Force Lake

Force Lake, a small lake at the edge of a golf course in north Portland, is not a terribly attractive site, but it can be quite birdy at times. On this visit, a large flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows was feeding in a little patch of lawn.

When startled, the birds would take cover in a patch of blackberries, but would soon come out again to resume feeding.

I only found two birds in the flock that weren’t Golden-crowned Sparrow. One was this White-crowned Sparrow.

The other was this White-throated Sparrow. This species has become increasingly common in Oregon over the past couple of decades, but I am still stoked to find one. This bird was especially cooperative.

The lake hosted a decent variety of waterfowl, but I was intrigued by the Canvasbacks.

This male would dive down to root around in the muck at the bottom of the lake, then come up and do this little dance on the surface. He didn’t seem bothered by the mud facial.

Happy autumn

Spring Waterfowl

I know it is technically not spring yet, but the waterfowl are all either on the move or looking to pair up, so close enough.

A flock of 12 Greater White-fronted Geese stopped by Force Lake in north Portland. This species migrates through the Willamette Valley in great numbers, but are usually just flyovers.

A Greater White-fronted Goose showing off her speckled belly

This Greater Scaup was also at Force Lake. Greater Scaup are more often found on larger bodies of water, like the nearby Columbia River.

The Canvasbacks on Force Lake were apparently mucking around on the bottom of the lake and came up with very muddy faces.

This Gadwall at Commonwealth Lake was showing off for a nearby female.

Green-winged Teal have started to move out of the area. This lone male was at Commonwealth Lake.

Double-crested Cormorants are just starting to get some brighter colors on their facial skin and eyes.

Migration should start to really pick up in the next couple of weeks. Happy Vernal Equinox.

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

Westmoreland Park

Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, is always worth a quick visit in winter.

canvasbackThis Canvasback has a mud on her face from rooting around in the bottom of the pond.

canvasback scratching

lesser scaupLesser Scaup

eurasian wigeon2At least two female Eurasian Wigeons have been spending the winter at Westmoreland. No males have been reported yet this year.

herring gullThis 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.

taverner's cackling gooseWestmoreland 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 cackling goose leftRidgeway’s Cacking Goose (stubby bill, round head, dark breast)

canada goose 1Western 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 bathingWestern Canada Goose bathing

Random Waterfowl

Here are some random shots of some of the many waterfowl species that winter in the Willamette Valley


This Common Merganser was swimming with her face submerged, looking for fish. I have also seen loons hunt in this way.


the same bird preening


Here she finally shows her face. The clearly demarcated white chin helps to differentiate this species from the similar Red-breasted Merganser.


This female Eurasian Wigeon is recognized by her brown head. Notice the female American Wigeon on the right with her gray head.


Here is a distant shot of a mixed flock of waterfowl (click to enlarge). From left to right, you can see Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, Cackling Goose, American Coot, and American Wigeon.