Troutdale

I spent some time exploring the area just west of the Sandy River Delta in Troutdale, OR. A section of the 40-Mile Loop Trail starts just north of I-84 and runs north along the Sandy River, then west past Company Lake along the Columbia River. This baby Great Horned Owl was hanging out near the mouth of the Sandy.

The area is home to large FedEx and Amazon facilities, but there are still some weedy fields that attract open country birds like Savannah Sparrow and this Lazuli Bunting. Note the swallow photo bomb.

The highlight of this trip was the PAIR of Ash-throated Flycatchers that were hanging out near the Troutdale wastewater facility. Ash-throated Flycatchers are quite rare west of the Cascades, so it is pretty special to have a pair hanging out in Multnomah County.
A flash of rust on the tail, typical of this genus

There were a lot of dogs running around this area, but it was not nearly as crowded as the Sandy River Delta just across the river. A surprising number of vagrants have been found in this area is recent years, so it definitely warrants more visits.

Happy Spring.

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Fernhill Wetlands

Summer is settling in at Fernhill Wetlands. The birds that are here now are probably nesting. Always a treat this far west is this handsome Blue-winged Teal. I hope he has a mate sitting on eggs somewhere.

Just as lovely, and more expected here, is this Cinnamon Teal. A friend refers to them as “spicy.”

All the migrant shorebirds are gone, so we can stop to enjoy the resident Killdeer.

I have been spending more time around the back side of Dabblers Marsh at Fernhill. The wooded habitat attracts more songbirds, like this Cedar Waxwing.

Purple Martins have reclaimed their nest boxes by the lake.

This Great Egret was hanging out close to the main trail. They are often farther out in the marsh.

I have seen California Ground Squirrels here in the past, but this is the first I have seen since the major renovations. I am glad to see this species is still using the site.

This Long-toed Salamander was my only herp of the day. If you look at the back feet, you can see the extra long fourth toe that gives this species its name.

Happy Spring/Summer

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Tualatin River NWR

The pandemic birding continues. While the visitor center and parking lot are closed, you can still walk the trails at Tualatin River NWR.

Social distancing, birder style

The big news at the refuge this spring has been this pair of American Avocets, a rare species on Oregon’s west side.

It’s always a treat to see these guys, especially this year when the shorebird migration has been rather lackluster.

This Bonaparte’s Gull was hanging out with the Avocets for a while.

This distant pair of Long-billed Dowitchers was the only other evidence of shorebird migration on the refuge this morning.

This Purple Finch was keeping with the “birds at a distance theme” that prevailed this trip.

Lazuli Bunting, not quite as distant

Probably the most unusual bird of the trip was this intergrade Northern Flicker. He shows the normal red mustache of the Red-shafted form and the red nape of the Yellow-shafted form.

Happy Spring

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Pittock in the Pandemic

IMG_3039I visited Pittock Mansion in northwest Portland the other morning. The gate to the park is locked, but you can park in the neighborhood and walk up the hill. It is nice to be able to bird the entrance road without having to worry about cars.

The main attraction of this site in spring is the flocks of migrant songbirds that come through and touch down on this forested hilltop. The birds were actually here this morning, but most of them stayed very high up in the treetops. So no great warbler photos for me.

IMG_2994This Wilson’s Warbler was down in his normal level of undergrowth. Of course, it is a law of nature that every warbler must keep at least one branch between themselves and my camera lens.

golden-crownedTwo Golden-crowned Sparrows obliged by posing on the open ground. I do enjoy seeing them in their breeding plumage.

towhee 2This Spotted Towhee posed right at eye level, showing her red iris with a nice eye catch. Who needs a flashy warbler, anyway?

Happy Spring, and stay safe

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Still Waiting for Spring – Jackson Bottom

Jackson Bottom is another site that I can visit during the pandemic, assuming I get there early. The big push of spring migration has not hit, but you can tell it’s so close. Tree Swallows have been back for quite a while now. They are usually perched on the many bird houses at this site, so it was nice to catch a couple actually using a tree.
The Savannah Sparrows are setting up territory. This would have been a nice shot if I could have caught a reflection in the bird’s eye.

There we go.

This Osprey spent a lot of time preening while I was there. He still looks pretty disheveled.

Anna’s Hummingbird, just high enough that I can’t get a good flash from his gorget

Common Yellowthroat

witchity-witchity-witchity

I’m still waiting for shorebirds to show up. Greater Yellowlegs have been the only arrivals so far.

Some Killdeer have started nesting already.

Brush Rabbit

Long-toed Salamander

Several Common Garters (Red-spotted) were sunning themselves on this rock pile.

This garter had propped her body up against a log to better catch the morning sun.

I don’t remember seeing Camas at Jackson Bottom before, but they were in full bloom on this trip.

Happy spring

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Fernhill Wetlands

During the current pandemic, it is not always easy to visit favorite birding sites. I have found that if I go very early, I can get some good birding in at Fernhill Wetlands without encountering too many folks. (Of course, this is my goal even without a pandemic.) This Marsh Wren put on a nice show.

Greater Yellowlegs is the only species of migrant shorebird I have seen so far this spring. We are still about two weeks away from the peak.

Green Heron, completely failing at camouflage. The auto-focus on my camera insists on focusing on the vegetation behind birds, rather than on the bird. (Yes, I am blaming the equipment.)

White-throated Sparrows have been regular at Fernhill lately.

White-crowned Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

This Northern Flicker was hanging out on the gravel dike in the wetland, perfect woodpecker habitat.

This Pacific Chorus Frog was hanging out under a log on a cold morning.

Long-toed Salamander is a lifer amphibian for me this year. As is typical when I see a new species of whatever, I now see them all the time.

More Long-toed Salamanders

This Muskrat would like to remind you to eat your greens.

Still waiting for spring migration to kick in.

Happy Spring

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Jackson Bottom

Spring migration hasn’t really revved up yet, but a recent warm sunny day drew me out to Jackson Bottom Wetlands. I was as interested in herping as I was birding, and some cooperative herps easily filled the void created by relatively low bird numbers.

This Pacific Chorus Frog (also known as Pacific Tree Frog) was a neat find. I hear this species most of the year, but I seldom get a good look at one.

I normally leave herps that I find in situ, but I couldn’t resist picking up this little Northwestern Garter. The problem with combining birding and herping is that after an encounter like this, your hand smells like garter snake musk. So every time you raise your binocular to your face you get a nose full of snake skank.

Here is a much larger Northwestern Garter.

This Red-spotted Garter (a subspecies of Common Garter) was exploring a Red-flowering Currant. I don’t know what he was looking for, but he explored the whole bush before climbing back down.
Here is another Red-spotted Garter drinking at a water feature. This individual was at least three feet long.

I did actually see a few birds on this trip, although they were not nearly as photogenic.
There are still flocks of Golden-crowned Sparrows around. I would expect them to head north pretty soon.

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal making friends

Happy Spring

 

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Spring Waterfowl

I know it is technically not spring yet, but the waterfowl are all either on the move or looking to pair up, so close enough.

A flock of 12 Greater White-fronted Geese stopped by Force Lake in north Portland. This species migrates through the Willamette Valley in great numbers, but are usually just flyovers.

A Greater White-fronted Goose showing off her speckled belly

This Greater Scaup was also at Force Lake. Greater Scaup are more often found on larger bodies of water, like the nearby Columbia River.

The Canvasbacks on Force Lake were apparently mucking around on the bottom of the lake and came up with very muddy faces.

This Gadwall at Commonwealth Lake was showing off for a nearby female.

Green-winged Teal have started to move out of the area. This lone male was at Commonwealth Lake.

Double-crested Cormorants are just starting to get some brighter colors on their facial skin and eyes.

Migration should start to really pick up in the next couple of weeks. Happy Vernal Equinox.

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Little Brown Birds

IMG_2406Late winter is when I typically concentrate on sparrows. There isn’t much else going on this time of year, and the vegetation is worn down enough that visibility is pretty good. Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island continues to be the best spot in the area for a variety of little brown birds. Some would say that the birding is too easy when you just throw down some seed and watch the birds swarm in, but I love the opportunity to see 10 sparrow species side-by-side at close range. Here is a Fox Sparrow.

IMG_2411White-throated Sparrows were a rare treat around here 15 years ago, but they are an expected species now.

IMG_2419White-crowned Sparrow, always dapper

IMG_2428There is usually a small flock of Savannah Sparrows along Rentenaar Road in winter. They tend to keep to themselves and don’t come in to feed at the chumming spots.

IMG_2395The most noteworthy little brown bird in the area this winter has been the Siberian Accentor in Woodland, WA. I don’t keep a Washington list, but I did cross the river to see this bird. They are quite rare anywhere in North America, so this was probably my only chance to add this bird to my life list. It would have been much better for me if the bird had flown ten miles to the southwest and hung out in Oregon, but Asian vagrants don’t seem to care about my state list.

IMG_2429This was my first snake of the season, found at Wapato Greenway State Park on Sauvie Island. I am not sure if this is a Common Garter or a Northwestern Garter. The body pattern most closely matches the local race of Common Garter, but they typically have red heads. Our local Northwestern Garters do not show red spots on the sides, but do have small dark heads. I did not apply one test that has often worked for me; If you pick them up and they bite you, they are Common Garters. If they don’t try to bite, they are Northwestern. I don’t know if other herpers have noticed this trend, but I have found it to be true of individual snakes of known identity.

Happy Late Winter/False Spring

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False Spring in the Wetlands

redwing small
It is still very much winter in western Oregon, but February always brings stirrings of spring. Many birds, like this Red-winged Blackbird, are warming up their songs in preparation for setting up nesting territories.

anna's left
Male Anna’s Hummingbirds always seem to be on territory.

robin small
This American Robin was nestled in the middle of a pine. I don’t associate robins with conifers, so I was struck by how nicely the bird was framed within the needles.

IMG_2356
This Northwestern Salamander was my first herp of the year. He was hanging out under a board. The temperature was cold enough that he didn’t move at all when I found him. I could have gotten a better photo if I had repositioned him, but I decided to leave him in situ.

IMG_2352
This was one of four White-throated Sparrows moving around in a tight group at Fernhill Wetlands.

nutria teeth
I have often noted how Nutria (Coypu) walk that fine line between adorable and hideous. Perhaps that line has finally been crossed.

Happy Winter

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