Category Archives: reptiles & amphibians
I made a couple of trips out to Sauvie Island for my Little Brown Birds class. The weather was freakishly nice for late March, although the mild winter has not been conducive to large sparrow flocks.
One highlight of the trip on Saturday was a large flock of California Quail. This species has become more difficult to find in recent years.
Wapato Access Greenway State Park is a great place for herps on Sauvie Island.
This is a large Common Garter Snake. The subspecies found in this area is Red-spotted Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis concinnus)
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.
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 a quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands this week. Great changes are planned for this site. The main lake will be made smaller, and the other two impoundments will be replaced with emergent wetlands. I am looking forward seeing how things progress. Here are some birds and other critters from the trip.
The end of March and beginning of April have been cool and wet. Spring is progressing, but seemingly very slowly. Here are a few images from the past week.
This Pileated Woodpecker is excavating a cavity at Tualatin Hills Nature Park. Thanks to Michele for sharing the location of this nest.
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.
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.
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 spent the day on the Cimarron National Grassland in southwestern Kansas. It is a frequent destination for Kansas birders lured by the possibility of southwestern species that only make it into Kansas here. The area has seen a lot of changes in recent years. A large fire swept through the area a few years ago, killing many of the cottonwoods in the riparian corridor. The last two years have seen severe drought, followed by four inches of rain in the past several weeks. I have been visiting this area since 1984, and this is the first time I have ever seen water flowing in the Cimarron River.
This is the view from the top of Point of Rocks, with the Cimarron River corridor on the left. They say you can see wagon wheel ruts from the Sante Fe Trail from here, but I’m not sure which tracks were made by wagons and which were made by pickup trucks. Birding is usually slow here, but sometimes the brushy slopes attract interesting migrants, and raptors often fly by at eye level.
There are lots of youngsters in the wetlands these days. We haven’t had any rain in July, so water levels are dropping, concentrating wetland animals into smaller areas. This is a Spotted Sandpiper in that awkward adolescent stage.
This adult Spotted Sandpiper may be the parent of the juvenile pictured above. Like many birders, she assumes the sign does not apply to her.
This young Pied-billed Grebe was grooming and stretching in the canal.
I spent last week in Maine, around Bangor and the central coast. The weather went from hot and muggy to cold and rainy, which might have to contributed to the overall poor birding compared to previous visits. I did see two lifers, one on the first day (Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow) and one on the last (Great Cormorant). It is always nice to see some eastern warblers, like this Blackburnian.
Great Black-backed Gulls in this area are rather shy, perhaps because biologists have been “discouraging” them from hunting on the offshore tern nesting colonies. The gulls do not allow a close approach and quickly take off if you point a camera at them.
While the bird diversity has thinned out considerably in the past couple of weeks, I had some nice views of the summer residents at Tualatin River NWR. The resident Bald Eagles still have one youngster in the nest. He is expected to fledge any day now.