Commonwealth Lake Park

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.

pb grebeSpecies that are normally rather shy, like this Pied-billed Grebe, will often allow a close approach is parks such as this.

cootAmerican Coots, common and often dismissed by birders, are quite lovely when you get close enough.

gadwallGadwall

merg with fishmale Common Merganser, with what I think is a Yellow Bullhead

common mergfemale Common Merganser

gwfGreater White-fronted Geese are common migrants over the Portland area, but uncommon winter residents. Four have been spending the winter at Commonwealth.
gwf stretch

rb gullSince 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.
ring-billed second cycleThis 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.

AmberGlen Business Park

Several office parks in the Hillsboro area have nice open spaces that attract birds. AmberGlen has a pond next to a large lawn which attracts good numbers of gulls in winter.

ring-billed and mewMost of the gulls on my recent visit were Ring-billed Gulls, but two Mew Gulls were in the mix. Here is a nice comparison of the two species.

ring-billed roustRing-billed Gull enjoying a roust

ring-billed gull swimmingand a swim

glaucous-winged 2This Glaucous-winged Gull was rocking the lipstick.

ring-necked 3Ring-necked Ducks

eurasian and american wigeonsHere is a male Eurasian Wigeon, with an American Wigeon in the background. I am guessing this is a young bird molting into his first adult plumage. It seems a little late in the season to me,  but I don’t know whether this Asian species has a different molt schedule from his North American counterpart.
eurasian wigeon

Barred Owl

IMG_0121We were pleasantly startled to find this Barred Owl perched on our bridge this week. We have heard one on the property before, but this is the first good look we have had. After some crows started giving him grief, the owl moved to a more sheltered perch in a Curly Willow.

barred closeupHe was visible in this tree for two days, but windy weather has since sent him looking for a more stable roosting spot. I hope he stays around. There are certainly plenty of non-native squirrels and other rodents to keep him busy.

barred sleepingCheck out the feathered eyelids.

Mt. Rainier NP

rainierWe made our first visit to Mt. Rainier NP in Washington last week. This park is an easy drive from Portland. I like getting above the tree line to the alpine meadows, seen here, but the park has large areas of forest, as well. The bird and mammal diversity was good on this trip, although the numbers of individuals were not as large as you usually find in parks such as Glacier or Yellowstone.

dipperThis American Dipper was swimming in one of the rivers; not very photogenic, but interesting behavior. The forested areas were too dark for bird photos, but Gray Jays, Varied Thrushes, and Red Crossbills were common.

cooper's hawkMost of the birds in the alpine habitats were fast fly-bys. I did manage this photo of a young Cooper’s Hawk. The Prairie Falcon that was hunting the ridge was way too fast. I was hoping for White-tailed Ptarmigan on this trip, but perhaps the abundance of raptors was keeping that species out of sight.

bear 1This Black Bear spent many hours feeding on vegetation along one of the trails. We kept a respectful distance, unlike many other park visitors. The bear didn’t seem too concerned with his fans. He did get a little nervous when a couple was taking selfies with him.

chipmunkYellow-pine Chipmunks are common in the meadows.

meadowAnother view of the mountain. I definitely want to explore more of this area.

Random Images

Not much going on bird-wise for me this past week. The shorebird cornucopia from the previous week has dried up, as have many of the region’s mudflats.  But, as I frequently remind myself, there is always something to see.

IMG_7961This is a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds at Fernhill Wetlands during the Birds and Brew Festival on August 22. East winds had brought in smoke from the many wildfires burning in eastern Oregon and Washington. The sky and white and you couldn’t see any of the hills that surround this site.

IMG_7952Fernhill produced a nice crop of young Green Herons this year.

IMG_7969On a clearer day, Nala and I found this Osprey at Kelly Point Park along the Columbia River.

IMG_7971Great Blue Heron, also at Kelly Point.

IMG_7978Banded Killifish in the Columbia River. They are about an inch and a half long.

IMG_7984Obsessive Marine Mammal, Columbia River

Broughton Beach, Portland

Broughton Beach is along the Columbia River, right next to the Portland airport. It can be a challenging place to bird, with dogs and children chasing the birds, police carrying body bags down the beach, etc. But if you catch it on a good day you can find some excellent birding. The great attraction this past week was a Pacific Golden Plover, which spent two days there, avoiding me with great success (thus that specie’s designation as one of my nemesis birds).  I tried for the plover twice with no luck, but found several other goodies along the way.

red phalarope 1The most unexpected species was this Red Phalarope. At first glance, I wrote this bird off as a Red-necked, since Reds are very unusual inland in August, and Red-neckeds are expected. Once I looked at the photographs, however, I saw my error and got a good reminder to LOOK AT THE BIRD! That heavy bill with the light-colored base is a dead giveaway for Red Phalarope.
red phalarope 2
Another coastal species along Broughton Beach was Sanderling.
sanderling 2
sanderlings 2
sanderling 7It is nice to see Sanderlings at inland locations, since you can often get closer to them there than you can at the coast.

semipalm 1Another nice find was this Semipalmated Sandpiper. You can see the partial webbing between the outer toes that gives this species its name. Ten years ago, a Semipalmated Sandpiper anywhere in Oregon was a pretty big deal, but now quite a few individuals are reported every year. Either the bird has become a more common migrant in this state, or people are just better at recognizing them.
semipalm 9
semipalm and westernSemipalmated Sandpiper (r) and Western Sandpiper (l)

western 3Western Sandpipers were present in small numbers. . .
western 2

least 2as were Least Sandpipers.
least 6
california gullCalifornia Gulls like to hang out on a little sand spit that extends into the river at low tide. A few Glaucous-winged Gulls have arrived, and will become more common as autumn approaches.

common loonThis Common Loon seemed a little out of place for August. In the winter months, this species is often seen at this site with large rafts of grebes and diving ducks. There are fewer kids and dogs then, too.

Jackson Bottom

great egretsI scouted Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro for my shorebird class this week. Much of the area is dry, but Pintail Pond still has enough water to create mudflats and easy fishing for the Great Egrets.

ring-billed gullOne Ring-billed Gull was hanging out with several California Gulls.

northern harrierThis Northern Harrier repeatedly strafed the mudflats, sending all the shorebirds into a panic. Jerk.

spotted sandpiperMost of the shorebirds were beyond decent photo range, but this Spotted Sandpiper came fairly close.

common garter 1The Common Garter Snakes at this site have great coloring. We saw several chasing fish in the shallow water.

downy frontThis young Downy Woodpecker was checking out a swallow house. He didn’t go in, but explored all around the outside.
downy rightdowny left