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.
A Blue Grosbeak was found hanging out at Koll Center in Beaverton this week. This species has only been reported in Oregon about a dozen times before, so I was thrilled to add this beauty to my state list, especially when it was found only a few miles from home. The bird seemed crazy stupid, hanging out in the parking lots, and sometimes in the middle of the street. There was speculation that the bird may have been injured, perhaps by hitting a window, but he has been hanging out in the same area for several days now, so hopefully he is OK.
This bird is a classic example of a “twitch,” hearing about a vagrant bird found by someone else, then running out to add it to my own list. Seeing a Blue Grosbeak in Oregon did not require a great deal of luck, effort, or skill on my part, but I still relish the opportunity to see this species again, and to add another checkmark to my Oregon list. Yes, there is great satisfaction in finding a rarity on your own, but I am not too proud to appreciate a freebie.
While birding at the Whiskey Creek Fish Hatchery in Tillamook County, I stopped to check out a stand of Red Hot Poker, or Torch Lily. This plant is not native, but the flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds, orioles, and warblers.
Orange-crowned Warblers were the only warbler species around that day, but several individuals came out of the heavy cover to feed on nectar.
When I first arrived at the patch, a female Anna’s Hummingbird was feeding. She took off before the camera came out, and then the patch was dominated by a male Rufous Hummingbird.
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.
I made a couple of trips out to Sauvie Island for my Little Brown Birds class. The weather was freakishly nice for late March, although the mild winter has not been conducive to large sparrow flocks.
One highlight of the trip on Saturday was a large flock of California Quail. This species has become more difficult to find in recent years.
Wapato Access Greenway State Park is a great place for herps on Sauvie Island.
This is a large Common Garter Snake. The subspecies found in this area is Red-spotted Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis concinnus)
Double-crested Cormorants always put on a good show along the Willamette River in Portland. For being an all black bird, they really show a lot of interesting details in their plumage. The blue eyes on an orange face are also striking.
While spring migration has not really ramped up yet, locally nesting birds at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottoms are starting to pair up, and the winter flocks are breaking up.
These Killdeer were vying for position. I think this species would be more highly regarded if their voices weren’t so grating. Their plumage and red eye ring are rather stunning, but they just don’t shut up.
It had been ages since I visited the coast, so I packed up the dog to check out some spots between Cannon Beach and the Columbia River. I have seen an increasing number of these signs in the area, an attempt to attract nesting Snowy Plovers back to the area. I hope it works.
On the beach at Gearhart, I saw more Sanderlings than I have seen in many years. I don’t know whether the population has rebounded a bit, or if I just timed my visit with a good wave of early migrants. We’ll hope it is the former.
I found two mixed flocks of gulls. The gull numbers around Portland this winter have been very disappointing, so it was nice to see a good variety of species on the beach. Since I had Nala with me, I couldn’t get close enough to identify everyone. This little group is mostly California, with a couple of Mews and possible Thayer’s.
I took my waterfowl class out to Sauvie Island. The trip produced a nice variety of ducks and geese, and the weather was freakishly nice for February. Here are some Ring-necked Ducks, Dusky Canada Geese, and a couple of Buffleheads.
Nala and I walked along the Columbia River from Broughton Beach to the Sea Scout base.
Greater Scaup was the most numerous species on the river, with smaller numbers of Lesser Scaup (fifth bird from the right)
Great Scaup (upper left) with Lesser Scaups, showing a nice comparison of size and head shape.