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.
While scouting for the upcoming Birding and Blues Festival, I found this Ferruginous Hawk soaring over the Clay Myers State Natural Area (aka Whalen Island). This appears to be the first record of the species in Tillamook County. Ferruginous Hawks are normally found in the sage steppe east of the Cascades, and are rare visitors to the Willamette Valley in winter.
The bird was loosely associated with a kettle of Turkey Vultures, and serves as a valuable reminder to check every bird in the flock for something different.
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
This is that long awkward time of year between winter and spring. The big winter flocks have broken up, but the spring migrants haven’t returned yet. As I have said before, there is always something to see, but we have to find simple pleasures until the full decadence of spring migration commences in a month or so.
On a recent sunny day, this Varied Thrush perched outside the living room window. I don’t often see this species in sunlight. They are usually muted by the gloom of a rainy day or the shadows of the forest.
Pine Siskin at the nyjer feeder
For some reason, songbirds just look weird when viewed from the front.
The male American Goldfinches are starting to get their summer color.
Golden-crowned Sparrow, Vanport Wetlands
This fairly large tree has been felled by Beavers at Smith and Bybee Wetlands. None of the branches appear to have been eaten, so I don’t know why the Beavers felled it, perhaps because it was there.
Northwestern Garter Snake, Tualatin Hills Nature Park. I am making the identification based on the small head, although I am not completely comfortable differentiating Northwestern Garter from Common Garter.
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