My Shorebirds of the Willamette Valley class had their first field trip on Saturday. We found nine species of shorebirds, a nice collection of the expected species. We missed the Semipalmated Sandpiper that had been reported earlier in the week. All the migrants we saw were adults. The juveniles should be arriving soon, hopefully in time for our next field trip. Since I was leading the trip, I didn’t have much opportunity to seek out photos, but here are a few back-lit images.
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.
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.
The weather is cooling and rain is in the forecast, as our long dry summer is finally letting go.
After the wettest March on record, April has provided a few sunny days to help awaken us from our rain-induced torpor.
Much of the loop around Fernhill Wetlands has been blocked off, supposedly to reduce disturbance to the new Bald Eagle nest.
A pair of eagles has been hanging out in this little grove of cottonwoods for years, so I would imagine they are used to birders and joggers going by, but better safe than sorry.
Sandhill Cranes, seen here with a flock of Cackling Geese, were common in the morning. But as the day progressed, many birds circled up on thermals and then headed north. By noon, most of the cranes were gone.
Most of the sparrows seen just a week earlier had moved on. Two White-throated Sparrows were a treat. Singing Orange-crowned Warblers and five species of swallows were other good signs that migration is stepping up. I’m looking forward to the next sunny day.
I took advantage of the glorious spring weather recently to visit Tillamook (Birding Oregon p. 125). Nala and I completed the Tillamook Death March, walking all the way around Bayocean Spit. This is the only spot I have visited on the Oregon coast where you can walk for several miles along the beach and not see another person. You can barely discern the south jetty on the horizon.
As expected, there weren’t a lot of birds on the ocean side of Bayocean. It is still too early for spring migrants and too late for winter specialties. Aside from one Black-bellied Plover, the only shorebirds were Sanderlings, shown here doing their typical running along the water’s edge.
The main reason for my trip that day was to explore the Tillamook Bay Wetlands Area. While this isn’t the most scenic of sites, it provides wonderful access to wetland and meadow habitats along Tillamook Bay. From US 101 on the north edge of the city of Tillamook, turn west onto Goodspeed Road. Follow this very rough paved/gravel road for one mile, bear right, then left, then right again to end at a small parking area with this sign.
I walked around Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon, p. 61) in the mid afternoon. Most of the waterfowl that roost here on winter evenings were still off feeding in the area fields, but there is always something to see.
This observation platform was destroyed by arsonists. Fernhill Wetlands is not a park, but is owned by the area waste water department. As a result, there are few resources for facilities or habitat management.
An arctic air mass brought cold temperatures and ice to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), but there was no shortage of birds. Here are some grainy gray photos from a lap around the ponds.
Here are some photos from a recent trip to the Klamath Basin.
Eared Grebes are common in the wetlands along State Line Road (Birding Oregon p. 116). The second bird from the left is still in basic plumage, while all the other birds seen that day had already molted into alternate plumage.
The Klamath Basin is famous for its large wintering population of Bald Eagles, but a few pairs stay to nest. This bird was found in Moore Park in Klamath Falls.
Migration has wound down by now, and the summer breeders are out in force. Here are a few birds I found on Sauvie Island this morning.
Savannah Sparrows can be heard at the edges of all the pastures.
This Bald Eagle hovered over me, scolding the whole time. That behavior is more typical of Red-winged Blackbirds. I thought the eagles would be done nesting by now, but apparently they still have young in the nest.
Blue-winged Teal, uncommon in the Willamette Valley
Cinnamon Teal, common, but always a delight
hungry Barn Swallow chicks