Thursday, June 14, 2012

Those cursed Yellow-headed Blackbirds!

This spring saw an unprecedented migration of Yellow-headed Blackbirds into my home county in NW Oregon. There were Yellow-headed Blackbirds everywhere I went this spring!

It's true. They were seen just before I got to the wetlands.... They were seen moments after I left.... Sometimes both. And sometimes they were even seen at the same time I was there, but across the marsh!

I knew it was bad when a non-birding "friend" text-messaged me:
Saw my first yellow headed blackbird here @ Tualatin Refuge... I didn't even know yellow head blackbirds were in Oregon.
Then the next day:
Oh Greg... Wish you were here @ Fernhill... Guess what I saw? I had my cam this time. Can't believe back to back days for this... Cool.
Sure, Byron, rub it in.

I chased reported Yellow-headed Blackbirds at Tualatin River NWR, at Fernhill Wetlands, at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. My mistake might have been not chasing the 2 birds reported at Emma Jones for several days in April--even if this wetlands park is officially closed to the pubic....

Yellow-headed Blackbirds are rather common marsh birds west of the Mississippi and south of the boreal forests, wintering to southern Mexico. However, in the Pacific NW they are common in the Great Basin lakes, but not so much west of the Cascades. We discussed this bird in What is that black bird with the yellow head? back in July 2009.

It's not like I haven't seen Yellow-headed Blackbirds before--even in my home county. But it has been a couple of years. But my birding this spring was making good progress at seeing most of the expected annual migrants. I didn't want to miss an "easy" one. Besides, eBird tells me that Steve and Joe keep pushing ahead of me in county year bird species this spring.

April and May came and went, and reports of Yellow-headed Blackbirds ceased. So I gave up. However, on the final day of May I finally saw a Yellow-headed Blackbird! It wasn't a very close bird. It wasn't a bright adult; it was a first year male. But I managed a documentation photo (translation: really bad photo).