Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon

Rare find in Portland, OR: Ovenbird


Welcome to this special edition of The Blog.  I want to thank my friend, Bruce McCammonfor his recent blog posting which focused on how he was able to get a photograph of an Ovenbird here in Portland, OR.  After reading his post last night, I was raring to go today to look for the bird.  A homeowner in northeast Portland had apparently discovered the bird in their backyard (which is full of bird feeders!) and published their address on the Oregon Birding On Line (OBOL) mailing list.  I am a member of OBOL and I did see the Ovenbird listed in the index to messages in a couple of list digests, but, I did not read the actual messages and therefore missed crucial information about the whereabouts of this bird. I had also read other local bloggers posts where they had not been able to find the bird.  So I figured it was not worth trying.

After reading Bruce’s splendid blog post and viewing his super photos, I looked up the address of the house where the bird was spotted and decided to go there Tuesday (Jan. 22) afternoon.  The folks that live at the house are very hospitable in that they have posted a welcome sign on their front door asking birders to walk around back and settle in.  They also wish everyone good luck!

There were two birders there when I arrived and I just made my way to a chair that the homeowner had set up in the backyard.  I brought my tripod along and used it most of the time.  I stayed about 2 1/2 hours and it was interesting how the birds, for the most part, arrived at the yard in waves about every 15 to 20 minutes.  The birds included Bushtits, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Evening Grosbeaks, Northern Flickers, Townsend’s Warblers, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (correction: Anna’s Hummingbirds–thanks Jen!), Song Sparrows, Varied Thrushes, the Ovenbird, and others.  A wave of most of these species would arrive and stay for about five minutes or so.  Then they were gone and we just had to sit and wait for them to come back.  The temperature was in the low 30’s (F) and after a while of sitting there, the breeze started to penetrate my several jackets, hat and gloves.

The neighborhood has a lot of trees and so did this backyard.  This made for basically all shade shooting.  This meant I would be shooting at between ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 if I wanted to keep my shutter speed relatively fast.  With the first wave of birds came the Ovenbird, which landed directly on the ground where there was some grass and some leaves and flower bed areas.  I learned ( without reading a book) that this bird was a ground dweller because I never once saw it land on anything but the ground.  It was not interested in the feeders like most of the birds were.  It came with each wave of birds and was usually the last to leave each time.  There went my hopes of getting a shot with a great background.

While I was there, I saw at least 4 or 5 waves of birds come in and leave.  I took over 800 frames, few of which are high quality due to the low light situation.  The Ovenbird’s normal range for winter is listed as in Mexico and Florida and southward to South America.  In other seasons, it is rare that they come further west than Montana/Colorado in North America.  So this particular bird is way off course to be here in Portland.  The Ovenbird is named based on the domed, oven-like nests it builds on the ground.  Here is one of the many shots I took of this bird.  I picked one that showed most of the bird’s attributes for this post.  I will post others later when I do my regular blog posting for this shoot.

Be sure to click once on this thumbnail to view a larger version!


I’m looking forward to sharing more shots of the Ovenbird and also other birds that visited the feeders in this backyard.  Many of these species are lifers for me–not just the Ovenbird.  So it should be a colorful display of photos.  Hope you can make it back for that!   Thanks for visiting.  And thanks again, Bruce, for giving me the drive to get out there and find this beauty!

Note:  While my photography philosophy is to capture wild birds, in the wild, and to not use baiting or set ups, today’s particular shoot was obviously a feeder shoot.  The opportunity to capture a rare bird such as the Ovenbird, temporarily overrode my basic ‘rules’ in this case.  I will always disclose the situation when I stray from my central philosophy, which has happened only one other time in my over 6 years of shooting.  The importance of spotting and photographing this bird, to me, was very high.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 at 2:08 am and is filed under The Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Rare find in Portland, OR: Ovenbird”

  1. Jen says:

    Isn’t that yard amazing?! Great shot of the Ovenbird- undoubtedly THE most photographed Portland bird for 2013. Oh and I think you meant Anna’s Hummingbirds- Ruby-throateds are eastern birds.

    • Dennis says:

      Jen, yes, great yard and great folks for allowing us into the yard! And, thanks for the correction on the hummingbird name I posted! I’ve added a correction to the blog post.

  2. Bruce says:

    You’re most welcome Dennis. It just seems that such a rare opportunity needs to be capitalized on and I’m glad it worked out for you. All my shots of the ovenbird were ISO 6400 too. I’m glad the bird showed up in this age of modern cameras and high ISO capability.

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