I led a tour on Sauvie Island this week. This is a great time of year for birding Sauvie, as the hunting season is over and there are still large flocks of waterfowl and wintering sparrows.
The American Ornithologists Union considers the Green-winged Teal and Eurasian (or Common) Teal to be subspecies of Anas crecca. Most other sources, however, consider the two to be separate species, Anas carolinensis and Anas crecca. I tend to agree with the latter set, primarily because it provides another species for my life list. Eurasian Teals range as far east as western Alaska, so a few end up in Oregon every winter.
Here we see a male Eurasian Teal on the left, and a male Green-winged Teal on the right. Eurasian Teals have a bold white line along their sides, while Green-wings have a vertical white line at the side of the breast. Hybrids between these two species show both the horizontal and vertical lines. I personally don’t know how to distinguish female Green-winged Teals from Eurasians.
Here are the same two birds. While it is not obvious in these very distant photos, at close range we would notice that the pale lines surrounding the green eye patch are more pronounced on Eurasian Teal than on Green-winged.
It is sometimes the case, when I plan to look for a certain type of bird, that my target species are nowhere to be found. On those days we have to let go of our expectations and open ourselves to whatever treasures the birding fates have for us. I helped with a field trip today that was supposed to visit a hawk watch site. The ridge was completely socked in by low clouds, so we had to scrap our plans and instead birded open range and farm land.
Likewise, I recently visited Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61) to look for shorebirds. Despite the decent amount of mudflat habitat available, shorebirds were almost non-existent. While I was disappointed in the lack of waders, there is always something interesting to watch.
Always common, but always worth a look, Great Blue Herons will often surprise you with the interesting creatures they are attempting to swallow. On this day I watched one bird swallow a large catfish.
Great Egrets congregate this time of year to fish in the receding waters.
This Peregrine Falcon was keeping watch over the wetlands. This might explain the lack of shorebirds.
We are still in the “ugly brown duck season,” when many birds are still in eclipse plumage. Despite the lack of characteristic colors, most birds can be identified by shape or by tell-tale field marks. This picture shows two Northern Pintails on either side of a Green-winged Teal. The pintails are identified by their pointy backsides and their blue sloping bills. The tiny teal is displaying the green speculum on the wing that give the species its name.