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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Searching for Wrentits ~ Second Time's the Charm

Yesterday afternoon I spent two hours at the Sandy River Delta where a pair of wrentits had been reported for the last week or so. Normally an elusive coastal species, this sighting in Multnomah County is somewhat out of its normal range and has been an excitement for local birders. After reading report after report of people getting within ten feet of these secretive birds, my hopes were high as I made the drive to Troutdale.

The directions that had been provided were precise and it was easy to locate the region where the birds have been sighted. Not so easy is locating a sparrow-sized bird in acres of blackberry bramble. I walked up and down among the paths along with several other birders who were also in pursuit of the wrentits. We heard song sparrows and Bewick's wrens, which after an hour or so started to fool you as you asked yourself if that could possibly be the song of the unfamiliar wrentit. Bushtits and towhees also made their way through the brambles, so every now and then I would pause to examine a motion in the brush. But, no luck. I had to content myself with seeing my first rufous hummingbird of the season (121). I went home and reported my no-find to the local birders list only to read a report several hours later that some of the other birders had found them....15 minutes after my departure.

Not willing to give up that easily, I decided to visit in the morning today and listened to recordings of the call over and over again during breakfast to make sure I would recognize it. Upon arriving, I felt that my fortunes would be better, and indeed I was only partway down the path when I heard the now-familiar call. Another birder was already on scene and had located the birds, which made finding the wrentits (122 on the year, and also a life bird) all too easy compared to yesterday's excursion.

Both birds were present, and would occasionally sing and obligingly hop out onto a visible branch, only to disappear back into the bushes and fall silent for a length of time. It was easy to see that if you walked up at the right time, they would be right in front of you, but if your timing was off, they would give you no sign of their presence.

The wrentit is a remarkably distinct species for falling into the category of "little brown bird". The long tail, often held cocked like in the photo below, the light eye, and the slightly down-curved bill are the field marks, but overall it just looks and acts somehow different from the bushtits, sparrows, and wrens it might otherwise be confused with. It's also easy to see how it could easily disappear among the brambles, isn't it?

It definitely made my day to find these birds this morning! I even heard some California quail (123) to top it off.


Rhett Wilkins said...

Congrats on the Wrentit, Monika!

We were so sad that you just missed them last night. When we finally heard the call, there was no more questioning whether or not a familiar species was pulling our leg. We, too, heard California Quail in the direction of the airport.

Excellent blog and great photos. Please feel free to visit my blog of like-kind at

Also, I had my FOS Band-tailed Pigeon on Mt. Tabor this morning.

Take care,

Rhett Wilkins

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Nice one Monika - LBJs they are but cute with it I like em.
Congrats on another lifer.