Despite morning temperatures near freezing, signs of spring are appearing at Fernhill Wetlands. This Black Phoebe was posing with some colorful buds.
The winter sparrows, like this Fox Sparrow, are still around.
Waterfowl numbers are dropping as northern breeders start to head out. This pair of Northern Pintails was grooming along the main lake.
This young Red-tailed Hawk was very comfortable around people, perching right above some nearby birders.
The number of Nutria at Fernhill continues to grow. I don’t know if they are causing any problems or not.
We are in that late-winter slow birding time, but spring migrants should start showing up any day.
Happy final days of winter
February is usually cloudy and damp in the Portland area, making it hard for me to get too motivated to venture out. But there is always something to see, like this lovely Lincoln’s Sparrow.
This Cedar Waxwing was flycatching over the water at Koll Wetlands.
This Spotted Towhee spent quite a bit of time perched out in the open in a blackberry bramble.
Winter is a great time to study waterfowl in the Willamette Valley. This little gang of Lesser Scaup was at Force Lake in north Portland.
I was initially excited to find this young male Northern Shoveler standing out in the open, but then I realized the poor guy was ill. He was gasping for breath and his eyes were partially closed. I’m guessing he has respiratory infection caused by Aspergillis, a common type of fungus, which has been affecting a lot of waterfowl this winter.
Back home at the feeders, my vegan suet has been very popular this winter. I mix equal parts of coconut oil, peanut butter, and flour, then pour the mixture into molds to solidify. This recipe only works in the winter, as it will melt if temperatures get above 60 degrees F. Here is a Chestnut-backed Chickadee working on the last bit of a cake.
A Bushtit, one of many that come through the yard every day
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.
Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, is always worth a quick visit in winter.
This Canvasback has a mud on her face from rooting around in the bottom of the pond.
At least two female Eurasian Wigeons have been spending the winter at Westmoreland. No males have been reported yet this year.
This park is one of best gull sites in Portland, although by this time the gull flock is starting to thin out. This is a sleepy Herring Gull.
Westmoreland is also a good spot for studying the various subspecies of the white-cheeked goose complex. This is a Taverner’s Cackling Goose, identified by her medium bill (covered in down for some reason), blocky head, and pale breast.
Ridgeway’s Cacking Goose (stubby bill, round head, dark breast)
Western Canada Geese have long snakey necks, long bills, and pale breasts. While common in Cackling Geese, it is unusual to see such a distinct white neck ring on a Western Canada.
Western Canada Goose bathing
I had the opportunity to watch some Lesser Scaups preening. Like other diving ducks, scaups’ legs are set far back on their bodies. This makes it easier to propel themselves under water, but makes walking on land difficult. So their daily activities, like sleeping and preening, are performed on the water.
This female is floating on her back while preening her belly.
And now the side stroke.