Dawson Creek

Nala and I went out to Dawson Creek Park in Hillsboro to look for a Rusty Blackbird reported the day before. This site, a private park associated with the office park behind the public library, is a manicured park with paved trails around a series of small ponds. It attracts good numbers of waterfowl in winter, some migrant songbirds, and a few resident Acorn Woodpeckers.

wood duck 5Wood Ducks are common in the ponds.
wood duck 2Some of the males were displaying to the females, swimming around slowly with their heads lowered.
wood duck 3Such a handsome boy

l cackling flockCackling Geese were grazing on the lawns.

kestrel 1American Kestrel
kestrel 2The same bird later, with lunch

wigeon 1There were just a few American Wigeons in one of the ponds. I expect their numbers to increase at this site within the next couple of weeks.
wigeon 2

rusty blackbird 1Just as I was finishing my tour of the site, I finally saw my target bird (the Rusty Blackbird, not the Mallard). It would have been nice to get some full-frame photos like some other birders were able to get about three minutes earlier, but I was glad to add this species to my Oregon list. There are less than 20 accepted records of this species in the state. Rusty Blackbirds have experienced drastic population declines in the last few decades.

Fernhill Wetlands

fernhillFernhill Wetlands, south of Forest Grove, is a great place to see the onset of autumn. Water levels on the main lake are still very low, but the recent rains will soon change that.

westernsMigrant shorebirds, like these Western Sandpipers, are enjoying the mudflats. Shorebird numbers are starting to thin out.

pectoralThis Pectoral Sandpiper was checking out the new vegetation on the lake bed.
pectoral walking

cacklersThe first Cackling Geese have arrived. They will soon be joined by a few thousand more.

merganserThis Common Merganser was resting on an exposed mud bar. I don’t get to see mergansers out of the water very often.

pelicansAmerican White Pelicans, once considered rare in the Willamette Valley, are now an expected species in late summer.

collared dove 1Eurasian Collared-Doves are another species that are increasingly common in the area.
collared dove 2

The annual Fernhill Wetlands Birds and Brew Festival will be held on October 12. I will be leading the 8:00 tour for that. Here is a link for more info.

Fernhill Wetlands 11/1/12

Things are hopping at Fernhill Wetlands, with rising water levels, an influx of several thousand geese and other waterfowl, and a few other goodies.

Cackling Geese have been arriving for weeks now, and the skies and fields around Fernhill are covered with these little guys.

A small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese were hanging out with the Mallards in Dabblers Marsh.

This interesting beast is a hybrid, a product of one of the local Canada Geese and a domestic Greylag Goose.

Here are some of the many Northern Shovelers feeding in their typical manner, swimming along with their faces in the water, as if their enormous bills are too heavy to hold up.

Two American White Pelicans have been hanging out at Fernhill for a couple of months now.

Shorebird numbers and diversity have dwindled. Here are a few Long-billed Dowitchers.

Greater Yellowlegs

The resident Bald Eagles were sitting around looking majestic. I watched one carrying a stick to add to their nest.

Great Egret

Several Northern Shrikes have been reported around the Portland area in recent days. This one is snacking on a large insect.

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.

Autumn Arrivals

The weather is cooling and rain is in the forecast, as our long dry summer is finally letting go.

Cackling Geese have arrived by the thousands in recent days. This Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose is sporting a black chin stripe and a white collar.

An American Pipit, blending in with the dry cracked lake bed at Fernhill Wetlands

Two California Gulls harassing a Bald Eagle. It is probably much safer being behind the eagle than in front.

Closer to home, this Purple Finch visited the feeder. If you look closely you can see her tongue positioning the sunflower seed.

Mimi, one of my neighbor cats, is enjoying the birdbath and keeping those pesky hummingbirds out of my garden. I have two words for you, Mimi; Urban Coyotes.

Fernhill Wetlands 8/3/12

I scouted Fernhill Wetlands for the Willamette Valley portion of my shorebird class. After a cool summer, we have finally gotten some triple-digit temperatures, making birding a little challenging. But there is a lot of mud and the shorebirds are moving in, joining the typical and not-so-typical summer residents.

Greater Yellowlegs are common right now, taking advantage of the shallow water in most of the area’s wetlands.

Lunchtime

I don’t think he caught anything on that dive.

Least Sandpiper

another Least

Spotted Sandpipers are often found along the rocky shoreline of Fernhill Lake.

This is a young Spotted Sandpiper, distinguished by the barring on the wing coverts (and the lack of spots).

Cackling Geese, which winter here in the tens of thousands, are a rare sight in summer. The exposed white rumps on these birds are an indication that the birds are molting their primaries, so they have obviously spent the summer here.

These three Greater White-fronted Geese are also several months too early.

Great Blue Heron and Great Egret

Green Heron

August is the time for baby Bullheads. Several schools were visible in the murky water.

Eight-spotted Skimmer, one of the few dragonflies that I can identify

April Teasers

After the wettest March on record, April has  provided a few sunny days to help awaken us from our rain-induced torpor.


I made a quick trip out to Fernhill Wetlands to look for the Swamp Sparrow that has been reported there. Between the sunbreaks, I still had to dodge a few passing squalls.


I missed the Swamp Sparrow, but this Song Sparrow was very cooperative.


Here is the same Song Sparrow in a little more natural setting, if you consider invasive Reed Canary Grass to be natural.


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.


The Yellow-rumped Warblers have molted into their flashy breeding plumage. This one is an example of the “myrtle” race.


On Saturday I took some clients out to Sauvie Island for a morning of birding. This view of Mt. St. Helens is from the west end of Rentenaar Road.


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.

Vanport Wetlands

I took advantage of the short breaks in the recent rainy weather to visit Vanport Wetlands in north Portland. The dark foggy conditions did not create great photo opportunities, but there are a lot of birds using this site.


The local Great Horned Owl is already sitting on her nest. This nest successfully fledged young last year.


In another sign of spring, this Great Egret is already sporting long nuptial plumes.


These Cackling Geese (and one Glaucous-winged Gull) were hanging out on the nearby Heron Lakes Golf Course. A Brandt has been seen on the golf course this week, but I didn’t find him on this visit.


A flock of ten Greater White-fronted Geese were sitting on Force Lake, just north of the Vanport Wetlands.


These geese are young birds, lacking the black and white speckling seen on the bellies of adults.


Nala is not nearly as interested in the birds of Vanport Wetlands as she is in the adjacent off-leash dog park, where she can pursue her prime interest, chasing the Orange Orb of Delight.