Category Archives: seasonal movements
I led a couple of tours for the Birding and Blues Festival last weekend. The weather was dry and reasonably warm, despite rather vicious afternoon winds on the beach.
North winds brought good numbers of migrating shorebirds close to land. Shorebirds often bypass Oregon beaches on their way to Grays Harbor in Washington, so it was nice to find a big flock feeding right across from our hotel.
Nala and I spent the morning at the Sandy River Delta east of Portland. Bird activity is definitely picking up, although many of the summer residents haven’t arrived yet.
While spring migration has not really ramped up yet, locally nesting birds at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottoms are starting to pair up, and the winter flocks are breaking up.
These Killdeer were vying for position. I think this species would be more highly regarded if their voices weren’t so grating. Their plumage and red eye ring are rather stunning, but they just don’t shut up.
I took my shorebird class to the coast, from Cannon Beach to Hammond. While birding overall was good, the shorebirds were less than stellar in both number and diversity.
The rocks at the Hammond Boat Basin continue to be a reliable high-tide roost for Marbled Godwits and Whimbels.
Of course, you can’t go to the coast without appreciating the gulls. Here is a Heermann’s Gull in a rather unflattering stage of molt.
First cycle Ring-billed Gull
One of the more interesting sightings of the day was a pair of Red Crossbills on the shore of The Cove in Seaside. These birds are usually hard to see as they cruise the tops of large conifers. This pair was down to take salt from the rocks in the intertidal zone. (male pictured, the female eluded the camera)
For the purposes of my shorebird class, it would have been much better to find Black Turnstones, Ruddy Turnstones, Wandering Tattlers, and Surfbirds at this site, but you can’t complain too much when you get to see Crossbills on the beach.
I took Nala to the Sandy River Delta this week. One of the target birds for this area is Yellow-breasted Chat, a species hard to find elsewhere in the Portland area.
This was the only individual I found that day, but new migrants are arriving daily. Willow Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds, two other specialties of this site, were largely absent during my visit, but were reported a few days later.
When the tides are right, the area around Parking Lot D at Fort Stevens State Park can be very productive.
On my recent visit, I found about 400 Caspian Terns in the bay. Many of the birds were presenting fish to their lady loves, and a few were rewarded accordingly (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). A Bald Eagle would occasionally take a pass at the flock, sending the terns off in a big swirling mass, but the birds would quickly settle down again.
One of my favorite birds of the day was this breeding plumaged Bonaparte’s Gull. I watched the bird fly in and settle on the mud flat. I snapped a couple of frames from a great distance, planning on getting better views. But, as is often the case, the bird took off before I could get any closer.
Over the past few years, this site has been become a productive spot for shorebirds. The spring shorebirds migration is well past its peak, but there were still a few birds around. This little flock was actively feeding along the shore, so I sat on my knees in the sand and waited for the birds to come to me. Shorebirds are very wary of people standing upright, but if you sit down, or better yet, lie down, the birds will come quite close.
Semipalmated Plovers made up the bulk of this flock.
While the spring shorebird movement is about done, the southbound migration begins in about six weeks, so we don’t have too long to wait for another shorebird fix.
I had hoped to get to the coast this week, but a big weather system was blowing in so I visited Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom. Both sites had a few shorebirds sporting their breeding plumage.
Long-billed Dowitchers at Jackson Bottom. The sticks in the foreground are willow stakes planted by Clean Water Services. As these willows grow, they form a canopy over the mud flats, making the habitat useless to migrating shorebirds. Birders have been complaining about the practice at this site for years, to no avail.
Spring migration is picking up, with good numbers of warblers just starting to arrive, just in time for my Warblers and Flycatchers class next week. Here is a Yellow-rumped Warbler in a field of little flowers which I think are spring beauties. How appropriate is that?
Not a warbler, but still a neat find is this Belted Kingfisher burrow along the Columbia River. The burrow is pretty low, and in a area that gets a lot of human and dog traffic, so it will be interesting to see if the birds can successfully nest here.
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.