I did the Tillamook Death March this week, walking the six miles around Bayocean Spit (Birding Oregon p. 128). After two weeks of warm sunny weather, we have returned to a more normal gloomy, rainy pattern, so I only took out the camera for this Red-necked Grebe in nice breeding attire. There is currently an interesting mix of winter, migrant, and breeding species around. Tillamook Bay still held Common and Pacific Loons along with this grebe. All should be moving north very soon.
On the way home I stopped at Fernhill Wetlands and found this Greater Yellowlegs. Most migrant shorebirds have passed through already, but a few linger on.
Also at Fernhill was a pair of Killdeer with three fuzzy babies. Too cute.
I took my shorebirds class to Seaside. At the Cove, we found Black Turnstones, Surfbirds, and these Black Oystercatchers.
Best bird of the day was this Red Knot at the Necanicum Estuary.
OK, not a shorebird, but this Western Gull was just standing there, waiting to be photographed. (and Western Gulls are about the only species around right now)
I led trips for the Birding and Blues Festival in Pacific City, OR, last weekend. The weather was cool with scattered showers, so photo ops were not abundant.
The Three Capes Tour on Friday was actually very good for mammals, with charismatic mega-fauna such as Gray Whale, Steller’s Sea Lion and Roosevelt Elk. Only slightly less charismatic was this California Ground Squirrel.
This Peregrine Falcon posed nicely on the cliff at Cape Meares. The rich colors of the rocks and plants, compared the overexposed image of the falcon show that I have obviously still not mastered my new camera.
There is a large flock of Eurasian Collared Doves in Pacific City. Ten years ago, this species would have been a huge deal, but they are very well established now. Despite their abundance, this flock was very shy.
The avian stars of Pacific City are these Aleutian Cackling Geese. This particular population breeds on the Semidi Islands and winters at Pacific City, spending the nights on Haystack Rock offshore and days in this cow pasture at the north end of town.
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
As spring approaches, the numbers and diversity at Portland’s Westmoreland Park are starting to wain. The winter gull flock is down to Glaucous-winged X Western hybrids and two Herring Gulls. While there is no shortage of white-cheeked geese, there were very few other species of waterfowl on this visit.
The highlight of this trip was a pair of Hooded Mergansers squabbling over a large crayfish. The female finally won possession and, with a great deal of effort, swallowed the crustacean.
There must be some powerful muscles in that little neck.
Two Eurasian Wigeons, both females, remain with the local American Wigeon flock. Here is one of the Eurasians next to a male American.
Here is a close-up of the Eurasian Wigeon. Note the warm brown color and the lack of a black outline around the base of the bill.
Taverner’s Cackling Goose, with a partial white neck ring. It will be just a few weeks before these birds head back north, and we will have to console ourselves with warblers and flycatchers.
We are in that late winter season when birding seems to slow. I don’t know whether there are actually fewer birds around this time of year or we have just already seen the local winter residents so they don’t hold our attention. In any case, the best birding is usually found in and around wetlands. Here are some recent shots from area wetlands from the past couple of weeks.
Great Blue Herons are always around, and have started hanging out in their nesting colonies.
This Dusky Canada Goose was enjoying the sunshine at Ankeny NWR.
Coyote, Vanport Wetlands
Another Coyote, at Ankeny NWR
This Nutia at Fernhill Wetlands seemed unconcerned with the group of birders walking by.
Here is a Red-winged Blackbird sharing a nyjer feeder with a Lesser Goldfinch at Jackson Bottom. I don’t recall seeing blackbirds eating nyjer before.
Spotted Towhee, Jackson Bottom
I led a tour on Sauvie Island this week. This is a great time of year for birding Sauvie, as the hunting season is over and there are still large flocks of waterfowl and wintering sparrows.
Here are some Snow Geese within a flock of Dusky Canada Geese. If you look closely you will find one Taverner’s Cackling Goose and a couple of Mallards.
One Greater White-fronted Goose was hanging out with the Taverner’s Cackling Geese. Greater White-fronts are hard to come by in winter, so we were fortunate to find this individual.
Green-winged Teal, the smallest duck in North America, and one of the prettiest
A very distant view of a Rough-legged Hawk
Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, is always worth a quick visit in winter.
This Canvasback has a mud on her face from rooting around in the bottom of the pond.
At least two female Eurasian Wigeons have been spending the winter at Westmoreland. No males have been reported yet this year.
This 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.
Westmoreland 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 Cacking Goose (stubby bill, round head, dark breast)
Western 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 bathing
Rentenaar Road, on Sauvie Island, is one of the better sparrow patches in the Portland area. I found ten species this morning, about typical for this time of year. This boldly patterned White-throated Sparrow was one of the prettier ones.
Golden-crowned Sparrows are the most common sparrows along this stretch of road.
Lincoln’s Sparrow, one of my favorites and one of the hardest to photograph
Spotted Towhee with two Golden-crowned Sparrows
The rarest bird of the day was this Harris’s Sparrow. This is the third winter in a row that a Harris’s (perhaps the same bird) has been wintering at this location.
Harris’s Sparrow with Golden-crowns
Harris’s with White-crowned
and finally, the Harris’s with a tan-morph White-throated Sparrow in the background. It’s nice that this visitor from the Great Plains gets along with everyone.
While certainly not a sparrow, this American Robin was just begging to be photographed, so here you go.
A quick visit to Westmoreland Park in southeast Portland revealed good numbers of waterfowl and gulls typical of this little urban duck pond in the winter.
Two duck butts in the middle of the pond stood out because of their large size. They turned out to be Tundra Swans, the first I have seen at this park.
Of course, every visit to Westmoreland requires a quick scan of the gull flock.
Gadwalls don’t sport a lot of color, but are lovely little ducks.