Wetland Birds

While spring migration has not really ramped up yet, locally nesting birds at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottoms are starting to pair up, and the winter flocks are breaking up.

least sandpiperA few Least Sandpipers have arrived at Fernhill.

killdeer quartetThese Killdeer were vying for position. I think this species would be more highly regarded if their voices weren’t so grating. Their plumage and red eye ring are rather stunning, but they just don’t shut up.

bushtitI found a pair of Bushtits weaving a nest. The normally gray birds were stained bright yellow with pollen.

cinnamon tealCinnamon Teal, looking all dapper

golden-crowned frontGolden-crowned Sparrow

white cheeked golden-crownedThis Golden-crowned Sparrow had odd white patches on the cheeks, and a few white feathers on the nape.

tree swallowTree Swallows are everywhere, pairing up and claiming nest boxes.

song sparrow 3Song Sparrow, not unusual, but unusually cooperative

red-winged blackbirdRed-winged Blackbird. Females and immature males have much more interesting plumage than that of the adult males.

house finch 1House Finch, just because

Little Brown Birds

harris's sparrowI 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 and golden-crownedHarris’s Sparrow with Golden-crowned Sparrows

fox sparrowFox Sparrow

sparrow mixA sparrow mix of White-crowned, Golden-crowned, and Song Sparrow, along with a Red-winged Blackbird

red-wingRed-winged Blackbird, surrounded by Golden-crowned Sparrows and a White-crowned in the background

white-throatedOne of four White-throated Sparrows that came to our seed slick

spotted towhee 2Spotted Towhee


Early Spring

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.

varied thrush frontOn 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.
varied thrush profile

pine siskin sidePine Siskin at the nyjer feeder

pine siskin frontFor some reason, songbirds just look weird when viewed from the front.

lesser goldfinch backLesser Goldfinch

american goldfinchThe male American Goldfinches are starting to get their summer color.
american goldfinch clinging

golden-crowned 2Golden-crowned Sparrow, Vanport Wetlands

beaver chewThis 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 garterNorthwestern 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, Sauvie Island

white-throated sparrowRentenaar 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.

dark-eyed juncoDark-eyed Junco

golden-crowned sparrowGolden-crowned Sparrows are the most common sparrows along this stretch of road.

lincoln's sparrowLincoln’s Sparrow, one of my favorites and one of the hardest to photograph

song sparrowSong Sparrow

white-crowned sparrowWhite-crowned Sparrow

spotted towheeSpotted Towhee with two Golden-crowned Sparrows

harris's frontThe rarest bird of the day was this Harris’s Sparrow. This is the third winter in a row that a Harris’s (perhaps the same bird) has been wintering at this location.

harris's and golden-crownedHarris’s Sparrow with Golden-crowns

harris's and white-crownedHarris’s with White-crowned

harris's and white-throatedand finally, the Harris’s with a tan-morph White-throated Sparrow in the background. It’s nice that this visitor from the Great Plains gets along with everyone.

robinWhile certainly not a sparrow, this American Robin was just begging to be photographed, so here you go.

Tualatin River NWR

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, located just a few miles southwest of Portland on Hwy 99W, is a wonderful refuge for wintering waterfowl, despite its location in such an urban area.

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.

Northern Pintails and a Ruddy Duck

several Double-crested Cormorants perched on a log

a congregation of Northern Pintails, Mallards, and Ring-necked Ducks

The star of the refuge in recent weeks has been a lone Emperor Goose. He is the pale gray blob with the white neck tucked under his wings, right in the center of the photo. No, really.

This Dark-eyed Junco was a little more photogenic than the goose was.

Given the amount of brown on the crown and hind neck of this Dark-eyed Junco, I’m guessing she is a first-year female.

Golden-crowned Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco


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.

Dark-eyed Junco

Song Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrows are among the most beautiful sparrows in North America, but are also rather shy, so they tend to stay out of range of point-and-shoot photography.

Lincoln’s Sparrow, with a Song Sparrow in the background

Fox Sparrows tend to lurk in the thicker cover.

He finally emerged for some millet.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow, first winter

Golden-crowned Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow, with a Golden-crowned in the background

Spotted Towhee

Random Songbirds

Here are a few shots of random songbirds seen on recent outings.

Lesser Goldfinch at the feeder. The Lessers arrive early in the morning before the American Goldfinches take over.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Brown Creeper, Ankeny NWR

Song Sparrow, Ankeny NWR

American Pipit, along the Columbia River in Portland