Wasco County

river smallHere are a few more images from my trip to central Oregon. The main purpose of the trip was to get the dogs away from the fireworks in Portland, but I always enjoy a trip to the dry side of the Cascades. It was indeed dry, and very hot. Bodhi cooled off a little in the Deschutes River.

tv flockI found a small flock of Turkey Vultures roosting along the river one morning.

tv left smallEven in the early morning the sun was pretty intense.
tv insta

spotted sandpiperThis young Spotted Sandpiper was perched on a rock in the river.

mule deerThe Mule Deer were usually found along the river, which provided the only green vegetation in the area.

fence instaSince birding was pretty slow, I spent a lot of time with Western Fence Lizards. This individual was basking on a big piece of obsidian. Since it was so hot, these lizards usually basked in the shade except during the early morning.

fence lizard smallThis individual was hanging out under the deck where we were staying. I had to use a flash in this dark environment. I normally don’t like the results of flash photography, but the flash really brought out the pattern on this lizard.

fence instaan adorable little dragon

Happy Summer

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Crooked River Wetlands Complex

crooked river parking lotI had a chance to visit Crooked River Wetlands near Prineville. Like Fernhill Wetlands, this site was constructed as part of a wastewater treatment system. But Crooked River Wetlands was designed from the beginning to accommodate both birds and birders. The parking lot has a covered picnic area (the only shade on the property) and a restroom. Paved and gravel paths provide easy viewing of the wetlands.

crooked river wetlandsThere are 15 bodies of water in the complex, which is right next to the Crooked River. Water levels vary with the seasons, so there is a variety of water depths which attract different species.

western sandpiperShorebird migration is getting underway. Here are some Western Sandpipers.

spotted sandpiperSpotted Sandpiper

ruddy duckOne of the deeper ponds held this pair of Ruddy Ducks.

eared grebe and babyEared Grebe with baby

Tree SwallowBetween the river, the ponds, and the adjacent wastewater plant, this site attracts swarms of swallows. Tree Swallows use the many nest boxes.

Bank SwallowThis is one of the easiest places I know to see Bank Swallows.

n harrierNorthern Harrier

brewer'sBrewer’s Blackbird was one of five blackbird species I saw on this visit.

Tricolored BlackbirdTricolored Blackbirds can be hard to find in Oregon, but this site is pretty reliable.

yellow-headed blackbirdsYellow-headed Blackbirds are common here. The males tended to hide in the reeds, but this female and youngster posed nicely.

Say's PhoebeThis is one of two Say’s Phoebes that were working the fence line at the edge of the property.

Crooked River Wetlands is one of the best birding sites in central Oregon, providing access to a great variety of wetland species in a very dry part of the state. It provides a nice pocket of avian diversity at a time of year when birding can be pretty slow.

Happy Summer

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Scout Camp Loop Trail

canyonThe Scout Camp Loop Trail is a lovely 2.2 mile hike northwest of Terrebonne. It is not particularly birdy. I logged 11 species on my trip, and the top eBird list for this site is only 17. (eBird calls this site Scott Camp Loop Trail, a typo that I hope will be corrected soon.) Despite the low diversity, it was well worth it to spend a few hours along this stretch of the Deschutes River.

The first .4 mile is through some juniper/sage steppe, which actually held the greatest bird diversity of the hike. The trail then descends into the canyon.

rock wrenThis Rock Wren was singing up a storm, but insisted on doing so from a high backlit perch.

bl starWith the recent high temperatures and lack of rain, most of the vegetation on the slopes was dried to a crisp. But the Blazing Stars were in full bloom, in defiance of the harsh conditions.

riparianDown at the river’s edge was a lush ribbon of greenery.

mule deerSeveral Mule Deer were taking advantage of the lush growth.

chat smallAside from the Violet-green Swallows flying over the water, the most common bird along the river was Yellow-breasted Chat. There were at least six individuals working the riparian corridor.

two-tailed swallowtailI don’t study butterflies much, but this Two-tailed Swallowtail was a new one for me.

common side-blotched lizard pairWhenever I visit eastern Oregon I am especially on the lookout for herps. This pair of Common Side-blotched Lizards was the only herp sighting of this hike, but the species was new to me.

side-blotched 1Here is the female, whose colors are more muted.

side-blotched 3The male was really colorful, with blue spots on the back and orange underneath.

side-blotched portraitAnother look at the male. The two didn’t seem to mind my presence. I think they were more interested in each other.

Happy Summer

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Summer at Fernhill

Record-setting heat and cloudless days are not the best conditions for birding or photography, but here we are. It is sometimes hard to motivate oneself to get outside when the weather is so harsh, but there is always something to see. So here are some images from a warm walk around Fernhill Wetlands.

bh grosbeakBlack-headed Grosbeaks are one of our more attractive summer residents.

red-wingedLots of babies have already fledged. Here a Red-winged Blackbird is being harassed by a hungry youngster.

purple martinsIt has been such a delight to have an active Purple Martin colony at Fernhill the past few years.

p martinPurple Martin on an unclouded day

ospreyOspreys were soaring high over Fernhill Lake. I didn’t see any dive for fish while I was there.

pb grebeThe ducks have started their summer molt, but the Pied-billed Grebes are still looking dapper.

modoA lovely Mourning Dove on an ugly fence

western grebeThe most unusual bird of the day was this Western Grebe. They are frequent winter visitors here, but they do not nest anywhere nearby.

Southbound shorebird migration has already begun, so expect them to show up soon.

Happy Summer

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Some Non-avian Sightings

While I am usually looking specifically for birds, I enjoy whatever wildlife I encounter along the way.

l admiralI don’t spend a lot of effort looking for butterflies, but I do appreciate it when one poses for me. This is a Lorquin’s Admiral.

nw garter smallThis Northwestern Garter was hiding under a piece of bark near a stump. The cloudy eyes indicate that the snake is about to shed. Snakes in this condition cannot see well, so I generally avoid handling them.

rabbitI am having trouble distinguishing Brush Rabbits from the introduced Eastern Cottontail. I have recently learned that the two species will hybridize, making identification even harder. The rusty nape on this individual makes me think it is an Eastern Cottontail.

One of the highlights of my most recent outing was the opportunity to watch a Long-tailed Weasel hunting. This is the first time I have seen this species for more than a few seconds. The weasel’s hunt was successful, so don’t go any farther if you find images of predation disturbing.

Long-tailed Weasel with a Brush Rabbit may be disturbing to some

lt weasel closeupI first saw this Long-tailed Weasel chasing a Brush Rabbit down the trail and into the vegetation. After a brief tussle, the rabbit was subdued.

w and r smallThe weasel then dragged the rabbit across the trail and into the brush, despite the fact that the rabbit was significantly heavier than the weasel. These are impressive little predators.

Happy Summer

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Random Summer Birds

black-headed grosbeakSpring migration has come and gone, and many birders agree that it was a dud. Numbers and diversity seemed quite low in the Portland area this spring. So now we concentrate on the summer residents, like this Black-headed Grosbeak.

Golden-crowned SparrowMost Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.

lazuli small singingAt Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years. lazuli small

Blue-winged Teal pairTualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.

purple martinsPurple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands

bewick's smallBewick’s Wren are usually working heavy cover, so it was a treat to find this one dust bathing in the middle of a gravel road.

hoodieHooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands

Spotted Sandpiper 1Spotted Sandpiper

gadwall smallThis Gadwall is already starting to molt into his dull summer alternate plumage. I often refer to late summer as Ugly Duck Season. It seems a little early for ducks to be losing their sharp breeding colors.

Now is the time to seek out local nesters. It will only be about four weeks before southbound shorebird migration starts up. I hope the autumn migration is a little more eventful than this spring was.

Happy Summer

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North Portland

peweeOur team for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Birdathon birded several sites in the northern parts of Portland. The weather was cool and rainy, not conducive to photography or bird activity, but we ended our efforts with 76 species for the day. This Western Wood-Pewee at Whitaker Ponds was one of the few photogenic individuals.

bushtit smBushtit, also at Whitaker Ponds

bt deerThis Black-tailed Deer, with his new antlers just starting to sprout, was at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.

paintedThere are only two native species of turtle in Oregon, both of which are considered at risk do to habitat loss and pollution. Smith and Bybee Wetlands is a local stronghold for Western Painted Turtles.

re slidersHere is a Western Painted Turtle on the left, with a Red-eared Slider on the right. Red-eared Sliders are native to the southeastern U.S., but have been introduced into many areas, usually by people disposing of unwanted pets. Introduced species compete with native species for food and nesting habitat.

Happy Spring

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Tualatin River NWR

BW Teal smallThe long hiking trail at Tualatin River NWR is open, and this refuge always offers some good birding in the spring and early summer. A pair of Blue-winged Teal was in the southwest pond.

Hutton's VireoAs is typical for this species, this Hutton’s Vireo stayed back in heavy cover.

brewer's smallIt is really hard to shoot a Brewer’s Blackbird against the sky without ending up with just a silhouette, but  I keep trying.

LB dowitcherLong-billed Dowitcher was the most common shorebird on this visit. It is nice to see them in full breeding plumage.

pec and LBThe best bird of the trip was this Pectoral Sandpiper. Pectorals are regular autumn migrants in this area, but are very rare in spring.
Pectoral Sandpiper 1

Happy Spring

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Still Waiting

wt sparrow 2

Every spring, birders suggest that the migration is running a little late. I think a lot  of that feeling just comes from a desire to see spring migrants again. But this year, a lot of species are arriving noticeably late. It was May 11 before I detected my first flycatcher of any species. Shorebird migration on the coast didn’t really pick up until the second week in May.

So a visit to Cooper Mountain Nature Park during the first  week in May provided mostly resident and locally nesting species, like this White-crowned Sparrow.

towhee 1Spotted Towhee, really working that red eye in the sunlight

rt hawk 2This young Red-tailed Hawk was checking out the meadow.

rt hawk

Northwestern Garter SnakeA young Northwestern Garter Snake crossing the trail

juncoThe local Dark-eyed Juncos have seemed quite tame lately. I wonder if they are just really busy gathering food for their nestlings.

wt sparrow 1Another White-crowned Sparrow. Despite their limited color palette, I have always thought this species was especially attractive.

Happy Spring

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Fort Stevens State Park

IMG_5262I went to Fort Stevens to look for shorebirds this week. The main push of spring migrants hadn’t arrived yet, but numbers were definitely on the increase. I was pleased that I timed the tide correctly at Parking Lot D. This little bay fills quickly when the tide comes in, so it was nice to have extensive mudflats on this visit.

semipalmSemipalmated Plovers enjoying the mud

Caspian Tern duo smallThis spot often hosts good numbers of Caspian Terns. Several birds were seen courting.

Black-bellied Plover smallOf the six Black-bellied Plovers I saw that day, only one was in full breeding plumage. The others, including this bird, were still in molt.

Whimbrel duo smallThe beach hosted good numbers of Whimbrels.

whimbrel small

Sanderling smallThe most common shorebird on the beach that day was Sanderling. Most were still in winter plumage.

Sanderling duo small

Sanderling flock small

Shorebird migration should peak within the next week.

Happy Spring.

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