Winter Waterfowl

Waterfowl seem to dominate the birding scene in the Willamette Valley in winter. Year-round residents, like this Pied-billed Grebe, are joined by a host of winter migrants.

My camera hates white birds, but managed to capture this Common Merganser pretty well.

I usually gloss over Mallards, but they are a pretty duck.

Ring-necked Duck

Eurasian Wigeon have been hard to come by the past couple of winters, so it was nice to see this pretty boy at Dawson Creek.American Wigeon remain common on grassy lawns and ponds.

Green-winged Teal, also at Dawson Creek.

There are other birds around this time of year, like sparrows and raptors. But while it is nice to see that Merlin fly overhead and the flocks of Golden-crowned Sparrows deep in the brush piles, sometimes it is good to take the time to study and appreciate the waterfowl that sit out in the open in the daylight.

Happy Winter

Killin Wetlands

Another freakishly sunny autumn day took me to Killin Wetlands.

This park was developed fairly recently, with a nice parking lot and some informational signage.

The trails don’t get very close to the water, so a scope would be useful.

Here are just a few of the thousand or so Cackling Geese that were using the site that morning. You can also see a few Dusky Canada Geese and Northern Pintails in the photo.

I don’t think I have ever seen so many Nutria in one spot. Here are just a few, sunning themselves on a little island.

I thought the weedy patches along the trail would host more sparrows, but a few Song and Golden-crowned were all I could find.

There is a nice stand of pines on this site. I think it would be a good spot to look for owls in winter.

Northern Flicker

Just a little to the west of the Metro Park is the original Killin Wetlands site at the corner of Cedar Canyon and Killin Roads. There are no trails here, but you can get close to the water.

American Wigeon

Three River Otters were a treat to see.

Happy Autumn

Dreary February

February weather can be the most challenging, with cold temperatures and frequent rain. We desperately need the moisture so I am not complaining, but it is harder to get motivated to get out into the cold and damp. I continue to concentrate on my 5-mile radius, with my total currently sitting at 70 species for the year. I expect that to jump up a bit this week.

This lovely American Wigeon has been hanging out at Commonwealth Lake Park. Birds with this much white on the head are known as Storm Wigeon.

This Killdeer, along with two others, was doing a pretty good job hiding in a little clump of leaves.

Wilson’s Snipes continue to be common at Commonwealth. That long bill helps him blend in with the sticks.

Red-winged Blackbird in fresh spring plumage. I imagine those rusty fringes will wear off to reveal a more uniform black outfit soon.

Happy winter

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

Smith and Bybee Wetlands

I walked through Smith and Bybee Wetlands after an unsuccessful gull chase in northwest Portland. Here are a few highlights.

otter headsA pair of River Otters were in the slough. It is always a treat to see this species.
otter shakeotter tongueriver otter 1otter tail
There were actually a few birds around. I ran into several mixed flocks of small birds that defy point-and-shoot photography.

orange-crowned warblerOrange-crowned Warbler

ruby-crowned kingletRuby-crowned Kinglet
ruby-crowned kinglet 2The same bird, showing just a peek of his namesake ruby crown.

american wigeonThe slough had a few waterfowl, all keeping a safe distance from the otters. Here is an American Wigeon.

northern shovelerNorthern Shoveler

ring-necked duckRing-necked Duck

Raptors were well represented by Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawk, and Red-shouldered Hawk, none of which wished to be photographed. Despite the rainy conditions, it was a productive trip.

Waterfowl Class

I led my waterfowl class on a field trip to Sauvie Island and Dawson Creek. We had a few big misses (Gadwall and Wood Duck) but the diversity was pretty good.

mixed flockAt Wapato Access Greenway we found some Dusky Canada Geese along with the American Wigeons and Northern Pintails.

coyoteThis Coyote was munching on a vole.

swansTundra Swan was one of the most common species of the day.

lincoln's sparrowThis Lincoln’s Sparrow was very cooperative, posing out in the open for great scope views. But even then he blended in amazingly well with his surroundings.

cootsYou don’t get to see American Coots in flight very often, as they tend to walk or swim wherever they go. They have even been reported to migrate on foot.

canvasbackCanvasback, looking very regal
canvasback bathSame bird, looking not quite so regal

wigeon pair 1American Wigeon pair, Dawson Creek

buffleheadBufflehead, preparing to dive

cackler 1Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, 13 November 2013

The weather has entered its dark and dreary pattern, typical for Portland in late autumn. This makes for dark grainy photos, but here are a few shots from Crystal Springs in southeast Portland.

steller's jaySteller’s Jay, looking all artsy among the architecture of the boardwalk

coot backThis American Coot appears to be concerned with modesty while preening.

coot front 2Here is the same individual feeding on land. I always appreciate the chance to see this species’ lobed feet.

canadaWestern Canada Goose

wigeonAmerican Wigeon, with Bufflehead in the background

wood duck frontWood Duck
wood duck female

wood duck maleI don’t know what this Wood Duck was carrying. They eat acorns, but this appears to be something different.

I am hoping for some sunshine for my next outing.

Dawson Creek

Nala and I went out to Dawson Creek Park in Hillsboro to look for a Rusty Blackbird reported the day before. This site, a private park associated with the office park behind the public library, is a manicured park with paved trails around a series of small ponds. It attracts good numbers of waterfowl in winter, some migrant songbirds, and a few resident Acorn Woodpeckers.

wood duck 5Wood Ducks are common in the ponds.
wood duck 2Some of the males were displaying to the females, swimming around slowly with their heads lowered.
wood duck 3Such a handsome boy

l cackling flockCackling Geese were grazing on the lawns.

kestrel 1American Kestrel
kestrel 2The same bird later, with lunch

wigeon 1There were just a few American Wigeons in one of the ponds. I expect their numbers to increase at this site within the next couple of weeks.
wigeon 2

rusty blackbird 1Just as I was finishing my tour of the site, I finally saw my target bird (the Rusty Blackbird, not the Mallard). It would have been nice to get some full-frame photos like some other birders were able to get about three minutes earlier, but I was glad to add this species to my Oregon list. There are less than 20 accepted records of this species in the state. Rusty Blackbirds have experienced drastic population declines in the last few decades.

Westmoreland Park, 2/27

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.

hooded merganserThe 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.

hooded merganser profileThere must be some powerful muscles in that little neck.

american and eurasian wigeonTwo Eurasian Wigeons, both females, remain with the local American Wigeon flock. Here is one of the Eurasians next to a male American.

eurasian wigeon femaleHere 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 gooseTaverner’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.

Eurasian and American Wigeons


It’s always nice when similar species pose side by side for direct comparison. These two wigeons, Eurasian on the left, American on the right, were engaged in some synchronized grazing. The female Eurasian Wigeon is a warm brown color, compared to the colder gray/brown tones of the American.


Male wigeons are easier. The Eurasian has a rusty head with just a hint of green behind the eye, and a clear demarcation between the pinkish breast and the gray vermiculated sides.