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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sauvie Island in November

About 10 miles outside of Portland near the junction of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers is Sauvie Island, a rural 26,000 acres including a large wildlife refuge. Its one of the first places I remember my dad taking me birding when I was little, and is still one of my favorite spots for finding overwintering waterfowl.

Much of the wildlife refuge is closed to bird-watchers and open to hunters from November-April, but there is still a pretty driving tour around the island with several places where you can stop and overlook ponds and fields. The weather here has been very blustery and gray, so it wasn't a bad day to bird mostly from the car anyway.

The first stop I made was to look at a flock of Canada geese with some snow geese mixed in. There are many different races of Canada geese, and I'm no expert at telling them apart, but it was obvious that several different sub-species were present just by the range in their size and coloration. (Hmmm....maybe a future blog post can focus on this?) Later on, I also heard some cackling geese - they used to be the smallest race of Canada geese but have since been designated their own species.

This photo is of a cedar waxwing who was part of a large flock feeding on the fruits in a patch of leafless trees and scrub. I think this one is eating a rosehip. I'm kind of surprised to find waxwings here in the winter. Even though the Pacific Northwest is part of their year-round range according to maps on my field guides, I just don't recall seeing them here in the winter and associate them mostly with the peak of summer. The picture was nearly all black and white anyway, so turning it to grayscale just enhanced the contrast, really capturing the feeling of the day:

One of the main birds I associate with Sauvie Island is the sandhill crane which likes to stopover on the farmlands on both its fall and spring migrations. I was hoping to get some photos, but I only saw one small flock way off in the distance. When I was stopped to view them, however, I was startled by several killdeer that were scurrying about in the tilled field much closer to the car. They blended in so well I didn't notice them until my binos happened to pan over them! Look at that camouflage:

Raptors were the other highlight of the day, since they seemed to be everywhere. There was one pair of bald eagles in a field, and when the took flight one of them was trailing a big mass of vegetation. I saw four separate pairs of American kestrels, at least as many red-tailed hawks, and both male and female Northern harriers. There were several osprey nest, but none of them occupied, and no owls today either, which would have been a nice find.

In a little over an hour, I turned up a respectable 24 species. It was nice to get out and about a little bit and revisit one of my favorite local birding spots, but I can't wait until we get some sunshine and its nicer weather for both hiking and photography!


The K said...

I was surprised to find that Sauvie Island now has its own website. It's been a while since we've gone birding there. Thanks for bringing back good memories and for posting nice photos.

L u l ΓΌ said...

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Sorr my first language is not English. I read but do not write it well

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