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

Winter Waterfowl

Waterfowl seem to dominate the birding scene in the Willamette Valley in winter. Year-round residents, like this Pied-billed Grebe, are joined by a host of winter migrants.

My camera hates white birds, but managed to capture this Common Merganser pretty well.

I usually gloss over Mallards, but they are a pretty duck.

Ring-necked Duck

Eurasian Wigeon have been hard to come by the past couple of winters, so it was nice to see this pretty boy at Dawson Creek.American Wigeon remain common on grassy lawns and ponds.

Green-winged Teal, also at Dawson Creek.

There are other birds around this time of year, like sparrows and raptors. But while it is nice to see that Merlin fly overhead and the flocks of Golden-crowned Sparrows deep in the brush piles, sometimes it is good to take the time to study and appreciate the waterfowl that sit out in the open in the daylight.

Happy Winter

AmberGlen Business Park

Several office parks in the Hillsboro area have nice open spaces that attract birds. AmberGlen has a pond next to a large lawn which attracts good numbers of gulls in winter.

ring-billed and mewMost of the gulls on my recent visit were Ring-billed Gulls, but two Mew Gulls were in the mix. Here is a nice comparison of the two species.

ring-billed roustRing-billed Gull enjoying a roust

ring-billed gull swimmingand a swim

glaucous-winged 2This Glaucous-winged Gull was rocking the lipstick.

ring-necked 3Ring-necked Ducks

eurasian and american wigeonsHere is a male Eurasian Wigeon, with an American Wigeon in the background. I am guessing this is a young bird molting into his first adult plumage. It seems a little late in the season to me,  but I don’t know whether this Asian species has a different molt schedule from his North American counterpart.
eurasian wigeon

Sauvie Island

mixed flockI took my waterfowl class out to Sauvie Island. The trip produced a nice variety of ducks and geese, and the weather was freakishly nice for February. Here are some Ring-necked Ducks, Dusky Canada Geese, and a couple of Buffleheads.

dusky canada geeseSome more Dusky Canada Geese. The red neck collars help to clinch the ID. Lesser Canada Geese are fitted with blue collars, while Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese have yellow ones.

hybrid goose 1One of the more interesting birds of the day was this hybrid Greater White-fronted X Cackling Goose.
hybrid goose 2

satyr commaThis Satyr Comma was basking in the sun. While the early spring is enjoyable in the short term, it may have negative effects on the flora and fauna in the long term.

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

Smith and Bybee Wetlands

I walked through Smith and Bybee Wetlands after an unsuccessful gull chase in northwest Portland. Here are a few highlights.

otter headsA pair of River Otters were in the slough. It is always a treat to see this species.
otter shakeotter tongueriver otter 1otter tail
There were actually a few birds around. I ran into several mixed flocks of small birds that defy point-and-shoot photography.

orange-crowned warblerOrange-crowned Warbler

ruby-crowned kingletRuby-crowned Kinglet
ruby-crowned kinglet 2The same bird, showing just a peek of his namesake ruby crown.

american wigeonThe slough had a few waterfowl, all keeping a safe distance from the otters. Here is an American Wigeon.

northern shovelerNorthern Shoveler

ring-necked duckRing-necked Duck

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.

Cannon Beach

greater white-front 2While I recognize the serious nature of the current drought, it is hard to be unhappy about sunshine in January. So after many weeks of not birding, I finally got out and spent a day on the coast. On the path around the Cannon Beach wastewater ponds, I came across a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese.
greater white-front 1
eurasian wigeon and mallardsThis Eurasian Wigeon was hanging out with the Mallards at the wastewater treatment plant.

ring-necked duckRing-necked Duck

harlequin duckIn the surf around Haystack Rock, there were lots of Surf Scoters and Black Scoters, but they kept out of camera range. This is a Harlequin Duck. No, really.

thayer'sThe mouth of Ecola Creek, at the north end of Cannon Beach, is a favorite hangout of the local gulls. I found Western, Glaucous-winged, California, Mew, Herring, and Thayer’s. Unfortunately, photographing white birds in bright sunshine against a dark background is beyond my rudimentary skills. Most of my shots consisted of glowing white blobs surrounded by lovely blue water. This shot of a third-cycle Thayer’s Gull bathing in the creek is at least recognizable.

red-shoulderedThis Red-shouldered Hawk was at Mill Ponds Park in nearby Seaside.
red-shouldered roustThe same bird in the middle of a roust
red-shouldered in flightI couldn’t get a flight shot of the Red-shouldered in focus, but this at least shows this species’ beautiful pattern.

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

Random Waterfowl

Here are some random shots of some of the many waterfowl species that winter in the Willamette Valley


This Common Merganser was swimming with her face submerged, looking for fish. I have also seen loons hunt in this way.


the same bird preening


Here she finally shows her face. The clearly demarcated white chin helps to differentiate this species from the similar Red-breasted Merganser.


This female Eurasian Wigeon is recognized by her brown head. Notice the female American Wigeon on the right with her gray head.


Here is a distant shot of a mixed flock of waterfowl (click to enlarge). From left to right, you can see Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, Cackling Goose, American Coot, and American Wigeon.