbia Co and Klamath Co. Five is a good showing for a species usually reported once or twice a summer in Oregon. A summering male Eurasian Wigeon at Finley NWR, Benton Co was even more noteworthy—they sometimes linger into late May or June, but this may have been the first oversummering record for the Westside. Long-tailed Ducks are always rare on the Eastside and especially so in summer; one lingered at the Burns Sewage Ponds, Harney Co until 7 Jun.

A Mountain Quail with six chicks at Vedanta Retreat provided Multnomah Co with its first confirmed breeding record since the early 2000s (Andrew Aldrich), though the quail have frequented Vedanta Retreat since at least 2019. Mountain Quail are absent from most of southwest Washington, but may be spreading, as indicated by a 2019 report in Clark Co, Washington. 

Red-necked Grebes are no longer regular in Klamath Co, where they used to nest in small numbers; a pair on Upper Klamath Lake in summer 2014 and summer 2015 was the most recent suggestion of breeding in the state. An adult at Willow Valley Reservoir, Klamath Co 12 Jun (Elijah Hayes) and an alternate adult at La Grande Sewage Ponds, Union Co 31 Jul+ (Dave Trochlell) were the only inland reports this summer, both far from suitable nesting habitat. 

A White-winged Dove was photographed in Seaside, Clatsop Co 12 Jul (Mike Patterson, et. al). The northern Oregon coast has records from every month except April and May. As many as four Black Swifts summered at Salt Creek Falls, Lane Co, the only confirmed breeding spot in the state. None were found at Tumalo Falls, Deschutes Co, where they were reported during the breeding season in 2007, 2011–2014, and 2018. 

Hummingbirds through Shorebirds

Costa’s Hummingbirds are rare but annual in Oregon and occur any month of the year. A female was at a feeder at a rural Carl Road homestead, Columbia Co, 28–30 Jul (ph. Mike Marble). An Anna’s x Rufous Hummingbird hybrid, traditionally rare but reported annually in the past few years, was outside Cresswell, Lane Co 7 Jun (ph. Noah Strycker). A hybrid Anna’s x Selasphorus hummingbird in Bend, Deschutes Co 26 – 29 Jul (ph. James Moodie) was a first for Oregon’s Eastside, where hybrids could easily be confused with Broad-tailed Hummingbird. 

Yellow Rails are a rare breeder in the western United States. The only reliable location is Klamath Marsh NWR, where dozens or hundreds have bred annually since the species was discovered there in the early 1980s. Vast marshes with good habitat and relatively consistent water levels contribute to their success. Yellow Rails are rare and very local breeders elsewhere in eastern Oregon, in the northern Rockies, and in California. Most recently, they have been annual at Summer Lake WMA, Oregon since 2010 and at Goose Lake on the California border 2018–2020. Two were at a location in southern Deschutes Co in 2019. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a thorough Yellow Rail survey in Klamath and Lake Cos in Jun 2021 and tallied 125 Yellow Rails. Numbers have decreased in many of the usual locations over the past twenty years, and none were found in the Wood River Valley, which supported 195 birds per a Jun 2001 survey. However, Yellow Rails in Oregon are highly subject to shifting habitat on a year-by-year basis, and continued monitoring is needed to determine long-term trends. 

American Avocets are barely annual on the Oregon coast; one was in Gold Beach, Curry Co 22 Jun (Joseph Mooney). Two Red Knots at Oregon Dunes Loop Trail, Douglas Co 17 Jun (Daniel Farrar) were unseasonal; there are very few previous state records for the second half of June. Oregon’s 6th White-rumped Sandpiper was photographed at Summer Lake, Lake Co 4 Jun (ph. Aaron Skirvin), a likely location and good timing, coinciding with sightings in southwest British Columbia, western Washington, northern and southeastern California, Utah, and southwest Colorado. A Red Phalarope at Fern Ridge Reservoir’s Royal Ave access 19 Jul (Magnus Persmark) represented a less-than-annual inland summer sighting. Red Phalaropes are very rare inland in Oregon outside of stormy late fall conditions.

Skuas through Owls

A South Polar Skua flying over the beach north of Floras Lake, Curry Co 20 Jun (Dave Lauten, Kathy Castelein) and an adult Long-tailed Jaeger on a sandbar in Alsea Bay, Lincoln Co 20 Jul (Annika Andersson) were both exceptional from shore. 

The remarkable drought-related showing of Westside Franklin’s Gulls in spring spilled into the first few days of June. Four moved past Bray Point, Lane Co 1 Jun (Vjera Thompson), six were at Baskett Slough NWR, Polk Co 2 Jun (Stephen Greenwood), and 17 were on Sturgeon Lake, Columbia Co 3 Jun (Philip Kline). A hatch-year Short-billed Gull at Fort Stevens State Park, Clatsop Co 25 Jul (ph. Tina Toth) may have been the earliest ever for the state. A Black Tern at Bybee Lake, Multnomah Co 2 Jun+ (Tom Love) was joined by a second one 24 Jul+. They presumably bred, as a juvenile was observed there on 2 Aug; the species is a very rare breeder on the Westside away from Fern Ridge Reservoir, Lane Co. An adult Glaucous-winged Gull at Burns Sewage Ponds, Harney Co 3–4 Jun (ph. Jay Withgott) was one of few county records, and exceptional for the Great Basin in June. 

Five Snowy Egrets flew in off the ocean at Port Orford, Curry Co 31 July (Sam Heinrich). Snowy Egrets are sporadic anywhere on the Oregon coast, usually appearing in ones and twos from Coos Bay southward. White-tailed Kites continue to decline; singles were reported in Coos Co, Douglas Co, and Yamhill Co constituted the only reports this season. Green Herons are rare but annual on the Eastside away from the Klamath Basin. One was at Summer Lake, Lake Co 1 Jun (Douglas Robinson) and one was at Ryan Meadow, Deschutes Co 7–9 Jul (Milton Vine et al.). 

A very unseasonal Rough-legged Hawk was at Pruett Rd., Crook Co 6 Jun (Russ Namitz). Most Rough-legged Hawks depart by May, and Oregon only has a couple previous summer records. A Short-eared Owl at Belts Rd., Linn Co 18 Jun (Andrew Aldrich) provided a less-than-annual summer report for the Westside, where the species is not known to breed. The shock of the summer was a bedraggled Flammulated Owl picked up from a tidepool at Yaquina Head, Lincoln Co 24 Jun (ph. Cascade Raptor Center). Flammulated Owl has never been reported on the Oregon or Washington coasts or on the Westside north of Douglas Co. The owl may have been a disoriented migrant drawn to the lighthouse. 

Flycatchers through Phainopepla

Least Flycatchers are rare annual visitors to Oregon, and reports are roughly split between late spring migrants in the desert and early summer territorial birds anywhere in the state. This year, singing individuals were in Creswell, Lane Co 12–15 Jun (Noah Strycker), Klamath Marsh NWR, Klamath Co 29–30 Jun (Shiloh Rasmussen), and at Shady Grove Rest Area, Wheeler Co 723 Jun (Joseph Blowers). “Western” Flycatchers that give Cordilleran-like calls, though likely resident in a handful of mountain ranges in Oregon, are not documented annually. At least two were recorded giving calls close to the Cordilleran end of the spectrum in aspen groves of the Trout Creek Mountains, Harney Co 28 Jun (Eric Heisey). Black Phoebes continue to expand in the state, most notably including a far-east juvenile at Hood River Mouth, Hood River Co 26 Jul (John Bishop). Eastern Kingbirds have been absent as a breeder on the Westside since disappearing from Sandy River Delta, Multnomah Co a few years ago; an expected handful of late spring vagrants were detected, including singles at Finley NWR, Benton Co 12 Jun (ph. Tyler Wilson), Sitka Sedge State Natural Area, Tillamook Co 16 Jun (ph. Nancy Stotz), and Oakridge, Lane Co 19 Jun (ph. Rachael Friese). One at Grassy Lake, Columbia Co 11 Jun (Tom Myers) could have wandered from the tiny population in Clark Co, Washington.  

Red-eyed Vireos are barely annual in southeast Oregon. A singing bird was in Fields, Harney Co 17 Jun (Eric Heisey). Up to two were at Rogue River Preserve, Jackson Co 521 Jun (Kristi Mergenthaler), where at least three were present the previous summer; this is the only suspected breeding population south of Eugene in the past decade. A Black-capped x Mountain Chickadee hybrid photographed in Fort Klamath, Klamath Co 30 Jun (Alex Lamoreaux) was the southernmost sighting of that hybrid in Oregon, away from the well-known hybridization zone in the eastern Columbia River Gorge. Ruby-crowned Kinglets linger in Westside lowlands into May or very rarely early June, and do not return until late August or early September. One at Mt. Tabor Park, Multnomah Co 14 Jul+ (Em Scattaregia, ph. Michael Fisher) represented an exceptional mid-summer report. Although their status is muddied by misidentified Hutton’s Vireos, this may constitute the first July Ruby-crowned Kinglet record for the Westside. 

Gray Catbirds are very rare on the Westside but have become almost annual summer visitors on the coast in recent years. They bred in Newport in 2014, and territorial catbirds present for a week or longer have been elsewhere in Lincoln, Curry, and Coos counties since. The final coastal county without a record, Clatsop, notched its first at Canon Beach Sewage Ponds 2 Jul (ph. Logan Searl), but it was silent and could not be relocated. The upward trend coincides with increasing catbird reports in central and southeast Oregon and California over the past couple decades.

A pair of Veery was in the Black Butte Swamp area, Deschutes Co 9 Jun17 Jul (John Gardiner et al.) where they have been present and presumably breeding almost every summer since 2005. This is the southwesternmost extent of their range. Grant Co in northeast Oregon hosts the next nearest population now that they are no longer known from traditional Ochoco National Forest spots. A female-type Phainopepla lingered at Denman WMA, Jackson Co through 4 Jun; Oregon only had four records through 2010 but has recorded six in the last ten years, half of which occurred in June. 

Crossbills through Grosbeaks

Exceptional numbers of Red Crossbills—including many Type 2, Type 3, and Type 4 birds—invaded the Westside in spring. By mid-June almost all the Type 2s and Type 4s had cleared out, but modest numbers of Type 3s persisted both in the lowlands and mountains. Type 10 Red Crossbills in western North America are almost entirely restricted to the coast, primarily in Sitka Spruce forests; four recorded far inland over Eugene, Lane Co 24 Jun (au. John Sullivan) were exceptional.  

A Lapland Longspur at South Jetty Siuslaw River, Lane Co 22 Jun (ph. Terry Little) was very late, but not unprecedented for the Oregon Coast. Two territorial Grasshopper Sparrows were detected in far southeast Oregon, where they are much less than annual but likely overlooked as breeders. One was at Wright’s Pond, Harney Co 318 Jun (Noah Strycker et al.) and one was in the Trout Creek Mountains, Malheur Co 11 Jun (Eric Heisey). Seven Golden-crowned Sparrows were reported in June, a slightly higher than average total. A White-throated Sparrow lingering at a Coos Bay feeder until 11 Jun (Bob Fields) was rare but expected in Oregon once every few years. 

Tricolored Blackbirds continue to breed locally on the eastside, mostly in Klamath Co, Jefferson Co, and Crook Co, as has been the case in recent years. Three males were seen six miles south of Paisley, Lake Co 5 Jun (Dave Irons, Shawneen Finnegan); Lake Co gets occasional reports but no consistent sightings. 

A handful of territorial Northern Waterthrushes summered and presumably bred at their traditional location in Gilchrist, Klamath Co, while one was at Mule Prairie, Lane Co through 25 Jul for a second consecutive year. It was a lousy year for warbler vagrants at usual Eastside vagrant traps. A single male Magnolia Warbler at Malheur NWR Headquarters, Harney Co 8 Jun (Karthik Murali, Ross Barnes-Rickett) was the only vagrant warbler in well-covered southeast Oregon. A male Bay-breasted Warbler photographed in pine woodland near Big River Campground, Deschutes Co 15 Jun (Sevilla Rhoads) provided Oregon with its fourteenth record. 

Two early June Eastside and two Westside Rose-breasted Grosbeaks rounded out the anemic vagrant season. Rose-breasted x Black-headed Grosbeak hybrids occur occasionally in Oregon, so an apparent hybrid visiting a feeder in Eugene 23 Jul+ (Anne Heyerly, Dan Heyerly) was not unprecedented. 

Report processed by Amy Davis, 11 Oct 2021.

Photos–Oregon: Summer 2021

Click image to view fullscreen with caption.