Birds of the Pittock Mansion and Seblar Neighborhood

Location: NW Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon

Elevation: Between 800 and 1000 ft

History of the Dogwalk

The Dogwalk began in June, 2000, the day after my partner, Becki, broke her ankle.  We had just brought home a few weeks earlier an English Cocker Spaniel puppy, Lillian.  It fell to me, therefore, to walk the dog every morning.  Thinking that there would not be anything interesting to see, birdwise, on a short walk around the neighborhood, I did not even bring binoculars the first few mornings.  However, it quickly was apparent that there were interesting birds to be seen, and so I started keeping records.  Yes, Becki's ankle is fine now, thank you, but I still have to walk the dog.  The irony is I don't really like dogs (but Lillian's OK).

Route of the Dogwalk

The walk begins, usually between 8 and 8:30AM, at our home on NW Seblar Terrace and proceeds to the Pittock Mansion (45.5253N, 122.7161W) via upper half of NW Seblar Terrace, the upper portion of NW Seblar Drive, and Pittock Lane (see map [168k]).  At the Mansion, we loop around the Mansion grounds and the Parking Lot.  About once a week we walk up the access road to the water tank just west of the Parking Lot.  We return home via the same route except we walk the lower half of NW Seblar Terrace.  The route is about 1.8 miles roundtrip, and we usually complete it in an hour and a half.  If the weather is bad, we can finish in under an hour.  If the birding is good, sometimes we will take 2 hours to complete. Take a tour of the Dogwalk route.

Habitats of the Dogwalk

Approximately half of the route is in a hillside residential neighborhood: lots of ornamental trees, hardly any lawns. There is one brushy vacant lot at the west end of Seblar Drive, which was home to California Quail in 2002. The other half of the walk (along Pittock Lane) is through a mixed forest dominated by Douglas Fir and Bigleaf Maple with some Red Alder and Western Hemlock.  There is no open water, which means that any “water birds” are almost always flyovers. (The exception is Great Blue Heron, which sometimes perches on the roof of houses.)

Method

Immediately after each walk, species seen or heard are recorded in AviSys 6. Numbers of individuals are estimated—I don’t keep a written tally as I do the walk. This works OK for, say, Pileated Woodpeckers, but can be a problem for common, evenly distributed birds, such as Song Sparrows. Occasionally, in an effort to calibrate my numbers, I keep a conscious tally of a particular species. I try to account for the fact that the route retraces its steps, and therefore try to avoid double counting the same birds.

Impact of the dog

Negative. But she’s a ticket to a daily walk. 

Latest summary

Weekly Summary Archive

Checklist of Birds of Pittock Mansion and Seblar Neighborhood [updated 7/01/09]

Rare bird sightings

       Long-tailed Jaeger: One probable 2nd-year seen 8/23/01 from Mansion parking lot.

       Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: One immature seen 4/16/01 along access road to water tank from Mansion parking lot.

       American Redstart: One female seen by several observers 9/17/02 at Mansion parking lot.

       Plumbeous Vireo: One adult male seen 4/21/05 below the Gate Lodge. Also seen by Mike Marsh and Don Moore the next day. Note added 7/01/09: This sighting is questionable. I have seen several “Plumbeous Vireos” in the succeeding years, once even two birds in one day. These birds are probably not safely separated from Cassin’s Vireo.

       Black-and-White Warbler: One male seen 6/5/05 at the bottom of Pittock Lane. Seen by several observers later in the day.

       Pine Grosbeak: A pair seen Nov 30, 2006 on NW Seblar Terrace. Subsequently, single birds (all sightings ID’d to gender were male) were seen during December, 2006 and twice in the winter of 2007. Nobody else was ever able to find the bird(s), leading me to nickname it “Harvey”.

       Spotted Owl: not seen on the dogwalk, but in my backyard. One bird, June 12, 2009. Later returned for a few hours on June 22, holding a dead squirrel.

Some special birds of the neighborhood

       Band-tailed Pigeon: Most easily found during spring, summer, and fall perched in tall firs south of NW Seblar Drive. Also seen at the Mansion.

       Vaux’s Swift: Common and conspicuous during the summer around the Mansion. They often zoom up and down the upper portion of Pittock Lane.

       Anna’s Hummingbird: There is almost always a male on territory in the blackberry bushes on the south slope below the main Mansion lawn. NW Seblar Drive usually has one or two.

       Red-breasted Sapsucker: Can show up anywhere on the route but most reliable in the European White Birch at the east end of the main Mansion lawn. Also drums from a maple behind the gift shop. A pair nested in 2002 and again in 2007 a few yards along the Wildwood Trail at the NW corner of the Mansion parking lot.

       Varied Thrush: Common and conspicuous around the Mansion during the winter months.

       Hutton’s Vireo: Best area is along Pittock Lane, but can be found anywhere on route. Much more often heard than seen—learn to recognize its droll calls: a whining shreee-shree and its “horse-laugh” (rendered by Sibley as rrrreeeee-dee-dee-dee-dee). When seen, it looks like a Ruby-crowned Kinglet pondering its next move.

       Red Crossbill: Mansion parking lot is best area. More often heard than seen.

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