I had to go to Tillamook Bay to get some photos for an upcoming webinar. This particular day had freakishly nice weather, very un-Tillamook-like. Ideally, during fall migration, a birder hopes for onshore winds to bring seabirds and shorebirds close to shore, and a light overcast to provide gentle light for viewing and cool temperatures. This day brought light east winds, a cloudless cobalt blue sky, and temperatures in the 80s. I guess we have to play the cards we are dealt.
I know it is technically not spring yet, but the waterfowl are all either on the move or looking to pair up, so close enough.
Migration should start to really pick up in the next couple of weeks. Happy Vernal Equinox.
On a recent trip to Commonwealth Lake Park in Beaverton, I had the opportunity to observe Taverner’s and Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese side-by-side. Taverner’s are larger, with pale breasts and slightly longer bills. Ridgeway’s have dark, iridescent breasts (on adults) and stubby little bills.
Here is a close look at a Taverner’s Cackling Goose, the subspecies most likely to be confused with Lesser Canada Goose. Lesser Canada Geese have thinner necks and slightly longer bills.
The bill on a Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose is thick and stubby, and the neck often appears very short and thick. This subspecies is generally regarded as the most adorable.
Another fun goose at Commonwealth that day was this Greater White-fronted Goose. A few of these have been hanging out at Commonwealth the past few winters.
Not a goose, but a gorgeous bird when you get a close enough view, is this Double-crested Cormorant. You can expect to see a few of these whenever you visit this site.
The American Wigeon flock was pretty small this day, but I expect the wintering birds to increase in the coming weeks.
Double-crested Cormorants always put on a good show along the Willamette River in Portland. For being an all black bird, they really show a lot of interesting details in their plumage. The blue eyes on an orange face are also striking.
Home improvement projects are keeping me inside lately, so here are a few images from dog walks and the bird feeder.
The most common species of the day was Pink-footed Shearwater. The largest concentration of birds was gathered behind a fish processing ship. While I am opposed to the strip-mining of our oceans, these ships always attract a lot of birds.
Black-footed Albatrosses are common once you get out about 20 miles. This individual had an odd lump in her neck. I hope it is just a large food item in her crop and not a disposable lighter or some other piece of trash.
Smith and Bybee Wetlands in NW Portland, (Birding Oregon p. 65) is a great spot for waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds in the late summer and autumn. Paved trails lead to observation platforms overlooking both lakes, and primitive paths are available to the more adventurous.
Great Egret, here with a couple of Great Blue Herons and numerous waterfowl on Bybee Lake, are common this time of year. Other waders that have occurred here include Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron.
The Three Graces Tidal Area (Birding Oregon p. 127) lies along the shore of Tillamook Bay, just south of the town of Barview. It is a small site, but the offshore rocks and rocky shoreline attract a nice variety of birds.
The best times to bird this site are in between high and low tides. When the tide is up, the small rocks are submerged. When the tide is too low, people sometimes walk out to the rocks, thus scaring the birds. Brown Pelicans, Common Loons, Harlequin Ducks, and other waterfowl are often seen swimming in the area. In winter, Rock Sandpipers and Surfbirds feed on the exposed rocks and shoreline.
A closer view of that distant rock. Pelagic, Brandt’s, and Double-crested Cormorants can all be found here, sometimes allowing side-by-side comparison. This photo shows mostly Pelagic Cormorants, with a possible young Double-crested on the right.
I enjoyed a quiet walk around the main lake at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61). By mid-morning, most of the geese that roost at this site are off feeding elsewhere.
Double-crested Cormorants are commonly seen perched on dead trees and utility poles when they are not fishing. The light breast, neck, and head identify this individual as a young bird. The orange gular pouch is diagnostic in differentiating this species from the other two cormorants found along the Oregon coast.