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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Birding Around Portland

My dad and I had a couple hours to go bird-watching on Monday morning and we started out going to a wetlands behind the post office in Tualatin. It sounds like an odd place to bird, but in addition to the ring-necked ducks and flock of double-crested cormorants, we were there to see a pair of American white pelicans (77) that had been reported the day before. We see these pelicans occasionally around the Portland area, but this is an odd time of year for them. The population is known for having some fairly localized areas where they are seen with regularity, but the field guide notes that vagrants can "appear almost anywhere". I was happy to see the, as this species is by no means a gimme for the year list:

Next up we went to check out a park in southeast Portland where a large mix of gulls had been reported, including a first-year glaucous gull. Much to our disappointment, there was only a single glaucous-winged gull present, and otherwise the park was extremely quiet bird-wise. We decided instead to head over to Westmoreland Park, which is always good for gulls, but on the way we stopped at the Rhododendron Gardens.

As expected, wood ducks (78) were aplenty at the Gardens:

We also found several Steller's jays (79):

And western scrub-jays, a common species that I don't get a chance to photograph close-up very often:

While scanning the edge of the lake hopeful to pick out a stealthy green heron, we were surprised to see a small flock of greater white-fronted geese (80), a species that eluded me until November of last year. All the other expected waterfowl were present as well, including Canada and cackling geese, American coot, lesser scaup, bufflehead, gadwall, American wigeon, and mallards.

We also came across a large mixed flock of woodland song birds, where I saw my first golden-crowned kinglets (81) for the year. A hummingbird zoomed in quickly for a look at some early blossoms, but I wasn't able to get a good enough look at it to confirm that it was for sure an Anna's hummingbird, the only species that regularly overwinters here.

We continued on to Westmoreland Park, where we were only able to find the glaucous-winged, herring, and ring-billed members of the gull crowd. My disappointment at not picking up another gull species was more than made up for by finding a beautiful pair of Eurasian wigeon (82) in with a flock of American wigeon:

The male Eurasian wigeon stand out in a crowd, but it was nice to get another chance to compare the females of the two species. The most noticeable difference is that the Eurasian female has a brown head and chest, while the American female has a brown chest but a gray head. By the end of the day, I was able to add six more species to the year list.

This afternoon we made a stop at Koll Center wetlands before heading down to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge just south of here. They've drained the wetlands quite a bit at Koll Center, and there wasn't much activity aside from some common mergansers and green-winged teal. There was a single common teal in with them, already by second of the year! It seemed similarly quiet as we started our hike at Tualatin River NWR, but then we came across a pocket of birds that included dark-eyed juncos, bushtits, and a pair of Bewick's wrens (83). Also nearby was a spotted towhee (84) digging through the leaf litter. I'm surprised this species fell all the way past number 80 for the year!

As we continued walking I asked my dad if he had a pileated woodpecker on his year list yet. He said he didn't. Then, not a minute later, I heard and then we both saw a pileated woodpecker (85) fly over the marsh and land in an oak tree!

The main reason for our visit to the refuge was to see the western screech-owl (86) that has been reliably perching right by the path during the day. I always love seeing owls, but it is especially amazing to see them up close and apparently completely undisturbed by all the commotion of people walking by on the trail. He/she was on the exact same branch that my dad saw him on a couple of weeks ago. Here's the owl snoozing, not paying us the least bit of attention and unwilling to open its eyes to have its photo taken:

Before leaving the wildlife refuge, we took my dad's scope to the wetlands overlook and scanned all the waterfowl, hoping to turn up a cinnamon teal. We didn't, but we did see another pair of Eurasian wigeon (this is the first time I've seen Eurasian wigeon and common teal in the same day!), a pair of bald eagles, a couple red-tailed hawks, and loads of cackling geese:

We still had a bit of daylight left so we decided to swing by Coffee Creek wetlands on the way home. There were several tundra swans out on the lake, along with a big flock of ring-necked ducks, lots of gadwall, and a pair of lesser scaup. The most exciting activity was in the brush alongside the marsh where we found another mixed flock of woodland birds. In the mix were black-capped chickadees, bushtits, golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets, and also my first brown creeper (87) of the year.

Tomorrow the plan is to return to Fernhill Wetlands where we participated in the Christmas Bird Count about a month ago. Wouldn't it be nice to find some of the same species there again! Some of my target species include the Lincoln's sparrow, marsh wren, western meadowlark, and Thayer's gull. We'll see how I do!


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

87! Yikes I'd better get twitching!!!
That was a good day's birding Monika, love to get American Teal & Wigeon in one day, there are a couple of GW Teal locally but they are a bit mobile, bout time we had one on the nature reserve again.



Warren Baker said...

Good luck at fernhil Monika, you've already got dave worried :-)

Just love that Owl !!!

Andy said...

Some nice birds you observed

Jen Sanford said...

Greater White-fronted at Westmoreland? Yikes I better get over there! Thanks for the tip!

Monika said...

Jen - The white-fronted geese were at the Rhododendron Gardens near Westmoreland, at the far end of the lake near the golf course. I was surprised to see them there too! Good luck!