Broughton Beach, Portland

Broughton Beach is along the Columbia River, right next to the Portland airport. It can be a challenging place to bird, with dogs and children chasing the birds, police carrying body bags down the beach, etc. But if you catch it on a good day you can find some excellent birding. The great attraction this past week was a Pacific Golden Plover, which spent two days there, avoiding me with great success (thus that specie’s designation as one of my nemesis birds).  I tried for the plover twice with no luck, but found several other goodies along the way.

red phalarope 1The most unexpected species was this Red Phalarope. At first glance, I wrote this bird off as a Red-necked, since Reds are very unusual inland in August, and Red-neckeds are expected. Once I looked at the photographs, however, I saw my error and got a good reminder to LOOK AT THE BIRD! That heavy bill with the light-colored base is a dead giveaway for Red Phalarope.
red phalarope 2
Another coastal species along Broughton Beach was Sanderling.
sanderling 2
sanderlings 2
sanderling 7It is nice to see Sanderlings at inland locations, since you can often get closer to them there than you can at the coast.

semipalm 1Another nice find was this Semipalmated Sandpiper. You can see the partial webbing between the outer toes that gives this species its name. Ten years ago, a Semipalmated Sandpiper anywhere in Oregon was a pretty big deal, but now quite a few individuals are reported every year. Either the bird has become a more common migrant in this state, or people are just better at recognizing them.
semipalm 9
semipalm and westernSemipalmated Sandpiper (r) and Western Sandpiper (l)

western 3Western Sandpipers were present in small numbers. . .
western 2

least 2as were Least Sandpipers.
least 6
california gullCalifornia Gulls like to hang our on a little sand spit that extends into the river at low tide. A few Glaucous-winged Gulls have arrived, and will become more common as autumn approaches.

common loonThis Common Loon seemed a little out of place for August. In the winter months, this species is often seen at this site with large rafts of grebes and diving ducks. There are fewer kids and dogs then, too.

North Coast

sceneI made two trips to the coast this week, once to scout for my Portland Audubon shorebird class, and again for the class itself. It is amazing how much difference a couple of days can make in the make-up of bird life in a given area. On Thursday, I found a total of 11 shorebirds of two species. During the class we found hundreds of individuals of 10 species. I am so glad it was not the other way around. This is the view from the Necanicum River Estuary, looking south. The tiny bump in the middle is Haystack Rock, about 12 miles away.

whimbrel leftWhimbrel, Necanicum Estuary
whimbrel right
caspian ternCaspian Terns are common and very vocal all along the coast.

elkElk, Necanicum Estuary

semipalmated ploverThis Semipalmated Plover was the only shorebird at the tidal ponds at Fort Stevens.

raccoonRaccoon, on the mudflats near Parking Lot D, Fort Stevens (with a Caspian Tern and a California Gull)

ruddy turnstoneThis is one of two Ruddy Turnstones we found with a flock of Black Turnstones at the Seaside Cove.

white-crowned sparrowWhite-crowned Sparrow, Necanicum Estuary

california ground squirrelCalifornia Ground Squirrel, Hammond Boat Basin

faded gullHere is a good example of why this time of year may not be the best for learning gull ID. The plumage on this gull is bleached out and very worn. Judging from the size, shape, and pink legs on this bird (next to a normal non-breeding California Gull) I’m guessing this is a Glaucous-winged Gull, perhaps in his second cycle. I hope he grows some new feathers soon, or it will be a very cold autumn and winter.

Ridgefield NWR

I don’t get up to Ridgefield NWR in Washington very often, even though it is a short drive from Portland. But lots of folks had recently seen adorable fuzzy little Virginia Rail babies, so I wanted to try my luck.

IMG_7595By the time I got there, the adorable fuzzy little babies had become rather unattractive adolescents, but it was still fun to see this usually shy species out in the open.
IMG_7603

IMG_7618Another adolescent foraging near the rails was this little Nutria. The refuge staff tries to control the population of this introduced species, but they remain plentiful.
nutria

northern harrierNorthern Harrier

IMG_7583Black-tailed Deer, perfectly hidden among the teasel

IMG_7591There is not a lot of water on the refuge right now, so the Great Egrets were gathered on one of the remaining ponds.

IMG_7581We are entering Ugly Duck Season, when adult ducks molt into identical ratty plumages, making them much harder to identify. I am going with Cinnamon Teal on this mama and babies (all-black bill, overall warm brown coloring).

IMG_7622On the way home we stopped at Kelly Point Park along the Columbia River in NW Portland. California Gulls were gathered on the pilings.

IMG_7623This young American Crow (note the pinkish gape) was begging for food.

IMG_7627Nala, the large aquatic mammal.

McNary Wildlife Nature Area

Looking past the rather awkward name, the McNary Wildlife Nature Area is a great little spot for birding. The park, which came to my attention by hosting the recent Black-headed Gull, is located in the town of Umatilla, just downstream from McNary Dam on the Columbia River. Along with views of river, the park has several small ponds, areas of sagebrush, and riparian woods.

The park can be reached from 3rd street, on the north edge of town. From Hwy 730, west of I-82, turn north on either Switzler Avenue or Brownwell Blvd, then east on 3rd to the park. If you are east of I-82, turn north on Devore Road, then west on 3rd.

black-billed magpieBlack-billed Magpies are common in the area. I have always loved these birds, despite my total inability to get a decent photo of one.

cedar waxwing flockI sorted through hundreds of Cedar Waxwings, looking for the few Bohemian Waxwings that had been reported in the area, but I found no joy.
cedar waxwing

american white pelicansAt least six American White Pelicans were using the park.

black-crowned night-heronAn island in one of the ponds serves as a roosting site for Black-crowned Night-Herons.

common goldeneyeThere was a nice diversity of waterfowl, including this Common Goldeneye.

mixed gull flockGulls were well represented. Along with the abundant Ring-billed, and the famous Black-headed on the left, this shot shows a Mew (just right of center) and a California (right edge, gray legs). Herring and Glaucous-winged were also present.

american robinAmerican Robins and other songbirds were abundant in the brushy areas. A very birdy area overall.

Yaquina Bay

Yaquina Bay, at the town of Newport, is one of the more productive sites on the Oregon coast. On this visit, high winds reduced the number of birds that were out and about, but there was still a lot to see.

loon eatingCommon Loon with the catch of the day
common loon

rt loon 1Red-throated Loon

pelagic cormorant 2Pelagic Cormorant

horned grebeHorned Grebe
horned and western grebesHorned Grebe (above) and Western Grebe

pelican yawnBrown Pelicans

long-tailed duck 2Long-tailed Duck

surf scoter 2Surf Scoter

peregrineThe flats behind the Hatfield Marine Science Center. There were lots of Mew Gulls, some Brant, and Northern Pintails. Note the Peregrine Falcon at the base of the fallen tree.

california gullCalifornia Gull

sea lion 1Large numbers of California Sea Lions loaf on the jetties and docks on the bay.
sea lion 2

Random Images

Home improvement projects are keeping me inside lately, so here are a few images from dog walks and the bird feeder.

IMG_5742Double-crested Cormorants on the Columbia River
IMG_5748IMG_5749California Gull

IMG_5740former sturgeon, Columbia River

IMG_5727Lesser Goldfinch

IMG_5736I only see Purple Finches once or twice a year at my feeder.

IMG_5678young Douglas’s Squirrel in the shadows, Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Broughton Beach

Broughton Beach is the stretch of shoreline along the Columbia River, just north of the Portland airport. It has been a popular spot to access the river to scan for waterfowl in winter, and the shore attracts some neat birds, like Horned Larks, American Pipits, and the occasional Short-eared Owl. There used to be free parking there, but that was eliminated when the adjacent public boat launch was expanded to include a nice new car parking lot (with a fee station).

horned grebeThere weren’t many birds on the water during my recent visit. Here is a distant Horned Grebe.

gull flockA mixed flock of gulls was loafing on a sand spit. There are at least four species in this photo, lots of California, a Mew, a Herring, and a few Ring-billed.

peregrine 1The gull flock was resting after being harassed by this guy. This Peregrine Falcon spent several minutes flying through the flock, taking half-hearted swipes at various gulls. Perhaps he was testing for any individuals that were injured or particularly slow.