Despite morning temperatures near freezing, signs of spring are appearing at Fernhill Wetlands. This Black Phoebe was posing with some colorful buds.
The winter sparrows, like this Fox Sparrow, are still around.
Waterfowl numbers are dropping as northern breeders start to head out. This pair of Northern Pintails was grooming along the main lake.
This young Red-tailed Hawk was very comfortable around people, perching right above some nearby birders.
The number of Nutria at Fernhill continues to grow. I don’t know if they are causing any problems or not.
We are in that late-winter slow birding time, but spring migrants should start showing up any day.
Happy final days of winter
I spent a foggy morning at Jackson Bottom Wetland Reserve. This Great Egret was blending in with the foggy background at Pintail Pond.
Belted Kingfishers are almost always distant subjects for my photos. They are quite skittish.
The Coyote Hill Trail is a nice loop around a weedy field that can be good for upland species, like this American Kestrel.
Northern Pintail was the most abundant species of waterfowl on this day.
The north end of the reserve hosted a flock of 20 Tundra Swans, always a nice find.
There weren’t any great rarities on this trip. But there were a lot of good birds and a nice four-mile hike without any rain – a great trip for December.
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.
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.
Three River Otters were a treat to see.
On rare occasions, I cross the Columbia River to visit Washington. When the weather is less than stellar, the auto tour at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge offers a nice way to get close to wildlife without getting too wet.
A lot of Tundra Swans are wintering at Ridgefield this year. There are Trumpeter Swans, too, but I did not get any close looks at them.
Tundra Swan bathing
Northern Harriers are common throughout the refuge. This one was having a good stretch.
A family of Nutria put on a nice show. Invasive, but adorable.
Columbian White-tailed Deer, a threatened subspecies, have been introduced to the refuge in recent years. This fawn was born last spring, so at least some of the deer are making themselves at home. Unfortunately, I believe many of the Coyotes that used to be so visible on the refuge have been “removed” to make conditions safer for the rare deer.
This lone Snow Goose was hanging out with the numerous Canada and Cackling Geese.
Sandhill Cranes were feeding in the grassy fields.
The last time I visited Ridgefield was during my mom’s final visit to Portland. Her mobility was not great, so the auto tour provided a great way for us to get out to do some birding together. During that visit, the highlight was a cooperative American Bittern. I didn’t find any Bitterns on this trip, but this Great Egret did his best to fill the void.
Fernhill Wetlands is the place to be in autumn. Even after the extensive wetland renovations that have taken place, resulting in less open water, the Cackling Geese still congregate here by the thousands.
This Great Egret was catching the sunshine on the top of a tree.
Northern Pintail. I don’t often see them hanging out on dry ground.
Killdeer and Green-winged Teal
Greater White-fronted Geese migrate over the Willamette Valley in large numbers, but not many touch down, so it is always nice to see some on the ground.
Fernhill Lake is about half of its original size, but it is still big enough to attract divers, like this Horned Grebe.
male American Kestrel
Waterfowl diversity continues to increase, and winter sparrow flocks should pick us soon. I’m looking forward to watching the show, assuming the Bundys don’t move in.
Yaquina Bay, at the town of Newport, is one of the more productive sites on the Oregon coast. On this visit, high winds reduced the number of birds that were out and about, but there was still a lot to see.
Common Loon with the catch of the day
Horned Grebe (above) and Western Grebe
The flats behind the Hatfield Marine Science Center. There were lots of Mew Gulls, some Brant, and Northern Pintails. Note the Peregrine Falcon at the base of the fallen tree.
Large numbers of California Sea Lions loaf on the jetties and docks on the bay.
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.
At Wapato Access Greenway we found some Dusky Canada Geese along with the American Wigeons and Northern Pintails.
This Coyote was munching on a vole.
Tundra Swan was one of the most common species of the day.
This 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.
You 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.
Canvasback, looking very regal
Same bird, looking not quite so regal
American Wigeon pair, Dawson Creek
Bufflehead, preparing to dive
Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose
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
An arctic air mass brought cold temperatures and ice to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), but there was no shortage of birds. Here are some grainy gray photos from a lap around the ponds.
Tundra Swans and California Gull
Taverner’s Cackling Goose and Northern Shovelers
Cackling Geese and Northern Pintails
Snow Goose and Cackling Geese
immature Bald Eagles
This American White Pelican, a very late straggler, was circling high overhead, trying to find a thermal on this cold cloudy morning.
Cackling Cackling Geese
Great Blue Heron standing on a Beaver dam. Note the frost on the bird’s back.
It is sometimes the case, when I plan to look for a certain type of bird, that my target species are nowhere to be found. On those days we have to let go of our expectations and open ourselves to whatever treasures the birding fates have for us. I helped with a field trip today that was supposed to visit a hawk watch site. The ridge was completely socked in by low clouds, so we had to scrap our plans and instead birded open range and farm land.
Likewise, I recently visited Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61) to look for shorebirds. Despite the decent amount of mudflat habitat available, shorebirds were almost non-existent. While I was disappointed in the lack of waders, there is always something interesting to watch.
Always common, but always worth a look, Great Blue Herons will often surprise you with the interesting creatures they are attempting to swallow. On this day I watched one bird swallow a large catfish.
Great Egrets congregate this time of year to fish in the receding waters.
This Peregrine Falcon was keeping watch over the wetlands. This might explain the lack of shorebirds.
We are still in the “ugly brown duck season,” when many birds are still in eclipse plumage. Despite the lack of characteristic colors, most birds can be identified by shape or by tell-tale field marks. This picture shows two Northern Pintails on either side of a Green-winged Teal. The pintails are identified by their pointy backsides and their blue sloping bills. The tiny teal is displaying the green speculum on the wing that give the species its name.