I led my waterfowl class on a field trip to Sauvie Island and Dawson Creek. We had a few big misses (Gadwall and Wood Duck) but the diversity was pretty good.
While I recognize the serious nature of the current drought, it is hard to be unhappy about sunshine in January. So after many weeks of not birding, I finally got out and spent a day on the coast. On the path around the Cannon Beach wastewater ponds, I came across a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese.
This Eurasian Wigeon was hanging out with the Mallards at the wastewater treatment plant.
The mouth of Ecola Creek, at the north end of Cannon Beach, is a favorite hangout of the local gulls. I found Western, Glaucous-winged, California, Mew, Herring, and Thayer’s. Unfortunately, photographing white birds in bright sunshine against a dark background is beyond my rudimentary skills. Most of my shots consisted of glowing white blobs surrounded by lovely blue water. This shot of a third-cycle Thayer’s Gull bathing in the creek is at least recognizable.
This Red-shouldered Hawk was at Mill Ponds Park in nearby Seaside.
The same bird in the middle of a roust
I couldn’t get a flight shot of the Red-shouldered in focus, but this at least shows this species’ beautiful pattern.
I spent a cold but sunny day on the coast, from Seaside to the Columbia River. One of the best surprises of the day was this Black Phoebe at Millponds Park in Seaside. This species continues to expand its range northward, both along the coast and in the Willamette Valley.
While the ponds at this park are attractive to freshwater waterfowl like Ring-necked Ducks and Hooded Mergansers, the brushy areas hold good numbers of sparrows. Here is a Song Sparrow in the harsh sunlight.
This lone Dunlin was the only shorebird I found at Fort Stevens. He was very tolerant of my presence.
The same bird, blending in well with the sand
The Seaside Cove hosted huge rafts of birds; all three scoters, Greater Scaup, Western Grebe, and a single Long-tailed Duck. Most birds were beyond the breakers (aka beyond camera range), but this Red-necked Grebe came in close enough for a blurry photo.
The weather has entered its dark and dreary pattern, typical for Portland in late autumn. This makes for dark grainy photos, but here are a few shots from Crystal Springs in southeast Portland.
I am hoping for some sunshine for my next outing.
Broughton Beach is the stretch of shoreline along the Columbia River, just north of the Portland airport. It has been a popular spot to access the river to scan for waterfowl in winter, and the shore attracts some neat birds, like Horned Larks, American Pipits, and the occasional Short-eared Owl. There used to be free parking there, but that was eliminated when the adjacent public boat launch was expanded to include a nice new car parking lot (with a fee station).
The gull flock was resting after being harassed by this guy. This Peregrine Falcon spent several minutes flying through the flock, taking half-hearted swipes at various gulls. Perhaps he was testing for any individuals that were injured or particularly slow.
Nala and I went out to Dawson Creek Park in Hillsboro to look for a Rusty Blackbird reported the day before. This site, a private park associated with the office park behind the public library, is a manicured park with paved trails around a series of small ponds. It attracts good numbers of waterfowl in winter, some migrant songbirds, and a few resident Acorn Woodpeckers.
Just as I was finishing my tour of the site, I finally saw my target bird (the Rusty Blackbird, not the Mallard). It would have been nice to get some full-frame photos like some other birders were able to get about three minutes earlier, but I was glad to add this species to my Oregon list. There are less than 20 accepted records of this species in the state. Rusty Blackbirds have experienced drastic population declines in the last few decades.
The morning at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in northwest Portland started out foggy. At the Smith Lake canoe launch, 12 Greater White-fronted Geese were among the many waterfowl. It is getting late for White-fronts in the Willamette Valley.
I made a very brief stop at Delta Ponds in Eugene. Since the site is right by a major highway, the traffic noise effectively eliminates any birding by ear. But the ponds attract good numbers of waterfowl and herons. A Black Phoebe was a nice find.
The best sighting of the day, despite the slight social awkwardness, was this pair of Western Pond Turtles, a lifer for me. Western Pond Turtles, one of only two native turtle species in Oregon, are nearly extirpated from their range north of Eugene, and are listed as critical on the the Oregon list of sensitive species.
I led a tour of Fernhill Wetlands for the Birds and Brew Festival. Since there were about 50 people in the group, including many who didn’t have optics, we concentrated on the “charismatic mega-fauna,” like these American White Pelicans.
A Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron were looking all artsy with their reflections.
I spent a warm sunny morning around Cannon Beach and Seaside. The first stop was Silver Point, just south of Cannon Beach, for a sea watch. There were plenty of birds out there, way out there. It is what I call birding at the edge of imagination. You have an idea of what you are seeing, but realistically, there is a lot of guessing involved. I did see the wing flash of Sooty Shearwaters and several flocks of White-winged and Surf Scoters, but most of what I saw were unidentifiable specks. Nala was waiting somewhat patiently in the car, so we soon went to Tolovana Wayside and walked to Haystack Rock.
The tide was coming in, so I couldn’t get too close to the rocks. Still, you could see several Harlequin Ducks. Here is a male and female, with a Black Oystercatcher on the right. I didn’t see the Oystercatcher when I was in the field, only when I developed the photo.
Our last stop was the Necanicum Estuary. This spot is very hit-or-miss, with either lots of birds or none. Today was closer to the latter. But along with the few California Gulls were several Caspian Terns still feeding young. Most Caspian Terns have already moved south, so it seems late to have begging fledglings still around.