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.
preening and sleeping Black Turnstones
sleepy Black Turnstone and Surfbird
The weather has entered its dark and dreary pattern, typical for Portland in late autumn. This makes for dark grainy photos, but here are a few shots from Crystal Springs in southeast Portland.
Steller’s Jay, looking all artsy among the architecture of the boardwalk
This American Coot appears to be concerned with modesty while preening.
Here is the same individual feeding on land. I always appreciate the chance to see this species’ lobed feet.
Western Canada Goose
American Wigeon, with Bufflehead in the background
I don’t know what this Wood Duck was carrying. They eat acorns, but this appears to be something different.
I am hoping for some sunshine for my next outing.
Broughton Beach is the stretch of shoreline along the Columbia River, just north of the Portland airport. It has been a popular spot to access the river to scan for waterfowl in winter, and the shore attracts some neat birds, like Horned Larks, American Pipits, and the occasional Short-eared Owl. There used to be free parking there, but that was eliminated when the adjacent public boat launch was expanded to include a nice new car parking lot (with a fee station).
There weren’t many birds on the water during my recent visit. Here is a distant Horned Grebe.
A mixed flock of gulls was loafing on a sand spit. There are at least four species in this photo, lots of California, a Mew, a Herring, and a few Ring-billed.
The gull flock was resting after being harassed by this guy. This Peregrine Falcon spent several minutes flying through the flock, taking half-hearted swipes at various gulls. Perhaps he was testing for any individuals that were injured or particularly slow.
The morning at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in northwest Portland started out foggy. At the Smith Lake canoe launch, 12 Greater White-fronted Geese were among the many waterfowl. It is getting late for White-fronts in the Willamette Valley.
There were a lot of Cedar Waxwings flycatching and feeding on various fruiting trees. This is a young bird, given the overall scruffy appearance and the lack of red tips on the tertials.
This Pileated Woodpecker was very vocal and perched out in the open on a distant utility pole.
This Red-shouldered Hawk was among the many Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers present on the property.
The current low water levels allow you to hike quite a ways out into the wetlands. Marsh Wrens are common in the shrubs and reed canary grass.
Song Sparrows are also common in the tall grasses. The best bird of the day was a Swamp Sparrow, but he eluded the camera.
Pacific Chorus Frogs were singing everywhere, but this is the only individual I could see.
I made a very brief stop at Delta Ponds in Eugene. Since the site is right by a major highway, the traffic noise effectively eliminates any birding by ear. But the ponds attract good numbers of waterfowl and herons. A Black Phoebe was a nice find.
Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons were common. I am incapable of photographing white birds on a sunny day without them totally washing out.
Beaver dam. We didn’t see any Beaver, but we did find two River Otters.
The best sighting of the day, despite the slight social awkwardness, was this pair of Western Pond Turtles, a lifer for me. Western Pond Turtles, one of only two native turtle species in Oregon, are nearly extirpated from their range north of Eugene, and are listed as critical on the the Oregon list of sensitive species.
I led a tour of Fernhill Wetlands for the Birds and Brew Festival. Since there were about 50 people in the group, including many who didn’t have optics, we concentrated on the “charismatic mega-fauna,” like these American White Pelicans.
A Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron were looking all artsy with their reflections.
This distant American Kestrel was showing off his colors.
After the group dispersed, I took another lap around the lake so I could check out the smaller birds. Along with five species of sparrow, there were lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers moving around.
I spent a warm sunny morning around Cannon Beach and Seaside. The first stop was Silver Point, just south of Cannon Beach, for a sea watch. There were plenty of birds out there, way out there. It is what I call birding at the edge of imagination. You have an idea of what you are seeing, but realistically, there is a lot of guessing involved. I did see the wing flash of Sooty Shearwaters and several flocks of White-winged and Surf Scoters, but most of what I saw were unidentifiable specks. Nala was waiting somewhat patiently in the car, so we soon went to Tolovana Wayside and walked to Haystack Rock.
The tide was coming in, so I couldn’t get too close to the rocks. Still, you could see several Harlequin Ducks. Here is a male and female, with a Black Oystercatcher on the right. I didn’t see the Oystercatcher when I was in the field, only when I developed the photo.
another Black Oystercatcher
A log, which has obviously been in the water for a long time, had washed up on shore, and the American Crows were busy picking at the barnacles.
Nala, taking a break
The next stop was the Cove, at Seaside. As is often the case, there was a nice congregation of Black Turnstones on the rocks.
There were also good numbers of Surfbirds.
Heermann’s Gulls should be heading south very soon.
Our last stop was the Necanicum Estuary. This spot is very hit-or-miss, with either lots of birds or none. Today was closer to the latter. But along with the few California Gulls were several Caspian Terns still feeding young. Most Caspian Terns have already moved south, so it seems late to have begging fledglings still around.
Fernhill Wetlands, south of Forest Grove, is a great place to see the onset of autumn. Water levels on the main lake are still very low, but the recent rains will soon change that.
Migrant shorebirds, like these Western Sandpipers, are enjoying the mudflats. Shorebird numbers are starting to thin out.
This Pectoral Sandpiper was checking out the new vegetation on the lake bed.
The first Cackling Geese have arrived. They will soon be joined by a few thousand more.
This Common Merganser was resting on an exposed mud bar. I don’t get to see mergansers out of the water very often.
American White Pelicans, once considered rare in the Willamette Valley, are now an expected species in late summer.
Eurasian Collared-Doves are another species that are increasingly common in the area.
The annual Fernhill Wetlands Birds and Brew Festival will be held on October 12. I will be leading the 8:00 tour for that. Here is a link for more info.
Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area (aka Smith and Bybee Lakes) in northeast Portland is a great spot in late summer as the water levels drop. Large flocks of American White Pelicans, California Gulls, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and various shorebirds gather to feed in the shallow water and on the mudflats. On this visit, most birds were pretty far away, but could be scanned with a scope. Western and Least Sandpipers were the only shorebirds I could pull out of the distant flocks, but other species have been reported recently.
This juvenile Green Heron was hanging out at the canoe launch on Smith Lake.
In the same area, this Peregrine Falcon was surveying the mudflats for tasty shorebirds.
On Bybee Lake, large numbers of Blue Herons and Great Egrets were gathered. At the edge of the group was this Snowy Egret, an uncommon visitor to the Portland area. Here is a nice comparison with the larger Great Egret.
The lumps on the shoreline are dead and dying waterfowl, mostly Northern Shovelers. Warm temperatures and low water levels sometimes lead to outbreaks of avian botulism. Outbreaks usually subside with cooler temperatures and rain, which we are now getting in Portland.