Friday, December 30, 2011

Tundra Swan - Bewick's

Only a couple of days after seeing the Bewick's Tundra Swan at Coffee Lake, I saw another one today on Rest Lake at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cinnamon Teal

I saw these two Cinnamon Teal (on left) yesterday at Coffee Lake near Wilsonville. I've never seen a Cinnamon Teal in the winter before, but I guess it is getting more common. Typically they winter in California down through Mexico.

Tundra Swan - Bewick's

I had an interesting day of birding yesterday.
First thing in the morning, I headed out to Llewellyn Road just south of Corvallis, OR to see if I could find the Mountain Plover that had been reported there for the last few weeks. The good news is I saw it! The bad news is that I forgot my camera.
Santa got me a digital recorder for Christmas (how does he know these things?). Between the recorder, the shotgun microphone and cable I took with me, in my haste, I thought I had everything and left my camera behind. I was on highway 99W, approaching Llewellyn Road, when I made the discovery.
Oh well, the Plover was out of range of my camera anyway. So I got a check on my life list, but no picture to prove it.
Since I was camera-less, I arrived home earlier than expected so I decided to I make another trip and try my luck at finding the Emperor Goose at TRNWR. This time I had my camera. Again, I saw the bird, but it was so far out of range of my camera that my pictures are barely proof that I saw it.
After that I stopped by Coffee Lake on my way home in search of the Bewick's Swan, a subspecies of the Tundra Swan. And again I found it! This time the picture I got was at least good enough to post and good enough to identify the swan as a Bewick's.
So, a successful listing day, but a poor photography day. :-)

Monday, December 26, 2011


I started out today looking for the Bewick's subspecies of Tundra Swan seen at Coffee Lake yesterday. I drive past Coffee Lake on my way to work and have often thought this wetland had potential. Unfortunately the Tundra Swans were all towards the back of the lake so I couldn't get close enough to see if the Bewick's was still there. Maybe tomorrow.
From there I stopped at TRNWR. I haven't been there in months. Things were somewhat slow, but I did run into a small flock of Bushtits at the observation deck. The light was horrible, but I did get one interesting shot of one of the Bushtits as it just started to take off.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Common Goldeneye

A female Common Goldeneye seen on the Columbia River near Broughton Beach on Tuesday on my way back to my car after viewing the Snow Bunting.

Snow Bunting?

Finally, after about three and half weeks, I got out of the house to go birding. Seems like a long time.
I decided that instead of going off to one of my favorite birding spots, I'd take a chance and chase the Snow Bunting that had been reported along Broughton Beach and then later in an old parking lot just west of PDX. I haven't had a lot of luck chasing birds, but this one seemed to be pretty reliable and wasn't far from home.
My luck was good as when I arrived there were two other birders already there viewing it from their cars as it sat perched on the barbed fence surrounding the lot.
I tried to creep in among the spectators, but the bird flew off before I got there, but it wasn't long before it was re-found on the concrete surface of the lot. I'm sure it would appear a little comical to anyone observing our cars as they slowly wandered around the lot and in fact a few airport security cars circled occasionally from just outside the area.
After a few failed attempts to get in close, I finally got an opportunity to move in by myself and was able to get quite close without spooking it. Unfortunately it was a typical gloomy Oregon winter day so my pictures are less than great, but I'm not complaining.

As I watched the bunting I started noticing that it had an interesting way of feeding on the dead grass stalks. It would take the stalk in its beak and then repeatedly chomp on it while sliding it through its beak. It did this very quickly like a buzz saw.

Once the bird finally flew off I noticed that there was a line of cars behind me so I decided I had seen enough and went looking for a parking spot near Broughton Beach so I could spend some time there.
To my surprise, not more than 45 minutes after I left the lot, I found the bunting again down along the Columbia River's banks. I'm not used to that kind of luck. :-)
I was pretty happy with my outing, having seen a new life bird and getting reasonably good pictures of it; until I got back home and checked my email. Seems some of our more talented area birders were starting to question the identity of this bird. Many were puzzling over inconsistencies in its plumage. It doesn't help that Snow Bunting are rare for this area, so there's not a lot of expertise. The general consensus is that its more likely a hybrid with its close relative, the McKay's Bunting. If this turns out to be true, I can't technically add it to my life list. Time will tell.
For an interesting discussion of this bird check out Shawneen Finnegan's journal entry at BirdFellow.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pine Siskin

I saw Pine Siskins at my feeder today for the first time this winter. I'd estimate there were about 15 of them, though they were count as they were constantly on the move.
I haven't had much time to watch my feeder yet this winter as it is dark when I leave for work and dark when I come home. Today was a pretty good day. Besides the Pine Siskins there were a couple of Starlings, a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Black-capped Chickadee, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Goldfinch.
You can see the Goldfinch in the picture above sitting on a bush to the left of the feeder. It looks like an American here though in other pictures it looks like a Lesser. I find it hard to tell them apart in the winter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

California Gull

Between work, traveling, bad weather and more lighting gigs I haven't had much time to get out birding or to tend to this blog. I'm in Washington, DC right now on business and will return late tomorrow night. Then, just two days of work and I'm on vacation for the rest of the year! Hopefully, we'll have some reasonable weather so I can take advantage of the time off.
Meanwhile, I'm digging back in the archives to my trip to Bayocean Spit on Aug 13th. I found this friendly juvenile California Gull along the beach just before my encounter with the shorebirds.
I love how wide gulls open their mouths when the call out.

And strut on the beach.

I've observed the behavior above several times with gulls (and other birds on occasion). I suppose they are just stretching like we do, but it seem unusual to do it with just side. Birds tend to be symmetrical.

Although it seems late for the date, I'm guessing that this gull is transitioning from a 2nd winter California Gull into a second summer. Note that it has the general look of a 2nd winter (bill still has a black band at the tip), but that it is molting into gray feathers. It's about time too as its older feathers are really beat up.
If I've mis-aged this gull, let me know as I'd like to become better at this difficult skill.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brown Chinese Goose

It appears someone unloaded some Brown Chinese Geese at Fernhill Wetlands. Hope they don't cause problems. They sure are pretty.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


This series of images was taken during my hike around Bayocean Spit back on August 13. I was shooting some pictures of a couple of Semipalmated Plovers, when a small flock of shorebirds flew in and landed nearby. There was a mix of Western Sandpipers and these Sanderlings.
I was confused by the Sanderlings as they are in molt from their breeding plumage to their non-breeding plumage. Having only seen Sanderlings in the winter during the non-breeding season, they looked somewhat foreign to me.
I asked for ID confirmation on OBOL and that's were the molt was pointed out. If you look close you will see newer looking gray feathers over the darker, more worn feathers.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Song Sparrow

This brave Song Sparrow actually hopped within a few feet of me on the boardwalk at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. I suppose it is used to people and used to them feeding the ducks that it felt compelled to approach me as it did. It even stood by while I squatted down to get a better vantage point to shoot from. I can't image that it was desperately hungry.
As I have mentioned in the past, even though they are very common, Song Sparrows are one of my favorite to shoot as they can be such willing posers; especially during the breeding season.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bonaparte's Gull

I've only seen Bonaparte's Gulls twice before; once at Fort Steven's South Jetty and once on Pintail Pond at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. This past Saturday at Fernhill Wetlands I saw two, one of which was flying about Cattail Marsh, at times not far from me.
The images above make it obvious that this one is a first winter bird what with its tail feathers tipped in black and the extended black on its wing tips and upper wing coverts.
At one point it landed not far from me allowing for a few relatively close images.
The treat for me during this sighting was to watch it pluck prey off the water as it skimmed just above its surface. In both the images above, you can see a dark spot just in front of the bird on the water, which I assume is its prey. Cornell's site states that Bonaparte's Gulls feed on small fish and large invertebrates, including insects. I would guess it was feeding on insects.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Horned Grebe

There were at least 5 Horned Grebes on the main lake at Fernhill Wetlands today. I was watching a pair offshore a bit when this one appeared just off to my right in the corner near the burned shelter.
Normally, when a aquatic bird see you so close (and even when you aren't so close), it either flies or swims away. This one was more trusting and stuck around through several dives as it hunted for fish and crustaceans on the bottom of the lake.
It sure would be nice to see one of these during the mating season as they stunning with their red and black breeding feathers. They have a yellowish-white stripe across their eye which they can raise behind their eyes, producing their namesake "horns".

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dark-eyed Junco

Another image taken on August 13 at Bayocean Spit. I enjoy the spit for its variety of birds, variety of terrain and lengthy hike (it's about 8 miles if you walk the whole periphery).
If I remember right, this was the only Dark-eyed Junco I saw that day and it stuck around long enough to get several shots of it. I had a rented 400mm f2.8 lens that day with a 1.7x teleconverter, so I was able to get a pretty clear shot. The sharpness of this lens is noticeably better than my 300mm f5.6 (and noticeably heavier; 12 lbs!).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Song Sparrow - Juvenile

While I wait in anticipation of the coming holiday with hopes of better weather so I can finally get out and do some birding, I have been going through some past pictures.
I took this picture of a juvenile Song Sparrow as I trekked across the sand dunes at Bayocean Spit towards the beach on August 13th. Juvenile Song Sparrows that I have seen tend to be a bit scruffy looking and variable in the amount of breast striping. This one has very little striping, but I'm still quite sure it is a Song Sparrow as its overall look says Song Sparrow.

Monday, November 21, 2011


A killdeer taken at Fernhill Wetlands this past August 12. Note the frayed edges of its feathers.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Way Off Topic

I haven't had much time for birding lately. I only got out once last weekend, then left town on business Monday - Thursday (with no time for birding) and when I got back, spent Friday and Saturday doing one of my other hobbies; stage lighting.
The church I am a member of has put on two fund raisers this past year in which we have featured some big time local musical acts. We wanted to make it look and sound as professional as possible, so I did my best to make our sanctuary look like a concert hall and one of our other members, Tom, did a fantastic job of providing and running the sound.
All-in-all both shows were quite successful and we look forward to doing it all again next year.
Marilyn Keller
Church members and professional musicians Mark Hanson and Greta Pedersen.
Church alumni Dan Balmer.

Double-crested Cormorant

A double-crested Cormorant sitting on a favorite log at Crystal Spring Rhododendron Garden this past Nov 5. Still a bird I find most fascinating as, in my mind, I can picture them living out their lives in prehistoric times.
None-the-less, they are doing quite well in this time period as Cornell's All About Birds states; "The Double-crested Cormorant is the most numerous and widespread North American cormorant. It's also the only one that occurs in large numbers inland as well as on the coast. Growing in numbers throughout its range, this cormorant is increasingly being blamed for declines in sport fisheries and for devastating fish farms."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wood Duck

I stopped by Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden a week ago last Saturday after spending some time at Westmoreland Park. There are usually good opportunities for closeups of water fowl there and this time the stars were several Wood Ducks.
They usually scurry away when they see you coming, but I found a few that I think were a little sleepy and let me get close. Despite a typical low light Oregon day, these ducks stayed still enough to get a few great shots. They have outstanding plumage!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk

On Sunday I decided to check out Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge since there had been some interesting reports from there the past week. Unfortunately, I did not see the Snow Bunting or the Kittiwake that had been reported, nor did I see the Red-shouldered Hawk or White-faced Ibis that were seen that same day.
But I did see Red-tailed Hawks. Lots of Red-tailed Hawks. There is a large hill in the middle of the refuge and the hawks were using the drafts coming up off it to hang in the air as they watched for prey below.
Having never been to this refuge, I decided to walk the few trails that are still open this time of year. There weren't a lot of birds, but I did see flurry of Pacific and Bewick's Wrens as I walked through the forested area and saw five deer along the way.