As many people are jumping on the “bird local” bandwagon, little Commonwealth Lake Park in Beaverton has been getting a lot of birding attention and producing an increasing array of interesting species. One of the stars of this winter is this Virginia Rail. While Virginia Rails are scarce in winter, and almost always hard to see, this individual has been venturing out into the open to feed, sometimes onto the athletic field.
We should appreciate the value of little parks like Commonwealth Lake to wildlife. But we should also remember that the reason birds can be easy to see in such places is because the habitat is so limited. This park is a small isolated patch of wetland surrounded by high-density housing. Wildlife thrives in large tracts of habitat. Since large tracts are no longer available in many areas, we should at least strive to preserve corridors between smaller parks to allow wildlife to safely travel from site to site, and to allow young to disperse.
Commonwealth Lake Park is your typical urban duck pond nestled in the Portland suburb of Beaverton. Such parks are certainly not the places to go if you seek a wilderness experience, but they can be excellent places to study waterfowl up close. They also serve as a quick and easy birding fix when “life” prevents you from getting out in the field as much as you should.
Species that are normally rather shy, like this Pied-billed Grebe, will often allow a close approach is parks such as this.
American Coots, common and often dismissed by birders, are quite lovely when you get close enough.
male Common Merganser, with what I think is a Yellow Bullhead
female Common Merganser
Greater White-fronted Geese are common migrants over the Portland area, but uncommon winter residents. Four have been spending the winter at Commonwealth.
Since the remodeling of Portland’s Westmoreland Park a couple of years ago, there really hasn’t been a good spot to easily study gulls in the Portland area. This adult Ring-billed Gull was a cooperative model.
This Ring-billed Gull is in his second plumage cycle.
So while I would much rather walk for several miles in a natural setting to find birds, I am grateful for little urban parks like Commonwealth.