I took my Little Brown Birds class to Sauvie Island. A walk along the length of Rentenaar Road is always good for sparrows.
We found at least four White-throated Sparrows. This species was considered quite rare in Oregon ten years ago, but seem to be increasingly common in winter.
This individual is an example of the “white striped” form of White-throated Sparrow.
One of the more interesting birds of the day was this leucistic Golden-crowned Sparrow. He was a uniform buffy gray with a splash of yellow on the crown.
There are still large flocks of Snow Geese on the island.
Sandhill Cranes are always a treat.
I led my waterfowl class on a field trip to Sauvie Island and Dawson Creek. We had a few big misses (Gadwall and Wood Duck) but the diversity was pretty good.
At Wapato Access Greenway we found some Dusky Canada Geese along with the American Wigeons and Northern Pintails.
This Coyote was munching on a vole.
Tundra Swan was one of the most common species of the day.
This Lincoln’s Sparrow was very cooperative, posing out in the open for great scope views. But even then he blended in amazingly well with his surroundings.
You don’t get to see American Coots in flight very often, as they tend to walk or swim wherever they go. They have even been reported to migrate on foot.
Canvasback, looking very regal
Same bird, looking not quite so regal
American Wigeon pair, Dawson Creek
Bufflehead, preparing to dive
Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose
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.
Here are some Snow Geese within a flock of Dusky Canada Geese. If you look closely you will find one Taverner’s Cackling Goose and a couple of Mallards.
One Greater White-fronted Goose was hanging out with the Taverner’s Cackling Geese. Greater White-fronts are hard to come by in winter, so we were fortunate to find this individual.
Green-winged Teal, the smallest duck in North America, and one of the prettiest
A very distant view of a Rough-legged Hawk
Rentenaar Road, on Sauvie Island, is one of the better sparrow patches in the Portland area. I found ten species this morning, about typical for this time of year. This boldly patterned White-throated Sparrow was one of the prettier ones.
Golden-crowned Sparrows are the most common sparrows along this stretch of road.
Lincoln’s Sparrow, one of my favorites and one of the hardest to photograph
Spotted Towhee with two Golden-crowned Sparrows
The rarest bird of the day was this Harris’s Sparrow. This is the third winter in a row that a Harris’s (perhaps the same bird) has been wintering at this location.
Harris’s Sparrow with Golden-crowns
Harris’s with White-crowned
and finally, the Harris’s with a tan-morph White-throated Sparrow in the background. It’s nice that this visitor from the Great Plains gets along with everyone.
While certainly not a sparrow, this American Robin was just begging to be photographed, so here you go.
After the wettest March on record, April has provided a few sunny days to help awaken us from our rain-induced torpor.
I made a quick trip out to Fernhill Wetlands to look for the Swamp Sparrow that has been reported there. Between the sunbreaks, I still had to dodge a few passing squalls.
I missed the Swamp Sparrow, but this Song Sparrow was very cooperative.
Here is the same Song Sparrow in a little more natural setting, if you consider invasive Reed Canary Grass to be natural.
Much of the loop around Fernhill Wetlands has been blocked off, supposedly to reduce disturbance to the new Bald Eagle nest.
A pair of eagles has been hanging out in this little grove of cottonwoods for years, so I would imagine they are used to birders and joggers going by, but better safe than sorry.
The Yellow-rumped Warblers have molted into their flashy breeding plumage. This one is an example of the “myrtle” race.
On Saturday I took some clients out to Sauvie Island for a morning of birding. This view of Mt. St. Helens is from the west end of Rentenaar Road.
Sandhill Cranes, seen here with a flock of Cackling Geese, were common in the morning. But as the day progressed, many birds circled up on thermals and then headed north. By noon, most of the cranes were gone.
Most of the sparrows seen just a week earlier had moved on. Two White-throated Sparrows were a treat. Singing Orange-crowned Warblers and five species of swallows were other good signs that migration is stepping up. I’m looking forward to the next sunny day.
I took advantage of the dry weather to scout Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p. 55) for my Little Brown Birds field trip.
Sandhill Cranes are still present in good numbers.
The Osprey nest along Rentenaar Road is occupied again.
We just had our wettest March on record, so water levels are high. This is the view from the end of Rentenaar Road. The white speck on the lake is an American White Pelican. White Pelicans have become increasing common on Sauvie Island in recent summers, but sightings this early in the year are unusual.
Here is the same bird coming in to land.
I take my LBB class to Sauvie for the abundance of sparrows. (We ended up with ten species of sparrow on our trip.) Here is a White-throated Sparrow, one of the rarer species in our area.
This Fox Sparrow was bathing in a puddle.
Scouting for and leading two field trips for my Little Brown Birds class gave me opportunity to bird Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p. 57) three mornings in a row. It was interesting to see how the species list varied each day. It served as a reminder that every birding trip, no matter how often you cover the same spot, has the potential for something new.
The Ospreys that nest on this platform have returned within the past week. This was the only species that seemed willing to pose for the camera.
This location is one of the best in the Portland area to study sparrows this time of year. Between the two field trips, my class saw ten species; Golden-crowned, White-crowned, White-throated, Harris’s, Song, Fox, Lincoln’s, Savannah, Dark-eyed Junco, and Spotted Towhee. Many of these birds will have moved on in the next few weeks.
I was headed to the coast early last Friday when I heard on the radio that the area was under a tsunami warning. While a true hard-core birder might have continued on, I decided to turn around and ended up walking parts of Sauvie Island instead. This Lincoln’s Sparrow was preening in a blackberry thicket along Rentenaar Road (Birding Oregon p.57). The dark spot and line on the bird’s breast are a result of the feathers being fluffed out.
This stretch of dirt road is one of the spots we will visit for my upcoming Little Brown Birds class for The Audubon Society of Portland. The Saturday field trip is full, but a few spaces remain on the Friday trip. For information, go to http://audubonportland.org/trips-classes-camps/adult/classes/lbbs2011.
Here are a few recent shots from Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p. 55).
Sandhill Cranes are still present in good numbers.
Here are some Sandhills with three Dusky Canada Geese (Branta canadensis occidentalis). Note the red plastic collar on the goose on the far left. That is a quick way to identify this subspecies.
While the Sandhill Cranes and Dusky Canada Geese will fly to Alaska to nest, the Great Blue Herons are in full nesting mode now on Sauvie Island. Here is a section of a rookery in a distant tree line. You can see the bulky nests and, if you look closely, several birds perched in the branches.
I always enjoy checking out the Purple Martin houses behind a home on Sauvie Island. These large swallows are one of the more popular yard birds in the eastern U.S. , but the species is much less common in the West. This site on Sauvie Island is one of the few places in the Portland area to find them.
Here a female is putting nesting material into a martin house. The “natural” nesting habitat for Purple Martins is a cavity, usually an old woodpecker hole. But for the past two centuries, most of the population has chosen to nest in man-made structures.