Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island remains one of the better sites in the Portland area to find a nice diversity of winter sparrows, along with other songbirds and waterfowl. While this trip did not produce any rarities, there were plenty of birds and sunshine to make the trip worthwhile. White-crowned Sparrows, pictured above, are among the more common species.
Golden-crowned Sparrows are usually the most common sparrow in the winter flocks.
This Fox Sparrow kept close to the heavy cover.
Once considered a rarity in this area, White-throated Sparrows are now reliable winter residents.
Another Red-winged Blackbird, showing off her colors
This Red-shouldered Hawk was the most unusual find of the day.
Several birds were bathing in puddles in the road. Here a male Purple Finch cavorts with a female House Finch.
Waterfowl numbers were a little low on this trip. Ducks and geese face pretty heavy hunting pressure on Sauvie Island. Numbers should increase in the next month as hunting seasons expire and some birds start moving north. This flock of Tundra Swans kept their distance from the road.
As the weather was clear on this day, there were nice views of Mount St. Helens, here with a lenticular cloud.
The end of the year brings cold wet weather and busy schedules, so I look forward to the start of the new year to get back out in the field. The weather is still bad most of the time, but schedules allow a better chance to get out if there is a dry patch.
This Golden-crowned Sparrow was foraging around the shrubs at the Hillsboro library.
Here’s a young White-crowned Sparrow for comparison.
We still have about a month to enjoy a good diversity of gull species before they start to disperse. This first-cycle Ring-billed Gull was swimming with two adults.
This Olympic Gull (Glaucous-winged X Western hybrid) was hanging out with the Ring-billed Gulls.
At least in western Oregon, January provides some really good winter birding. Get out and enjoy it before the February doldrums kick in.
Like other national wildlife refuges in the Willamette Valley, Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge has limited access in autumn and winter. But the trail that is open can provide some good birding.
The highlight of this trip was a fresh sapsucker well that was attracting both Anna’s Hummingbirds and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Sapsucker wells are an important source of nectar and insects for birds in the colder months.
Bewick’s Wrens spend much of their time buried in the depths of brush piles, but this individual popped up and posed for a few photos.
It is always worth the time to check out brushy hedgerows this time of year.
I don’t normally think of Dark-eyed Juncos as having a camouflage pattern, but this individual was doing a great job of blending in with his environment.
Spring 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.
Most Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.
At Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years.
Tualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.
Purple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands
Bewick’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.
Hooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands
This 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.
Force Lake, a small lake at the edge of a golf course in north Portland, is not a terribly attractive site, but it can be quite birdy at times. On this visit, a large flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows was feeding in a little patch of lawn.
When startled, the birds would take cover in a patch of blackberries, but would soon come out again to resume feeding.
I only found two birds in the flock that weren’t Golden-crowned Sparrow. One was this White-crowned Sparrow.
The other was this White-throated Sparrow. This species has become increasingly common in Oregon over the past couple of decades, but I am still stoked to find one. This bird was especially cooperative.
The lake hosted a decent variety of waterfowl, but I was intrigued by the Canvasbacks.
This male would dive down to root around in the muck at the bottom of the lake, then come up and do this little dance on the surface. He didn’t seem bothered by the mud facial.
I visited Pittock Mansion in northwest Portland the other morning. The gate to the park is locked, but you can park in the neighborhood and walk up the hill. It is nice to be able to bird the entrance road without having to worry about cars.
The main attraction of this site in spring is the flocks of migrant songbirds that come through and touch down on this forested hilltop. The birds were actually here this morning, but most of them stayed very high up in the treetops. So no great warbler photos for me.
This Wilson’s Warbler was down in his normal level of undergrowth. Of course, it is a law of nature that every warbler must keep at least one branch between themselves and my camera lens.
Two Golden-crowned Sparrows obliged by posing on the open ground. I do enjoy seeing them in their breeding plumage.
This Spotted Towhee posed right at eye level, showing her red iris with a nice eye catch. Who needs a flashy warbler, anyway?
Spring migration hasn’t really revved up yet, but a recent warm sunny day drew me out to Jackson Bottom Wetlands. I was as interested in herping as I was birding, and some cooperative herps easily filled the void created by relatively low bird numbers.
This Pacific Chorus Frog (also known as Pacific Tree Frog) was a neat find. I hear this species most of the year, but I seldom get a good look at one.
I normally leave herps that I find in situ, but I couldn’t resist picking up this little Northwestern Garter. The problem with combining birding and herping is that after an encounter like this, your hand smells like garter snake musk. So every time you raise your binocular to your face you get a nose full of snake skank.
Here is a much larger Northwestern Garter.
This Red-spotted Garter (a subspecies of Common Garter) was exploring a Red-flowering Currant. I don’t know what he was looking for, but he explored the whole bush before climbing back down. Here is another Red-spotted Garter drinking at a water feature. This individual was at least three feet long.
I did actually see a few birds on this trip, although they were not nearly as photogenic. There are still flocks of Golden-crowned Sparrows around. I would expect them to head north pretty soon.
Our sunny warm spring has turned cool and wet. This is a good thing, as we continue to be far below average in rainfall amounts, but the weather has put a bit of a damper on birding and photography. This Tree Swallow put on a nice show at Koll Center Wetlands. I believe this is a young male, hatched last summer and just now molting into full adult plumage.
Most Golden-crowned Sparrows have returned north by now, but the few that remain are in full breeding plumage.
This past winter was not a big year for Pine Siskins, but one or two have recently been showing up at my feeder.
Mourning Dove at Tualatin Hills Nature Park
This singing Orange-crowned Warbler was actually displaying his orange crown at Pittock Mansion.
Male Anna’s Hummingbird, singing in the rain at Pittock Mansion
This next week will see spring migration winding down and the local nesting season kick into high gear. The slower pace will provide an opportunity to really study the local nesters, provided the rain stops.
The Portland area got a dump of about 10″ of snow recently. It was lovely on the first day, but for the next week it was a pain, with roads being impassable from the ice and snow. When I was finally able to get out, I went to Amberglen office park in Hillsboro to scout for my Hillsboro Parks and Rec gull class. This Ring-billed Gull was posing on the ice.
I found a few California Gulls on my scouting trip, but they were a no-show on class day.
This Lesser Scaup was bathing at Dawson Creek. The bill color on these birds is striking.
On Thursday I went to Sauvie Island, partly just to go birding and partly to scout for my upcoming waterfowl class. There was so much water from the melting snow that the ducks were scattered everywhere. Raptors put on a good show. Here is a young Red-tailed Hawk.
This Peregrine Falcon was keeping an eye on the ducks.
I laid down some millet in various spots to chum for sparrows (class in March, hint, hint).
Golden-crowned Sparrow, one of the more common winter residents.
White-throated Sparrows were a big deal when I first moved to Oregon, but they are now considered rare but regular in the winter.
Spotted Towhees are so common they tend to be overlooked. But it is nice to stop and appreciate just how gaudy and beautiful they are.
Lots to see in the Portland area this time of year. Cheers.