Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, has long been the local go-to spot for wintering gulls and waterfowl. This cement-lined urban duck pond attracted a great variety of diving ducks, large flocks of Cackling and other geese, and at least 8 species of gulls. Last autumn, efforts began to create a more natural creek channel and wetland. Work is still being done, but the park has reopened, revealing a very different habitat.
The pond is gone, and the creek winds through the property along a huge new boardwalk. Low areas along the creek will flood in the wet season, creating standing water for waterfowl.
The creek runs clear, with nice patches of aquatic plants attractive to fish and crayfish.
There are a lot of fish in the creek. These were close enough to the surface to photograph.
This Great Blue Heron was enjoying the new digs.
We will have to wait to see what birds use this site in the winter. The park still has lots of lawn, lots of new picnic tables, and plenty of water, so I am optimistic that this will continue to be the go-to site for Thayer’s Gulls and Eurasian Wigeons in Portland.
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.
The highlight of this trip was a pair of Hooded Mergansers squabbling over a large crayfish. The female finally won possession and, with a great deal of effort, swallowed the crustacean.
There must be some powerful muscles in that little neck.
Two Eurasian Wigeons, both females, remain with the local American Wigeon flock. Here is one of the Eurasians next to a male American.
Here is a close-up of the Eurasian Wigeon. Note the warm brown color and the lack of a black outline around the base of the bill.
Taverner’s Cackling Goose, with a partial white neck ring. It will be just a few weeks before these birds head back north, and we will have to console ourselves with warblers and flycatchers.
Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, is always worth a quick visit in winter.
This Canvasback has a mud on her face from rooting around in the bottom of the pond.
At least two female Eurasian Wigeons have been spending the winter at Westmoreland. No males have been reported yet this year.
This park is one of best gull sites in Portland, although by this time the gull flock is starting to thin out. This is a sleepy Herring Gull.
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.
Ridgeway’s Cacking Goose (stubby bill, round head, dark breast)
Western Canada Geese have long snakey necks, long bills, and pale breasts. While common in Cackling Geese, it is unusual to see such a distinct white neck ring on a Western Canada.
Western Canada Goose bathing
A quick visit to Westmoreland Park in southeast Portland revealed good numbers of waterfowl and gulls typical of this little urban duck pond in the winter.
Two duck butts in the middle of the pond stood out because of their large size. They turned out to be Tundra Swans, the first I have seen at this park.
Of course, every visit to Westmoreland requires a quick scan of the gull flock.
Gadwalls don’t sport a lot of color, but are lovely little ducks.
Best known as a local gull hotspot, Portland’s Westmoreland Park also hosts good numbers of Cackling Geese in winter. This December has been unusually dry and sunny, so instead of my photos being grainy and dark, they are now overexposed.
Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii minima) is the smallest race of Cackler, only slightly larger than a Mallard. Their stubby bills and purplish breasts are good field marks. Many individuals also display a prominent white collar.
Of course, you can’t visit Westmoreland in winter without appreciating a Thayer’s Gull. This is such a hard bird to find throughout much of the country, I always stop to enjoy them, despite their local abundance. You can’t see this bird’s eye or bill, but the white underside of the far wing and the amount of white visible on the outermost primary (p10) on the near wing are both good clues to the bird’s ID. (yeah, I’m a bird nerd, and I’m proud.)
Eurasian Wigeon is another species that Portlanders enjoy on a regular basis, while birders elsewhere can only dream.
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.
The main pond, with a few hundred Cackling Geese
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.
She spent a lot of time feeding under water.
Westmoreland is one of the easier places to find a cooperative Thayer’s Gull.
Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii minima) is the most common of the “white-cheeked” geese in the Willamette Valley in winter.
The Cackling Geese graze in the lawns at Westmoreland, but are more cautious than some of the other waterfowl.
Taverner’s Cackling Goose (B. h. taverneri) in the foreground, with a Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose in the background
Taverner’s Cackling, with another Ridgeway’s Cackling in the background
This Rock Pigeon was enjoying a bath at the pond’s edge.