After 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. The 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. Doing a little preening fuzzy baby owl, cuteness in the forest
Westmoreland 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.
The 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.
The creek runs clear, with nice patches of aquatic plants attractive to fish and crayfish.
There are a lot of fish in the creek. These were close enough to the surface to photograph.
This Great Blue Heron was enjoying the new digs. We 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.
I 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.
fledgling White-crowned Sparrow
The resident pair of Eastern Kingbirds was hanging out on the power lines.
American Goldfinches were common in the grassy areas.
Belted Kingfisher on a side channel of the Sandy River.
The stars of this site are the Lazuli Buntings. This male was keeping a close watch on his lady. The female Lazuli Bunting was a little more shy.
There are big changes underway at Fernhill Wetlands. The main lake has been drained, and the two impoundments to the south are completely gone. This is all to make way for large emergent wetlands that will replace the ponds. This should greatly increase the bird diversity at the site when work is completed.
There weren’t any shorebirds on these newly exposed flats, but I would imagine this area would be pretty appealing to a passing plover or Baird’s Sandpiper.
This American Goldfinch was enjoying the water.
Eurasian Collared Dove
At Jackson Bottom, swallows were everywhere, with young birds out of the nest and waiting around for parents to feed them. Tree and Barn were the two species I noticed.
Baby Barn Swallows
There were lots of Least Sandpipers about. These are birds that either didn’t make it all the way to the Arctic, or had failed nesting attempts and headed back south. Shorebird migration will really pick up in about two weeks.
This male Wilson’s Phalarope was reported with three downy chicks earlier in the week, but I did not see any young when I was there. Hopefully the little ones were off hiding somewhere.
Young Spotted Towhees have been showing up at the feeder. It is always fun to see them, as they look so different from their parents. This plumage can be confusing to those unfamiliar with it, but there are clues to the bird’s identity, other than the parents that are usually nearby. Despite the overall dark coloring, they still show spots on their wing coverts, like their parents. By the time they leave the nest, they possess the large size and long tail of the adults. Like most fledgelings, the young towhees show yellow at the gape (corner of the mouth).
I made a quick visit to Tualatin River NWR in the afternoon heat. One of the main trails is closed off until this young Bald Eagle decides to leave the nest. Despite the flock of European Starlings cheering him on, he didn’t show any sign of leaving.
I saw several pairs of Gadwall, but no ducklings yet. This male was putting on a show for his lady friend.
Mallards have been out with broods for weeks now. Cinnamon Teal siesta
Pied-billed Grebe showing off his black throat
I often find Spotted Sandpipers perched on man-made structures.
Despite the time of day, American Bullfrogs were actively singing and defending territories. This introduced species is so common in the Willamette Valley. I would think they would be a favored prey item (Great Blue Heron, Mink, River Otter, etc.) but I seldom find any evidence of predation. Bullfrogs are unfortunately very good at preying on native frogs and turtles.
I took Nala to the Sandy River Delta this week. One of the target birds for this area is Yellow-breasted Chat, a species hard to find elsewhere in the Portland area. This was the only individual I found that day, but new migrants are arriving daily. Willow Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds, two other specialties of this site, were largely absent during my visit, but were reported a few days later.
Lazuli Buntings are back in force and singing on territory.
Savannah Sparrow, in harsh sunlight. One of these days I will learn how to photograph in such conditions.
We often associate Pileated Woodpeckers with dense forest, but this species is often found on isolated cottonwood trees along the Columbia River.