I took a quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands this week. Great changes are planned for this site. The main lake will be made smaller, and the other two impoundments will be replaced with emergent wetlands. I am looking forward seeing how things progress. Here are some birds and other critters from the trip.
As spring approaches, the numbers and diversity at Portland’s Westmoreland Park are starting to wain. The winter gull flock is down to Glaucous-winged X Western hybrids and two Herring Gulls. While there is no shortage of white-cheeked geese, there were very few other species of waterfowl on this visit.
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.
Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, is always worth a quick visit in winter.
Westmoreland is also a good spot for studying the various subspecies of the white-cheeked goose complex. This is a Taverner’s Cackling Goose, identified by her medium bill (covered in down for some reason), blocky head, and pale breast.
Western Canada Goose bathing
I birded Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for my waterfowl class. Waterfowl numbers have dropped considerably in the past week, suggesting that some birds have already started their northward migration.
Pintail Marsh hosted this small flock of Tundra Swans and Dusky Canada Geese. Protecting winter habitat for the rare Duskies was the main reason for establishing the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Westmoreland Park (Birding Oregon p. 69) is one of Portland’s premier loafing spots for gulls and waterfowl in autumn and winter. The city is planning to restore the natural flow of the creek in what is now an urban duck pond, so it will be interesting to see how these changes will affect bird use over time.
This female Surf Scoter has been hanging out for about a week. She is apparently finding enough mollusks to eat in this muddy pond. A few of these sea ducks are found on the Columbia River and on larger bodies of water in winter, but they are unexpected on such a small pond.
It is time for another installment in the constant effort to separate Lesser Canada Goose (Branta canadensis parvipes) from Taverner’s Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii taverneri). The two species overlap in size and coloring, but structural differences are often apparent to those of us nerdy enough to study lawns covered in geese.
Here are two Western Canada Geese (B. c. moffitti) and a Lesser Canada Goose. They are nearly identical in color and shape, but the Lesser is about 2/3 the size of the Western. This is your best clue to identifying Lessers.
Compare these Taverner’s to the Lesser. On a Taverner’s Cackling Goose, the neck appears thicker and often shorter. The forehead forms a noticeable bump where it meets the bill. (This causes the bill to appear stubby, but there actually isn’t much difference in the bill shape between the two species.) The breast on Taverner’s is often lighter in color than that of Lesser Canada, but both species show a lot of individual variation.
An arctic air mass brought cold temperatures and ice to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), but there was no shortage of birds. Here are some grainy gray photos from a lap around the ponds.
It’s time for another installment of my attempts to sort out the Canada/Cackling Goose complex. I recently had nice views of a Lesser Canada Goose (Branta canadensis parvipes).
This bird stood out from the nearby Western Canada Geese by the slightly darker barring on his upper breast. Some populations of this subspecies are considerably darker than this.
Compare these Taverner’s Cackling Geese (Branta hutchinsii taverneri) to the Lesser Canada. Taverner’s Cackling has a uniformly thick neck and shorter bill. Notice how the wing tips extend just beyond the end of the tail. Canada Geese have shorter wings.