Record-setting heat and cloudless days are not the best conditions for birding or photography, but here we are. It is sometimes hard to motivate oneself to get outside when the weather is so harsh, but there is always something to see. So here are some images from a warm walk around Fernhill Wetlands.
Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of our more attractive summer residents.
Lots of babies have already fledged. Here a Red-winged Blackbird is being harassed by a hungry youngster.
It has been such a delight to have an active Purple Martin colony at Fernhill the past few years.
Purple Martin on an unclouded day
Ospreys were soaring high over Fernhill Lake. I didn’t see any dive for fish while I was there.
The ducks have started their summer molt, but the Pied-billed Grebes are still looking dapper.
A lovely Mourning Dove on an ugly fence
The most unusual bird of the day was this Western Grebe. They are frequent winter visitors here, but they do not nest anywhere nearby.
Southbound shorebird migration has already begun, so expect them to show up soon.
Waterfowl seem to dominate the birding scene in the Willamette Valley in winter. Year-round residents, like this Pied-billed Grebe, are joined by a host of winter migrants.
My camera hates white birds, but managed to capture this Common Merganser pretty well.
I usually gloss over Mallards, but they are a pretty duck.
Eurasian Wigeon have been hard to come by the past couple of winters, so it was nice to see this pretty boy at Dawson Creek.American Wigeon remain common on grassy lawns and ponds.
Green-winged Teal, also at Dawson Creek.
There are other birds around this time of year, like sparrows and raptors. But while it is nice to see that Merlin fly overhead and the flocks of Golden-crowned Sparrows deep in the brush piles, sometimes it is good to take the time to study and appreciate the waterfowl that sit out in the open in the daylight.
Most of my recent outings have been while leading trips or in dreary conditions, both of which limit any photo opportunities. So here are some dribs and drabs from recent weeks.
This Black-tailed Deer and her fawn were at Cooper Mountain Nature Park in Beaverton. There was a second fawn present out of frame.
This Long-billed Dowitcher was blending in well with the rocks at Parking Lot C at Fort Stevens State Park. I often find shorebirds, usually Least Sandpipers or Dunlin, in this little patch of rocks.
I saw this Pied-billed Grebe on a cloudy morning at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.
Crystal Springs is thick with Wood Ducks.
Eastern Gray Squirrel at Crystal Springs
Sandhill Cranes have arrived in good numbers at Sauvie Island.
A young Bald Eagle flying by on Sauvie
This White-crowned Sparrow posed nicely in filtered sunlight along Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island. This is a first winter bird, but he was singing from this perch for a while.
Most shorebird migration is long past, but this mixed flock of Dunlin and Long-billed Dowitchers were hanging out at the small ponds near the parking lot at Fernhill Wetlands.
Long-billed Dowitcher at Fernhill. This intense sunlight is certainly not the norm for mid-November, but the rains will return soon enough.
Nesting season continues to progress. While some songbirds have already fledged a batch of babies, other species are just getting under way. This Pied-billed Grebe was sitting on a nest at Commonwealth Lake.
Blue-winged Teal can be hard to find in the Willamette Valley at any time, so it was nice to see a pair at Fernhill Wetlands.
female Blue-winged Teal
Eurasian Collared-Doves continue to expand their range and numbers in Oregon. It wasn’t all that long ago that these birds were first found in the state, or maybe I am just old. This bird was singing at Fernhill.
Song Sparrow at Fernhill, living up to his name
A few Purple Martins have returned to the nest boxes at Fernhill. They are still a treat to see here.
While most of the Tundra Swans that winter in Oregon left for the breeding grounds long ago, this individual continues to hang out at Fernhill. A few observers have reported this bird as a Trumpeter Swan, but the straight feathering across the forehead (as opposed to the widow’s peak on a Trumpeter) is consistent with Tundra.
Now that the snow has melted, the weather has turned to freezing temps and a howling east wind. Bleah. Despite the lousy conditions, I bundled up and took a walk around Commonwealth Lake. The park was hosting a large flock of Cackling Geese and a similar sized flock of American Wigeon. Other species were present in much smaller numbers.
This Great Egret was getting a lot of attention from the dog walkers and joggers in the park, with people stopping to take cell phone photos. I try not to be a birding snob, realizing that the big flashy species are what get people’s attention. Great Egrets are gorgeous birds, and always worth a look. But most of these folks were oblivious to the smaller creatures flitting around this bird’s feet…
like this guy. This Green Heron was fluffed up against the cold and was staying in the thick brush along the water’s edge.
Duck Butts! A pair of Gadwall were doing the dabbling thing.
After a successful nesting season at this site, Pied-billed Grebes are still present in good numbers.
This Ring-billed Gull was struggling to remain perched on a post in the high winds. Note the red orbital ring and gape, suggesting that breeding season may not be all that far off. If we can just get through February…
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.
I made a quick visit to Tualatin River NWR in the afternoon heat. One of the main trails is closed off until this young Bald Eagle decides to leave the nest. Despite the flock of European Starlings cheering him on, he didn’t show any sign of leaving.
I saw several pairs of Gadwall, but no ducklings yet. This male was putting on a show for his lady friend.
Mallards have been out with broods for weeks now.
Cinnamon Teal siesta
Pied-billed Grebe showing off his black throat
I often find Spotted Sandpipers perched on man-made structures.
Despite the time of day, American Bullfrogs were actively singing and defending territories. This introduced species is so common in the Willamette Valley. I would think they would be a favored prey item (Great Blue Heron, Mink, River Otter, etc.) but I seldom find any evidence of predation. Bullfrogs are unfortunately very good at preying on native frogs and turtles.