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.
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.
One 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.
In the woods nearby, we found this sapsucker excavating a new cavity. So even though we dipped on most of our target species, we proved again that there is always something to see.
While I recognize the serious nature of the current drought, it is hard to be unhappy about sunshine in January. So after many weeks of not birding, I finally got out and spent a day on the coast. On the path around the Cannon Beach wastewater ponds, I came across a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese. This Eurasian Wigeon was hanging out with the Mallards at the wastewater treatment plant.
In the surf around Haystack Rock, there were lots of Surf Scoters and Black Scoters, but they kept out of camera range. This is a Harlequin Duck. No, really.
The mouth of Ecola Creek, at the north end of Cannon Beach, is a favorite hangout of the local gulls. I found Western, Glaucous-winged, California, Mew, Herring, and Thayer’s. Unfortunately, photographing white birds in bright sunshine against a dark background is beyond my rudimentary skills. Most of my shots consisted of glowing white blobs surrounded by lovely blue water. This shot of a third-cycle Thayer’s Gull bathing in the creek is at least recognizable.
This Red-shouldered Hawk was at Mill Ponds Park in nearby Seaside. The same bird in the middle of a roust I couldn’t get a flight shot of the Red-shouldered in focus, but this at least shows this species’ beautiful pattern.
I spent a cold but sunny day on the coast, from Seaside to the Columbia River. One of the best surprises of the day was this Black Phoebe at Millponds Park in Seaside. This species continues to expand its range northward, both along the coast and in the Willamette Valley.
While the ponds at this park are attractive to freshwater waterfowl like Ring-necked Ducks and Hooded Mergansers, the brushy areas hold good numbers of sparrows. Here is a Song Sparrow in the harsh sunlight.
Fox Sparrows are common in the brushy areas. Unfortunately, my camera prefers to focus on the brush, rather than on the birds.
This lone Dunlin was the only shorebird I found at Fort Stevens. He was very tolerant of my presence. The same bird, blending in well with the sand The Seaside Cove hosted huge rafts of birds; all three scoters, Greater Scaup, Western Grebe, and a single Long-tailed Duck. Most birds were beyond the breakers (aka beyond camera range), but this Red-necked Grebe came in close enough for a blurry photo.
I guided a group of birders to the north coast this week. We saw a lot of good birds, but the rainy weather forced me to keep my camera in the car most of the time. The best surprise of the day was this bird, hanging out in the middle of the high school soccer field in Seaside. As we drove by, I thought we had a Marbled Godwit, but when got out to take a better look, we discovered he was a Long-billed Curlew. This is a common nesting species in southeastern Oregon, but is uncommon along the coast in migration.
This is a young bird, with fresh plumage and a bill that isn’t all that long for a Long-billed Curlew.
Here he is showing the cinnamon buff color under the wings, typical for this species.
I don’t know what he was finding to eat in the soccer field, but he seemed to be content there.
This pair of Ospreys is nesting on a piling along Sauvie Island Road. The elevation of the road provides an eye-level view of the nest. Note the piece of blue plastic.
The female is sitting on eggs, so she remained pretty still the whole time I was there, aside from from making a few adjustments. Meanwhile, the male was bringing additional sticks and continued to build the nest around her.
While I was watching the Ospreys, this young American Crow flew in carrying a Cedar Waxwing, landed on a log, and proceeded to eat. I don’t know if the crow actually caught the waxwing or happened to find a dead one, but the crow didn’t hesitate to chow down and had the waxwing consumed in about one minute. I am aging this bird as a youngster by the pale color on the bill and the scaly pattern on the back.
On a less gruesome note, a pair of Barn Swallows was building a nest in the observation platform on Reeder Road.
This is a view from the end of Rentenaar Road, lots of flowers and Great Egrets.
I joined the Audubon Morning Birdsong Walk at Pittock Mansion Friday morning. The cold damp weather kept most birds hunkered down out of sight, but this Red-breasted Sapsucker put on a nice show. He would fly to the concrete light posts and drum on the metal light fixtures to declare his territory. Several woodpecker species, flickers in particular, are known to drum on metal.
We are in that late winter season when birding seems to slow. I don’t know whether there are actually fewer birds around this time of year or we have just already seen the local winter residents so they don’t hold our attention. In any case, the best birding is usually found in and around wetlands. Here are some recent shots from area wetlands from the past couple of weeks.
Great Blue Herons are always around, and have started hanging out in their nesting colonies.
This Dusky Canada Goose was enjoying the sunshine at Ankeny NWR.
Coyote, Vanport Wetlands
Another Coyote, at Ankeny NWR
This Nutia at Fernhill Wetlands seemed unconcerned with the group of birders walking by.
Here is a Red-winged Blackbird sharing a nyjer feeder with a Lesser Goldfinch at Jackson Bottom. I don’t recall seeing blackbirds eating nyjer before.
On a recent trip to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), I watched this Yellow-rumped Warbler feeding over the water. The air temperature was below freezing, so I believed the bird was searching for insects in the slightly warmer zone near the water’s surface. This theory was challenged on the other side of the lake when the bird was seen foraging on the shoreline, and then on the ice itself. Yellow-rumps are known to feed on arthropods and fruit in the winter, so I can only assume there were some small insects on the surface of the ice.
Yellow-rumped Warbler on the rocks. Yellow-rumped Warbler on ice. This individual is a member of Audubon’s race of Yellow-rumped Warbler (eye crescents, buffy throat). The Myrtle race also occurs in Oregon in winter, but reportedly seldom feeds on the ground.