Cannon Beach/Seaside

Nala and I spent a unseasonably warm morning around the towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside. Spring migration is just starting to kick in, but things are still pretty slow.

IMG_8591Since the tide was out, we were able to get pretty close to Haystack Rock and its compliment of Harlequin Ducks.
IMG_8594

IMG_8601This band of California Gulls were hanging out on the beach (yellow legs), accompanied by a couple of young Western/Glaucous Winged (pink legs).

IMG_8607Most of the wintering Mew Gulls have left, but this one was on the beach in Gearhart.

IMG_8605Small numbers of Caspian Terns have returned to the Necanicum Esturary. A few were holding fish, trying to impress the ladies. It should work. I can be won over pretty easily with a vegan doughnut from VooDoo.

IMG_8602This bird was vexing. He is obviously a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but I was convinced he was a Hutton’s Vireo. He moved very methodically, actually standing still for several seconds at a time. Spastic kinglets never sit still for that long.
IMG_8603But he has the classic field marks of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet; a black bar at the base of the secondaries (lacking in Hutton’s), and black legs with yellow feet (all gray in Hutton’s). I don’t know why his behavior was so un-kinglet-like. Just another reminder to mind the details as well as the gestalt.

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Fernhill Wetlands

If you haven’t been to Fernhill Wetlands since the major renovations were completed, you should definitely check it out. There is still a fairly large lake to attract divers, but now there is also a large emergent wetland to explore.

brewer's bbBrewer’s Blackbirds were holding court in the parking lot.

rw blackbirdThe Red-winged Blackbirds are setting up their territories.

swallowsTree Swallows, giving each other that “come hither” look.

ridgeway's cacklingEven though the local nesters are getting down to business, there are still plenty of wintering Cackling Geese around. These are Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese.

bullfrogThere is certainly no shortage of American Bullfrogs at Fernhill, which may explain why I didn’t find any native frogs.

fishThe shallow waters are teaming with these minnows. I can’t tell what species they are.

garter and feetI surprised this little Northwestern Garter Snake while she was sunning herself. I saw a Common Garter later in the visit.
nw garterNorthwestern Garter Snake

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Powell Butte

I hadn’t been to Powell Butte Nature Park in east Portland since they finished renovations. They had been working on one of the water system reservoirs and have added more parking, a visitor center, and new trail markers and maps. The targets of this visit were several Mountain Bluebirds that had been hanging out for a while.

mt bluebirdI found a male and two three females, all of whom kept their distance.

yellow-rumpedThere was a big wave of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the park. All that I got a good look at were Audubon’s race, and most were male.

say'sAnother regional rarity that has been hanging out at Powell Butte is this Say’s Phoebe. This bird was active and vocal, but also kept his distance.

kestrelThe open meadows are attractive to Northern Harriers (not photogenic) and American Kestrels (slightly more cooperative). The raptors can make it harder to study the grassland songbirds, but this site is still very productive. There was one singing Savannah Sparrow while I was there. In a few weeks, that bird will be joined by more Savannahs and Lazuli Buntings.

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Sauvie Island

IMG_8515I went to Sauvie Island to scout areas for my Little Brown Birds class next week. The huge flocks of waterfowl that spend the winter there have dwindled, but there are still a lot of birds around. This White-crowned Sparrow was enjoying a dust bath on the first dry sunny day we have had in a long time.

IMG_8513Golden-crowned Sparrows are still the most common species in the sparrow patches.

IMG_8520Song Sparrows are not as numerous, but are very vocal right now.

IMG_8505Raptors are still thick out at Sauvie. This Cooper’s Hawk did not make it any easier to find sparrows.

IMG_8507One of many Bald Eagles seen that day.

IMG_8530Red-tailed Hawk, scoping out the surrounding fields for rodents

IMG_8523A distant Greater Yellowlegs. It is a little early for shorebirds, but their migration should be picking up in the next few weeks.

IMG_8503There were Raccoon tracks all along Rentenaar Road.

Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, and Cackling Geese are still present in good numbers, but spring migration should bring big changes soon.

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Settling In

purple finch maleI moved at the end of last year. It was not a great distance (less than 100 yards as the finch flies), but I was anxious to see how long it would take the birds to find my feeders. When people ask me that question, I generally tell them between six minutes and six months. The Anna’s Hummingbirds found their feeders almost immediately. The seed feeder sat unnoticed for about a week.

The first birds I saw were a mixed flock of Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Not too shabby. A few House Finches came by a few days later. Things remained pretty quiet for a few weeks, but activity has recently taken an upturn. A pair of Purple Finches, including the ridiculously beautiful male pictured above, have been regular visitors. Lesser Goldfinches and Pine Siskins have joined the House Finches, and Dark-eyed Juncos and Spotted Towhees are busy on the ground under the feeder.

The biggest surprise at the feeder has been a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches, a species I never saw at the old location. These birds have eluded my efforts to obtain a photo. I am looking forward to seeing what else will appear.

purple femalefemale Purple Finch

pine siskinPine Siskin

Red-breasted SSNot a feeder bird, but a Red-breasted Sapsucker spent a few days on the property.

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Plover-palooza

mountain 1
I went to South Beach State Park, just south of Newport, to see the Mountain Plover that has been spending the winter there. I have seen this species in Kansas, but it is a special treat to see one in Oregon. Newport is beyond my normal chase radius, but this particular bird has been unusually reliable and cooperative, so I felt I needed to seize this opportunity.

mountain 2As plovers go, Mountain Plovers are pretty plain. They don’t have the flashy bands or patches of color found on other species. But their drab colors match the drab habitats of their normal range, and their scarcity greatly enhances their attractiveness to birders. If Killdeer were rare, we would be dazzled by their gaudy plumage. But since they are common and noisy, we tend to pass them by.

mountain 3Mountain Plover, giving a subtle “come hither” look.

snowy 1The Mountain Plover has been hanging out with a small flock of Snowy Plovers. This species nests from the central Oregon coast south, but is hard to find further north. These birds were even more accommodating than the Mountain Plover, walking right by me at close range. As with most shorebirds, these birds will get very close if you lie down on the sand and let them come to you. If you are lying down, you are no longer a large upright predator, you are a seal and pose no threat.

snowy 2Snowy Plover, taking a break

snowy 3Some of the Snowies were marked with colored leg bands. I appreciate the efforts being made to study and protect this threatened species, but I feel bad for birds who have to wear this jewelry their entire lives. The bands don’t seem to hinder the birds.

I spent a little time on the beach enjoying the show before the rains returned. While the six hours of driving were no fun, my little plover party on the beach was worth the trip.

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More Wetlands

Wetlands in the Willamette Valley are very birdy in winter, so those areas tend to get most of the birding efforts this time of year. Of course, given the amount of rain we have had the past few weeks, it is hard to find any place that isn’t a wetland.

eurasian sideMy recent waterfowl class was supposed to bird Jackson Bottom, but since that site was flooded we went to Dawson Creek behind the Hillsboro library. We found three Eurasian Wigeons, including this male.
eurasian front

taverner'sMost of the Cackling Geese we saw were flying over, but this Taverner’s Cackling Goose posed nicely for us.

dovesSmith and Bybee Wetlands hosted a large flock of Eurasian Collared Doves. Here are four feeding along the railroad track with two Mourning Doves in the foreground.
eurasian collared

red-shoulderedThis Red-shouldered Hawk is a regular at Smith and Bybee, but seldom sits out in the open.

ruddyThis male Ruddy Duck was on Force Lake. It seems odd to me that Ruddies don’t molt into breeding plumage until late spring.

golden-crownedA flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows were hanging out in the blackberries by Force Lake. I’ll have to start scouting sparrow patches soon for my Little Brown Birds class in March. Hopefully the rain will taper off by then.

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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.

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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

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Barred Owl

IMG_0121We were pleasantly startled to find this Barred Owl perched on our bridge this week. We have heard one on the property before, but this is the first good look we have had. After some crows started giving him grief, the owl moved to a more sheltered perch in a Curly Willow.

barred closeupHe was visible in this tree for two days, but windy weather has since sent him looking for a more stable roosting spot. I hope he stays around. There are certainly plenty of non-native squirrels and other rodents to keep him busy.

barred sleepingCheck out the feathered eyelids.

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