Waterfowl numbers have been increasing in the Willamette Valley as the rains have begun. This male Northern Shoveler is still in his drab summer plumage.
This Emperor Goose is currently a local celebrity in the Beaverton area, hanging out with the local ducks and Cackling Geese.
This Gadwall was hanging out at Koll Center Wetlands. A brick building at the edge of the pond creates those brown reflections in the water, which complement the colors on this duck.
American Coot having a snack
Green-winged Teal at Fernhill Wetlands
Common Merganser at Fernhill
Numbers of ducks and geese should continue to increase into November.
February is usually cloudy and damp in the Portland area, making it hard for me to get too motivated to venture out. But there is always something to see, like this lovely Lincoln’s Sparrow.
This Cedar Waxwing was flycatching over the water at Koll Wetlands.
This Spotted Towhee spent quite a bit of time perched out in the open in a blackberry bramble.
Winter is a great time to study waterfowl in the Willamette Valley. This little gang of Lesser Scaup was at Force Lake in north Portland.
I was initially excited to find this young male Northern Shoveler standing out in the open, but then I realized the poor guy was ill. He was gasping for breath and his eyes were partially closed. I’m guessing he has respiratory infection caused by Aspergillis, a common type of fungus, which has been affecting a lot of waterfowl this winter.
Back home at the feeders, my vegan suet has been very popular this winter. I mix equal parts of coconut oil, peanut butter, and flour, then pour the mixture into molds to solidify. This recipe only works in the winter, as it will melt if temperatures get above 60 degrees F. Here is a Chestnut-backed Chickadee working on the last bit of a cake.
A Bushtit, one of many that come through the yard every day
I walked through Smith and Bybee Wetlands after an unsuccessful gull chase in northwest Portland. Here are a few highlights.
A pair of River Otters were in the slough. It is always a treat to see this species.
There were actually a few birds around. I ran into several mixed flocks of small birds that defy point-and-shoot photography.
The same bird, showing just a peek of his namesake ruby crown.
The slough had a few waterfowl, all keeping a safe distance from the otters. Here is an American Wigeon.
Raptors were well represented by Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawk, and Red-shouldered Hawk, none of which wished to be photographed. Despite the rainy conditions, it was a productive trip.
I took a quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands this week. Great changes are planned for this site. The main lake will be made smaller, and the other two impoundments will be replaced with emergent wetlands. I am looking forward seeing how things progress. Here are some birds and other critters from the trip.
Many Yellow-rumped Warblers were passing through, mostly the Myrtle race, with only one Audubon’s.
Flocks of Taverner’s Cackling Geese were feeding in the fields north of the main lake.
baby Garter Snake. I’m not sure if this is a Common or Northwestern Garter.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Muskrat climbing a tree before. This one was gnawing off a branch to get to the leaves.
Tree Swallows are swarming around Fernhill Wetlands, no doubt encouraged by the many nesting boxes that have been installed at the site.
Northern Shovelers were the most common duck species on the lake.
Several schools of Common Carp were active at the surface. I don’t know if they were feeding on aquatic insects or involved in spawning.
Marsh Wrens are starting to sing.
A few Red-winged Blackbirds were displaying. There aren’t very many Red-wings at Fernhill since most of the cattails died off several years ago.
Things are hopping at Fernhill Wetlands, with rising water levels, an influx of several thousand geese and other waterfowl, and a few other goodies.
Cackling Geese have been arriving for weeks now, and the skies and fields around Fernhill are covered with these little guys.
A small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese were hanging out with the Mallards in Dabblers Marsh.
This interesting beast is a hybrid, a product of one of the local Canada Geese and a domestic Greylag Goose.
Here are some of the many Northern Shovelers feeding in their typical manner, swimming along with their faces in the water, as if their enormous bills are too heavy to hold up.
Two American White Pelicans have been hanging out at Fernhill for a couple of months now.
Shorebird numbers and diversity have dwindled. Here are a few Long-billed Dowitchers.
The resident Bald Eagles were sitting around looking majestic. I watched one carrying a stick to add to their nest.
Several Northern Shrikes have been reported around the Portland area in recent days. This one is snacking on a large insect.
I saw three Common Garter Snakes on this trip, including one very young newborn about the width of a linguine. The colorful individual in this photo was about 20 inches long. Note the large laceration on his neck, presumably from a predator. Despite the severity of the wound, the snake was not bleeding and he crawled away after this photo was taken, so I am hopeful he will recover.
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.
I forced myself to go birding Saturday morning. It was one of those rainy November days when you want to hole up until May, so I forced myself out. (Can’t get tired of the rain this early in the season.) So I went to Smith and Bybee Wetlands in NW Portland. The rough weather kept most of the songbirds under heavy cover, but the ducks were out and about.
While distant and poorly lit in the rainy weather, these ducks are clearly Northern Shovelers. The first clue is the fact that they are all swimming along with their faces in the water, typical shoveler feeding behavior. On the first and last ducks in line, you see a dark head, white breast, rusty sides, and white bottom, classic Northern Shoveler.
These birds were clear across the lake, but several are clearly identifyable. The line of four ducks in the upper right of the photo are Northern Shovelers, for the same reasons as in the photo above. The duck on the far left, and probably the bird next to him, is a Gadwall. The bird is slightly smaller than the shovelers, lacks any blatant pattern, seems to be dark on the backside, and has a blocky head shape.
The ability to ID ducks, or any other birds, at great distances is not so much a matter of skill, as it is familiarity. The more familiar you become with a species, the greater the distance you can recognize that species.
This Nutria was enjoying the day, munching away on something. Nutria are native to South America, but have been introduced in many areas by the fur trade. (and why would you want to dress yourself to look like a large aquatic rodent?) When raising Nutria failed to be profitable, many were released into the Pacific Northwest, where they flourish at the expense of some native mammals and wetland plants.
Two Northern River Otters have been hanging out at Koll Center Wetlands in Beaverton, so I went out this morning to see them. Otters are always a treat, but it is especially nice to see them thriving in such an urban setting.
Here is one of the two otters munching on a fish. Check out those teeth.
After breakfast, it is time to wrestle,
and then wrestle some more.
Then they were off to find something else to do.
Good numbers of birds use this little wetland, as well. Here is a Northern Shoveler. How do they hold those massive bills up?
Two Killdeer feed within a flock of Long-billed Dowitchers. This flock flew off when a Cooper’s Hawk flew by.