Random Images

February birding is famously slow around much of Oregon, but, as I like to remind myself, there is always something to see.

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This male Redhead has been spending the winter at Commonwealth Lake Park in Beaverton. It is not often that I get a really close view of these lovely ducks.

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This preening Black Turnstone showed off his flashy backside at the Seaside Cove.

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I have made four trips to Fort Stevens State Park since early December to try to see some of the many White-winged Crossbills that have been spending the winter there. They have eluded me every time. I think I have seen more Elk than I have birds at Fort Stevens this winter.

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The bumper crop of cones on the Sitka Spruces is what has attracted the crossbills. There is a lot of food available and the finches keep moving all the time, so our paths have not crossed. It is kind of like pelagic birding. You are moving around the open ocean in a little boat, looking for birds that are also moving.

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I went out to Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island to chum for sparrows. Conditions were dark and damp, but the head of this White-crowned Sparrow shone from the depths of the brush.

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The Red-winged Blackbirds are getting fired up for spring. This guy was flashing his epaulets but still showed some rusty pattern on his back from his youth.

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preening Green-winged Teal, Westmoreland Park

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preening Gadwall, Crystal Springs

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male Wood Duck, Crystal Springs

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The lighting was not great, but it was nice to see this Lincoln’s Sparrow just sitting out in the open for so long. This is a species that I often see, but am seldom able to show to others because the birds tend to hide in thick cover most of the time. I have two Little Brown Birds classes in March. I hope I can find such a cooperative individual on those days.

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Ridgefield NWR

On rare occasions, I cross the Columbia River to visit Washington. When the weather is less than stellar, the auto tour at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge offers a nice way to get close to wildlife without getting too wet.

A lot of Tundra Swans are wintering at Ridgefield this year. There are Trumpeter Swans, too, but I did not get any close looks at them.
   Tundra Swan bathing

Northern Harriers are common throughout the refuge. This one was having a good stretch.
A family of Nutria put on a nice show. Invasive, but adorable.

Columbian White-tailed Deer, a threatened subspecies, have been introduced to the refuge in recent years. This fawn was born last spring, so at least some of the deer are making themselves at home. Unfortunately, I believe many of the Coyotes that used to be so visible on the refuge have been “removed” to make conditions safer for the rare deer.

This lone Snow Goose was hanging out with the numerous Canada and Cackling Geese.

Northern Pintail

Sandhill Cranes were feeding in the grassy fields.

The last time I visited Ridgefield was during my mom’s final visit to Portland. Her mobility was not great, so the auto tour provided a great way for us to get out to do some birding together. During that visit, the highlight was a cooperative American Bittern. I didn’t find any Bitterns on this trip, but this Great Egret did his best to fill the void.

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Steller’s Eider

The Oregon birding scene has been abuzz the past week and a half about a Steller’s Eider that has been hanging out at the Seaside Cove. Steller’s Eiders normally spend the winter around the Aleutian Islands. Their population has declined in recent decades and the species is listed as threatened in the United States. So it is a pretty big deal that this individual made it all the way south to Oregon and has been so cooperative for so many birders. Yes, she is a little brown duck, but she is a very special little brown duck, only the fourth of her kind to be recorded in Oregon.

I have mixed feelings about chasing individual birds, but I couldn’t pass up what will probably be my only opportunity to see this species. It didn’t hurt that she showed up at the closest coastal point to my house.  Live long and prosper, little brown duck. Thanks for stopping by.

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Glaucous Gull

I found this first-cycle Glaucous Gull at the Seaside Cove recently. He was very accommodating, allowing me close views. I don’t get to see Glaucous Gulls very often, but I was struck by the large size of this bird. He dwarfed the other gulls that were present. The darker markings on this bird have faded, making him appear mostly white.

The Great White Beach Turkey

This head shot shows the pink bill with the distinct black tip, typical of first and second-cycle Glaucous Gulls.

Among the other gulls present that day were this Thayer’s Iceland Gull and this Western Gull, offering a nice comparison of the rather dainty bill of the Iceland and the huge paddle-shaped bill of the Western. It is nice to see different species side by side to remind us that all gulls really DON’T look alike. Happy gulling!

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Shorebirds on the rocks

A recent trip to the coast on a sunny and windy day resulted in these images of shorebirds using rocky habitats. Two of these species are usually found on rocks, but the other two are not. I wonder if the blowing sand had driven these birds to the relatively sheltered rocky areas.

Least Sandpipers are hard to spot among the rocks. This bird was part of a small flock near the jetty at Fort Stevens.

This Dunlin was hanging out on a line of rocks near the same jetty. I have seen Dunlin here before.

Surfbirds at the Seaside Cove. Their color closely matches the dry basalt boulders.

Black Turnstones are common winter residents at the Seaside Cove.

an itchy Black Turnstone

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Twitching in the rain

One of the more popular avian celebrities in Portland this fall is a Virginia’s Warbler that has been visiting the suet feeders at a home for the past several weeks. This is a great bird for Oregon, and the bird has been very cooperative.

Like many area birders, I went to see this bird. It was early in morning and raining. I stood on the sidewalk in front of the house, and in a few minutes I was rewarded with nice looks at a Virginia’s Warbler. It was too dark for decent photos, so I left. This was a twitch; Going to see a bird reported by others, adding the species to your list (Oregon state list in my case) and moving on.

Twitching is not my favorite style of birding, but one I am increasingly reliant on. I would like to bring my Oregon bird list to 400 species. A couple of years ago I sat down with a state checklist and figured out what species I needed to bring my list up to that magical (and totally arbitrary) goal. To my surprise, I discovered that there were only about six regularly occurring species that I hadn’t seen. I could conceivably just go to where those species are regularly found and add them to my list, but that would not get me to my goal. Any other species I added would be a rarity, like, for example, a Virginia’s Warbler.

If I had unlimited time and funds, I could travel around Oregon and find a good number of rare birds on my own. But lacking both of those things, I must take advantage of any opportunity to see an Oregon rarity that shows up close to home. I still want to take my time enjoying a birding site and finding my own birds, but I am not above the occasional twitch.

Virginia’s Warbler, at dawn in the rain. I never claimed to be a photographer. I kept my camera in its bag until after I had gotten good looks at this bird. I have seen this species before, but it had been a long time.

This Yellow-rumped Warbler was a better poser.

After twitching the warbler, I went to Broughton Beach to enjoy the Mew Gulls.

Ring-billed Gull, Mew Gulls, and a Western/Glaucous-winged hybrid

After waiting out a downpour at Smith and Bybee Wetlands, I was treated to this brief rainbow. A nice end to damp morning.

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Koll Center Wetlands

A couple of Black-crowned Night-Herons has been hanging out at Koll Center Wetlands recently. This spot is strictly parking lot birding (pull up, get out of the car, and scan the pond), but it has attracted more than it’s share of interesting sightings – like Black-crowned Night-Herons.
Other recent celebrities at this site include a group of up to six River Otters. These are such neat animals. It is a treat to find them in such an urban setting.
Common Mergansers, like these two males, are some of the many species of waterfowl currently using the wetlands.
female Common Merganser

Pied-billed Grebe
Nothing too rare or exotic, but we are lucky to have this little urban wetland to spice up an otherwise dreary autumn day.

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Taverner’s Cackling Goose vs. Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose

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On a recent trip to Commonwealth Lake Park in Beaverton, I had the opportunity to observe Taverner’s and Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese side-by-side. Taverner’s are larger, with pale breasts and slightly longer bills. Ridgeway’s have dark, iridescent breasts (on adults) and stubby little bills.

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Here is a close look at a Taverner’s Cackling Goose, the subspecies most likely to be confused with Lesser Canada Goose. Lesser Canada Geese have thinner necks and slightly longer bills.

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The bill on a Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose is thick and stubby, and the neck often appears very short and thick. This subspecies is generally regarded as the most adorable.

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Another fun goose at Commonwealth that day was this Greater White-fronted Goose. A few of these have been hanging out at Commonwealth the past few winters.

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Not a goose, but a gorgeous bird when you get a close enough view, is this Double-crested Cormorant. You can expect to see a few of these whenever you visit this site.

The American Wigeon flock was pretty small this day, but I expect the wintering birds to increase in the coming weeks.

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Random Images

Once again, here are a few photos from the past few weeks’ ramblings.

While one can admire the adorableness of this Black-capped Chickadee, the real bird of interest is his drinking buddy in the background, a Pine Siskin. Siskins were pretty much non-existent last year as their population took a big downturn (as it does every few years). This fall has brought good numbers of Pine Siskins to the Willamette Valley already, so it looks to be a good year for them.

This Short-eared Owl flushed from Broughton Beach and flew out over the Columbia River before heading downstream. Short-eareds winter at this site with some regularity. I felt bad about flushing the bird. If she had just sat still, I probably would have walked right by and not seen her. I would think that birds who roost in such a high-traffic area would learn to adjust to passers-by.

My gull class went to the coast last weekend. We found nine species of gull, one less than last year but still great diversity. One of the first was this first cycle Ring-billed Gull.

Bonaparte’s Gulls get the award for cutest gull on the Oregon coast.
Even though they lose their black hoods in winter, you can still see the white eye crescents when they turn just so.

The Seaside Cove hosted several Surfbirds along with a flock of Black Turnstones. Both of these species are reliable at this site in fall and winter, but it still feels like a treat to find them every time I’m there.

The forecast for the next week calls for cool and rainy weather, so we shall see what changes that brings to the birding.

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Mount Hood

At least once a year I like to visit the moonscape that is Mount Hood above Timberline Lodge. The birding there is hit or miss, sometimes yielding great spectacles like a flock of 200 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, and sometimes offering little besides a distant Common Raven. This trip was somewhere in between.

Every trip to the mountain results in at least one photo of a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel. Yes, we see them every time, but their cuteness knows no bounds.

Mountain Bluebirds are expected here in the warmer months.

Townsend’s Solitaires are a little harder to come by, but are usually around in small numbers.

The sun at this elevation is pretty intense, making even this Common Raven glisten.

Another bird on a stick; Red-tailed Hawk. I hope to see migrating raptors when I visit Timberline in autumn. There wasn’t much movement on this day, but I did see several Red-tails, a Prairie Falcon, and at least one Sharp-shinned Hawk.

California Tortoiseshells were present in good numbers. I don’t know what they were eating, as all the blossoms had long since dried up.

So ends another visit to Timberline. While the birding varies, it is always fun to explore this part of the mountain.

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