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.
I took Nala on a hiking/swimming tour of the Sandy River Delta. We were there at midday, so we missed the dawn chorus, but the common species were still active and vocal.
Nala’s main interest in the trip was swimming. She swam in a vernal pool, the Sandy River, and the Columbia River.
I have always enjoyed studying herps, and my recent trip to SE Arizona provided a nice opportunity to enjoy some new species. I don’t have a reptile reference for that area, so I am using this post to practice letting go of my need to name things. I invite you to enjoy the pretty lizards. If you know their names, feel free to leave a comment.
This is that long awkward time of year between winter and spring. The big winter flocks have broken up, but the spring migrants haven’t returned yet. As I have said before, there is always something to see, but we have to find simple pleasures until the full decadence of spring migration commences in a month or so.
On a recent sunny day, this Varied Thrush perched outside the living room window. I don’t often see this species in sunlight. They are usually muted by the gloom of a rainy day or the shadows of the forest.
Northwestern Garter Snake, Tualatin Hills Nature Park. I am making the identification based on the small head, although I am not completely comfortable differentiating Northwestern Garter from Common Garter.
Things are hopping at Fernhill Wetlands, with rising water levels, an influx of several thousand geese and other waterfowl, and a few other goodies.
A small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese were hanging out with the Mallards in Dabblers Marsh.
The resident Bald Eagles were sitting around looking majestic. I watched one carrying a stick to add to their nest.
I saw three Common Garter Snakes on this trip, including one very young newborn about the width of a linguine. The colorful individual in this photo was about 20 inches long. Note the large laceration on his neck, presumably from a predator. Despite the severity of the wound, the snake was not bleeding and he crawled away after this photo was taken, so I am hopeful he will recover.