Westmoreland Park (Birding Oregon p. 69) is one of Portland’s premier loafing spots for gulls and waterfowl in autumn and winter. The city is planning to restore the natural flow of the creek in what is now an urban duck pond, so it will be interesting to see how these changes will affect bird use over time.
The main pond, with a few hundred Cackling Geese
This female Surf Scoter has been hanging out for about a week. She is apparently finding enough mollusks to eat in this muddy pond. A few of these sea ducks are found on the Columbia River and on larger bodies of water in winter, but they are unexpected on such a small pond.
She spent a lot of time feeding under water.
Westmoreland is one of the easier places to find a cooperative Thayer’s Gull.
Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii minima) is the most common of the “white-cheeked” geese in the Willamette Valley in winter.
The Cackling Geese graze in the lawns at Westmoreland, but are more cautious than some of the other waterfowl.
Taverner’s Cackling Goose (B. h. taverneri) in the foreground, with a Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose in the background
Taverner’s Cackling, with another Ridgeway’s Cackling in the background
This Rock Pigeon was enjoying a bath at the pond’s edge.
It is time for another installment in the constant effort to separate Lesser Canada Goose (Branta canadensis parvipes) from Taverner’s Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii taverneri). The two species overlap in size and coloring, but structural differences are often apparent to those of us nerdy enough to study lawns covered in geese.
Here are two Western Canada Geese (B. c. moffitti) and a Lesser Canada Goose. They are nearly identical in color and shape, but the Lesser is about 2/3 the size of the Western. This is your best clue to identifying Lessers.
Without the size comparison, you might be hard pressed to distinguish this Lesser Canada from a Western. The neck is long and thin. The bill and forehead form a smooth, gentle slope.
Compare these Taverner’s to the Lesser. On a Taverner’s Cackling Goose, the neck appears thicker and often shorter. The forehead forms a noticeable bump where it meets the bill. (This causes the bill to appear stubby, but there actually isn’t much difference in the bill shape between the two species.) The breast on Taverner’s is often lighter in color than that of Lesser Canada, but both species show a lot of individual variation.
An arctic air mass brought cold temperatures and ice to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), but there was no shortage of birds. Here are some grainy gray photos from a lap around the ponds.
Tundra Swans and California Gull
Taverner’s Cackling Goose and Northern Shovelers
Cackling Geese and Northern Pintails
Snow Goose and Cackling Geese
immature Bald Eagles
This American White Pelican, a very late straggler, was circling high overhead, trying to find a thermal on this cold cloudy morning.
Cackling Cackling Geese
Great Blue Heron standing on a Beaver dam. Note the frost on the bird’s back.
It’s time for another installment of my attempts to sort out the Canada/Cackling Goose complex. I recently had nice views of a Lesser Canada Goose (Branta canadensis parvipes).
This bird stood out from the nearby Western Canada Geese by the slightly darker barring on his upper breast. Some populations of this subspecies are considerably darker than this.
Here is the Lesser Canada in front of the larger Western Canada Goose (Branta canadensis moffitti). Note the smaller overall size of the Lesser, and the proportionally shorter neck.
Lesser Canada Goose in profile. The bill is almost half the total length of the head. The upper neck is quite thin.
Compare these Taverner’s Cackling Geese (Branta hutchinsii taverneri) to the Lesser Canada. Taverner’s Cackling has a uniformly thick neck and shorter bill. Notice how the wing tips extend just beyond the end of the tail. Canada Geese have shorter wings.
Here is a Taverner’s Cackling Goose within a flock of Cackling Cackling Geese (Branta hutchinsii minima). Note the longer thick neck and slightly longer bill than those on minima.