Spring in the Wetlands

Spring is coming on strong, despite the cold latter half of March. The season is most obvious in the open habitats around wetlands. Local nesters are starting to pair up and collect nesting material.The winter sparrow flocks are starting to thin out, but the birds that remain are active and vocal. This Fox Sparrow (with a Golden-crowned Sparrow in the background) was at Fernhill Wetlands.

The local Song Sparrows are paired up and are defending territories.

Bushtits are still in their winter flocks, but should be pairing off soon.

This male Hooded Merganser caught a large crayfish at Westmoreland Park, but did not share it with the female that was nearby.

Anna’s Hummingbird, feeding on currant

This is one of five subadult Bald Eagles that flew over Westmoreland Park in a tight group. I don’t recall seeing a flock of Bald Eagles moving together like that before.

Western Canada Goose, the locally nesting subspecies. I am trying to collect portraits of the various Canada and Cackling Goose subspecies for side-by-side comparison.

These Red-eared Sliders were basking at Commonwealth Lake. There are only two native species of freshwater turtle in Oregon, and this is not one of them. This species is often released from the pet trade.

In the next few weeks, warblers and flycatchers should start arriving in good numbers, then the rush of spring shorebird migration.

Random Images

Here are a few photos from recent ramblings.

kestrel 2After delivering some books to Tualatin River NWR, I took a quick walk on the path that leads through some newly planted oaks and along the river. This male American Kestrel had just captured a shrew.

waterfowlThese Western Canada Geese (and the Common Merganser on the log in the foreground) were napping at the Sandy River Delta.

beaver chewThe Beavers are really enjoying the young trees at Sandy River Delta.

IMG_6001This old American Robin nest was tucked into a crevice of a tree.

pileatedPileated Woodpeckers are fairly easy to find at Sandy River Delta. This one was perfectly hidden behind a branch.

peregrine 2Peregrine Falcon, Sandy River Delta

hermit thrushThis Hermit Thrush was chasing another outside my bedroom window early in the morning.

Westmoreland Park

Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, is always worth a quick visit in winter.

canvasbackThis Canvasback has a mud on her face from rooting around in the bottom of the pond.

canvasback scratching

lesser scaupLesser Scaup

eurasian wigeon2At least two female Eurasian Wigeons have been spending the winter at Westmoreland. No males have been reported yet this year.

herring gullThis 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.

taverner's cackling gooseWestmoreland 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 cackling goose leftRidgeway’s Cacking Goose (stubby bill, round head, dark breast)

canada goose 1Western 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 bathingWestern Canada Goose bathing

Lesser Canada Goose

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.

Lesser Canada Goose

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.