Random Summer Birds

black-headed grosbeakSpring migration has come and gone, and many birders agree that it was a dud. Numbers and diversity seemed quite low in the Portland area this spring. So now we concentrate on the summer residents, like this Black-headed Grosbeak.

Golden-crowned SparrowMost Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.

lazuli small singingAt Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years. lazuli small

Blue-winged Teal pairTualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.

purple martinsPurple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands

bewick's smallBewick’s Wren are usually working heavy cover, so it was a treat to find this one dust bathing in the middle of a gravel road.

hoodieHooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands

Spotted Sandpiper 1Spotted Sandpiper

gadwall smallThis Gadwall is already starting to molt into his dull summer alternate plumage. I often refer to late summer as Ugly Duck Season. It seems a little early for ducks to be losing their sharp breeding colors.

Now is the time to seek out local nesters. It will only be about four weeks before southbound shorebird migration starts up. I hope the autumn migration is a little more eventful than this spring was.

Happy Summer

Winter Birding

We finally had a bout of winter weather in the Portland area. The west side of town got more ice than actual snow, so travel conditions were not ideal. Since we had an appointment in Hillsboro anyway, I made a quick stop at Amberglen Park. This Ring-necked Duck was putting on a nice show.

This Bufflehead spent much more time below the surface of the water than above it, but I managed a quick photo. Note the streaks of sleet.

This habitat doesn’t seem right for Hooded Mergansers, but I often see them here.
The Portland area doesn’t seem to have a good winter gull roost these days. Amberglen attracts a few, mostly Ring-billed Gulls.

I think gulls are really attractive in the snow. Note the slight pinkish tones on this bird.

Here are some Ring-billed Gulls swimming with an “Olympic” Gull (Western X Glaucous-winged hybird).

This is a “Cook Inlet” Gull (Herring X Glaucous-winged hybrid). The bill pattern is classic winter Herring Gull. The eye is dark and the primaries are not quite true black. It gives the impression of a Thayer’s Iceland Gull with a giant bill.
On the home front, snow often brings Varied Thrushes to the yard. We had four at one time cleaning up seeds under the feeder.

I am always grateful for the splash of color provided by this Townsend’s Warbler.

The snow is gone now, and birds are starting move. Spring will be here any minute.

Happy Winter

Commonwealth Lake

When time is limited or weather is sketchy, I appreciate having Commonwealth Lake close to home for a quick birding fix.

Early in the morning, River Otters will often visit the lake to fill up on fish. There were three otters present on this visit, but they stayed out in the middle of the lake most of the time.

This Belted Kingfisher called from the tangled branches that overhang the water.

Male Common Mergansers lent a splash of color with their red bills.

This female Hooded Merganser kept to the far shore.

Some of the dogwoods still had a few berries, and this Hermit Thrush was taking advantage of this seasonal food.
It was a treat to see this species sitting out in the open, rather than skulking in the undergrowth.

So nothing too exciting this trip, but it is enough to ward off insanity/crankiness until the next outing.

Happy Autumn

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.

Fernhill Wetlands

With the ongoing renovations taking place at Fernhill Wetlands, each visit throughout the year is a new experience. Most of the breeding species have done their thing, and the resident waterfowl have molted into ugly duck season. Water levels are still a little too high to provide shorebird habitat, but that should change soon enough.

brush rabbit
Afternoon temperatures have been getting quite warm, so the brush rabbits come out early in the morning to enjoy the cool. The backlighting on this guy highlights the blood vessels in his ears.

purple martin
Purple Martins are a new addition to Fernhill this year. A new nesting box installed beside the main lake has attracted at least one pair. If you build it, they will come.

cinnamon teal
These Cinnamon Teal were plowing through a thick mat of algae. Note the very large bills on these ducks, which help identify them in their summer plumage.

merg
This hatch-year Hooded Merganser was hanging out in the middle of the lake. The unusual habitat choice and the unfamiliar juvenile plumage caused many birders, myself included, to initially call this a bird a Red-breasted Merganser. While a Red-breasted had been documented at this site in May, closer inspection of this bird reveals the solid head shape and the slightly smaller bill of a Hooded. Another reminder to actually look at every bird and don’t rely on others to identify them for you. 

turkey vulture
Turkey Vulture, experiencing some wing molt

red-winged
This Red-winged Blackbird was one of a large flock feeding in the cattails.

barn swallow chicks
Some of the local breeders are working on a second clutch. These young Barn Swallows are waiting for someone to come feed them. Soon the power lines will be crowded with young swallows preparing for their first migration. 

New Year Birding

I went out for a few hours on New Year’s Day to scout locations for my upcoming gull class. The weather was freakishly sunny for a January day in the Portland area.

ring-billed gullsThe only gull flock I found was at Amberglen office park in Hillsboro. Most were Ring-billed Gulls. Here is a first cycle Ring-billed with an adult. As you can see, I am totally incapable of getting a good photo of white birds in bright sunlight.

ring-billed gulladult Ring-billed Gull

mew gullsThese two Mew Gulls were looking very petite among the larger species.

hooded merganserA couple of Hooded Mergansers were swimming near the fountain.

common merganserCommon Merganser

ring-necked duckRing-necked Duck

mallard 2Finally, a bird that doesn’t have a lot of white. This Mallard was looking gorgeous in the bright sun.
mallard 1

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.

Hooded Merganser


This Hooded Merganser, found at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve, had a brood of 10 little ones. The young birds were spread out over a large area, so I could never get them all in the same frame. They were actively feeding among the emergent vegetation, and a few of them were diving.

Hooded Mergansers nest in hollow trees or nest boxes, just as Wood Ducks do.

Seaside, 11/10/2011

Here are a few more images from a recent trip to the coast.


Black Turnstone at The Cove in Seaside (Birding Oregon p. 121)


Surfbirds blend in with the rocks very well until someone opens their wings.


California Gull in extremely worn plumage. Notice how the primaries have worn down almost to the shaft.


Dragonfly on the water, Neawanna Wetlands


Hooded Mergansers, Neawanna Wetlands


Fox Sparrow