While 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.
This Eurasian Wigeon was hanging out with the Mallards at the wastewater treatment plant.
In 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.
The 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.
This Red-shouldered Hawk was at Mill Ponds Park in nearby Seaside.
The same bird in the middle of a roust
I couldn’t get a flight shot of the Red-shouldered in focus, but this at least shows this species’ beautiful pattern.
The morning at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in northwest Portland started out foggy. At the Smith Lake canoe launch, 12 Greater White-fronted Geese were among the many waterfowl. It is getting late for White-fronts in the Willamette Valley.
There were a lot of Cedar Waxwings flycatching and feeding on various fruiting trees. This is a young bird, given the overall scruffy appearance and the lack of red tips on the tertials.
This Pileated Woodpecker was very vocal and perched out in the open on a distant utility pole.
This Red-shouldered Hawk was among the many Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers present on the property.
The current low water levels allow you to hike quite a ways out into the wetlands. Marsh Wrens are common in the shrubs and reed canary grass.
Song Sparrows are also common in the tall grasses. The best bird of the day was a Swamp Sparrow, but he eluded the camera.
Pacific Chorus Frogs were singing everywhere, but this is the only individual I could see.
Things are hopping at Fernhill Wetlands, with rising water levels, an influx of several thousand geese and other waterfowl, and a few other goodies.
Cackling Geese have been arriving for weeks now, and the skies and fields around Fernhill are covered with these little guys.
A small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese were hanging out with the Mallards in Dabblers Marsh.
This interesting beast is a hybrid, a product of one of the local Canada Geese and a domestic Greylag Goose.
Here are some of the many Northern Shovelers feeding in their typical manner, swimming along with their faces in the water, as if their enormous bills are too heavy to hold up.
Two American White Pelicans have been hanging out at Fernhill for a couple of months now.
Shorebird numbers and diversity have dwindled. Here are a few Long-billed Dowitchers.
The resident Bald Eagles were sitting around looking majestic. I watched one carrying a stick to add to their nest.
Several Northern Shrikes have been reported around the Portland area in recent days. This one is snacking on a large insect.
I saw three Common Garter Snakes on this trip, including one very young newborn about the width of a linguine. The colorful individual in this photo was about 20 inches long. Note the large laceration on his neck, presumably from a predator. Despite the severity of the wound, the snake was not bleeding and he crawled away after this photo was taken, so I am hopeful he will recover.
I scouted Fernhill Wetlands for the Willamette Valley portion of my shorebird class. After a cool summer, we have finally gotten some triple-digit temperatures, making birding a little challenging. But there is a lot of mud and the shorebirds are moving in, joining the typical and not-so-typical summer residents.
Greater Yellowlegs are common right now, taking advantage of the shallow water in most of the area’s wetlands.
I don’t think he caught anything on that dive.
Spotted Sandpipers are often found along the rocky shoreline of Fernhill Lake.
This is a young Spotted Sandpiper, distinguished by the barring on the wing coverts (and the lack of spots).
Cackling Geese, which winter here in the tens of thousands, are a rare sight in summer. The exposed white rumps on these birds are an indication that the birds are molting their primaries, so they have obviously spent the summer here.
These three Greater White-fronted Geese are also several months too early.
Great Blue Heron and Great Egret
August is the time for baby Bullheads. Several schools were visible in the murky water.
Eight-spotted Skimmer, one of the few dragonflies that I can identify
I took advantage of the short breaks in the recent rainy weather to visit Vanport Wetlands in north Portland. The dark foggy conditions did not create great photo opportunities, but there are a lot of birds using this site.
The local Great Horned Owl is already sitting on her nest. This nest successfully fledged young last year.
In another sign of spring, this Great Egret is already sporting long nuptial plumes.
These Cackling Geese (and one Glaucous-winged Gull) were hanging out on the nearby Heron Lakes Golf Course. A Brandt has been seen on the golf course this week, but I didn’t find him on this visit.
A flock of ten Greater White-fronted Geese were sitting on Force Lake, just north of the Vanport Wetlands.
These geese are young birds, lacking the black and white speckling seen on the bellies of adults.
Nala is not nearly as interested in the birds of Vanport Wetlands as she is in the adjacent off-leash dog park, where she can pursue her prime interest, chasing the Orange Orb of Delight.
Here are some photos from a recent scouting trip to Mt. Hood for my upcoming Portland Audubon class.
Timothy Lake, a good spot to look for migrant loons and grebes
Varied Thrush on the shore of Timothy Lake
Clear Lake is very low this time of year, but still attracts waterfowl.
Greater White-fronted Goose on the shore of Clear Lake
Nala, the Birding Dog, after adding Greater White-fronted Goose to her life list. She apologizes for chasing the goose into the lake, but she just couldn’t help it.
A burned section of forest near Cooper Spur on the northeastern part of the mountain. Burned forest is a magnet for woodpeckers.
A really bad photo of an American Three-toed Woodpecker in the burn
The giant gravel pile that is Mount Hood, above Timberline Lodge
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.
Marbled Godwit, Dunlin, and Short-billed Dowitcher feeding at Damon Point, near the mouth of the harbor
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.
Bowerman Basin is an inlet on the north shore of the harbor. It is the last area to fill during high tides, so shorebirds often congregate here. This is a view from the boardwalk.
Peregrine Falcons are attracted by the large numbers of shorebirds in the harbor.
This is a view of the boardwalk on a Thursday morning.
This is the boardwalk on a Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, birders outnumbered birds by about five to one on this afternoon.
Greater White-fronted Geese
Marsh Wrens are common along the marshy edges of Bowerman Basin.
The willow thickets and woods along the boardwalk attract migrants like this Golden-crowned Sparrow.
A trip to the local duck/gull hang-out revealed four Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons). While this species migrates over Portland in large numbers, it is always a rare treat to see them here in winter.
These birds are examples of the smaller subspecies (A.a. frontalis). The larger, rarer “Tule” White-fronted Goose (A.a. elegasi) also passes through Oregon, with some spending the winter in the Klamath Basin.
These birds were all immature, lacking the black speckles on the belly seen on adults, and showing a blackish nail on the bill.
Some colleagues and I made a quick sweep through the Klamath Basin on April 30 and May 1. Late snows and cold weather have really delayed spring in that area, causing the Greater White-fronted Geese to remain in unusually high numbers. The morning of May 1 was clear and calm, inspiring thousands of geese to continue north.
Two of our favorite birding sites around Fort Klamath were snowed in, so we missed some upland species we were hoping for. We did spend some time at the Williamson River Day Use Area, across the highway from Collier State Park. As we were walking back toward the car, this Clark’s Nutcracker put on a nice show in the lawn.
After getting over 5″ of rain in a week, it was finally dry enough to get out today. I was hoping to photograph some Mew Gulls for an upcoming class, but the local gull park was Mewless. I did find one young Greater White-fronted Goose keeping company with the local Canadas.
At Smith and Bybee Wetlands I found a young Bullfrog, very sluggish from the cold. Bullfrogs are a big problem in Oregon, as they eat smaller native frogs, baby turtles, and anything else they can catch.