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.

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

Vanport

I took Nala to the dog park next to Vanport Wetlands in hopes of seeing a bird or two between throws of the ball.

eurasian wigeonA male Eurasian Wigeon made a brief appearance.

green-winged tealGreen-winged Teal

gadwall drakeA pair of Gadwalls swam in the nearby slough. gadwall pair

ring-billed gull preeningThe large flock of gulls that had been hanging out in the area were not around that morning, but a large puddle hosted this Ring-billed Gull along with some Mew Gulls. ring-billed gull

mew bathingMew Gulls bathing
mew gulls

Cannon Beach

greater white-front 2While 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.
greater white-front 1
eurasian wigeon and mallardsThis Eurasian Wigeon was hanging out with the Mallards at the wastewater treatment plant.

ring-necked duckRing-necked Duck

harlequin duckIn the surf around Haystack Rock, there were lots of Surf Scoters and Black Scoters, but they kept out of camera range. This is a Harlequin Duck. No, really.

thayer'sThe 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.

red-shoulderedThis Red-shouldered Hawk was at Mill Ponds Park in nearby Seaside.
red-shouldered roustThe same bird in the middle of a roust
red-shouldered in flightI couldn’t get a flight shot of the Red-shouldered in focus, but this at least shows this species’ beautiful pattern.

Westmoreland Park, 2/27

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.

hooded merganserThe 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.

hooded merganser profileThere must be some powerful muscles in that little neck.

american and eurasian wigeonTwo Eurasian Wigeons, both females, remain with the local American Wigeon flock. Here is one of the Eurasians next to a male American.

eurasian wigeon femaleHere 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 gooseTaverner’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.

Westmoreland Park

Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, is always worth a quick visit in winter.

canvasbackThis Canvasback has a mud on her face from rooting around in the bottom of the pond.

canvasback scratching

lesser scaupLesser Scaup

eurasian wigeon2At least two female Eurasian Wigeons have been spending the winter at Westmoreland. No males have been reported yet this year.

herring gullThis 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.

taverner's cackling gooseWestmoreland 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 cackling goose leftRidgeway’s Cacking Goose (stubby bill, round head, dark breast)

canada goose 1Western 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 bathingWestern Canada Goose bathing

Sunny Day at Westmoreland Park


Best known as a local gull hotspot, Portland’s Westmoreland Park also hosts good numbers of Cackling Geese in winter. This December has been unusually dry and sunny, so instead of my photos being grainy and dark, they are now overexposed.


Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii minima) is the smallest race of Cackler, only slightly larger than a Mallard. Their stubby bills and purplish breasts are good field marks. Many individuals also display a prominent white collar.


cuteness


Of course, you can’t visit Westmoreland in winter without appreciating a Thayer’s Gull. This is such a hard bird to find throughout much of the country, I always stop to enjoy them, despite their local abundance. You can’t see this bird’s eye or bill, but the white underside of the far wing and the amount of white visible on the outermost primary (p10) on the near wing are both good clues to the bird’s ID. (yeah, I’m a bird nerd, and I’m proud.)


Eurasian Wigeon is another species that Portlanders enjoy on a regular basis, while birders elsewhere can only dream.