Spring at Fernhill

While we continue to get above-average rainfall in the Portland area, there have been a few dry days of late, so I ran out for a quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands. Most of the wintering geese are gone, and there are signs that spring is slowly making progress.

Yellow-rumped Warblers, both Audubon’s and Myrtle (shown) races, are coming through in large numbers.

Red-winged Blackbirds are in full song and are staking out territories.

Song Sparrows start singing in January, but are increasingly vocal now.

Several pairs of Cinnamon Teal were courting.

Northern Harrier

A flock of Dunlins was using this log to get out of the mud for a while. They were all still in winter plumage. Dunlins are one of the first species to arrive in spring.
Spring shorebird migration peaks in late April/early May. There is still room in my shorebird class with Portland Audubon April 27/29.

This Sora was being typically elusive.

The red currants were is full bloom, attracting both Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds.

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February Doldrums

img_9341I think February is the most challenging month to live in the Portland area, as it is typically wet and dreary. This past month had three times the normal rainfall, so the brief sun breaks were especially appreciated. A quick trip to Broughton Beach provided looks at a large flotilla of Great Scaup (with some Lessers mixed in).

img_9336This Great Blue Heron was staring at the ground at the airport, waiting for a vole or some other rodent to appear. The dark mud at the end of his bill suggest previous attempts at napping some land-based prey.

img_9326American Crow, calling from the top of the dike

img_9337A few Horned Grebes were on the Columbia River. They are just starting to show some color on their necks.

img_9319The first real harbinger of spring was this Say’s Phoebe. Several of these birds have been reported in the Portland area in recent weeks. It has been too cold for many insects to be out, so I imagine it has been tough for these flycatchers to find enough to eat. Hopefully March will be a little more pleasant for all of us.

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Commonwealth Lake

Now that the snow has melted, the weather has turned to freezing temps and a howling east wind. Bleah. Despite the lousy conditions, I bundled up and took a walk around Commonwealth Lake. The park was hosting a large flock of Cackling Geese and a similar sized flock of American Wigeon. Other species were present in much smaller numbers.

img_9283This Great Egret was getting a lot of attention from the dog walkers and joggers in the park, with people stopping to take cell phone photos. I try not to be a birding snob, realizing that the big flashy species are what get people’s attention. Great Egrets are gorgeous birds, and always worth a look. But most of these folks were oblivious to the smaller creatures flitting around this bird’s feet…

greenlike this guy. This Green Heron was fluffed up against the cold and was staying in the thick brush along the water’s edge.

img_9288Duck Butts! A pair of Gadwall were doing the dabbling thing.

pied-billedAfter a successful nesting season at this site, Pied-billed Grebes are still present in good numbers.

ring-billedThis Ring-billed Gull was struggling to remain perched on a post in the high winds. Note the red orbital ring and gape, suggesting that breeding season may not be all that far off. If we can just get through February…

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Post-Snowpocalypse Ramblings

small-ring-billedThe Portland area got a dump of about 10″ of snow recently. It was lovely on the first day, but for the next week it was a pain, with roads being impassable from the ice and snow. When I was finally able to get out, I went to Amberglen office park in Hillsboro to scout for my Hillsboro Parks and Rec gull class. This Ring-billed Gull was posing on the ice.

california-gullI found a few California Gulls on my scouting trip, but they were a no-show on class day.

lesser-scaupThis Lesser Scaup was bathing at Dawson Creek. The bill color on these birds is striking.

red-tailedOn Thursday I went to Sauvie Island, partly just to go birding and partly to scout for my upcoming waterfowl class. There was so much water from the melting snow that the ducks were scattered everywhere. Raptors put on a good show. Here is a young Red-tailed Hawk.

peregrineThis Peregrine Falcon was keeping an eye on the ducks.

harrierNorthern Harrier

I laid down some millet in various spots to chum for sparrows (class in March, hint, hint).

golden-crownedGolden-crowned Sparrow, one of the more common winter residents.

white-throatedWhite-throated Sparrows were a big deal when I first moved to Oregon, but they are now considered rare but regular in the winter.

towheeSpotted Towhees are so common they tend to be overlooked. But it is nice to stop and appreciate just how gaudy and beautiful they are.

Lots to see in the Portland area this time of year. Cheers.

 

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Random Images

Life and inclement weather have conspired against me of late, so my outings have been far too few. But here are some photos from recent weeks.

horned-lark-2A trip to Broughton Beach provided nice looks at a small flock of Horned Larks. I want to read up on the many subspecies of Horned Larks to see which ones are found in Oregon. Whether I would be able to distinguish them in the field remains to be seen.
horned-lark-3eurasianThis female Eurasian Wigeon has been hanging out at Commonwealth Lake.

grebes-2Pied-billed Grebes, Commonwealth Lake
grebeshummerThe Portland area received about ten inches of snow last night. While this unusually large snowfall made for a lovely winter wonderland, it is quite challenging for the resident Anna’s Hummingbirds.

nuthatchI finally got around to making some vegan suet (equal parts coconut oil and peanut butter with a little corn meal mixed in). It took the birds a while to find it, but it has become quite popular. Here is a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

img_9205the nuthatch sharing with a few Bushtits

img_9194and a big old wad of Bushtits. Other species seen eating the suet include Bewick’s Wren, Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Black-capped Chickadee. I hope some warblers find it soon. We shall see.

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Siletz Bay

common-scoter-1This Common Scoter was recently found in Siletz Bay, just south of Lincoln City. This is only the second record of this species in North America, so he was definitely worth chasing.

common-scoter-2The Common Scoter seems pretty comfortable in Siletz Bay, feeding and resting near the pull-out just south of the Schooner Creek bridge, so he was an easy tick. I just showed up and there he was. It can seem a little anticlimactic when a staked-out bird is too easy to find. But the advantage of such a situation is that you have the time to explore the surrounding area. On this day I birded from the D River in Lincoln City to Boiler Bay. This whole area is covered on pages 155 – 157 of Birding Oregon. There are a lot of birds packed into just over two pages. Or perhaps my writing is just very concise.

bonapartesThis Bonaparte’s Gull was hanging out at the D River.

brewers-1male Brewer’s Blackbird, D River

brewers-2female Brewer’s Blackbird, D River. I find female Brewer’s to be much more photogenic than males. Perhaps my camera just doesn’t do well with extreme blacks and whites.

surf-scotersSurf Scoters in the surf

harbor-sealsThe sand spit at the mouth of Siletz Bay is a favorite haul out spot for Harbor Seals.

harbor-sealhappy Harbor Seal

red-throated-loonRed-throated Loon

brantA little farther up the bay, I found two Brant. I don’t get to see then often enough.

red-phalarope-1Recent storms have brought a lot of Red Phalaropes to the coast and points inland. These birds were hanging out at the Salishan golf course.
red-phalarope-2It’s nice that a golf course is actually being good for something.

thayers-1I saw some nice birds at Boiler Bay, but most were too far out for photos. This Thayer’s Gull was perched on this little knob of rock for several hours.

black-oystercatcher-3One can often get close looks at Black Oystercatchers at Boiler Bay. This bird was particularly vocal.
black-oystercatcher-2Black Oystercatcher, sleeping with one eye open

The Siletz Bay area is typically not a big birding destination, with the exception of Boiler Bay. But this stretch of the coast can be very birdy, so it was nice that the Common Scoter has inspired so many birders to explore the area. Cheers.

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Gull big day

ring-billed and mewMy recent gull class field trip found ten species of gulls (Western, Glaucous-winged, Glaucous, Herring, Thayer’s, California, Ring-billed, Mew, Bonaparte’s, and Heermann’s). This was a new record for the class, and it got me wondering. How many species of gulls could one conceivably find in one day in Oregon?

The best time for such a quest would be early November. By then, the wintering species would be here, and there are usually a few lingering Heermann’s Gulls that haven’t gone south yet. Bonaparte’s Gulls are migrating south at this time, as well. If you waited until December, the migrants would have already moved on. By late January, many of the wintering birds have already left.

The best location for a gull quest would be the coast. Eight species regularly occur in the Willamette Valley as well, (Western (rare), Glaucous-winged, Herring, Thayer’s, California, Ring-billed, Mew, and Bonaparte’s), but anything else would be extremely rare. Ring-billed can be challenging to find on the coast, but you can usually find one among the Mew Gulls in the estuaries. So with some searching, you could count on these eight species, plus Heermann’s makes nine.

If your quest occurred the day after an autumn storm, you would have a chance at two pelagic species, Black-legged Kittiwake and Sabine’s Gull. That would bring your total to eleven.

To exceed eleven species, you would need to find a rarity. Glaucous Gull is probably the most likely. Other less likely candidates include Lesser Black-backed, Slaty-backed, or a wayward Franklin’s.

So if you could find a rarity (or go see a previously reported bird) and timed your quest to coincide with some west winds, you could conceivably see twelve gull species in a day. Has anyone done this? This sounds like a noble quest to me.

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Updates

I have updated the Classes page to show all the classes I currently have scheduled. I would love to share what I know (that part doesn’t take long) and then go birding with you. Check it out.

I have also updated the Updates and Corrections page for Birding Oregon. There are several sites in Tillamook County that are currently not open to birding due to construction projects or the county’s tendency to fall into the Pacific Ocean.
The headquarters at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge remain closed following the armed occupation by inbred troglodytes in January and February of 2016.

Lest you think this entire post is bad news, please enjoy this photo of a lovely Barred Owl that was snoozing on our property on a recent evening. Cheers.

barred-2

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Autumn at Fernhill

cackling-geeseFernhill Wetlands is the place to be in autumn. Even after the extensive wetland renovations that have taken place, resulting in less open water, the Cackling Geese still congregate here by the thousands.

great-egretThis Great Egret was catching the sunshine on the top of a tree.

pintailNorthern Pintail. I don’t often see them hanging out on dry ground.

killdeer-green-wingedKilldeer and Green-winged Teal

greater-white-frontsGreater White-fronted Geese migrate over the Willamette Valley in large numbers, but not many touch down, so it is always nice to see some on the ground.

horned-grebeFernhill Lake is about half of its original size, but it is still big enough to attract divers, like this Horned Grebe.

western-grebeWestern Grebe

kestrel-5male American Kestrel

Waterfowl diversity continues to increase, and winter sparrow flocks should pick us soon. I’m looking forward to watching the show, assuming the Bundys don’t move in.

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Random Bits of August

I taught two shorebird classes and led three shorebird field trips in August. The southbound shorebird migration has been pretty great so far, with unprecedented numbers of Baird’s Sandpipers and a nice smattering of rarities throughout Oregon. My trips missed the really rare stuff, but we had a nice variety of shorebirds.

The addition of a new family member with special needs (an adorable coonhound who was rescued from an animal testing lab) kept me from doing much birding outside of my classes. Leading trips does not usually allow for getting decent photos, but here are a few images from the month.

ruddyThis Ruddy Turnstone was snoozing with the Black Turnstones at the Seaside Cove.

surfSurfbirds are another specialty of Seaside Cove

snipeThis Wilson’s Snipe gave great scope views at Jackson Bottom.

pelicansNot shorebirds, but always nice to see, this flock of American White Pelicans was at Fernhill Wetlands.

I have one more shorebird class at Jackson Bottom on September 24. I’m hoping this strong migration continues throughout the fall. Click on the Classes tab for more information.

FullSizeRender
Not ready for birding yet, but perhaps someday Bohdi can join his sister Nala and me in the field.

 

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