Whimbrels

This spring has seen pretty calm weather. While the sunny days may make for pleasant birding, they do not necessarily lead to great birding. It usually takes some good storms to cause a lot of shorebirds to put down on the Oregon coast. But even in leaner years like this one, we are lucky to have good numbers of Whimbrels working the beaches.

I found a flock of about 35 Whimbrels just north of the Seaside Cove and hung out with them for a while. There is a lot of individual variation among the birds; size, length of bill, and coloring. Here are a few.

Spring migration has wound down, but the southbound migration starts in about three weeks so we don’t have to wait long for more shorebirds.

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Birdathon

Our team for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Birdathon made a 360-mile loop through the Willamette Valley, across the Cascades, and east to the high desert. We tallied 110 species for the day. Here are a few.

Acorn Woodpeckers are reliable near Ankeny NWR. This one was hanging out in a nest hole.

Also at Ankeny, this Yellow-breasted Chat posed and sang for us.

This Pygmy Nuthatch was nesting at Black Butte Ranch, just east of Sisters.

Calliope Crossing, north of Sisters, came through with several examples of its namesake hummingbird. The feeder, placed by one of my teammates on a scouting trip, made watching these little guys easier.

Mountain Chickadees were nesting in a hollow stump just inches from the ground.

Calliope Crossing is also famous for hosting a great variety of woodpeckers. This is a hybrid Red-naped X Red-breasted Sapsucker.

At Smith Rock, we watched this Golden Eagle nest with one downy chick.

Bald Eagles were also nesting at Smith Rock.

Ogden Wayside hosted a colony of ground Squirrels. I believe these are Merriam’s Ground Squirrels, although I have trouble distinguishing Merriam’s from Belding’s Ground Squirrel. I need to do some rodent research.

It was a fun, albeit exhausting, day. There is still time to contribute to Portland Audubon’s fundraiser. Click here for more information.

 

 

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Spring Continues

Spring migration continues to rev up. Warbler numbers and diversity are increasing along with other songbirds. This Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler was at Tualatin River NWR.

Downy Woodpecker showing his tongue

This Pacific Wren was singing at Pittock Mansion. These birds are usually concealed in the thickest cover. But when a male is in full song, they will often find a tall perch in the open and put on a show.

This Red-breasted Sapsucker posed on a fence at Cooper Mountain Nature Park. It is always nice to see this species at eye level.

Along with the influx of migration, another sign of spring is Birdathon, the annual fundraiser for the Audubon Society of Portland. This is a highly effective conservation organization in the Pacific Northwest. ASP also offers classes for children and adults, and runs the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in the Portland area. I am part of the team from the Backyard Bird Shops, the Retailed Hawks. We will be birding the southern Willamette Valley before crossing the Cascades to the high desert. Please consider making a donation here.

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Spring in the Wetlands

Spring is coming on strong, despite the cold latter half of March. The season is most obvious in the open habitats around wetlands. Local nesters are starting to pair up and collect nesting material.The winter sparrow flocks are starting to thin out, but the birds that remain are active and vocal. This Fox Sparrow (with a Golden-crowned Sparrow in the background) was at Fernhill Wetlands.

The local Song Sparrows are paired up and are defending territories.

Bushtits are still in their winter flocks, but should be pairing off soon.

This male Hooded Merganser caught a large crayfish at Westmoreland Park, but did not share it with the female that was nearby.

Anna’s Hummingbird, feeding on currant

This is one of five subadult Bald Eagles that flew over Westmoreland Park in a tight group. I don’t recall seeing a flock of Bald Eagles moving together like that before.

Western Canada Goose, the locally nesting subspecies. I am trying to collect portraits of the various Canada and Cackling Goose subspecies for side-by-side comparison.

These Red-eared Sliders were basking at Commonwealth Lake. There are only two native species of freshwater turtle in Oregon, and this is not one of them. This species is often released from the pet trade.

In the next few weeks, warblers and flycatchers should start arriving in good numbers, then the rush of spring shorebird migration.

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Eurasian Teal

eurasian teal
This Eurasian Teal was hanging out a Jackson Bottom Wetlands. In the United States, Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca crecca) is considered a subspecies of Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca carolinensis), but in Europe, they are considered separate species.

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Males are pretty easy to differentiate. Eurasian Teal has white horizontal bars along the back and pale edges on the facial markings, while Green-winged Teal has vertical bars near the shoulder and lacks the pale borders on the face. Females are much more similar to each other. Eurasians average paler on the face with more white in the wing, but the two are not readily distinguished in the field.

Personally, I like to consider them separate species, but my motivation is based on my desire to list two species, rather than any scientific evidence.

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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.

white-crowned brush
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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