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.
February birding is famously slow around much of Oregon, but, as I like to remind myself, there is always something to see.
This male Redhead has been spending the winter at Commonwealth Lake Park in Beaverton. It is not often that I get a really close view of these lovely ducks.
This preening Black Turnstone showed off his flashy backside at the Seaside Cove.
I have made four trips to Fort Stevens State Park since early December to try to see some of the many White-winged Crossbills that have been spending the winter there. They have eluded me every time. I think I have seen more Elk than I have birds at Fort Stevens this winter.
The bumper crop of cones on the Sitka Spruces is what has attracted the crossbills. There is a lot of food available and the finches keep moving all the time, so our paths have not crossed. It is kind of like pelagic birding. You are moving around the open ocean in a little boat, looking for birds that are also moving.
I went out to Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island to chum for sparrows. Conditions were dark and damp, but the head of this White-crowned Sparrow shone from the depths of the brush.
The Red-winged Blackbirds are getting fired up for spring. This guy was flashing his epaulets but still showed some rusty pattern on his back from his youth.
preening Green-winged Teal, Westmoreland Park
preening Gadwall, Crystal Springs
male Wood Duck, Crystal Springs
The lighting was not great, but it was nice to see this Lincoln’s Sparrow just sitting out in the open for so long. This is a species that I often see, but am seldom able to show to others because the birds tend to hide in thick cover most of the time. I have two Little Brown Birds classes in March. I hope I can find such a cooperative individual on those days.
I went to Sauvie Island to scout areas for my Little Brown Birds class next week. The huge flocks of waterfowl that spend the winter there have dwindled, but there are still a lot of birds around. This White-crowned Sparrow was enjoying a dust bath on the first dry sunny day we have had in a long time.
Golden-crowned Sparrows are still the most common species in the sparrow patches.
Song Sparrows are not as numerous, but are very vocal right now.
Raptors are still thick out at Sauvie. This Cooper’s Hawk did not make it any easier to find sparrows.
One of many Bald Eagles seen that day.
Red-tailed Hawk, scoping out the surrounding fields for rodents
A distant Greater Yellowlegs. It is a little early for shorebirds, but their migration should be picking up in the next few weeks.
There were Raccoon tracks all along Rentenaar Road.
Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, and Cackling Geese are still present in good numbers, but spring migration should bring big changes soon.
I made two trips to the coast this week, once to scout for my Portland Audubon shorebird class, and again for the class itself. It is amazing how much difference a couple of days can make in the make-up of bird life in a given area. On Thursday, I found a total of 11 shorebirds of two species. During the class we found hundreds of individuals of 10 species. I am so glad it was not the other way around. This is the view from the Necanicum River Estuary, looking south. The tiny bump in the middle is Haystack Rock, about 12 miles away.
Whimbrel, Necanicum Estuary
Caspian Terns are common and very vocal all along the coast.
Elk, Necanicum Estuary
This Semipalmated Plover was the only shorebird at the tidal ponds at Fort Stevens.
Raccoon, on the mudflats near Parking Lot D, Fort Stevens (with a Caspian Tern and a California Gull)
This is one of two Ruddy Turnstones we found with a flock of Black Turnstones at the Seaside Cove.
White-crowned Sparrow, Necanicum Estuary
California Ground Squirrel, Hammond Boat Basin
Here is a good example of why this time of year may not be the best for learning gull ID. The plumage on this gull is bleached out and very worn. Judging from the size, shape, and pink legs on this bird (next to a normal non-breeding California Gull) I’m guessing this is a Glaucous-winged Gull, perhaps in his second cycle. I hope he grows some new feathers soon, or it will be a very cold autumn and winter.
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is still a fairly new addition to the Willamette Valley refuge complex, but it offers a nice variety of habitats very close to Portland. I don’t know if the resident Bald Eagles had a successful nesting this year, but this individual was hanging out by the nest during my recent visit.
Cinnamon Teal were conspicuous, but Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal were also present.
Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers are both common nesters on the refuge.
The air above the wetlands is filled with various species of swallows. This Northern Rough-winged Swallow was the only one that sat for a distant photo.
This Willow Flycatcher was giving his distinctive “FITZ-bew” call.
Western Wood-Pewees were calling from the edges of the woods.
The grassy areas are home to Savannah Sparrows.
This White-crowned Sparrow was singing from the roof of the refuge office.
I led a couple of tours for the Birding and Blues Festival last weekend. The weather was dry and reasonably warm, despite rather vicious afternoon winds on the beach.
North winds brought good numbers of migrating shorebirds close to land. Shorebirds often bypass Oregon beaches on their way to Grays Harbor in Washington, so it was nice to find a big flock feeding right across from our hotel.
The flock was mostly Dunlins and Western Sandpipers, but their were a couple of Semipalmated Plovers in mix. (but not in this photo)
These Red-breasted Mergansers were at Clay Meyers State Natural Area.
Bufflehead at Clay Meyers
White-crowned Sparrows were conspicuous and vocal everywhere.
Eurasian Collared Doves are pretty easy to find in Tillamook County. This one was singing behind the community center in Pacific City.
The view from Cape Lookout. It is unusual to see the ocean looking blue instead of steely gray.
Nala and I spent the morning at the Sandy River Delta east of Portland. Bird activity is definitely picking up, although many of the summer residents haven’t arrived yet.
White-crowned Sparrows were singing
as were Savannah Sparrows.
Rufous Hummingbirds were zipping around everywhere. All the birds I could get a look at were males.
scratching an itch
Here is a typical view of a Common Yellowthroat.
The recently reopened channel hosted a lot of birds, including this pair of Wood Ducks and a sleepy Mallard.
Spotted Sandpiper, not yet spotted
Great Blue Heron in a tree
Common Merganser, proving once again that I have no idea how to control the white balance on my camera.
Of course, Nala will tell you the main reason to visit this site is to go swimming. Here she is in the Sandy River, while the mastiff on shore waits to try to steal her ball.
I took my Little Brown Birds class to Sauvie Island. A walk along the length of Rentenaar Road is always good for sparrows.
We found at least four White-throated Sparrows. This species was considered quite rare in Oregon ten years ago, but seem to be increasingly common in winter.
This individual is an example of the “white striped” form of White-throated Sparrow.
One of the more interesting birds of the day was this leucistic Golden-crowned Sparrow. He was a uniform buffy gray with a splash of yellow on the crown.
There are still large flocks of Snow Geese on the island.
Sandhill Cranes are always a treat.
I took my Little Brown Birds class to Sauvie Island. The sparrow flock along Rentenaar Road is thinning out, but all the expected species are still there. For the third year in a row, the star of the day was a Harris’s Sparrow. There is a White-throated and a Golden-crowned Sparrow in the background.
Harris’s Sparrow with Golden-crowned Sparrows
A sparrow mix of White-crowned, Golden-crowned, and Song Sparrow, along with a Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird, surrounded by Golden-crowned Sparrows and a White-crowned in the background
One of four White-throated Sparrows that came to our seed slick