Gull Season

Late autumn and early winter is the time to find the biggest diversity of gulls in Oregon. I led a field trip to the coast at the end of October. Strong storms from the west had moved a lot of birds close to shore earlier in the week, but on the day we arrived, strong east winds had driven a lot of birds back out to sea. At least we didn’t get rained on.

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At the Seaside Cove, a few gulls posed for us in the sun. This gull is mostly Western, but the streaking on the head and neck suggest some Glaucous-winged ancestry.

This is a fairly robust Iceland Gull (Thayer’s subspecies).

A closer look at the Iceland. The yellow bill will fade as the season progresses.

There aren’t a lot of places in the Portland area to get close looks at gulls anymore. This group was hanging out on a bar in the Willamette River. The flock was a mix of California, Ring-billed, Herring, Iceland, Glaucous-winged, Western, and a mass of messy hybrids.

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While scanning the genetic soup of confusing hybrids, it was refreshing to land on a Ring-billed Gull.

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California Gull

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While this bird ticks most of the boxes for Herring Gull, the bill seemed a little too heavy to me. This, combined with the primaries which were slightly less than jet black, suggest this might be a Cook Inlet Gull (Herring X Glaucous-winged).

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This Glaucous-winged Gull was hanging out in a flock of Cackling Geese at Amberglen Park. I am guessing that the grazing geese were stirring up worms for the gull.

Happy Gulling!

Wet (land) Birds

Here are some non-waterfowl that I’ve seen in various wetlands recently.

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I often struggle with photographing white birds, but this Great Egret came out OK.

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Most of the shorebirds have moved on, but a few Least Sandpipers are still around.

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The winter sparrow flocks are building up. This Golden-crowned Sparrow was still sporting their breeding plumage.

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Golden-crowned Sparrow taking a bath

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Song Sparrow

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I remember when it was hard to find Lesser Goldfinches in the Portland area, but they usually outnumber American Goldfinches now.

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Lesser Goldfinch taking a bath

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Belted Kingfisher sharing a perch with a European Starling

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Red-winged Blackbird striking a pose

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The numbers of Nutria in the Willamette Valley have exploded in recent years. The are indeed non-native and invasive, but the babies are so cute.

Happy Autumn

Waterfowl

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Waterfowl numbers have been increasing in the Willamette Valley as the rains have begun. This male Northern Shoveler is still in his drab summer plumage.

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This Emperor Goose is currently a local celebrity in the Beaverton area, hanging out with the local ducks and Cackling Geese.

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This Gadwall was hanging out at Koll Center Wetlands. A brick building at the edge of the pond creates those brown reflections in the water, which complement the colors on this duck.

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American Coot having a snack

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Green-winged Teal at Fernhill Wetlands

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Common Merganser at Fernhill

Numbers of ducks and geese should continue to increase into November.

Happy Autumn.

Random Birds

Here are some random bird images from the last couple of weeks.

belted kingfisher smallBelted Kingfisher on a very fancy perch

bonaparte's gull 1 smallBonaparte’s Gull in first winter plumage
bonaparte's gull 2 smallGull Season is just around the corner.

white-crowned sparrow smalljuvenile White-crowned Sparrow

Green Heron with tadpoleGreen Heron with an American Bullfrog tadpole. It is nice when the native species eat the invasive ones. It is often the other way around.

teal smallThis is an odd duck. It is a teal, probably Cinnamon, but is either leucistic or is going through a brutal molt.

American White PelicanAmerican White Pelicans are now common in the Portland area in late summer.

American White Pelican flightAmerican White Pelican coming in for a landing

Happy Autumn

September Shorebirds

Greater Yellowlegs

Shorebirds have been trickling through the Portland area all month. Finding proper habitat can be challenging. As wetlands dry up during the summer, we have to hope that deeper bodies of water recede enough to create mudflats for shorebirds to feed on. This Greater Yellowlegs was at Force Lake in north Portland.

g yellowlegs trioTypically seen wading, Greater Yellowlegs will occasionally swim in groups to catch small fish.
greater yellowlegs swimming

westernThis juvenile Western Sandpiper, showing the characteristic rusty suspenders, was taking advantage of low water levels at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.

pectoral sandpiperThe main lake at Fernhill Wetlands has receded enough to create some nice mudflats, here being enjoyed by a Pectoral Sandpiper.

long-billed dowitcherjuvenile Long-billed Dowitcher, showing the characteristic solid dark tertials

short-billed dowitcher smalljuvenile Short-billed Dowitcher, showing the characteristic tiger-striped tertials

spotted sandpiper smallSpotted Sandpipers nest in the Portland area. Juveniles, like this one, can be recognized by the barring on the wing coverts.

semipalmated plover smallSemipalmated Plovers are surely one of the cutest shorebirds. The scaly pattern on the wings tells us that this is a juvenile.

Happy Autumn

Low Tide

trestle bay 2Trestle Bay, just off Parking Lot D at Fort Stevens State Park, can be one of the more productive shorebird spots on the north coast. Timing is critical, as the bay fills completely with the high tide.

trestle bay 1When the tide is out, the bay provides extensive mudflats. With this much exposed mud, the birds can be quite distant, so timing your visit when the tide is coming in can produce some nice viewing.

sea lion 1On this visit we observed what we thought was a California Sea Lion carcass way out on the flat.

sea lionLater we noticed the the sea lion had rolled over and extended a flipper. Apparently he was just hanging out on the mudflat catching some sun.

sea lion stretchI normally see these animals basking on rocks, but the mud was apparently working for this guy.

mergansersSouthbound shorebird migration tends to come in waves, and we were between waves on this visit. Our consolation birds were this flock of Common Mergansers with a California Gull.

Happy last days of summer.

Summer in the Wetlands

Our brutal summer continues. When the weather is this hot and dry, the best bird diversity is usually found around wetlands, so I spent a little time at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom.

b phoebe smallThe first record of Black Phoebe in Washington County was in 2006 (by yours truly). Now they are rare but regular at both Jackson Bottom and Fernhill.

least sandpiperShorebird migration is in full swing. Numbers are better at the coast, but some birds are finding the small patches of mud at inland locations. This Least Sandpiper was feeding on some newly exposed mud at Jackson Bottom.

lorquin's admiralHere is the underside of a Lorquin’s Admiral. Those red eyes are intense.

green heronGreen Heron at Fernhill
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w pelican smallAmerican White Pelican is another species that has become more common in the Portland area is recent years. They don’t nest here, but summer brings large numbers of young birds and post-breeding adults.

Happy Summer

Summer at Fernhill

Record-setting heat and cloudless days are not the best conditions for birding or photography, but here we are. It is sometimes hard to motivate oneself to get outside when the weather is so harsh, but there is always something to see. So here are some images from a warm walk around Fernhill Wetlands.

bh grosbeakBlack-headed Grosbeaks are one of our more attractive summer residents.

red-wingedLots of babies have already fledged. Here a Red-winged Blackbird is being harassed by a hungry youngster.

purple martinsIt has been such a delight to have an active Purple Martin colony at Fernhill the past few years.

p martinPurple Martin on an unclouded day

ospreyOspreys were soaring high over Fernhill Lake. I didn’t see any dive for fish while I was there.

pb grebeThe ducks have started their summer molt, but the Pied-billed Grebes are still looking dapper.

modoA lovely Mourning Dove on an ugly fence

western grebeThe most unusual bird of the day was this Western Grebe. They are frequent winter visitors here, but they do not nest anywhere nearby.

Southbound shorebird migration has already begun, so expect them to show up soon.

Happy Summer

Random Summer Birds

black-headed grosbeakSpring migration has come and gone, and many birders agree that it was a dud. Numbers and diversity seemed quite low in the Portland area this spring. So now we concentrate on the summer residents, like this Black-headed Grosbeak.

Golden-crowned SparrowMost Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.

lazuli small singingAt Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years. lazuli small

Blue-winged Teal pairTualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.

purple martinsPurple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands

bewick's smallBewick’s Wren are usually working heavy cover, so it was a treat to find this one dust bathing in the middle of a gravel road.

hoodieHooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands

Spotted Sandpiper 1Spotted Sandpiper

gadwall smallThis Gadwall is already starting to molt into his dull summer alternate plumage. I often refer to late summer as Ugly Duck Season. It seems a little early for ducks to be losing their sharp breeding colors.

Now is the time to seek out local nesters. It will only be about four weeks before southbound shorebird migration starts up. I hope the autumn migration is a little more eventful than this spring was.

Happy Summer

Tualatin River NWR

BW Teal smallThe long hiking trail at Tualatin River NWR is open, and this refuge always offers some good birding in the spring and early summer. A pair of Blue-winged Teal was in the southwest pond.

Hutton's VireoAs is typical for this species, this Hutton’s Vireo stayed back in heavy cover.

brewer's smallIt is really hard to shoot a Brewer’s Blackbird against the sky without ending up with just a silhouette, but  I keep trying.

LB dowitcherLong-billed Dowitcher was the most common shorebird on this visit. It is nice to see them in full breeding plumage.

pec and LBThe best bird of the trip was this Pectoral Sandpiper. Pectorals are regular autumn migrants in this area, but are very rare in spring.
Pectoral Sandpiper 1

Happy Spring