I made a quick trip to Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Salem. Like the other refuges in the Willamette Valley, most of Ankeny is closed in winter to protect wintering waterfowl. But there are spots on the refuge open to birders year-round. Here is a male Ruddy Duck just starting to get a little color in his bill for spring.
Song Sparrow at the edge of Pintail Marsh
This Lincoln’s Sparrow popped up for just a second, but long enough for me to take his portrait.
Here is a very distant Eurasian Green-winged Teal, or Common Teal, or Eurasian Teal, depending on who you talk to. In Europe, this is considered a separate species, but in the U.S., it is considered a subspecies of Green-winged Teal. I have been hoping for many years that North American authorities would recognize this form as a species (so I could add another tick to my list), but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.
This pair of Great Horned Owls was hanging out along the trail to the Rail Trail boardwalk, once again proving that my camera would much rather focus on branches than on birds.
The main reason for my visit was a communal roost of Long-eared Owls discovered a few days before. This species is usually very hard to find in western Oregon, and had been a state nemesis bird for me.
There has been a lot of concern expressed about birders disturbing this group of birds. In Kansas and Ohio, where I have seen Long-eared Owls before, visiting winter roosts is the only way for birders to see this species. I believe it can be done without stressing the birds if birders speak softly (or not at all), maintain a respectful distance, and keep their visits brief. That is pretty easy to do at this site. Birders are confined to a boardwalk (assuming they are not assholes), and it is easy to make a quiet approach. If everyone exhibits just a modicum of self-control and common courtesy, this could be a sustainable birding experience for weeks to come. Fingers crossed.
This Eurasian Teal was hanging out a Jackson Bottom Wetlands. In the United States, Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca crecca) is considered a subspecies of Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca carolinensis), but in Europe, they are considered separate species.
Males are pretty easy to differentiate. Eurasian Teal has white horizontal bars along the back and pale edges on the facial markings, while Green-winged Teal has vertical bars near the shoulder and lacks the pale borders on the face. Females are much more similar to each other. Eurasians average paler on the face with more white in the wing, but the two are not readily distinguished in the field.
Personally, I like to consider them separate species, but my motivation is based on my desire to list two species, rather than any scientific evidence.
The American Ornithologists Union considers the Green-winged Teal and Eurasian (or Common) Teal to be subspecies of Anas crecca. Most other sources, however, consider the two to be separate species, Anas carolinensis and Anas crecca. I tend to agree with the latter set, primarily because it provides another species for my life list. Eurasian Teals range as far east as western Alaska, so a few end up in Oregon every winter.
Here we see a male Eurasian Teal on the left, and a male Green-winged Teal on the right. Eurasian Teals have a bold white line along their sides, while Green-wings have a vertical white line at the side of the breast. Hybrids between these two species show both the horizontal and vertical lines. I personally don’t know how to distinguish female Green-winged Teals from Eurasians.
Here are the same two birds. While it is not obvious in these very distant photos, at close range we would notice that the pale lines surrounding the green eye patch are more pronounced on Eurasian Teal than on Green-winged.