Random Ramblings

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.

Crane fight

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.

Happy Autumn

Random Images

February birding is famously slow around much of Oregon, but, as I like to remind myself, there is always something to see.

redhead
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.

turnstone preening
This preening Black Turnstone showed off his flashy backside at the Seaside Cove.

elk
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.

IMG_0346
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.

white-crowned brush
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.

redwinged
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.

IMG_0097
preening Green-winged Teal, Westmoreland Park

IMG_0149
preening Gadwall, Crystal Springs

IMG_0142
male Wood Duck, Crystal Springs

IMG_0305
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.

Sauvie Island

IMG_8515I 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.

IMG_8513Golden-crowned Sparrows are still the most common species in the sparrow patches.

IMG_8520Song Sparrows are not as numerous, but are very vocal right now.

IMG_8505Raptors are still thick out at Sauvie. This Cooper’s Hawk did not make it any easier to find sparrows.

IMG_8507One of many Bald Eagles seen that day.

IMG_8530Red-tailed Hawk, scoping out the surrounding fields for rodents

IMG_8523A distant Greater Yellowlegs. It is a little early for shorebirds, but their migration should be picking up in the next few weeks.

IMG_8503There 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.

North Coast

sceneI 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 leftWhimbrel, Necanicum Estuary
whimbrel right
caspian ternCaspian Terns are common and very vocal all along the coast.

elkElk, Necanicum Estuary

semipalmated ploverThis Semipalmated Plover was the only shorebird at the tidal ponds at Fort Stevens.

raccoonRaccoon, on the mudflats near Parking Lot D, Fort Stevens (with a Caspian Tern and a California Gull)

ruddy turnstoneThis is one of two Ruddy Turnstones we found with a flock of Black Turnstones at the Seaside Cove.

white-crowned sparrowWhite-crowned Sparrow, Necanicum Estuary

california ground squirrelCalifornia Ground Squirrel, Hammond Boat Basin

faded gullHere 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 NWR

eagle nest 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 1Cinnamon Teal were conspicuous, but Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal were also present.

killdeer 1Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers are both common nesters on the refuge.

n. rough-winged 1The 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.

willow flycatcher 1This Willow Flycatcher was giving his distinctive “FITZ-bew” call.

w. wood-pewee 1Western Wood-Pewees were calling from the edges of the woods.

savannah sparrow 1The grassy areas are home to Savannah Sparrows.

white-crowned 1This White-crowned Sparrow was singing from the roof of the refuge office.

Pacific City

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.

flockNorth 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.

shorebirdsThe flock was mostly Dunlins and Western Sandpipers, but their were a couple of Semipalmated Plovers in mix. (but not in this photo)

red-breasted mergansersThese Red-breasted Mergansers were at Clay Meyers State Natural Area.

buffleheadBufflehead at Clay Meyers

white-crowned 6White-crowned Sparrows were conspicuous and vocal everywhere.

eurasian collared doveEurasian Collared Doves are pretty easy to find in Tillamook County. This one was singing behind the community center in Pacific City.

oceanThe view from Cape Lookout. It is unusual to see the ocean looking blue instead of steely gray.

Sandy River Delta

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-crownedWhite-crowned Sparrows were singing

savannah sparrow 2as were Savannah Sparrows.

rufous 3Rufous Hummingbirds were zipping around everywhere. All the birds I could get a look at were males.
rufous 2
rufous scratchingscratching an itch

yellowthroatHere is a typical view of a Common Yellowthroat.

wood ducksThe recently reopened channel hosted a lot of birds, including this pair of Wood Ducks and a sleepy Mallard.

spotted sandpiperSpotted Sandpiper, not yet spotted

great blueGreat Blue Heron in a tree

common merganserCommon Merganser, proving once again that I have no idea how to control the white balance on my camera.

nalaOf 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.

Summer at Sandy River

willow flycatcherI made an early morning trip to the Sandy River Delta. This late in the summer, with the weather being so hot, most bird song is limited to the hour or so around dawn. This Willow Flycatcher was singing right at sunrise.

white-crowned fledgling White-crowned Sparrow

kingbirdThe resident pair of Eastern Kingbirds was hanging out on the power lines.

american goldfinchAmerican Goldfinches were common in the grassy areas.

kingfisherBelted Kingfisher on a side channel of the Sandy River.

lazuli bunting on railThe stars of this site are the Lazuli Buntings. This male was keeping a close watch on his lady.
lazuli bunting front lazuli bunting leftlazuli femaleThe female Lazuli Bunting was a little more shy.

Sauvie Island

I took my Little Brown Birds class to Sauvie Island. A walk along the length of Rentenaar Road is always good for sparrows.

white-throated sparrow front 3We 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.
white-throated sparrow white stripe formThis individual is an example of the “white striped” form of White-throated Sparrow.

fox sparrowFox Sparrow

song sparrowSong Sparrow

golden-crowned sparrow leftGolden-crowned Sparrow

white-crowned sparrow rightWhite-crowned Sparrow

leucisitic golden-crowned sparrowOne 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.
leucistic golden-crowned sparrow front
red-winged blackbird 1Red-winged Blackbird

snow geeseThere are still large flocks of Snow Geese on the island.

sandhill crane 1Sandhill Cranes are always a treat.
sandhill crane 2

Little Brown Birds

harris's sparrowI 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 and golden-crownedHarris’s Sparrow with Golden-crowned Sparrows

fox sparrowFox Sparrow

sparrow mixA sparrow mix of White-crowned, Golden-crowned, and Song Sparrow, along with a Red-winged Blackbird

red-wingRed-winged Blackbird, surrounded by Golden-crowned Sparrows and a White-crowned in the background

white-throatedOne of four White-throated Sparrows that came to our seed slick

spotted towhee 2Spotted Towhee