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.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitchers at the southwest corner of Cattail Marsh on October 22. This seems to be a favorite location for Dowitchers as I've seen them there many times, but it doesn't seem to attract other shorebirds.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Muscovy Duck - Domestic

Not a bird I can add to my life list, but an interesting bird none-the-less. There were approximately 20 of these domestic form of the Muscovy Duck on Lake Clara Meer in Atlanta, Georgia's Piedmont Park during my visit there a couple of weeks ago.
Wild Muscovy Ducks are totally black except for while patches on their wings. Domestic varieties vary from nearly all white to nearly all black. And while both wild and domestic varieties have bare skin on the face, only domestics are red. All the birds I saw were of similar color to the birds in the images above.
Though native to the tropics, a relocation program in northeastern Mexico has created a wild population in the Rio Grande area of Texas. I also read that there is a small wild population in southern Florida.
Evidently, like these ducks in Atlanta, domestic Muscovy Ducks are common in city parks across the United States, however, these are the first I can remember seeing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pied-billed Grebe

A Pied-billed Grebe against the autumn colored waters of Lake Clara Meer in Atlanta, Georgia's Piedmont Park. Taken on October 25, 2011.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Least Sandpiper

I took this series of photos a couple of weekends ago at Fort Stevens State Park's South Jetty. I was walking back towards the parking lot from the beach north of the jetty when I suddenly heard birds peeping at my feet. I looked down and there were dozens of sandpipers both in front of me in the broken rocks and to my left along a small stream in the sand.
I decided to concentrate on the birds to my left first as the lighting was much better than the birds in front me. These birds were spending some time searching for food, napping and keeping an eye on me.

Next, I swung around the other side of the birds in the rocks, taking a vantage point with the sun behind me. These birds were mostly trying to get in some napping. It was amazing to see so many sandpipers so close up and so camouflaged by the rocks they were resting in.
I was a bit confused with what they were as they were so plain looking. I'm used to seeing at least some rufous colored feathers on sandpipers this size, but these were very plain, almost gray looking. I was hoping they may turn out to be Rock Sandpipers, but the yellow legs kept yanking back to the more common Least Sandpiper.
Once I got home and looked through my field guides it became apparent that these were Least Sandpipers in non-breeding plumage.
One thing to remember when shooting birds near the beach; watch the tide! Even though I was a ways off from the beach, water creating small streams in the sand around me had risen while I was shooting the sandpipers to the point where the stepping stone bridges were covered over with water. Rather than getting my boots and feet all wet, I ended up having to walk a large loop through the marshy grassland to get back to the parking lot. :-)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Eurasian Wigeon

I found a female Eurasian Wigeon among a flock of American Wigeons at Westmoreland Park in Portland today. A male and female pair spent a large portion of the winter there last year.
Based on my National Geographic field guide, this is a rufous morph as gray morph females closely resemble American Wigeon females. My Sibley guide does not mention the rufous morph.
As the name implies, Eurasian Wigeons are native to both Europe and Asia, but it is not unusual for it to migrate down both coasts of North American, typically accompanying American Wigeons.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bald Eagle

I went looking for the Vermilion Flycatcher at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge today. As I approached marker 11, were it had been reportedly seen, there were several vehicles with huge lenses sticking out their windows clustered around the area. And sure enough, it was there, fly catching from the top of a dead tree off in the distance. Unfortunately, it was out of range of my camera to get usable photos, but I did see it!
Earlier, as I made my way around the auto tour, I found a Bald Eagle sitting up in a tree at the corner where road turns into a one way. It was busy eating its catch and paid me little attention allowing me to get some decent shots. Not sure what it was eating as there wasn't much left of it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mew Gull

One of the first places I checked out when I arrived at South Jetty this past Saturday, was the beach just North of the jetty. There wasn't anything unusual, but there was a large number of gulls hanging out. It was a mix of Western, California, Herring, Heermann's and Mew Gulls. There also may have been a few Thayer's Gulls, but I'm still not comfortable identifying them.
I've probably had less than a hand full of sightings of Mew Gulls and these were easily the closest views I've gotten. I find the best field mark in identifying Mew Gulls is the size of its bill. Its much thinner and shorter than other Larus gulls. Its also the smallest overall in size.

In the image above the Mew Gull on the left is joined by a Heermann's Gull in the foreground and a California Gull in flight.