Commonwealth Lake Park

Commonwealth Lake Park is your typical urban duck pond nestled in the Portland suburb of Beaverton. Such parks are certainly not the places to go if you seek a wilderness experience, but they can be excellent places to study waterfowl up close. They also serve as a quick and easy birding fix when “life” prevents you from getting out in the field as much as you should.

pb grebeSpecies that are normally rather shy, like this Pied-billed Grebe, will often allow a close approach is parks such as this.

cootAmerican Coots, common and often dismissed by birders, are quite lovely when you get close enough.

gadwallGadwall

merg with fishmale Common Merganser, with what I think is a Yellow Bullhead

common mergfemale Common Merganser

gwfGreater White-fronted Geese are common migrants over the Portland area, but uncommon winter residents. Four have been spending the winter at Commonwealth.
gwf stretch

rb gullSince the remodeling of Portland’s Westmoreland Park a couple of years ago, there really hasn’t been a good spot to easily study gulls in the Portland area. This adult Ring-billed Gull was a cooperative model.
ring-billed second cycleThis Ring-billed Gull is in his second plumage cycle.

So while I would much rather walk for several miles in a natural setting to find birds, I am grateful for little urban parks like Commonwealth.

AmberGlen Business Park

Several office parks in the Hillsboro area have nice open spaces that attract birds. AmberGlen has a pond next to a large lawn which attracts good numbers of gulls in winter.

ring-billed and mewMost of the gulls on my recent visit were Ring-billed Gulls, but two Mew Gulls were in the mix. Here is a nice comparison of the two species.

ring-billed roustRing-billed Gull enjoying a roust

ring-billed gull swimmingand a swim

glaucous-winged 2This Glaucous-winged Gull was rocking the lipstick.

ring-necked 3Ring-necked Ducks

eurasian and american wigeonsHere is a male Eurasian Wigeon, with an American Wigeon in the background. I am guessing this is a young bird molting into his first adult plumage. It seems a little late in the season to me,  but I don’t know whether this Asian species has a different molt schedule from his North American counterpart.
eurasian wigeon

Jackson Bottom

great egretsI scouted Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro for my shorebird class this week. Much of the area is dry, but Pintail Pond still has enough water to create mudflats and easy fishing for the Great Egrets.

ring-billed gullOne Ring-billed Gull was hanging out with several California Gulls.

northern harrierThis Northern Harrier repeatedly strafed the mudflats, sending all the shorebirds into a panic. Jerk.

spotted sandpiperMost of the shorebirds were beyond decent photo range, but this Spotted Sandpiper came fairly close.

common garter 1The Common Garter Snakes at this site have great coloring. We saw several chasing fish in the shallow water.

downy frontThis young Downy Woodpecker was checking out a swallow house. He didn’t go in, but explored all around the outside.
downy rightdowny left

McNary Wildlife Nature Area

Looking past the rather awkward name, the McNary Wildlife Nature Area is a great little spot for birding. The park, which came to my attention by hosting the recent Black-headed Gull, is located in the town of Umatilla, just downstream from McNary Dam on the Columbia River. Along with views of river, the park has several small ponds, areas of sagebrush, and riparian woods.

The park can be reached from 3rd street, on the north edge of town. From Hwy 730, west of I-82, turn north on either Switzler Avenue or Brownwell Blvd, then east on 3rd to the park. If you are east of I-82, turn north on Devore Road, then west on 3rd.

black-billed magpieBlack-billed Magpies are common in the area. I have always loved these birds, despite my total inability to get a decent photo of one.

cedar waxwing flockI sorted through hundreds of Cedar Waxwings, looking for the few Bohemian Waxwings that had been reported in the area, but I found no joy.
cedar waxwing

american white pelicansAt least six American White Pelicans were using the park.

black-crowned night-heronAn island in one of the ponds serves as a roosting site for Black-crowned Night-Herons.

common goldeneyeThere was a nice diversity of waterfowl, including this Common Goldeneye.

mixed gull flockGulls were well represented. Along with the abundant Ring-billed, and the famous Black-headed on the left, this shot shows a Mew (just right of center) and a California (right edge, gray legs). Herring and Glaucous-winged were also present.

american robinAmerican Robins and other songbirds were abundant in the brushy areas. A very birdy area overall.

New Year Birding

I went out for a few hours on New Year’s Day to scout locations for my upcoming gull class. The weather was freakishly sunny for a January day in the Portland area.

ring-billed gullsThe only gull flock I found was at Amberglen office park in Hillsboro. Most were Ring-billed Gulls. Here is a first cycle Ring-billed with an adult. As you can see, I am totally incapable of getting a good photo of white birds in bright sunlight.

ring-billed gulladult Ring-billed Gull

mew gullsThese two Mew Gulls were looking very petite among the larger species.

hooded merganserA couple of Hooded Mergansers were swimming near the fountain.

common merganserCommon Merganser

ring-necked duckRing-necked Duck

mallard 2Finally, a bird that doesn’t have a lot of white. This Mallard was looking gorgeous in the bright sun.
mallard 1

Vanport

I took Nala to the dog park next to Vanport Wetlands in hopes of seeing a bird or two between throws of the ball.

eurasian wigeonA male Eurasian Wigeon made a brief appearance.

green-winged tealGreen-winged Teal

gadwall drakeA pair of Gadwalls swam in the nearby slough. gadwall pair

ring-billed gull preeningThe large flock of gulls that had been hanging out in the area were not around that morning, but a large puddle hosted this Ring-billed Gull along with some Mew Gulls. ring-billed gull

mew bathingMew Gulls bathing
mew gulls

The North Coast

I took my shorebird class to the coast, from Cannon Beach to Hammond. While birding overall was good, the shorebirds were less than stellar in both number and diversity.

black oystercatcherBlack Oystercatcher is a reliable species on Haystack Rock.

puffinNesting season is still in full swing on Haystack Rock. Here is a Tufted Puffin among some Common Murres.

mixed flockThe rocks at the Hammond Boat Basin continue to be a reliable high-tide roost for Marbled Godwits and Whimbels.
godwits and whimbrel
whimbrelheerman'sOf course, you can’t go to the coast without appreciating the gulls. Here is a Heermann’s Gull in a rather unflattering stage of molt.
ring-billedFirst cycle Ring-billed Gull

crossbill 1One of the more interesting sightings of the day was a pair of Red Crossbills on the shore of The Cove in Seaside. These birds are usually hard to see as they cruise the tops of large conifers. This pair was down to take salt from the rocks in the intertidal zone. (male pictured, the female eluded the camera)
crossbill 3For the purposes of my shorebird class, it would have been much better to find Black Turnstones, Ruddy Turnstones, Wandering Tattlers, and Surfbirds at this site, but you can’t complain too much when you get to see Crossbills on the beach.