Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed dowitcher at Row River Nature Park.

Long-billed dowitcher at Row River Nature Park.

Every spring my challenge with this blog is to not geek-out too much on the beautiful wildflowers. My year-round challenge is to not geek-out too much on the birds, especially during fall migration. This year has been especially hard as I have been tracking the types of birds I see throughout the year (my “big year” as it were).

This is one bird that I wanted to share, though, because I had never seen one before. We saw it at the Row River Nature Park this past weekend.  And because it blended into the rocks so well, I consider us lucky to have noticed it.

After consulting my guidebook and online resources, I’m going to call this a long-billed dowitcher. The clincher for me is that the long-billed dowitcher is said to feed using up-and-down probing motions with its bill, like a sewing machine, and that is exactly what this bird did.

I love walking down at the Row River Nature Park because it is full of wildlife, especially birds, yet it is right in town. What’s your most exciting find down there? While I always love to see the turtles, my most favorite find has been river otters. Maybe one day I’ll see one of those when I have my camera handy.


UPDATE October 21, 2014: A birder who is much more advanced than I am (Jim who blogs as the Cascade Rambler) has suggested that this bird is a Wilson’s Snipe, not a Long-billed Dowitcher. I debated between the two as I wrote this post because I think a juvenile long-billed dowitcher can look a lot like a Wilson’s snipe. While I may have been wrong in my ID, the fact remains that the Row River Nature Park is a great in-town location to see lots of wildlife, especially birds.

Siltcoos Canoe Trail: Florence
Thompson's Mills State Heritage Site: Shedd


  1. Collette, sorry to have to correct you, but I believe you have a Wilson’s Snipe there, not a Long-billed Dowitcher. Jim

    • Dang Jim, you’re killin’ me! I thought it was a Wilson’s Snipe and wrote a very cute blog post, then did more research and changed my mind! Hence, another reason why I don’t post about birds too much, I’m still too much of a beginner. 🙂

      What makes you say it’s a Wilson’s Snipe? Just so I can learn in the future?

      • Colette—the heavy striping on the head and back where the clues for me. Don’t feel bad, it happened to me this past winter when I posted about what I thought was a Cooper’s Hawk and turned out to be a Melin which was a much better bird. Besides, this way you know some one is actually reading your blog and paying attention.

  2. “geek-out”! Heee heee heee!

  3. Cool sighting in any case! I’ve been exploring the RRNP this summer and am falling in love with the place. There are a lot of birds there (and otters, too). Colette, I read the other day that the world’s best birders have probably misidentified many birds in their lifetime; it goes with the territory it seems. My main reference is the Birds of the Willamette Valley Region guide, which helps narrow down the possibilities of what I’m seeing locally.
    Are you posting your sightings to E-Bird? E-Bird is the Audubon run online birdlog for birders and is sweetly easy and useful. I’ve been posting to it this year so that my meager beginner efforts contribute to science data. It encourages me to get out to the parks more often so that our Cottage Grove birds get counted too! I am also going to participate in the Audubon’s Feederwatch program (feederwatch.org) this winter to keep myself entertained and engaged in the wide variety of nature that surrounds us here.

    • Thanks Tori! I know that I am not always right about birds, but when I spend a lot of time consulting guidebooks (then write a great blog post that I don’t use because I change my mind) it does get a little frustrating. I don’t post to E-bird because our “birding” is more generally a nice walk and if we see something cool we get excited.

      I have been participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count (http://www.mysouthlane.com/2013/great-backyard-bird-count/) where I’ve learned a lot. And the Birds of the Will. Valley Region will be on my Christmas Wish List this year.
      Have you seen the otters at the RRNP? Its been a while since we have.

      • I usually see at least 3-6 every time I visit. One day I saw 15-20 following each other in a tight bunch. I didn’t believe it, knowing it couldn’t be one family, though many of them looked young. We did a little reading online and learned that parents will “babysit” young from other families so on occasion that many can be seen in large groups together.
        Last week when I visited I saw only 1.

        • You see 3-6 otters every time you visit the RRNP? Wow!!! Where do you see them and when? We are obviously going to different spots or visiting at different times.

          • I usually park at the weigh station, so walking in past the fishing pond it’s the long pond along the left side where I see otters the most. I usually visit in the evening just before/into dusk. Last week I only saw one which I only remember happening once before, although I’ve only been to the park 6 or 7 times so maybe I’ve just been lucky.

          • Ahhh, we are usually there mid-morning, I’ll have to change our routine and see what sorts of new critters we find.

  4. ID’ing hawks is one of my current frustrations. I’ve watched at least 3 closely with binoculars while perched for several minutes collecting details about them, then consult guides for an hour, think about it over and over for a day or two and wind up completely confused about what I saw with no conclusion at all! Figuring out the myriad of little brown sparrow-like birds is also driving me nuts, lol.
    My favorite at the RRNP is seeing (and hearing) the kingfishers. They seem to always be active (and noisy, too, lol).

  5. Collette, thanks to your “Dowitcher” post, I spotted a Wilson’s snipe myself today (at Fernridge) and knew what I was seeing!

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