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.
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.
Things are hopping at Fernhill Wetlands, with rising water levels, an influx of several thousand geese and other waterfowl, and a few other goodies.
A small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese were hanging out with the Mallards in Dabblers Marsh.
The resident Bald Eagles were sitting around looking majestic. I watched one carrying a stick to add to their nest.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some photos from a recent scouting trip to Mt. Hood for my upcoming Portland Audubon class.
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.
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.
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.