Posts Tagged ‘Ross’s Goose’

Sauvie Sounds

January 21, 2010

Sauvie Island is not far from downtown Portland, Oregon.  It’s flat so there are no hills to curb sound.  Occasional  jets pass as they go into and out of Portland Airport up-river along the Columbia River.  Rail lines parallel the Columbia on the both the Oregon and Washington riverbanks.  Freight trains run with whistles blowing.  There are some cattle, herds of sheep.  But mostly it is nature that provides the sound-track for life on Sauvie.

In this season the cottonwoods, oaks and other deciduous trees have no sound-baffling foliage.  You stand in the open and from nearby and far-off you hear the sound of birds.  It may be the bugling of Sandhill Cranes as they mill about a pasture.  A sound heard across North America for over 50-million years.  Or it could be the toots of hundreds of Cackling Geese.  Even when happily grazing on the ground, these geese are not silent.  Let an eagle intrude and they take to the air in swirling, screaming layers of goose flesh.  And there are the Snow Geese that gather in dense white drifts along shallow ponds.  The Snows, along with a few Ross’s, wade the sticky mud or paddle through partially submerged grass in loose squadrons.  Every twenty geese or so you notice one with a blue rinse on its feathers.  Again an eagle can send airborne both the smaller ducks and the thick white smoke of Snow Geese against the soft winter blue of the Oregon sky. There are dozens of Canada Geese in almost every flock of birds and they, too, add their familiar “golf,”  “golf,”  honking to the cacophony.  Snow Geese have what David Sibley calls a raucous sand harsh sounding “whouk” call.  If the ducks are calling, their sound is lost in the chaotic orchestra of flying geese.

Between outbreaks of goose panic, there are the sweet whistlings of an unseen song bird.  Somewhere in the uncut grass and weeds a single Western Meadowlark whistles his melodic jingle. He must know the days are getting longer.  The noise-making geese and cranes will move on northward.  Many of the wintering raptors, especially the low-flying Harriers, will also move north. Life will become ever-so-peaceful for the residents.  Even the Columbia River, engorged by winter rains, will subside a bit.  It’ll flow with less mud and roiling water and debris headed to sea.  Thus leaving the locals, including the singing meadowlark to a quieter, slower-paced life during the Sauvie Spring.

A Sauvie Island Pond with Snow and Ross’s Geese in flight after a Bald Eagle flew over.

One small fraction of the flock of Cackling Geese in a Sauvie Island farm yard.

Winter Birds in Oregon

January 21, 2010

Today I got to Sauvie Island in time for some afternoon birding.  Starting Saturday I will be leading a PIB trip in Oregon and Washington.  We will be looking for those birds that don’t often show up at interior locations.

Here’s one.  An adult Glaucous-winged Gull does some non-political public polling.  This is the largest gull commonly found near the mouth of the Columbia River.

A blizzard of Snow Geese, with a few Ross’s, after a Bald Eagle soared over and stirred them up.

Earlier the same thing happened with a marsh full of Cackling Geese. But the nearby Sandhill Cranes never flinched.

Before the eagle’s appearance, all was peaceful.

Young Red-tailed Hawk.

On the right: Cooper’s Hawk hunting along the hedgerow.

Two cranes coming in for landing.

Location:     Upper Sauvie Island
Observation date:     1/20/10
Number of species:     33

Cackling Goose     1500
Canada Goose     300
Tundra Swan     12
American Wigeon     50
Mallard     50
Northern Shoveler     3
Northern Pintail     4
Green-winged Teal     15
Double-crested Cormorant     45
Great Blue Heron     2
Great Egret     1
Bald Eagle     6
Northern Harrier     4
Cooper’s Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     12
Rough-legged Hawk     1
American Kestrel     4
American Coot     16
Sandhill Crane     220
Ring-billed Gull     650
Glaucous-winged Gull     2
Mourning Dove     3
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     2
Steller’s Jay     1
Western Scrub-Jay     8
American Crow     14
American Robin     10
European Starling     150
Song Sparrow     1
Golden-crowned Sparrow     12
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)     34
Brewer’s Blackbird     300
House Finch     2


Location:     Lower Sauvie Island
Observation date:     1/20/10
Number of species:     18

Snow Goose     1500
Ross’s Goose     20
Cackling Goose     300
Canada Goose     120
Tundra Swan     16
American Wigeon     8
Mallard     45
Northern Shoveler     30
Green-winged Teal     25
Canvasback     2
Ring-necked Duck     80
Great Blue Heron     1
Bald Eagle     1
American Coot     60
Sandhill Crane     15
Ring-billed Gull     160
Mourning Dove     16
Western Meadowlark     1