Tillamook

I had to go to Tillamook Bay to get some photos for an upcoming webinar. This particular day had freakishly nice weather, very un-Tillamook-like. Ideally, during fall migration, a birder hopes for onshore winds to bring seabirds and shorebirds close to shore, and a light overcast to provide gentle light for viewing and cool temperatures. This day brought light east winds, a cloudless cobalt blue sky, and temperatures in the 80s. I guess we have to play the cards we are dealt.

This is the Three Graces Tidal Area. The sun hadn’t cleared the hill yet so it was too dark to photograph the Harlequin Duck that was swimming around the rocks. Harlequins are regular at this site.

At the Bay City Oyster Plant, this Double-crested Cormorant was taking advantage of the sun to dry his wings.

Black Phoebe on the pilings at the oyster plant

With the east winds, shorebirds were very rare on this trip. This mixed flock of Least and Western Sandpipers at the oyster plant was the only big flock of the day.

Western Gull, hanging out on the Purple Martin boxes

I did the Tillamook Death March around Bayocean Spit. The ocean side of the spit is typically not as birdy as the bay side, but there was not a single shorebird on this trip.

There had apparently been at least a couple of shorebirds here earlier in the day.

Always glad to see these signs, hope that the Snowy Plover population will continue to recover on the Oregon Coast.

The Common Ravens on the beach were pretty skittish. I wonder if they have been “encouraged” to avoid the plover nesting areas.

There were a lot of these jellyfish near the mouth of the bay. Yet another reason I don’t swim in the ocean.

Despite the summery weather, autumn migrants, like this Red-necked Grebe, are trickling in.

A Mew Gull with two California Gulls

Despite the eerily nice weather, there were a few birds around. We need to remind ourselves that there is always something to see.

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.

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

IMG_0085
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.

taverner
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.

ridgeway's
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.

IMG_0084
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.

cormorant
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.

Double-crested Cormorants

cormorant 1Double-crested Cormorants always put on a good show along the Willamette River in Portland. For being an all black bird, they really show a lot of interesting details in their plumage. The blue eyes on an orange face are also striking.

cormorant 3This bird is just starting to sprout his crest feathers.

cormorant 4This young bird is still showing his pale gray breast and neck, but the facial skin is getting pretty bright.

IMG_6772This is what it looks like when a cormorant catches a fish that is just a little too big. The bird swam around for quite a while with this odd posture and bulging neck.

Random Images

Home improvement projects are keeping me inside lately, so here are a few images from dog walks and the bird feeder.

IMG_5742Double-crested Cormorants on the Columbia River
IMG_5748IMG_5749California Gull

IMG_5740former sturgeon, Columbia River

IMG_5727Lesser Goldfinch

IMG_5736I only see Purple Finches once or twice a year at my feeder.

IMG_5678young Douglas’s Squirrel in the shadows, Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Deep Water Pelagic

sunriseI took a 12-hour pelagic trip out of Newport last Saturday. The morning started out with the typical cool cloudy weather one expects on the Oregon coast. Here is the sun rising over the Coast Range.

pink-footed shearwater patterThe most common species of the day was Pink-footed Shearwater. The largest concentration of birds was gathered behind a fish processing ship. While I am opposed to the strip-mining of our oceans, these ships always attract a lot of birds.

flock 4
flock 1Pink-footed Pandemonium (There is also a Black-footed Albatross and a Sooty Shearwater)

black-footed albatross flying black-footed albatross backBlack-footed Albatrosses are common once you get out about 20 miles. This individual had an odd lump in her neck. I hope it is just a large food item in her crop and not a disposable lighter or some other piece of trash.

fork-tailed storm-petrel 1 fork-tailed storm-petrel 2We saw more Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels than I had ever seen before.

wilson's storm-petrelWe saw three other species of storm-petrel, all very rare in Oregon waters. This is a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel. The other two were Black and Ashy Storm-Petrels.

bridgeBy the time we returned to port, the weather was sunny and hot. That’s just not right. I ended the day with a nasty sunburn.

brandt's cormorantsBack in the bay, families of Brandt’s Cormorants were on the pilings.

dc cormorantDouble-crested Cormorant

common murreCommon Murre.

 

Smith and Bybee Wetlands

Smith and Bybee Wetlands in NW Portland, (Birding Oregon p. 65) is a great spot for waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds in the late summer and autumn. Paved trails lead to observation platforms overlooking both lakes, and primitive paths are available to the more adventurous.


Great Egret, here with a couple of Great Blue Herons and numerous waterfowl on Bybee Lake, are common this time of year. Other waders that have occurred here include Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron.


These Bonaparte’s Gulls were feeding with a flock of Northern Shovelers, picking up little food items stirred up by the ducks.


Many trees in this area have fencing around them to protect them from Beavers. Flood conditions last winter enabled the Beavers to float above the level of the fencing and nibble away.


Three American White Pelicans swim with Double-crested Cormorants on Smith Lake. Ten years ago, pelicans were considered rare in Portland, but large flocks are now expected every summer and fall.


more American White Pelicans on Smith Lake

Three Graces Tidal Area

The Three Graces Tidal Area (Birding Oregon p. 127) lies along the shore of Tillamook Bay, just south of the town of Barview. It is a small site, but the offshore rocks and rocky shoreline attract a nice variety of birds.

The best times to bird this site are in between high and low tides. When the tide is up, the small rocks are submerged. When the tide is too low, people sometimes walk out to the rocks, thus scaring the birds.  Brown Pelicans, Common Loons, Harlequin Ducks, and other waterfowl are often seen swimming in the area.  In winter, Rock Sandpipers and Surfbirds feed on the exposed rocks and shoreline.


Peer over the edge of the path to scan the shoreline for rockpipers and gulls.  A scope is useful for checking the more distant offshore rocks.


A closer view of that distant rock. Pelagic, Brandt’s, and Double-crested Cormorants can all be found here, sometimes allowing side-by-side comparison. This photo shows mostly Pelagic Cormorants, with a possible young Double-crested on the right.

Fernhill Wetlands 1/28/10

I enjoyed a quiet walk around the main lake at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61). By mid-morning, most of the geese that roost at this site are off feeding elsewhere.


Double-crested Cormorants are commonly seen perched on dead trees and utility poles when they are not fishing. The light breast, neck, and head identify this individual as a young bird. The orange gular pouch is diagnostic in differentiating this species from the other two cormorants found along the Oregon coast.


Several Tundra Swans were lounging in the marsh, always a delight to see. To get an idea of the size of these birds, compare the Cackling Geese and Mallard at the far right of the photo.


Golden-crowned Sparrows are common in the brushy areas. I was pleased that Nala, the Birding Dog, sat still long enough for me to capture this image.

Winchuck River Mouth

winchuck river
Less than a mile from the California border, the Winchuck River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Along with a lovely beach area, the site has a nice visitor center (bathroom!) with information about the surrounding National Forest.

brown pelicans
Brown Pelicans were feeding just offshore.

long-billed curlew
Two Long-billed Curlews were feeding near the river mouth, probing their long bills into the sand. The crisp pattern on the wing coverts (dark stripes with no cross bars) identifies this individual as a juvenile.

double-crested cormorant
This Double-crested Cormorant  fished  in the river while other fished offshore.

eurasian collared dove
Eurasian Collared-Doves can be expected just about anywhere in Oregon after a massive range expansion over the past few years.

western fence lizard 1
Western Fence Lizards were basking on the abundant driftwood. This one has recently shed, evidenced by the little patch of dead skin left on the tail. The one below has a less dramatic pattern, but with little blue flecks.

western fence lizard 2