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.

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.

Wetland Birds

While spring migration has not really ramped up yet, locally nesting birds at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottoms are starting to pair up, and the winter flocks are breaking up.

least sandpiperA few Least Sandpipers have arrived at Fernhill.

killdeer quartetThese Killdeer were vying for position. I think this species would be more highly regarded if their voices weren’t so grating. Their plumage and red eye ring are rather stunning, but they just don’t shut up.

bushtitI found a pair of Bushtits weaving a nest. The normally gray birds were stained bright yellow with pollen.

cinnamon tealCinnamon Teal, looking all dapper

golden-crowned frontGolden-crowned Sparrow

white cheeked golden-crownedThis Golden-crowned Sparrow had odd white patches on the cheeks, and a few white feathers on the nape.

tree swallowTree Swallows are everywhere, pairing up and claiming nest boxes.

song sparrow 3Song Sparrow, not unusual, but unusually cooperative

red-winged blackbirdRed-winged Blackbird. Females and immature males have much more interesting plumage than that of the adult males.

house finch 1House Finch, just because

Little Brown Birds

harris's sparrowI took my Little Brown Birds class to Sauvie Island. The sparrow flock along Rentenaar Road is thinning out, but all the expected species are still there. For the third year in a row, the star of the day was a Harris’s Sparrow. There is a White-throated and a Golden-crowned Sparrow in the background.

harris's and golden-crownedHarris’s Sparrow with Golden-crowned Sparrows

fox sparrowFox Sparrow

sparrow mixA sparrow mix of White-crowned, Golden-crowned, and Song Sparrow, along with a Red-winged Blackbird

red-wingRed-winged Blackbird, surrounded by Golden-crowned Sparrows and a White-crowned in the background

white-throatedOne of four White-throated Sparrows that came to our seed slick

spotted towhee 2Spotted Towhee

 

Early Spring

This is that long awkward time of year between winter and spring. The big winter flocks have broken up, but the spring migrants haven’t returned yet. As I have said before, there is always something to see, but we have to find simple pleasures until the full decadence of spring migration commences in a month or so.

varied thrush frontOn a recent sunny day, this Varied Thrush perched outside the living room window. I don’t often see this species in sunlight. They are usually muted by the gloom of a rainy day or the shadows of the forest.
varied thrush profile

pine siskin sidePine Siskin at the nyjer feeder

pine siskin frontFor some reason, songbirds just look weird when viewed from the front.

lesser goldfinch backLesser Goldfinch

american goldfinchThe male American Goldfinches are starting to get their summer color.
american goldfinch clinging

golden-crowned 2Golden-crowned Sparrow, Vanport Wetlands

beaver chewThis fairly large tree has been felled by Beavers at Smith and Bybee Wetlands. None of the branches appear to have been eaten, so I don’t know why the Beavers felled it, perhaps because it was there.

northwestern garterNorthwestern Garter Snake, Tualatin Hills Nature Park. I am making the identification based on the small head, although I am not completely comfortable differentiating Northwestern Garter from Common Garter.

Rentenaar Road, Sauvie Island

white-throated sparrowRentenaar Road, on Sauvie Island, is one of the better sparrow patches in the Portland area. I found ten species this morning, about typical for this time of year. This boldly patterned White-throated Sparrow was one of the prettier ones.

dark-eyed juncoDark-eyed Junco

golden-crowned sparrowGolden-crowned Sparrows are the most common sparrows along this stretch of road.

lincoln's sparrowLincoln’s Sparrow, one of my favorites and one of the hardest to photograph

song sparrowSong Sparrow

white-crowned sparrowWhite-crowned Sparrow

spotted towheeSpotted Towhee with two Golden-crowned Sparrows

harris's frontThe rarest bird of the day was this Harris’s Sparrow. This is the third winter in a row that a Harris’s (perhaps the same bird) has been wintering at this location.

harris's and golden-crownedHarris’s Sparrow with Golden-crowns

harris's and white-crownedHarris’s with White-crowned

harris's and white-throatedand finally, the Harris’s with a tan-morph White-throated Sparrow in the background. It’s nice that this visitor from the Great Plains gets along with everyone.

robinWhile certainly not a sparrow, this American Robin was just begging to be photographed, so here you go.

Tualatin River NWR


Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, located just a few miles southwest of Portland on Hwy 99W, is a wonderful refuge for wintering waterfowl, despite its location in such an urban area.


The dikes around the wetland areas are closed to public access in the winter to prevent disturbance to the birds. But the trail leading through the wooded habitat beyond the wetland is open year round.


Northern Pintails and a Ruddy Duck


several Double-crested Cormorants perched on a log


a congregation of Northern Pintails, Mallards, and Ring-necked Ducks


The star of the refuge in recent weeks has been a lone Emperor Goose. He is the pale gray blob with the white neck tucked under his wings, right in the center of the photo. No, really.


This Dark-eyed Junco was a little more photogenic than the goose was.


Given the amount of brown on the crown and hind neck of this Dark-eyed Junco, I’m guessing she is a first-year female.


Golden-crowned Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco