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 visited several sites in Washington County to check for migrant shorebirds, inspired by the recent appearance of a Spotted Redshank at Fern Ridge Reservoir (Birding Oregon p 89) . I didn’t find anything so rare, but a few birds are moving through and there is promising mudflat habitat available.
A lot of work is being done at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), resulting in the closure of a small section of the trail around Fernhill Lake.
The big news at Fernhill is the low water level of Fernhill Lake, creating mudflats along the shore for the first time in many years. Several species of shorebirds were feeding there today.
Water levels in Mitigation Marsh are quite high, so there wasn’t much mud. These Long-billed Dowitchers were hanging out with a Mallard.
This Great Blue Heron caught a Bullhead (I can’t tell if it is a Yellow or Black Bullhead). He caught the fish near the middle of the lake, then flew to the shore to eat it.
There was some mudflat habitat at Jackson Bottom Wetland (Birding Oregon p. 60), but not a lot of shorebirds yet. The Hardhack is in bloom, adding a splash of color to the marsh.
One of these days I may have to break down and buy a field guide to dragonflies. Or maybe I will just learn to appreciate beautiful creatures without putting a name to them.
Tree Swallows are thick at Jackson Bottom. Notice the dusky wash across the upper breast. Young Tree Swallows can show extensive dark coloring here, leading some birders to confuse them with Bank Swallows.
Wintering waterfowl are returning to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61). Cackling Geese started arriving this week, and will soon be joined by a few thousand more.
a former waterfowl
Most shorebirds have moved on by now. This Lesser Yellowlegs was feeding by himself.
The Lesser Yellowlegs was eventually joined by a small flock of Long-billed Dowitchers.
One of the paths at Fernhill has recently been extended around the back side of Dabblers Marsh. This brushy area hosted a large flock of Bushtits (a female above), along with Mourning Doves, Northern Flickers, Black-capped Chickadees, and my first-of-season Golden-crowned Sparrow.
Another quick trip to Fernhill Wetlands this afternoon produced a couple of species that were not present a few days ago.
A Long-billed Dowitcher (left) and a Pectoral Sandpiper. Both birds are in juvenal plumage, indicated by the pale edges on the scapulars and wing coverts which create a scaly pattern. The Pectoral has a clump of mud on the base of his bill.
Another view of the Pectoral Sandpiper with two Long-billed Dowitchers. The crouching posture suggests that the bird is on alert and ready to flush. That is a good clue for the birder to back off.
A Lesser Yellowlegs.
Greater Yellowlegs on the left, Lesser Yellowlegs on the right
Two Northern River Otters have been hanging out at Koll Center Wetlands in Beaverton, so I went out this morning to see them. Otters are always a treat, but it is especially nice to see them thriving in such an urban setting.
Here is one of the two otters munching on a fish. Check out those teeth.
After breakfast, it is time to wrestle,
and then wrestle some more.
Then they were off to find something else to do.
Good numbers of birds use this little wetland, as well. Here is a Northern Shoveler. How do they hold those massive bills up?
Two Killdeer feed within a flock of Long-billed Dowitchers. This flock flew off when a Cooper’s Hawk flew by.
I checked some of the birding sites in Washington County recently. The first stop was Rogers Park in Forest Grove (Birding Oregon p. 62). This is the home of one of the northernmost colonies of Acorn Woodpeckers. These are fascinating woodpeckers, both for their habit of storing acorns in tree bark, utility poles, wooden siding, etc., and for their interesting pattern. One this particular day, a young Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out in the park, driving the woodpeckers and most other species into hiding.
The next stop was Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61). While this is one of the best birding spots in Oregon, it is currently in the summer doldrums. The breeding season has about wrapped up, and the fall migrants haven’t begun in earnest. Shorebirds are starting to come through. There isn’t a lot of mudflat habitat available yet, but as water levels continue to drop conditions should improve.
Here is a first cycle California Gull munching on a dead carp. (who says birding isn’t glamorous?) I know what you’re thinking. “It’s only August. Is he going to start with the gulls already?” You betcha! We know this is a young California Gull by the long thin bill with the clearly demarcated dark tip, and by the long dark wingtips that extend well beyond the tail. My friend, the Northwest Nature Nut, has not yet developed a love of gull ID, but I hope to gradually chip away her resistance.
An exploration of Haag Lake in Scoggins Valley Park didn’t reveal a lot of birds, but a Beaver lounging in one of the quiet arms of the reservoir was a nice treat. I don’t get to see Beaver out in the daylight very often.