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.
Sunkhaze Meadow NWR lies just northeast of Bangor, Maine. It is a huge open wetland surrounded by woods. During my recent trip to Maine, most of the sites I visited were along the coast. Sunkhaze is inland, so the birds were a little different, and the mosquitoes were much more abundant.
This is a neat site. Had the bugs not been so bad, I would have liked to have explored it more thoroughly.
I saw 14 species of warblers on this trip. The vast majority of birds I saw were male, presumably because the females were on nests. Their small size, active habits, and dense habitat take them beyond the realm of point-and-shoot photography, but I managed to capture useuable images of two species. Black-throated Green Warblers were by far the most common species.
This Spruce Grouse was at Petit Manan NWR. She had several downy chicks with her. The chicks are actually capable of flight, and flew into dense cover when startled. The adult remained on foot, keeping an eye on me and making contact calls to keep her brood together.
Rugged shoreline near Cutler.
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most popular birding destinations in Oregon, not just for the abundant expected species, but also for the eastern vagrants that turn up there every year. Our Birdathon team from the Audubon Society of Portland visited the area June 7-9.
Less than a mile from the California border, the Winchuck River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Along with a lovely beach area, the site has a nice visitor center (bathroom!) with information about the surrounding National Forest.
Two Long-billed Curlews were feeding near the river mouth, probing their long bills into the sand. The crisp pattern on the wing coverts (dark stripes with no cross bars) identifies this individual as a juvenile.
Western Fence Lizards were basking on the abundant driftwood. This one has recently shed, evidenced by the little patch of dead skin left on the tail. The one below has a less dramatic pattern, but with little blue flecks.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Sapsucker Woods, the headquarters of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology near Ithaca, NY. They have a great visitors’ center with various displays, artwork, a store, and windows overlooking multiple bird feeders and a large pond.
The feeders attract a nice variety of birds, including this American Goldfinch. The large windows are covered with netting to prevent window strikes. That is great for the birds, but not so great for auto-focus cameras, which can’t ignore the netting in front of the intended target.
The only waterfowl around the pond on this July day were Mallards and Canada Geese. Like other species of waterfowl, this Canada Goose molts all his flight feathers at once during the summer. This makes it impossible for the bird to fly, but it does give us a chance to see the birds blackish rump and the white band across the uppertail coverts.
My birding has been limited lately, and walks in heavy cover under cloudy skies don’t produce many photo opportunities, but there is always something to see.
Final Score: Beaver: 1 Protective netting: 0
Rough-skinned Newt, one of the most toxic animals in North America.
Eating one would be deadly to a human, but these animals are preyed upon by Common Garter Snakes.
I walked for several hours at the Sandy River Delta this afternoon (Birding Oregon p. 63). Aside from two American Pipits and a Peregrine Falcon, birding was pretty slow, which was not too surprising given the heat and time of day. Even when there aren’t a lot of birds around, there is always something to see.
I spent a lot of time exploring the tidal ponds along the Columbia River. The river level is affected daily by tides and by releases from dams upstream. The water was low today, so lots of wildlife was crowded into the shrinking pools.
The little pools were filled with Banded Killifish. This species has been introduced to Oregon.
Along the with many non-native Bullfrogs was this Pacific Treefrog in a brilliant green.
Here’s another Pacific Treefrog in brown. He was “hiding” under water.
Of course, where you have fish and frogs in shallow pools, you will have garter snakes. I believe this is a Northwestern Garter.
Northwestern Garter Snakes are supposed to have seven scales on their upper lips, but this guy has eight.
And for those of you who don’t appreciate fish and herps, enjoy these lovely flowers (and tell me what they are if you know).