Rocky Mountain National Park

sunriseI spent a recent morning in Rocky Mountain National Park. We arrived before sunrise, so we got to watch the sun come up from high elevation. Note the Common Raven in the center of the frame.

tundraMy main target of this trip was White-tailed Ptarmigan. But despite walking through some lovely tundra, with scattered rocks and stunted pines, I dipped on this species again. Sing it with me: I am a rock….I’m not a ptarrrrrrrrr-ar-miiii-gan.

mountain bluebird 2I did manage to find a few birds, including this Mountain Bluebird.

elk bull 1I think we saw more individual elk than all other birds and mammals combined. Here is an assortment of some of them.
elk herdelk cow 1elk treeelk woodselk spike bull

Jackson Bottom

There was a recent flurry of shorebird activity at Jackson Bottom, south of Hillsboro. I missed out on seeing some of the less common species, but a brief visit one morning provided lots of both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, among others.

IMG_5576Greater Yellowlegs were wading in the deeper water, chasing small fish.
IMG_5579IMG_5589Lesser Yellowlegs tended to stay in shallower water, and feed in a more delicate manner.
IMG_5591IMG_5595Common Carp, hoping the rainy season starts soon.

Deep Water Pelagic

sunriseI took a 12-hour pelagic trip out of Newport last Saturday. The morning started out with the typical cool cloudy weather one expects on the Oregon coast. Here is the sun rising over the Coast Range.

pink-footed shearwater patterThe most common species of the day was Pink-footed Shearwater. The largest concentration of birds was gathered behind a fish processing ship. While I am opposed to the strip-mining of our oceans, these ships always attract a lot of birds.

flock 4
flock 1Pink-footed Pandemonium (There is also a Black-footed Albatross and a Sooty Shearwater)

black-footed albatross flying black-footed albatross backBlack-footed Albatrosses are common once you get out about 20 miles. This individual had an odd lump in her neck. I hope it is just a large food item in her crop and not a disposable lighter or some other piece of trash.

fork-tailed storm-petrel 1 fork-tailed storm-petrel 2We saw more Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels than I had ever seen before.

wilson's storm-petrelWe saw three other species of storm-petrel, all very rare in Oregon waters. This is a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel. The other two were Black and Ashy Storm-Petrels.

bridgeBy the time we returned to port, the weather was sunny and hot. That’s just not right. I ended the day with a nasty sunburn.

brandt's cormorantsBack in the bay, families of Brandt’s Cormorants were on the pilings.

dc cormorantDouble-crested Cormorant

common murreCommon Murre.

 

The North Coast

I took my shorebird class to the coast, from Cannon Beach to Hammond. While birding overall was good, the shorebirds were less than stellar in both number and diversity.

black oystercatcherBlack Oystercatcher is a reliable species on Haystack Rock.

puffinNesting season is still in full swing on Haystack Rock. Here is a Tufted Puffin among some Common Murres.

mixed flockThe rocks at the Hammond Boat Basin continue to be a reliable high-tide roost for Marbled Godwits and Whimbels.
godwits and whimbrel
whimbrelheerman'sOf course, you can’t go to the coast without appreciating the gulls. Here is a Heermann’s Gull in a rather unflattering stage of molt.
ring-billedFirst cycle Ring-billed Gull

crossbill 1One of the more interesting sightings of the day was a pair of Red Crossbills on the shore of The Cove in Seaside. These birds are usually hard to see as they cruise the tops of large conifers. This pair was down to take salt from the rocks in the intertidal zone. (male pictured, the female eluded the camera)
crossbill 3For the purposes of my shorebird class, it would have been much better to find Black Turnstones, Ruddy Turnstones, Wandering Tattlers, and Surfbirds at this site, but you can’t complain too much when you get to see Crossbills on the beach.

Northern Spotted Owl

spotted owl 1After 13 years in Oregon, I finally had the opportunity to see a Northern Spotted Owl. This subspecies continues its decline, so I was losing hope of ever seeing one. But this female and her fluffy baby gave me great, albeit distant, looks. For the record, I did not call this bird in, nor did I leave the trail to attempt a closer look.
spotted owl 2The habitat these birds were using was marginal at best. One one hand, it is encouraging that the birds were making use of younger fragmented forest, since large tracts of old growth are now so rare. On the other hand, using this habitat increases the chances of encountering Great Horned and Barred Owls, both of which can prey on Spotteds.
spotted owl 3Doing a little preening
spotted owl babyfuzzy baby owl, cuteness in the forest

spotted owls in flightMom and baby

Westmoreland Park

IMG_5241Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, has long been the local go-to spot for wintering gulls and waterfowl. This cement-lined urban duck pond attracted a great variety of diving ducks, large flocks of Cackling and other geese, and at least 8 species of gulls. Last autumn, efforts began to create a more natural creek channel and wetland. Work is still being done, but the park has reopened, revealing a very different habitat.

IMG_5230The pond is gone, and the creek winds through the property along a huge new boardwalk. Low areas along the creek will flood in the wet season, creating standing water for waterfowl.

IMG_5240The creek runs clear, with nice patches of aquatic plants attractive to fish and crayfish.

IMG_5237There are a lot of fish in the creek. These were close enough to the surface to photograph.

IMG_5226This Great Blue Heron was enjoying the new digs.
IMG_5229We will have to wait to see what birds use this site in the winter. The park still has lots of lawn, lots of new picnic tables, and plenty of water, so I am optimistic that this will continue to be the go-to site for Thayer’s Gulls and Eurasian Wigeons in Portland.

Summer at Sandy River

willow flycatcherI made an early morning trip to the Sandy River Delta. This late in the summer, with the weather being so hot, most bird song is limited to the hour or so around dawn. This Willow Flycatcher was singing right at sunrise.

white-crowned fledgling White-crowned Sparrow

kingbirdThe resident pair of Eastern Kingbirds was hanging out on the power lines.

american goldfinchAmerican Goldfinches were common in the grassy areas.

kingfisherBelted Kingfisher on a side channel of the Sandy River.

lazuli bunting on railThe stars of this site are the Lazuli Buntings. This male was keeping a close watch on his lady.
lazuli bunting front lazuli bunting leftlazuli femaleThe female Lazuli Bunting was a little more shy.