More Wetlands

Wetlands in the Willamette Valley are very birdy in winter, so those areas tend to get most of the birding efforts this time of year. Of course, given the amount of rain we have had the past few weeks, it is hard to find any place that isn’t a wetland.

eurasian sideMy recent waterfowl class was supposed to bird Jackson Bottom, but since that site was flooded we went to Dawson Creek behind the Hillsboro library. We found three Eurasian Wigeons, including this male.
eurasian front

taverner'sMost of the Cackling Geese we saw were flying over, but this Taverner’s Cackling Goose posed nicely for us.

dovesSmith and Bybee Wetlands hosted a large flock of Eurasian Collared Doves. Here are four feeding along the railroad track with two Mourning Doves in the foreground.
eurasian collared

red-shoulderedThis Red-shouldered Hawk is a regular at Smith and Bybee, but seldom sits out in the open.

ruddyThis male Ruddy Duck was on Force Lake. It seems odd to me that Ruddies don’t molt into breeding plumage until late spring.

golden-crownedA flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows were hanging out in the blackberries by Force Lake. I’ll have to start scouting sparrow patches soon for my Little Brown Birds class in March. Hopefully the rain will taper off by then.

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

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

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.