Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunny, Winter’s Day on the Coast

It’s our third winter here in Oregon. The first one was very mild and was a good easing in to living in a place with actual seasons (at least for me, anyway). The second year was a bit more typical for Oregon. But this year has been especially wet and cold. There’s been heavier rain showers rather than just gray mist, and lots more snow and ice. So, when there are sunny days with no rain in sight, we have to take advantage of them and head outside!

What a gorgeous day at Hatfield Marine Science Center Trail

A couple of weeks ago, one of these precious sunny days meant going to the coast. The birds seemed to enjoy this lovely sunshine just as much as we did. There were lots of leaps for joy! Ok, so more like leaps for food, but still fun, nonetheless. It so happened that I got good shots of some of these hopping water birds. Can you guess what they are? Test your bird ID skills with this fun little quiz. Answers will be revealed at the end of the post. (Those of you who already know the answers from following me on facebook or instagram, let others guess!) No peeking!

Bird ID Quiz Pic #1

Bird ID Quiz Pic #2

Bird ID Quiz Pic #3

It was quite a ducky day, overall. We saw both Greater and Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneyes, tons of Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoter, Bufflehead, Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers, and Harlequin Ducks.

Female Common Goldeneye

Female Common Goldeneye

Pair of Surf Scoters

We had especially good looks at some Surf Scoters as a few individuals kept floating close by and sometimes underneath us, popping out on either side of the fishing pier where we stood. Most other people on this pier were crabbing and looked oddly at this pair of birders loaded with optics and no crab traps. But it wasn’t just crabs they were catching. One guy pulled up a couple of Sculpin, which he tossed right back into the water, but not before I got a shot of that oh-so-amazing face.

Male Surf Scoter

Female Surf Scoter

What an amazing face on this duck! That bill is wild!

But this face is even wilder! And it looks like his side fins are fingers. 

While walking the trail at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, we had a super close encounter with a gorgeous male Northern Harrier. It was so odd to see him on this estuary trail, and he gave us quite a great show! It was almost overshadowed by our frustration of getting a good flight shot of him, but Nick prevailed and got one awesomely clear shot.

Looks like he's hunting something in the tall grasses

Boom! There it is!

It was also a pretty good grebe and loon day, too. Just ask this adorable Common Loon! We saw a few Red-throated loons, too, but they stayed farther away.

The South Jetty in Newport was especially productive that day. We had super close looks at a Brant. We saw plenty of them at Hatfield, but this one was kind enough to hang out close and in good light. These are definitely one of my favorite geese. They are so elegant and chic.

We also had not just one, but two Long-tailed ducks turn up! We had a male and a female. The male did some funny butt-scooting in the water, almost as if he were trying to sit on his rump. It was weird, and it made for some funny poses.

Female Long-tailed Duck

Male Long-tailed Duck

Duck booty-scootin' boogie!

The South Jetty is a good spot to watch gulls. They gather at the parking area and sit nice and still while you work on your gull ID skills. One other birder there pointed out what looked like what could have been a Glaucus Gull. His wife and he deliberated, and we examined it, as well. It was so evenly light-colored all over, and it did have a dark tip on the bill. But alas, the not clean bill (black bleeding into the inner bill) indicated that it was a very glaucussy-looking Glaucus x Glaucus-winged Gull Hybrid. Bah!

NOT a pure Glaucus Gull, unfortunately for us

So, now that you’ve had some time to look at the bird ID quiz photos, here come the answers. Number one is a female Greater Scaup! I think this one was especially tricky. It’s hard enough to ID a lone female brown duck in the first place, let alone with her head dunked under water.

Female Greater Scaup

If you guessed a grebe for number two, then you were on the right track. And if you guessed Red-necked Grebe, you were 100% right! This was also a tricky one since it is a mottled, grayish grebe, and the bodies of Eared, Horned, Western, and Red-necked Grebes (all of which we saw) can all look quite similar in the winter.

And lastly, this long-bodied bird with a greenish sheen and white flank patch indicates the ever lovely Pelagic Cormorant! The sun was hitting this guy just right, making his iridescent feathers gleam so nicely. And even the colors of his orange bill and red gape really popped. 

Thanks for playing along! I hope you had fun with the quiz and seeing the sights of our sunny coastal day.


  1. What a fun post! I definitely did not get the female greater scaup correct. :)

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I think that greater scaup was the hardest to figure out. Thanks for playing along! :)