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.
I walked around Jackson Bottom in Hillsboro this morning. As you would expect at this time of year, there were lots of young birds around. This young Savannah Sparrow posed nicely. His parents have not taught him to skulk in the weeds yet.
The best bird of the day was this male Blue-winged Teal (right foreground), always hard to find in the Willamette Valley. He flew in with a small flock of Cinnamon Teal.
Families of young Mallards were everywhere.
These Canada Geese are mostly grown, but retain a bit of their cute fuzziness.
I was surprised by the lack of migrant shorebirds. The resident Spotted Sandpipers were well represented.
Lots of Nutria were out this morning. Yes, introduced species often wreak havoc on native ecosystems, AND, Nutria look like adorable little bears.
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 visited several sites in Washington County to check for migrant shorebirds, inspired by the recent appearance of a Spotted Redshank at Fern Ridge Reservoir (Birding Oregon p 89) . I didn’t find anything so rare, but a few birds are moving through and there is promising mudflat habitat available.
A lot of work is being done at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), resulting in the closure of a small section of the trail around Fernhill Lake.
The big news at Fernhill is the low water level of Fernhill Lake, creating mudflats along the shore for the first time in many years. Several species of shorebirds were feeding there today.
Water levels in Mitigation Marsh are quite high, so there wasn’t much mud. These Long-billed Dowitchers were hanging out with a Mallard.
This Great Blue Heron caught a Bullhead (I can’t tell if it is a Yellow or Black Bullhead). He caught the fish near the middle of the lake, then flew to the shore to eat it.
There was some mudflat habitat at Jackson Bottom Wetland (Birding Oregon p. 60), but not a lot of shorebirds yet. The Hardhack is in bloom, adding a splash of color to the marsh.
One of these days I may have to break down and buy a field guide to dragonflies. Or maybe I will just learn to appreciate beautiful creatures without putting a name to them.
Tree Swallows are thick at Jackson Bottom. Notice the dusky wash across the upper breast. Young Tree Swallows can show extensive dark coloring here, leading some birders to confuse them with Bank Swallows.
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