Mt. Rainier NP

rainierWe made our first visit to Mt. Rainier NP in Washington last week. This park is an easy drive from Portland. I like getting above the tree line to the alpine meadows, seen here, but the park has large areas of forest, as well. The bird and mammal diversity was good on this trip, although the numbers of individuals were not as large as you usually find in parks such as Glacier or Yellowstone.

dipperThis American Dipper was swimming in one of the rivers; not very photogenic, but interesting behavior. The forested areas were too dark for bird photos, but Gray Jays, Varied Thrushes, and Red Crossbills were common.

cooper's hawkMost of the birds in the alpine habitats were fast fly-bys. I did manage this photo of a young Cooper’s Hawk. The Prairie Falcon that was hunting the ridge was way too fast. I was hoping for White-tailed Ptarmigan on this trip, but perhaps the abundance of raptors was keeping that species out of sight.

bear 1This Black Bear spent many hours feeding on vegetation along one of the trails. We kept a respectful distance, unlike many other park visitors. The bear didn’t seem too concerned with his fans. He did get a little nervous when a couple was taking selfies with him.

chipmunkYellow-pine Chipmunks are common in the meadows.

meadowAnother view of the mountain. I definitely want to explore more of this area.

Random Images

Not much going on bird-wise for me this past week. The shorebird cornucopia from the previous week has dried up, as have many of the region’s mudflats.  But, as I frequently remind myself, there is always something to see.

IMG_7961This is a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds at Fernhill Wetlands during the Birds and Brew Festival on August 22. East winds had brought in smoke from the many wildfires burning in eastern Oregon and Washington. The sky and white and you couldn’t see any of the hills that surround this site.

IMG_7952Fernhill produced a nice crop of young Green Herons this year.

IMG_7969On a clearer day, Nala and I found this Osprey at Kelly Point Park along the Columbia River.

IMG_7971Great Blue Heron, also at Kelly Point.

IMG_7978Banded Killifish in the Columbia River. They are about an inch and a half long.

IMG_7984Obsessive Marine Mammal, Columbia River

Broughton Beach, Portland

Broughton Beach is along the Columbia River, right next to the Portland airport. It can be a challenging place to bird, with dogs and children chasing the birds, police carrying body bags down the beach, etc. But if you catch it on a good day you can find some excellent birding. The great attraction this past week was a Pacific Golden Plover, which spent two days there, avoiding me with great success (thus that specie’s designation as one of my nemesis birds).  I tried for the plover twice with no luck, but found several other goodies along the way.

red phalarope 1The most unexpected species was this Red Phalarope. At first glance, I wrote this bird off as a Red-necked, since Reds are very unusual inland in August, and Red-neckeds are expected. Once I looked at the photographs, however, I saw my error and got a good reminder to LOOK AT THE BIRD! That heavy bill with the light-colored base is a dead giveaway for Red Phalarope.
red phalarope 2
Another coastal species along Broughton Beach was Sanderling.
sanderling 2
sanderlings 2
sanderling 7It is nice to see Sanderlings at inland locations, since you can often get closer to them there than you can at the coast.

semipalm 1Another nice find was this Semipalmated Sandpiper. You can see the partial webbing between the outer toes that gives this species its name. Ten years ago, a Semipalmated Sandpiper anywhere in Oregon was a pretty big deal, but now quite a few individuals are reported every year. Either the bird has become a more common migrant in this state, or people are just better at recognizing them.
semipalm 9
semipalm and westernSemipalmated Sandpiper (r) and Western Sandpiper (l)

western 3Western Sandpipers were present in small numbers. . .
western 2

least 2as were Least Sandpipers.
least 6
california gullCalifornia Gulls like to hang our on a little sand spit that extends into the river at low tide. A few Glaucous-winged Gulls have arrived, and will become more common as autumn approaches.

common loonThis Common Loon seemed a little out of place for August. In the winter months, this species is often seen at this site with large rafts of grebes and diving ducks. There are fewer kids and dogs then, too.

Jackson Bottom

great egretsI scouted Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro for my shorebird class this week. Much of the area is dry, but Pintail Pond still has enough water to create mudflats and easy fishing for the Great Egrets.

ring-billed gullOne Ring-billed Gull was hanging out with several California Gulls.

northern harrierThis Northern Harrier repeated strafed the mudflats, sending all the shorebirds into a panic. Jerk.

spotted sandpiperMost of the shorebirds were beyond decent photo range, but this Spotted Sandpiper came fairly close.

common garter 1The Common Garter Snakes at this site have great coloring. We saw several chasing fish in the shallow water.

downy frontThis young Downy Woodpecker was checking out a swallow house. He didn’t go in, but explored all around the outside.
downy rightdowny left

North Coast

sceneI made two trips to the coast this week, once to scout for my Portland Audubon shorebird class, and again for the class itself. It is amazing how much difference a couple of days can make in the make-up of bird life in a given area. On Thursday, I found a total of 11 shorebirds of two species. During the class we found hundreds of individuals of 10 species. I am so glad it was not the other way around. This is the view from the Necanicum River Estuary, looking south. The tiny bump in the middle is Haystack Rock, about 12 miles away.

whimbrel leftWhimbrel, Necanicum Estuary
whimbrel right
caspian ternCaspian Terns are common and very vocal all along the coast.

elkElk, Necanicum Estuary

semipalmated ploverThis Semipalmated Plover was the only shorebird at the tidal ponds at Fort Stevens.

raccoonRaccoon, on the mudflats near Parking Lot D, Fort Stevens (with a Caspian Tern and a California Gull)

ruddy turnstoneThis is one of two Ruddy Turnstones we found with a flock of Black Turnstones at the Seaside Cove.

white-crowned sparrowWhite-crowned Sparrow, Necanicum Estuary

california ground squirrelCalifornia Ground Squirrel, Hammond Boat Basin

faded gullHere is a good example of why this time of year may not be the best for learning gull ID. The plumage on this gull is bleached out and very worn. Judging from the size, shape, and pink legs on this bird (next to a normal non-breeding California Gull) I’m guessing this is a Glaucous-winged Gull, perhaps in his second cycle. I hope he grows some new feathers soon, or it will be a very cold autumn and winter.

Ridgefield NWR

I don’t get up to Ridgefield NWR in Washington very often, even though it is a short drive from Portland. But lots of folks had recently seen adorable fuzzy little Virginia Rail babies, so I wanted to try my luck.

IMG_7595By the time I got there, the adorable fuzzy little babies had become rather unattractive adolescents, but it was still fun to see this usually shy species out in the open.

IMG_7618Another adolescent foraging near the rails was this little Nutria. The refuge staff tries to control the population of this introduced species, but they remain plentiful.

northern harrierNorthern Harrier

IMG_7583Black-tailed Deer, perfectly hidden among the teasel

IMG_7591There is not a lot of water on the refuge right now, so the Great Egrets were gathered on one of the remaining ponds.

IMG_7581We are entering Ugly Duck Season, when adult ducks molt into identical ratty plumages, making them much harder to identify. I am going with Cinnamon Teal on this mama and babies (all-black bill, overall warm brown coloring).

IMG_7622On the way home we stopped at Kelly Point Park along the Columbia River in NW Portland. California Gulls were gathered on the pilings.

IMG_7623This young American Crow (note the pinkish gape) was begging for food.

IMG_7627Nala, the large aquatic mammal.

In the Garden

I was interviewed on In the Garden with Mike Darcy on June 27 and discussed what you can do to attract birds to your yard in the summer. Due to various circumstances, including the continuing heat wave, I didn’t get out on a birding trip this week. Instead, I spent a little time observing the critters in the yard.

rufous open billRufous Hummingbirds have been visiting in good numbers, a few weeks earlier than normal. Perhaps the drought has pushed them out of their more normal habitats.

rufous reaching
rufous in flight
anna'sThe resident Anna’s Hummingbird is not pleased with the Rufous invaders.

song sparrowThis Song Sparrow has been enjoying the bird bath.

house finch frontjuvenile House Finch at the feeder

cabbage whiteA Cabbage White, probably contemplating laying her eggs on my kale

beesThe bees are loving the Purple Coneflowers.
nalaCharismatic Megafauna