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.

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


Posted in seasonal movements | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Broughton Beach Horned Larks

hornedBroughton Beach, along the Columbia River, has been a favorite spot in Portland to check for shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl, depending on the season. On my recent visit I enjoyed watching a family of Horned Larks working the beach. There are many subspecies of Horned Lark, and I don’t have a reference that provides a good description of the possible subspecies in this area. These birds had much more yellow on their faces than did the birds I saw recently on Mount Hood.

horned juvenileThis juvenile showed more muted colors and lacked the distinctive facial pattern of the adults.

horned juvI’m not sure if this bird is a juvenile or an adult female.

horned lark femaleadult female, I think

horned lark 3adult male, I think

horned lark 2adult male

brewer'sNot a Horned Lark, but Brewer’s Blackbirds are among my favorites. This is a female.

killdeer chickAnd we end with a ball of fluffy cuteness. I was surprised to find such a young Killdeer so late in the summer.


Posted in nesting, OR Birding Sites, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom

I made a quick trek around Washington County’s two prominent wetlands. There was nothing unusual to report, but there is plenty of bird activity at these sites this time of year.

green heronGreen Heron, lurking

gb heronGreat Blue Heron, not lurking

californiaJuvenile California Gulls are very common lately.

spotty 2I didn’t find many migrant shorebirds this trip, but the resident Spotted Sandpipers posed nicely.


pelicansFifteen years ago, White Pelicans in the Portland area were a pretty big deal, but now they are expected in the larger wetlands in summer.

kingfisherBelted Kingfishers like the perches that have been installed at Fernhill.

ospreyOsprey over the lake at Fernhill

treeClouds of swallows are hanging out at Jackson Bottom. This Tree Swallow spent a long time just sitting in the opening of her nest box.

chickadeeThey have installed a water feature near the visitor center at Jackson Bottom. This soggy Black-capped Chickadee was enjoying a dip.

lesser goldLesser Goldfinch on the fountain

As nesting season wraps up and water levels drop, I can soon start obsessing on migrant shorebirds.

Posted in behavior, nesting, OR Birding Sites | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


landscapeI hiked from Timberline Lodge to the snow fields above Silcox Hut. My main target was Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch. I missed the finches, but there is always something fun to see on the mountain. There were a lot of skiers and snowboarders on the remaining snow fields. I don’t know how you expect to find Rosy-Finches while going that fast, but to each their own.

clark'sSeveral Clark’s Nutcrackers were hanging out near the lodge. This species can be quite tame, but the ones near Timberline tend to be shy and keep their distance. Perhaps I need to carry more snacks.

lupineLupines were one of several wildflowers that are currently in bloom.

horned lark 3A couple of Horned Larks were pretty cooperative.
horned lark

rock wrenThis blurry creature is a juvenile Rock Wren. The pale sandy brown plumage had me stumped for a while, as the adults are more clearly marked with cold brown and gray colors and speckling.

gm ground 2No visit to Timberline is complete without Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels, the Alpine Ambassadors of Cuteness.
gm ground

marmot pairYellow-bellied Marmots reign over the higher slopes. The vegetation is so sparse here it is hard to imagine how these guys find enough to eat.

yb marmot 1
yb marmotwalking that fine line between majestic and adorable

Posted in mammals, OR Birding Sites, rarities | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Commonwealth Lake

IMG_8730I brief walk around Commonwealth Lake in Beaverton revealed lots of recently fledged Barn Swallows. They were perching on branches above the water, waiting for their parents to fly in with food.

barn swallow fledglingsstill waiting

barn swallow feedingnote the bulging crop on the adult

IMG_8720This park has produced a bumper crop of Green Herons this year, great to see in such a busy suburban setting.

IMG_8754There were several new broods of Mallards on the lake. It seems late to see such small ducklings.

bullfrogthe ubiquitous American Bullfrog

spotty frontThe highlight of this visit was watching this Spotted Sandpiper hunting flies in the lawn. He would crouch low to approach his prey, then reach out and grab it, hitting the mark more often than not.
spotty huntingThis little urban duck pond is surprisingly birdy, and warrants more frequent visits.

Posted in behavior, nesting, OR Birding Sites, reptiles & amphibians | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Random Images

A spate of cloudy damp days has not allowed many photo opportunities the past couple of weeks, but here are a few random images.

lazuliLazuli Bunting, Cooper Mountain Nature Park, Beaverton. This is a great natural area that I really need to visit more often.

junco 1I made two trips to the clearcut near Milepost 8 on Larch Mountain. It is very birdy this year, with a lot of nesting activity going on. Here is a rather wind-blown Dark-eyed Junco.

sapsuckerRed-breasted Sapsucker

macMacGillivray’s Warbler

willowWillow Flycatcher

A trip to the north coast brought all the expected species. One of the highlights were these two Heermann’s Gulls among the Westerns. Heermann’s are common in mid to late summer, but are just starting to arrive on the Oregon Coast now. This is the first time I have seen them in breeding plumage. In a few weeks they will lose the white plumage on their heads and replace it with mottled gray.

gullsToday is the summer solstice. Pretty soon the nesting season will wrap up and the southbound shorebird migration will begin. Always something to look forward to.

Posted in nesting, OR Birding Sites, seasonal movements | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Birdathon 2016

Weekday WarblersThe Weekday Warblers birdathon team made its inaugural trip on May 12. We birded the north coast from Cannon Beach to Fort Stevens, with a stop at the Sunset Rest Stop on the way. We did well with seabirds and shorebirds, but were sorely lacking in upland species. A few tweaks to the route and a longer day would probably get us a bigger list, but we had a great time with great weather and ended the day with 80 species.

ravenThis is one of a couple of Common Ravens who were hanging out in the parking lot of the Sunset Rest Area.

whimbrelOne of many Whimbrels seen on the beach

bonaparte's gullsThis flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls was flying around the South Jetty at Fort Stevens.

elka distant Roosevelt Elk at Fort Stevens

white-winged scoterWe made two quick stops at The Cove in Seaside. Most of the few birds that were there were quite a ways out, requiring lots of squinting through a scope, but this White-winged Scoter came close to shore for some nice views.

western and dunlinThe best find of the day was the large shorebird flock on the beach at Fort Stevens. The Oregon Coast does not usually get huge numbers of migrant shorebirds. Birders joke about he Shorebird Dome that covers the coast, forcing birds to fly directly from northern California to Gray’s Harbor, Washington. But this past week the dome was breached and good numbers and diversity of shorebirds worked the beaches of the north coast.  We found these birds mid-afternoon, so the sun was already in the west causing terrible lighting for photos. But this will give you an idea. The photo above shows a Western Sandpiper with two Dunlin.


ruddy and westernRuddy Turnstone with Western Sandpiper

knotRed Knot, a rare treat along the Oregon coast

comboa nice combo of Dunlin, Red Knot, Western Sandpiper, and Ruddy Turnstone

IMG_8679Boat for Sale. Needs work .

A great day on the Oregon coast.


Posted in mammals, OR Birding Sites, seasonal movements | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pacific City

black-bellied 2I led the Three Capes Tour for the Birding and Blues Festival last weekend. Spring migration had not quite kicked into high gear, but there were some nice birds around. This is one of two Black-bellied Plovers we saw on the beach the day before the tour. They were losing their dull winter plumage and growing in some crisp black and white feathers.

IMG_8632Black-bellied Plover with a Mole Crab

IMG_8634Black-bellied Plover tracks

IMG_8641At Whalen Island, this Dark-eyed Junco and Purple Finch were sharing a treetop.

IMG_8643These Long-billed Dowitchers were some of the few shorebirds we saw on the tour. Most shorebirds were migrating well off-shore that day.

IMG_8645This patch of Red-hot Poker at the Whiskey Creek Fish Hatchery always seems to attract good birds. This year it was a pair of Downy Woodpeckers.

barn swallowThis Barn Swallow sat and posed for us for quite a while.

Posted in behavior, seasonal movements | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sandy River Delta

IMG_8618Our freakishly nice spring weather continued this week, so I took Nala to the Sandy River Delta to check for spring migrants. Actually, Nala could not care less about spring migrants, but found the cool waters of the Sandy River just right for ball fetching. Nesting species have not arrived in any numbers yet, but spring is definitely taking off.

savannah singingSavannah Sparrows were the most obvious singers in the grassland habitats.
savannahcatching his breath before the next number

IMG_8622A pair of Belted Kingfishers is nesting along the channel that runs between the Sandy and the Columbia. They kept to the far bank, so these distant grainy images will have to do. This is the female.

IMG_8619And here is the male.

IMG_8621This is a hole. Not terribly interesting on its own, but very cool when it has a Belted Kingfisher entering or leaving it.

IMG_8624Northern Rough-winged Swallows also frequent this area.

The next couple of weeks should bring the delta’s specialties; Lazuli Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Willow Flycatcher, and perhaps Eastern Kingbird. Happy Spring.

Posted in nesting, OR Birding Sites, seasonal movements | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


birdathonAfter taking a break for a few years, I am once again helping with the Audubon Society of Portland’s annual fundraiser, Birdathon. I am leading a team, The Weekday Warblers, on a trip to the coast on Thursday, May 12. We will be birding sites from Cannon Beach to Fort Stevens, with a few inland sites thrown in.

The Audubon Society of Portland lobbies for the protection of wildlife and wild places throughout the Pacific Northwest. They provide classes and field trips for children and adults, and operate the Wildlife Care Center, which treats over 3000 injured and orphaned animals each year.

Please consider making a contribution at my Birdathon web page. If you would like to go birding with us, join our team!

Posted in conservation issues | Leave a comment