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.
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.
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.
Rentenaar Road, on Sauvie Island, is one of the better sparrow patches in the Portland area. I found ten species this morning, about typical for this time of year. This boldly patterned White-throated Sparrow was one of the prettier ones.
The dikes around the wetland areas are closed to public access in the winter to prevent disturbance to the birds. But the trail leading through the wooded habitat beyond the wetland is open year round.
I spent the morning in Scappoose, OR, this morning looking for a Brambling that was seen about a week ago. I didn’t have any luck with the Brambling, but it was great fun watching the variety of sparrows that were feeding in the area. Winter brings great flocks of sparrows to the Portland area. I saw the eight species pictured below, all within a few minutes, while sitting at the edge of the trail.
Here are a few shots of random songbirds seen on recent outings.
Autumn brings an influx of sparrows to the Willamette Valley. Like many groups of birds, the sparrows aren’t that hard to identify, they are just hard to get a good look at.
I’ve recently made two trips to Grays Harbor in Washington, once to scout and the other to lead my shorebird class. This estuary is a major staging area for migrating shorebirds in spring.
Don’t neglect to look at all the little brown ducks! This is a King Eider, a rare visitor from Alaska. It is distinguished from Common Eider by the slender bill and the scalloped markings on the sides.
I enjoyed a quiet walk around the main lake at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61). By mid-morning, most of the geese that roost at this site are off feeding elsewhere.
Double-crested Cormorants are commonly seen perched on dead trees and utility poles when they are not fishing. The light breast, neck, and head identify this individual as a young bird. The orange gular pouch is diagnostic in differentiating this species from the other two cormorants found along the Oregon coast.
While scouting for my little brown birds class I found these three posing on a fence rail. I had just filled the feeder at the Oak Island unit of Sauvie Island Wildlife Area, and the birds were appearing out of the cold fog to take advantage of the free food. From left to right are a Spotted Towhee, a Golden-crowned Sparrow (winter plumage), and another Golden-crowned (closer to breeding plumage). The foggy conditions made photographing birds (or even seeing them for that matter) very difficult. I had to boost the contrast of this photo to bring the birds out of the haze.