Winter Waterfowl

While birding for some species can be hit-or-miss this time of year, winter in the Willamette Valley always provides great numbers and diversity of waterfowl. Here are just a few I have seen recently.

Canvasback at Force Lake. This little pond always hosts a few of this distinctive species.
Ruddy Duck is another diving duck often found at Force Lake.
This Common Goldeneye was in the creek at Westmoreland Park. Westmoreland used to be the place to see gulls in Portland. But since the duck pond was replaced with a more natural creek channel and wetland, gulls don’t hang out there anymore. The creek is always good for a few ducks, though.
Ring-necked Duck at Westmoreland Park
Hooded Merganser at Amberglen Park
Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese grazing with some American Wigeons at Amberglen
One of two Eurasian Wigeons at Amberglen
It has been a good winter for Eurasian Wigeon in the Portland area. This bird, grazing at Commonwealth Lake, appears to be a young male just starting to molt into breeding plumage. The head color is a little too intense for a female, and there is a hint of blond coming in on the forehead.
American Wigeon at Commonwealth

Happy Winter

Farewell to Autumn

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As winter finally locks in, here is a last look at some autumn colors, starting with this Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Pied-billed Grebe
Northern Shoveler, providing a splash of white, green, and copper
Northern Shovelers often swim with their faces in the water. I know they are filter-feeding along the surface, but it is easy to imagine that those enormous bills are just too heavy to hold up.
Sandhill Cranes flying over Sauvie Island
American Wigeon reflected in a sheltered backwater pool
Eurasian Wigeon feeding in the lawn at Commonwealth Lake. Note the lack of a black outline around the base of the bill, which would be present on an American Wigeon.
Killdeer, contemplating whether to head farther south before the weather turns really bad. We have had a hard freeze since this photo was taken. I wonder what they decided.
Taverner’s Cackling Goose. I like the little white eyebrow on this individual.
This Red-winged Blackbird has some fresh rusty edges to his back feathers. Those will wear off with time.

As we approach two to three months of dark and dreary weather, remind yourself to get outdoors anyway.

Happy Winter

Coastal Birds

My annual gull class visited the Coast from Cannon Beach to Gearhart. Stormy weather caused us to postpone the trip by a week. The weather was lovely the day of our trip, but nice weather, combined with the week’s delay, kept our gull total to a modest seven species.

California Gulls are among the most common species on the coast right now.

California Gull in flight, showing the extensive black in the primaries

Herring Gull

Herring Gull coming in for a landing

Short-billed Gulls frequent the Necanicum River Estuary in Gearhart. This bird was stamping their feet in the shallow water to stir up food items.

A stop at the Seaside Cove produced a large flock of Surfbirds.

Just a few Black Turnstones were mixed in with the Surfbirds.

The most unusual bird of the trip was this Long-tailed Duck at the Cannon Beach Settling Ponds. This is a young female, whose dark coloring blended in surprisingly well with the water’s surface.

We didn’t have much time to look for songbirds, but White-crowned Sparrows are always obliging.

Happy Autumn

Autumn at Last

After a very long dry summer, autumn has finally arrived. While we don’t get the extensive fall colors found in eastern forests, the red Poison Oak highlights the eyes on this Spotted Towhee.

This very ragged Bushtit was found at Wapato Lake NWR, which has finally opened up to birders after a long wait. The refuge will be closed to non-hunters from December-February, but should offer some great birding when it is open.

American Pipits are common migrants this time of year on mudflats and other open habitats.

Male American Kestrel

This American Crow was actively fishing in a tide pool along the Columbia River. I don’t normally think of crows as fish-eaters, but they take advantage of whatever food source is available.

There are still a few American White Pelicans around. They will be gone soon.

Brush Rabbit, blending in with the fall colors

Pacific Tree Frog on a maple leaf. These frogs are very common, but they seldom perch out in the open.

This Black-tailed Deer was just off the path at Cooper Mountain Nature Park.

Happy Autumn

Wetlands in the Summer

In mid to late summer, when conditions are very hot and dry in Oregon, most of the wildlife activity is found near wetlands, at least until they dry up as well. Here are a few images from various wetlands in the Portland area this summer.

A Purple Martin strafes an American Kestrel at Tualatin River NWR
Barn Swallow about to nab an insect off the water’s surface
Anna’s Hummingbird feeding on a cedar at Fernhill Wetlands
Two Northern River Otters at Koll Center Wetlands
This otter was almost too close for my camera to focus
Several young Soras put on a nice show at Commonwealth Lake Park
Snacking on a snail
Black Phoebe with a damselfly at Fernhill Wetlands
I always love seeing Brush Rabbits
Summer is Ugly Duck Season, as males molt into eclipse plumage and all the duck replace their flight feathers. This Cinnamon Teal at Beal Street Wetland is best identified by his shape.

Happy Summer

Shorebirds at Tualatin River NWR

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge has been good for southbound shorebirds this summer. Early in the season, the Long-billed Dowitchers were still sporting their breeding plumage.

At this point, most of the dowitchers have molted into winter plumage.

Normally seen later in the fall, a few Pectoral Sandpipers have made an appearance at the refuge.

Up to three young Wilson’s Phalaropes were at the refuge this summer.

Least Sandpiper

Greater Yellowlegs are one of the more common, and more vocal, of the migrant shorebirds.

Lesser Yellowlegs are harder to find, but have been reliable at the refuge this summer.

Occasionally, the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs will pose together for a nice comparison.

This Wilson’s Snipe made an unusual appearance out in the open.

Shorebird migration lasts through October, but the water at the refuge typically dries up before then. We’ll see how recent restoration efforts affect water levels this year.

Happy summer

Migration Update

Our cold wet April has blossomed into a cold wet May. I shouldn’t complain, since we need whatever moisture we can get, but a few balmy spring days would be nice.

Shorebirds on the northern Oregon coast peaked last week. This Black Oystercatcher was one of four hanging out at the Seaside Cove.

Black Turnstones are common in winter at Seaside Cove, but the few that remain are sporting crisp breeding plumage.

A single Ruddy Turnstone has been at The Cove for a while now.

Songbirds have been moving, too, despite the weather. This Common Yellowthroat was singing at Cooper Mountain Nature Park.

The locally nesting White-crowned Sparrows are on territory and ready for nesting.

Ruby-crowned Kinglets don’t nest around here, but they have been singing like crazy. I cannot seem to get a decent photo of a kinglet, but at least the parts of this bird we can see are clear.

In the “totally creepy and yet fascinating” department: here is a second cycle Western Gull showing the structure of their tongue. I didn’t realize their tongues were that big, let alone such an interesting shape. The more you look, the more you see.

Happy Spring

This is April?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think we had more snow in April than we did in December. It has been cold and wet most of the month, and while I am very grateful for the rain and the added mountain snowpack, the weather has seemed to delay the onset of spring. Migrants have been few, and resident species a just starting to get revved up for the season. This Pacific Wren was trying out his song at Tualatin River NWR.

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The Townsend’s Chipmunks are out and about. I think the two lumps in this one’s ear are ticks.

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Hermit Thrushes, which are considered a winter species here in the Willamette Valley, are still around.

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This Virginia Rail put on a nice show at Commonwealth Lake Park.

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If we can’t have spring migrants yet, we might as well enjoy the local residents. Spotted Towhees never fail to impress.

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On a recent semi-birdless outing, I noticed a nice flight of these, Western White-ribboned Carpet Moth. These are tiny, with a wingspan of about an inch and a stunning pattern. It is always great to learn a new species.

So, colorful migrant birds and will show up any minute. Right? 

Happy Spring

Early Spring

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Spring is kicking into gear. Lots of birds have starting pairing up in anticipation of nesting. These Tree Swallows were checking out a tree cavity.

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Yellow-rumped Warblers are becoming more common and some have acquired full breeding plumage.

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There are still a lot of “winter” sparrows in the Willamette Valley. Here is a typical view of a Lincoln’s Sparrow. This bird had no interest in posing out in the open.

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Green-winged Teal do not nest in western Oregon, but they have started to pair up and are looking very dapper.

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This Double-crested Cormorant has caught a Rainbow Trout. When the county parks department stocked this lake with trout, I doubt that cormorants were the intended recipients, but I always like to see native wildlife benefiting whenever they can.

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I have found just a few Long-toed Salamanders so far this year. Amphibians should become more active in the next week or so.

Happy Spring

Fernhill Wetlands

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Spring migration hasn’t really kicked in, yet, but the birds that are here are getting more active. Here are some recent images from Fernhill Wetlands. This Brewer’s Blackbird was looking good in the sunshine.

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Black Phoebes are now expected at Fernhill Wetlands. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I found Washington County’s first Black Phoebe there.

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This was my first Rufous Hummingbird of the year. He refused to perch in decent light.

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A large flock of Taverner’s Cackling Geese were hanging out on Fernhill Lake. The Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese were either off feeding somewhere or have moved on.

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Brush Rabbit, always adorable

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California Ground Squirrel, soaking up the sun

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Spotted Towhee

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Downy Woodpecker

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Bright sunlight makes it hard for me to get a decent of photo of an American Coot, but this bird’s yoga pose was too good not to share.

Happy Spring!