Wet (land) Birds

Here are some non-waterfowl that I’ve seen in various wetlands recently.

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I often struggle with photographing white birds, but this Great Egret came out OK.

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Most of the shorebirds have moved on, but a few Least Sandpipers are still around.

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The winter sparrow flocks are building up. This Golden-crowned Sparrow was still sporting their breeding plumage.

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Golden-crowned Sparrow taking a bath

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Song Sparrow

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I remember when it was hard to find Lesser Goldfinches in the Portland area, but they usually outnumber American Goldfinches now.

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Lesser Goldfinch taking a bath

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Belted Kingfisher sharing a perch with a European Starling

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Red-winged Blackbird striking a pose

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The numbers of Nutria in the Willamette Valley have exploded in recent years. The are indeed non-native and invasive, but the babies are so cute.

Happy Autumn

Ankeny NWR

I made a quick trip to Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Salem. Like the other refuges in the Willamette Valley, most of Ankeny is closed in winter to protect wintering waterfowl. But there are spots on the refuge open to birders year-round. Here is a male Ruddy Duck just starting to get a little color in his bill for spring.

Song Sparrow at the edge of Pintail Marsh

This Lincoln’s Sparrow popped up for just a second, but long enough for me to take his portrait.

Here is a very distant Eurasian Green-winged Teal, or Common Teal, or Eurasian Teal, depending on who you talk to. In Europe, this is considered a separate species, but in the U.S., it is considered a subspecies of Green-winged Teal. I have been hoping for many years that North American authorities would recognize this form as a species (so I could add another tick to my list), but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.

This pair of Great Horned Owls was hanging out along the trail to the Rail Trail boardwalk, once again proving that my camera would much rather focus on branches than on birds.

The main reason for my visit was a communal roost of Long-eared Owls discovered a few days before. This species is usually very hard to find in western Oregon, and had been a state nemesis bird for me.

There has been a lot of concern expressed about birders disturbing this group of birds. In Kansas and Ohio, where I have seen Long-eared Owls before, visiting winter roosts is the only way for birders to see this species. I believe it can be done without stressing the birds if birders speak softly (or not at all), maintain a respectful distance, and keep their visits brief. That is pretty easy to do at this site. Birders are confined to a boardwalk (assuming they are not assholes), and it is easy to make a quiet approach. If everyone exhibits just a modicum of self-control and common courtesy, this could be a sustainable birding experience for weeks to come. Fingers crossed.

Happy Winter

Mew Gulls

mew rightI made a quick trip to Amberglen Office Park in Hillsboro to check the lawn for gulls. Along with a small flock of Ring-billed Gulls were four Mew Gulls. Mews are one of my favorite gulls. They are easy to pick out of a mixed flock, they seldom if ever hybridize, and they possess a cuteness not found in most Larids.

Mew Gulls are found in Oregon from October to March. They are most common in estuaries along the coast, but you can find them in decent numbers in the Willamette Valley.

IMG_2306As gulls go, Mews are pretty petite with their short slender bills and round pigeon-like heads. Eye color variable, but tends toward the dark side. Like Ring-bills, Mews show very long wing projection beyond the tail.

dark mew leftThis individual is heavily marked on the head and breast compared to the bird above.

IMG_2320Amberglen is a good spot for waterfowl and attracts a few songbirds. Several sparrow species, including this Song Sparrow, were foraging around the main pond.

nutriaHere is my obligatory photo of a Nutria. Cuteness transcends their invasive species status.

Happy Winter

Spring in the wetlands

Nesting season continues to progress. While some songbirds have already fledged a batch of babies, other species are just getting under way. This Pied-billed Grebe was sitting on a nest at Commonwealth Lake.

Blue-winged Teal can be hard to find in the Willamette Valley at any time, so it was nice to see a pair at Fernhill Wetlands.

female Blue-winged Teal

Eurasian Collared-Doves continue to expand their range and numbers in Oregon. It wasn’t all that long ago that these birds were first found in the state, or maybe I am just old. This bird was singing at Fernhill.

Song Sparrow at Fernhill, living up to his name

A few Purple Martins have returned to the nest boxes at Fernhill. They are still a treat to see here.

While most of the Tundra Swans that winter in Oregon left for the breeding grounds long ago, this individual continues to hang out at Fernhill. A few observers have reported this bird as a Trumpeter Swan, but the straight feathering across the forehead (as opposed to the widow’s peak on a Trumpeter) is consistent with Tundra.

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.

Spring at Fernhill

While we continue to get above-average rainfall in the Portland area, there have been a few dry days of late, so I ran out for a quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands. Most of the wintering geese are gone, and there are signs that spring is slowly making progress.

Yellow-rumped Warblers, both Audubon’s and Myrtle (shown) races, are coming through in large numbers.

Red-winged Blackbirds are in full song and are staking out territories.

Song Sparrows start singing in January, but are increasingly vocal now.

Several pairs of Cinnamon Teal were courting.

Northern Harrier

A flock of Dunlins was using this log to get out of the mud for a while. They were all still in winter plumage. Dunlins are one of the first species to arrive in spring.
Spring shorebird migration peaks in late April/early May. There is still room in my shorebird class with Portland Audubon April 27/29.

This Sora was being typically elusive.

The red currants were is full bloom, attracting both Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds.

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.

In the Garden

I was interviewed on In the Garden with Mike Darcy on June 27 and discussed what you can do to attract birds to your yard in the summer. Due to various circumstances, including the continuing heat wave, I didn’t get out on a birding trip this week. Instead, I spent a little time observing the critters in the yard.

rufous open billRufous Hummingbirds have been visiting in good numbers, a few weeks earlier than normal. Perhaps the drought has pushed them out of their more normal habitats.

rufous reaching
rufous in flight
anna'sThe resident Anna’s Hummingbird is not pleased with the Rufous invaders.

song sparrowThis Song Sparrow has been enjoying the bird bath.

house finch frontjuvenile House Finch at the feeder

cabbage whiteA Cabbage White, probably contemplating laying her eggs on my kale

beesThe bees are loving the Purple Coneflowers.
bumble
nalaCharismatic Megafauna

Smith and Bybee Wetlands

cliff swallow 1Nesting season is in full swing at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in northwest Portland. There is a small colony of Cliff Swallows nesting under the highway overpass.

waxwing nestHere is the tail end of a Cedar Waxwing sitting on a nest. This seems like an awfully large nest for such a small bird.

waxwing raiding nestSeveral Cedar Waxwings were raiding nesting material from this Bushtit nest. I hope the Bushtits were done with it.

waxwing with fruitCedar Waxwing with fruit

song sparrow 2This Sparrow was carrying a mouthful of bugs, indicating that she had a nest of babies nearby.

marsh wren 1Marsh Wrens were actively singing in several locations.
marsh wren 3

cowbirdBrown-headed Cowbird

gb heronGreat Blue Heron on Smith Lake

turtlesThe warm sun brought the reptiles out in good numbers. Smith and Bybee is a stronghold for the threatened Western Painted Turtle.

garter 3Northwestern Garter Snakes were also enjoying the sun. Northwestern Garters are distinguished from Common Garters by their smaller head and gentler disposition.
garter 1

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