Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom

We are two weeks into a nasty heat wave in the Portland area. Sunrise is the only time of day when you can bird in any comfort and hope to find any birds active and singing. So I got up early and did a bird survey at Fernhill, then made a quick stop at Jackson Bottom on the way home.

am. goldfinchSome of the flowers have gone to seed, providing forage for both American (above) and Lesser (below) Goldfinches.

lesser goldfinch
great blueThe refurbished wetlands at Fernhill have lots of tree trunks installed vertically to provide perches for birds like this Great Blue Heron.

green heronGreen Heron

downyThis Downy Woodpecker was checking out some of the new plantings around the water garden at Fernhill.

killdeera young Killdeer, at that awkward teenager stage

spotted sandpiper leftSpotted Sandpipers are the other shorebird that nests at Fernhill and Jackson.

spotted sandpiper upChecking the sky for falcons

garterThis Common Garter Snake was very thick in the middle. I assume she is gravid. Garters give birth starting in late July. Broods are typically around a dozen, but broods of over 80 young have been reported.

tree swallowmale Tree Swallow, being all sparkly

Summer at Sandy River

willow flycatcherI made an early morning trip to the Sandy River Delta. This late in the summer, with the weather being so hot, most bird song is limited to the hour or so around dawn. This Willow Flycatcher was singing right at sunrise.

white-crowned fledgling White-crowned Sparrow

kingbirdThe resident pair of Eastern Kingbirds was hanging out on the power lines.

american goldfinchAmerican Goldfinches were common in the grassy areas.

kingfisherBelted Kingfisher on a side channel of the Sandy River.

lazuli bunting on railThe stars of this site are the Lazuli Buntings. This male was keeping a close watch on his lady.
lazuli bunting front lazuli bunting leftlazuli femaleThe female Lazuli Bunting was a little more shy.

Washington County Wetlands

fernhill lake
There are big changes underway at Fernhill Wetlands. The main lake has been drained, and the two impoundments to the south are completely gone. This is all to make way for large emergent wetlands that will replace the ponds. This should greatly increase the bird diversity at the site when work is completed.
There weren’t any shorebirds on these newly exposed flats, but I would imagine this area would be pretty appealing to a passing plover or Baird’s Sandpiper.

american goldfinchThis American Goldfinch was enjoying the water.

lesser goldfinch right lesser goldfinchLesser Goldfinch

eurasian collared doveEurasian Collared Dove

tree swallowsAt Jackson Bottom, swallows were everywhere, with young birds out of the nest and waiting around for parents to feed them. Tree and Barn were the two species I noticed.

tree swallow female tree swallow maleTree Swallows

baby barn swallow barn swallowsBaby Barn Swallows

cedar waxwingCedar Waxwing

savannah sparrowSavannah Sparrow

red-winged blackbirdRed-winged Blackbird

least sandpiperThere were lots of Least Sandpipers about. These are birds that either didn’t make it all the way to the Arctic, or had failed nesting attempts and headed back south. Shorebird migration will really pick up in about two weeks.

wilson's phalaropeThis male Wilson’s Phalarope was reported with three downy chicks earlier in the week, but I did not see any young when I was there. Hopefully the little ones were off hiding somewhere.

Sandy River Delta, 5 June 2013

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.

american goldfinchAmerican Goldfinch

lazuli buntingIn the open brushy habitats, you can’t turn around without seeing a Lazuli Bunting.

lazuli bunting maleLazuli Bunting

red-legged frog 4It was nice to find a couple of native Red-legged Frogs. This species often succumbs to introduced American Bullfrogs.
red-legged frog 3

Nala’s main interest in the trip was swimming. She swam in a vernal pool, the Sandy River, and the Columbia River.

mud puppyDuring the long hot walk back toward the car, she needed to cool off in this convenient mud hole.

nala drinking

Early Spring

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.

varied thrush frontOn 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.
varied thrush profile

pine siskin sidePine Siskin at the nyjer feeder

pine siskin frontFor some reason, songbirds just look weird when viewed from the front.

lesser goldfinch backLesser Goldfinch

american goldfinchThe male American Goldfinches are starting to get their summer color.
american goldfinch clinging

golden-crowned 2Golden-crowned Sparrow, Vanport Wetlands

beaver chewThis fairly large tree has been felled by Beavers at Smith and Bybee Wetlands. None of the branches appear to have been eaten, so I don’t know why the Beavers felled it, perhaps because it was there.

northwestern garterNorthwestern 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.

In the Bleak Midwinter

In honor of the winter solstice, in a month that brought Portland 7″ of rain, here are a few dark grainy images from recent weeks.

orange-crowned warblerOrange-crowned Warbler

anna's hummingbirdAnna’s Hummingbird

dark-eyed juncoDark-eyed Junco

american and lesser goldfinchHere is a nice comparison of American (foreground) and Lesser Goldfinches. Notice that the American Goldfinch has white undertail coverts, while the Lesser has yellow.

american goldfinchHere is a very dull American Goldfinch (probable first-year female) in front of a Lesser (probable first-year male).

chestnut-backed chickadeeChestnut-backed Chickadee, looking ever perky

Feeder Birds

The universe has conspired to keep me out of the field for far too long. My one link to sanity, if you can actually call birding sanity, is the activity at the bird feeders.

The Portland area has seen a massive invasion of Pine Siskins in recent weeks. Numbers at my feeders have tapered off in the past week, but the nyjer feeder is still popular. This photo shows six Pine Siskins, a colorful male Lesser Goldfinch, and an American Goldfinch peeking around from the back.

The color on the Lesser Goldfinch seems especially intense at this time of year, when the other finches are so dull.

I never tire of Chestnut-backed Chickadees.

This little guy has been the avian star of our property for the past month. There seems to be an irruption of Mountain Chickadees in western Oregon this year, with many reports from the Portland area, and some from as far as the coast. Even when he is turned away, he stands out from the common Black-capped Chickadees by his gray back and the narrower band of black on the nape.

The white stripe above the eye is the characteristic field mark for this species. Most reports of Mountain Chickadees in the area have been of birds with thick white eyebrows and white lores, which suggests birds from the eastern half of Oregon and into the Rockies. This bird has a narrow white brow and black lores, suggesting a bird from the nearby Cascades. While it is tempting to assign birds to subspecies (especially since Mountain Chickadee might be split into two species in the future), David Sibley warns against trying to make such distinctions, as there is a lot of overlap of characteristics between subspecies. His essay on this topic can be seen here.