Two Strangers at Tualatin

While in Portland, we made a stop at the Tualatin River Wildlife Preserve to see what birds had stopped over on their way South.

When a sparrow appeared to me, I was hoping it was going to be something I don’t see at home.  However, I would say it’s either a Chipping Sparrow or a young White Crowned Sparrow, both of which are also found out east.  I’m rooting for a White Crowned Sparrow–it’s more exciting than a Chipping Sparrow.  Plus, it has an orange beak–although this isn’t normal for a young White Crowned Sparrow as far West as we saw this one according to Sibley.  But a Chipping Sparrow doesn’t have an orange beak, either, so I’m going with the White Crowned.

Sparrows are often tortuous to identify.

This leads me to a species definitely not seen East of the Mississippi–the Scrub Jay.  I don’t know who named this poor guy after something that sounds like it should be used to clean toilets, but they really must have been annoyed with these noisy, persistent buggers when they named them.  After all, the Scrub Jay is a beautiful, brilliant blue bird with gorgeous markings.

My appreciation of the Scrub Jay reminds me of a visit from a Korean family when I was a teenager.  They were amazed by the Northern Cardinal.  We had dozens of them visiting the feeders during their visit and the Korean children couldn’t get over how beautiful they were.

What is it about rarity that makes us prize beauty more?  Once it becomes a common occurrence, we forget to be amazed.  This seems related to the old adage, “we only want what we can’t have,” usually applied to dysfunctional relationships.

Instead of appreciating the ubiquitous Northern Cardinal when we are in the East and the equally ubiquitous Scrub Jay when out West, we look for the birds that are hard to find.  We revel in sighting the birds yet to get a check mark on our life list.  We yearn to see a bird we’ve never seen before.

I admit I fall into this thinking.  I was excited to add two birds to my life list while at the preserve.  First, there was the Cackling Goose (or the Crackling Goose as it seemed to come out more often than not).  I had dismissed them as Canada Geese to be honest.  I had no idea there even was such a thing as a Cackling Goose.

Fortunately, my father had recently learned about the Cackling Goose, which led me to play its call compared to a Canada Goose.  Sure enough, different calls.  All of the birds in flight were Cackling Geese.  They seemed to be confused as they tried to create a formation.  Perhaps that’s why they were still as far North as Portland in October.

But more exciting than the Cackling Goose, we also got to see a Red-breasted Sapsucker.  Definitely a nice treat, although probably a daily sighting in this preserve.