Coming down the stairs from Columbia Drive, the first bird we saw was a kingfisher perched on a branch above the river. We walked along the west side of the river across from the Old Mill retail district, past a field with guys playing soccer and the dog park where a lot of dogs, all shapes and colors, ecstatically and playfully greeted each other. Across the river, Canada geese stood in the shallows, their sporadic calls raucous chortles. The kingfisher behind us, we walked along the paved bike path. I stopped next to a head-high, very brushy and leafless shrub (antelope bitterbrush) containing much chirping. Perhaps, sparrows, but as soon as I lifted my camera the noise and activity stopped. An older couple, also with binoculars, asked if we had seen the barred owl—in fact the now famous urban barred owl that was the subject of a newspaper article this morning. We had not. They said the owl was flying between light posts on the other side of the river and by the way, the kingfisher had dived and caught something (we missed that, too).
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It was a good afternoon to see light changing on the water and how, with just a quick turn, a mallard’s head switches between glimmering green and matte black. A good list of birds. Besides the kingfisher, there were many mallards and Canada geese, common goldeneyes, a flock of red-winged blackbirds, one northern flicker plaintively chirping, hooded mergansers, and four wood ducks.
But what sticks with me are the questions. The birds I can’t identify.
Away from the river, walking through a neighborhood, a hawk landed in the top of a tall pine and behind a house five birds perched high in the branches of a deciduous tree. Doves, we decided. But then later, looking at the picture, one of the “doves” impossibly had a black head and neck. And, naturally, the focus was poor and the zoom of the lens insufficient to know for sure.