Monday, May 30, 2011

Western Tanager

A few pictures I took of Western Tanagers at Fernhill Wetlands on May 14th. It was easily the most I had seen at one time and perhaps the most I had ever seen. The numbers of Western Tanagers were up considerably this spring migration based on my own observations and the postings on birding server lists in the area. I'm not sure why, but it sure was fun.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Canada Goose - A Whole Lot of Flapping

The Canada Geese Goslings are growing up up fast. I took these pictures a week ago yesterday at Fernhill Wetlands near the parking lot. Birds are typically pretty tame in this area as people frequently feed them here.
At one point one the adults flapped its wings boldly.
This seemed to catch on as one the goslings also started flapping. Of course, it doesn't have much to flap yet.
Eventually, the gaggle made their way down to the water. I've noticed a behavior that the parents exhibit with their young on more than one occasion. They lower their head, then extend it out forward. It's kind of like they are herding the goslings, showing them the way.
I'm not sure if this is the real intent, but it is interesting.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


The RNWR wildlife brochure lists two species of rabbits; the Eastern Cottontail and the Brush Rabbit. Both look very similar to each other and belong to the same genus. While the Brush Rabbit is exclusive the western NA coast, the Eastern Cottontail's range is mostly in the eastern part of NA except for a small area that encompasses the Portland area. I'm not sure which this is, but it sure is cute.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Killdeer - Fledglings

I guess fledgling is the correct word to use for these young Killdeer. Merriam-Webster states: to acquire the feathers necessary for flight or independent activity; also : to leave the nest after acquiring such feathers. While they can't yet fly, they definitely have left the nest.
Ever since seeing a pair of Killdeer flirting at RNWR earlier this Spring, I have been watching for the first signs of youngsters and today was the day. I
t was a nasty day at times, raining hard with dark clouds.
The young would run around for awhile under the watchful eye of the parent (mother?). Then, maybe because of the rain, the cold or possibly my presence, they would snuggle up under their parent. It was rather cute.
I got a little wet taking these pictures, but it was worth it. Now I hope to see some on a sunny day. In this low light, the fine, wispy feathers of the fledglings turned out rather soft in the images even though their legs were usually rather sharp.

Update: It was pointed out by a commenter that these are actually 'chicks', not 'fledglings'. Quote "These are not fledglings, but are chicks. They are precocial, meaning they are born with downy feathers and are able to walk and feed themselves. Once they molt their downy feathers and acquire flight and body feathers they are fledglings. Takes 4 weeks or so."
My thanks to the anonymous commenter!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Black-headed Grosbeak

Now if I could just get the Black-headed Grosbeaks to be as cooperative as the Song Sparrows I'd be a happy camper. :-)
I am having better luck this year than I did last year though. I had to work around the branches and fight the sky to get these shots at TRNWR last Saturday, but at least the bird was much lower in the tree than most I come across.
Very pretty birds.

Song Sparrow

As with last year at this time, Song Sparrows are providing themselves as excellent subjects. This one appears to be going through a molt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Black-tailed Deer

It's been a while since I've seen a Black-tailed Deer at TRNWR. This one, as some are there, was pretty tolerant of me and never did flee as I passed by it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Song Sparrow - California Subspecies

I took these pictures of a Song Sparrow in San Francisco on May 2. I noticed that it was a little different than the Song Sparrows I am used to seeing here in Oregon, but I wasn't aware of the breath of subspecies identified. Some 52 subspecies have been named, however only 24 are currently actually recognized.
This Song Sparrow, I believe, belongs to the California group of six subspecies. I haven't figured out which yet, but I'll keep working on it. While there is a fair amount written about the various subspecies online, I found few pictures to help me. It's clear though, that this sparrow has darker and more crisply defined stripes on its breast and throat. If anyone is an expert, I'd love for you to point me to where I can find out more about this topic.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

European Starling - Nesting

I spend some time at TRNWR this morning. Not a great picture taking day, but I saw several birds. Sure does seem to be a good Spring for Warbling Vireos. Now if I could just get a good close up...
I stopped at the platform looking over the river as I usually do, when I noticed a small head peering out of a hole in a dead tree truck right along side the the platform. But, before I could get a good look at it, it ducked down into the hole. I waited patiently for a bit until it raised it's head again.
It was a young bird, but I wasn't sure what kind. Then another head popped up and soon they were calling out as a European Starling flew in. It sat in the branches above for a bit, then swooped down and quickly fed it's young before flying off again.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yellow-headed Blackbird

More Yellow-headed Blackbird pics from RNWR. Still haven't gotten the real close shot I'd like to get. These are getting there, but the sun was at a bad angle and I had to wait behind other cars.
This is the bird along South Big Lake that perches on the cattails near the road. There are others along South Quigley Lake, but they typically stay away from the road's edge.
I hope they stay all summer. They are gorgeous birds.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

White-crowned Sparrow

I took these pictures along Lands End Trail in San Francisco on May 2. White-crowned Sparrows were easily the most numerous sparrow along the trail. The one in the pictures above was building a nest in the tall grass very near the trail. I watched as it would fly a short distance away to find some dried grass, sometimes yanking and shaking it to free it from the ground or untangle it from the brush.
I thought I may have found a new life bird. The mixture of brown and black on its crown was not something that I had seen before, but when I took a closer look on my computer I am pretty confident that this is a young White-crowned that is transitioning from the brown striped crown of a juvenile to the black and white crown of an adult.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yellow Warbler

This past Saturday is the first time I've seen a Yellow Warbler in Oregon. I saw a couple in Minnesota last Summer while visiting my sister. I probably saw about five of them at Fernhill Wetlands. As with most Warblers, they are hard to get a good shot as they don't sit still and are always in amongst the branches.
The warbler I saw in Minnesota had very faint lines across its belly compared to the ones I saw on Saturday.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Black-headed Grosbeak

I've taken many pictures of Black-headed Grosbeaks, but I have never posted one because I have always been dissatisfied with them. I usually find them singing high in the upper branches of a tree. In addition, there is usually a bright sky in the background and ultimately the sun is at the wrong angle. What this all adds up to is a poorly exposed, grainy and/or blurry picture.
The image above isn't a lot better, but has to be one of the best I have been able to get. I took it yesterday at Fernhill Wetlands along the new Dabblers Marsh trail. I used the monopod my son got me for Christmas, which helped with the sharpness of this distant photo.
The Black-headed Grosbeak has to be one our more tropical looking summer birds. You can hear their song from far away. It sounds somewhat like a Robin, but it just goes on and on. Some people refer to the song as a Drunken Robin. :-)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tree Swallow - Mating

I spent the afternoon at Fernhill Wetlands today. It was quite active with birds, but not with the water fowl and shore birds that are seen regularly there. Instead, Passeriformes ruled the day. Warblers including Orange-crowned, Yellow and Yellow-rumps were common. Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks and Cedar Waxwings were seen throughout. And the water was swarming with swallows; Tree, Barn and Cliff were all represented along with a few Vaux's Swifts sprinkled in.
As I approached the southern corners of Cattail Marsh and Eagle Perch Pond, I came across two Tree Swallows perched on the railing of the water flow cat walk. As I moved in closer, one of the swallows flew off. I swung around to the entrance to the cat walk when the swallow the had flown off, swooped down over what I assume was the female of the two. On its second pass, it lit atop of the female and they quickly mated and flew off.
Spring is definitely here!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal are one of the most common ducks at RNWR right now. I found this pair on Long Lake near marker 2 yesterday evening. I cropped it two different ways; one tight and one that included their reflections in the water. I think I like the tighter crop better. Feel free to leave me your opinion.