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.

Washington County Wetlands

fernhill lake
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.
fernhill
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.

american goldfinchThis American Goldfinch was enjoying the water.

lesser goldfinch right lesser goldfinchLesser Goldfinch

eurasian collared doveEurasian Collared Dove

tree swallowsAt 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.

tree swallow female tree swallow maleTree Swallows

baby barn swallow barn swallowsBaby Barn Swallows

cedar waxwingCedar Waxwing

savannah sparrowSavannah Sparrow

red-winged blackbirdRed-winged Blackbird

least sandpiperThere 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.

wilson's phalaropeThis 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.

Baby Towhees

towhee topYoung 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.
towheeDespite 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).

Tualatin River NWR

eagle nestI 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.

gadwallI saw several pairs of Gadwall, but no ducklings yet. This male was putting on a show for his lady friend.

mallard momMallards have been out with broods for weeks now.
duckling
cinnamon tealCinnamon Teal siesta

pb grebePied-billed Grebe showing off his black throat

spotted sandpipersI often find Spotted Sandpipers perched on man-made structures.

bullfrog 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.

Sandy River Delta

chat singingI 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.
chat turnedThis 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.

IMG_4762Lazuli Buntings are back in force and singing on territory.

common yellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat

IMG_4757Savannah Sparrow, in harsh sunlight. One of these days I will learn how to photograph in such conditions.

pileatedWe often associate Pileated Woodpeckers with dense forest, but this species is often found on isolated cottonwood trees along the Columbia River.

Fort Stevens State Park

When the tides are right, the area around Parking Lot D at Fort Stevens State Park can be very productive.

caspian ternsOn my recent visit, I found about 400 Caspian Terns in the bay. Many of the birds were presenting fish to their lady loves, and a few were rewarded accordingly (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). A Bald Eagle would occasionally take a pass at the flock, sending the terns off in a big swirling mass, but the birds would quickly settle down again.

bonaparte's gullOne of my favorite birds of the day was this breeding plumaged Bonaparte’s Gull. I watched the bird fly in and settle on the mud flat. I snapped a couple of frames from a great distance, planning on getting better views. But, as is often the case, the bird took off before I could get any closer.

shorebird flockOver the past few years, this site has been become a productive spot for shorebirds. The spring shorebirds migration is well past its peak, but there were still a few birds around. This little flock was actively feeding along the shore, so I sat on my knees in the sand and waited for the birds to come to me. Shorebirds are very wary of people standing upright, but if you sit down, or better yet, lie down, the birds will come quite close.

dunlinThis blurry Dunlin was the only member of her species in the flock.

least sandpiperLeast Sandpiper

western sandpiper 3Western Sandpiper

semipalmated plover and least sandpiperSemipalmated Plover and Least Sandpiper

semipalmated ploverSemipalmated Plovers made up the bulk of this flock.
semipalmated plover feedingWhile the spring shorebird movement is about done, the southbound migration begins in about six weeks, so we don’t have too long to wait for another shorebird fix.

Spring Shorebirds

I had hoped to get to the coast this week, but a big weather system was blowing in so I  visited Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom. Both sites had a few shorebirds sporting their breeding plumage.

semipalmated plover fluffySemipalmated Plover

semipalmated plover 1

dunlinDunlin

least sandpipersLeast Sandpipers

western sandpiperWestern Sandpiper

long-billed dowitchersLong-billed Dowitchers at Jackson Bottom. The sticks in the foreground are willow stakes planted by Clean Water Services. As these willows grow, they form a canopy over the mud flats, making the habitat useless to migrating shorebirds. Birders have been complaining about the practice at this site for years, to no avail.

Silver Lining

I led the field trip for my Warblers and Flycatchers class Saturday morning. We walked around Mt. Tabor Park in SE Portland for several hours. Spring migration tends to occur in waves, with some days producing large numbers of migrants, and other days producing very few. Unfortunately for the class, Saturday was one of the “very few” days. But despite the total lack of flycatchers and the near absence of warblers, we still enjoyed whatever birds we came across.

sapsucker on post 2One of the more entertaining birds of the day was this Red-breasted Sapsucker. This individual has become rather famous for drumming on the metal band on the concrete street light.

IMG_4556In the woods nearby, we found this sapsucker excavating a new cavity.
IMG_4554So even though we dipped on most of our target species, we proved again that there is always something to see.