I made a very brief stop at Delta Ponds in Eugene. Since the site is right by a major highway, the traffic noise effectively eliminates any birding by ear. But the ponds attract good numbers of waterfowl and herons. A Black Phoebe was a nice find.
Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons were common. I am incapable of photographing white birds on a sunny day without them totally washing out.
Beaver dam. We didn’t see any Beaver, but we did find two River Otters.
The best sighting of the day, despite the slight social awkwardness, was this pair of Western Pond Turtles, a lifer for me. Western Pond Turtles, one of only two native turtle species in Oregon, are nearly extirpated from their range north of Eugene, and are listed as critical on the the Oregon list of sensitive species.
I led a tour of Fernhill Wetlands for the Birds and Brew Festival. Since there were about 50 people in the group, including many who didn’t have optics, we concentrated on the “charismatic mega-fauna,” like these American White Pelicans.
A Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron were looking all artsy with their reflections.
This distant American Kestrel was showing off his colors.
After the group dispersed, I took another lap around the lake so I could check out the smaller birds. Along with five species of sparrow, there were lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers moving around.
Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area (aka Smith and Bybee Lakes) in northeast Portland is a great spot in late summer as the water levels drop. Large flocks of American White Pelicans, California Gulls, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and various shorebirds gather to feed in the shallow water and on the mudflats. On this visit, most birds were pretty far away, but could be scanned with a scope. Western and Least Sandpipers were the only shorebirds I could pull out of the distant flocks, but other species have been reported recently.
This juvenile Green Heron was hanging out at the canoe launch on Smith Lake.
In the same area, this Peregrine Falcon was surveying the mudflats for tasty shorebirds.
On Bybee Lake, large numbers of Blue Herons and Great Egrets were gathered. At the edge of the group was this Snowy Egret, an uncommon visitor to the Portland area. Here is a nice comparison with the larger Great Egret.
The lumps on the shoreline are dead and dying waterfowl, mostly Northern Shovelers. Warm temperatures and low water levels sometimes lead to outbreaks of avian botulism. Outbreaks usually subside with cooler temperatures and rain, which we are now getting in Portland.
This pair of Ospreys is nesting on a piling along Sauvie Island Road. The elevation of the road provides an eye-level view of the nest. Note the piece of blue plastic.
The female is sitting on eggs, so she remained pretty still the whole time I was there, aside from from making a few adjustments. Meanwhile, the male was bringing additional sticks and continued to build the nest around her.
While I was watching the Ospreys, this young American Crow flew in carrying a Cedar Waxwing, landed on a log, and proceeded to eat. I don’t know if the crow actually caught the waxwing or happened to find a dead one, but the crow didn’t hesitate to chow down and had the waxwing consumed in about one minute. I am aging this bird as a youngster by the pale color on the bill and the scaly pattern on the back.
On a less gruesome note, a pair of Barn Swallows was building a nest in the observation platform on Reeder Road.
This is a view from the end of Rentenaar Road, lots of flowers and Great Egrets.
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.
The resident Bald Eagles were sitting around looking majestic. I watched one carrying a stick to add to their nest.
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.
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.
I don’t think he caught anything on that dive.
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
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
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.
Smith and Bybee Wetlands in NW Portland, (Birding Oregon p. 65) is a great spot for waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds in the late summer and autumn. Paved trails lead to observation platforms overlooking both lakes, and primitive paths are available to the more adventurous.
Great Egret, here with a couple of Great Blue Herons and numerous waterfowl on Bybee Lake, are common this time of year. Other waders that have occurred here include Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron.
These Bonaparte’s Gulls were feeding with a flock of Northern Shovelers, picking up little food items stirred up by the ducks.
Many trees in this area have fencing around them to protect them from Beavers. Flood conditions last winter enabled the Beavers to float above the level of the fencing and nibble away.
Three American White Pelicans swim with Double-crested Cormorants on Smith Lake. Ten years ago, pelicans were considered rare in Portland, but large flocks are now expected every summer and fall.
more American White Pelicans on Smith Lake
I took a brief walk around Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61) while meeting with a reporter today. The weather was rather dreary, but, as always, there were some birds around.
Eared Grebe is an unusual visitor to the main lake. Note the thin bill and dusky cheeks. The more common Horned Grebe has a thicker bill, white cheeks, and a neat black cap.
Another view of the Eared Grebe. The back end of this species tends to float fairly high in the water.
Most of the wintering Cackling Geese were off grazing somewhere, but these two were hanging out on the lake. The bird on the right has pale feather edges, indicating a young bird.
In contrast to the Cackling Geese, these resident Canada Geese are much larger with long snakey necks.
Common Mergansers were indeed common on the main lake this morning, but did not allow a close approach.
Great Egrets stand out on a dreary gray day.
It is sometimes the case, when I plan to look for a certain type of bird, that my target species are nowhere to be found. On those days we have to let go of our expectations and open ourselves to whatever treasures the birding fates have for us. I helped with a field trip today that was supposed to visit a hawk watch site. The ridge was completely socked in by low clouds, so we had to scrap our plans and instead birded open range and farm land.
Likewise, I recently visited Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61) to look for shorebirds. Despite the decent amount of mudflat habitat available, shorebirds were almost non-existent. While I was disappointed in the lack of waders, there is always something interesting to watch.
Always common, but always worth a look, Great Blue Herons will often surprise you with the interesting creatures they are attempting to swallow. On this day I watched one bird swallow a large catfish.
Great Egrets congregate this time of year to fish in the receding waters.
This Peregrine Falcon was keeping watch over the wetlands. This might explain the lack of shorebirds.
We are still in the “ugly brown duck season,” when many birds are still in eclipse plumage. Despite the lack of characteristic colors, most birds can be identified by shape or by tell-tale field marks. This picture shows two Northern Pintails on either side of a Green-winged Teal. The pintails are identified by their pointy backsides and their blue sloping bills. The tiny teal is displaying the green speculum on the wing that give the species its name.