Tualatin River NWR

eagle nestI made a quick visit to Tualatin River NWR in the afternoon heat. One of the main trails is closed off until this young Bald Eagle decides to leave the nest. Despite the flock of European Starlings cheering him on, he didn’t show any sign of leaving.

gadwallI saw several pairs of Gadwall, but no ducklings yet. This male was putting on a show for his lady friend.

mallard momMallards have been out with broods for weeks now.
duckling
cinnamon tealCinnamon Teal siesta

pb grebePied-billed Grebe showing off his black throat

spotted sandpipersI often find Spotted Sandpipers perched on man-made structures.

bullfrog Despite the time of day, American Bullfrogs were actively singing and defending territories. This introduced species is so common in the Willamette Valley. I would think they would be a favored prey item (Great Blue Heron, Mink, River Otter, etc.) but I seldom find any evidence of predation. Bullfrogs are unfortunately very good at preying on native frogs and turtles.

Westmoreland Park

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.

Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Thayer’s Gull

Gadwalls don’t sport a lot of color, but are lovely little ducks.

Great weather, if you’re a duck

I forced myself to go birding Saturday morning. It was one of those rainy November days when you want to hole up until May, so I forced myself out. (Can’t get tired of the rain this early in the season.) So I went to Smith and Bybee Wetlands in NW Portland. The rough weather kept most of the songbirds under heavy cover, but the ducks were out and about.

shovelers
While distant and poorly lit in the rainy weather, these ducks are clearly Northern Shovelers. The first clue is the fact that they are all swimming along with their faces in the water, typical shoveler feeding behavior. On the first and last ducks in line, you see a dark head, white breast, rusty sides, and white bottom, classic Northern Shoveler.

distant-ducks
These birds were clear across the lake, but several are clearly identifyable. The line of four ducks in the upper right of the photo are Northern Shovelers, for the same reasons as in the photo above. The duck on the far left, and probably the bird next to him, is a Gadwall. The bird is slightly smaller than the shovelers, lacks any blatant pattern, seems to be dark on the backside, and has a blocky head shape.

The ability to ID ducks, or any other birds, at great distances is not so much a matter of skill, as it is familiarity. The more familiar you become with a species, the greater the distance you can recognize that species.

nutria
This Nutria was enjoying the day, munching away on something. Nutria are native to South America, but have been introduced in many areas by the fur trade. (and why would you want to dress yourself to look like a large aquatic rodent?) When raising Nutria failed to be profitable, many were released into the Pacific Northwest, where they flourish at the expense of some native mammals and wetland plants.

Fernhill Wetlands

I visited three of the Washington County wetlands today, but spent most of my time at Fernhill (Birding Oregon p.61). Nesting species were present in abundance, but overall species diversity was pretty low.


The duck at the top of this picture is a Gadwall, a rare breeder in western Oregon, with her newly hatched brood. The duck at the bottom is a Mallard with her larger duckling. We are quickly entering the “ugly brown duck” season, when all the waterfowl are molting and looking increasingly similar.


Great Blue Heron


Cedar Waxwing


Killdeer were the only shorebirds present today. Migrant shorebirds should start appearing in about two weeks.