Fernhill Wetlands

A recent foggy morning found me at Fernhill Wetlands. Birding was a little slow overall, but there were a few neat finds. These were two of about 100 Long-billed Dowitchers out that morning.

Black Phoebe has become an expected species at Fernhill in just the past few years. My camera insists on focusing on vegetation instead of birds.

The best bird of the morning was this Harlan’s Hawk soaring over the wetlands.

There has been a huge crop of Nutria at Fernhill this year. There were babies everywhere. I realize this is an invasive species in North America, but baby Nutria are pretty adorable.
Happy Autumn

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Killin Wetlands

Another freakishly sunny autumn day took me to Killin Wetlands.

This park was developed fairly recently, with a nice parking lot and some informational signage.

The trails don’t get very close to the water, so a scope would be useful.

Here are just a few of the thousand or so Cackling Geese that were using the site that morning. You can also see a few Dusky Canada Geese and Northern Pintails in the photo.

I don’t think I have ever seen so many Nutria in one spot. Here are just a few, sunning themselves on a little island.

I thought the weedy patches along the trail would host more sparrows, but a few Song and Golden-crowned were all I could find.

There is a nice stand of pines on this site. I think it would be a good spot to look for owls in winter.

Northern Flicker

Just a little to the west of the Metro Park is the original Killin Wetlands site at the corner of Cedar Canyon and Killin Roads. There are no trails here, but you can get close to the water.

American Wigeon

Three River Otters were a treat to see.

Happy Autumn

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Fernhill Wetlands

The rainy season has been slow to arrive this year, so we have had strings of sunny autumn days. While the dry conditions are preventing many of the seasonal wetlands from filling, the clear skies do make for some pleasant birding. Here are a few shots from Fernhill Wetlands.

This Mourning Dove was blending in nicely with the gravel on one of the wastewater filtering beds.

The Killdeer’s pattern provides good camouflage on a rocky background, but doesn’t do as well in dead grass.

Northern Harrier

The Green-winged Teal are starting to get some nice color.

Cinnamon Teal

The Cackling Geese are back in good numbers. There is currently an outbreak of aspergillus, a fungal infection that causes respiratory distress and pneumonia, that has killed dozens of birds at this site.

Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose

American Coot in the sunshine

The only gulls on this visit were these three Bonaparte’s Gulls, swimming with a Northern Pintail and a Green-winged Teal.

Most of the migrant shorebirds are long gone, but there are still some Long-billed Dowitchers around. Note the pattern on the tail showing wider black bars and narrow white bars. This pattern would be reversed on a Short-billed Dowitcher.

Happy Autumn

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Tillamook

I had to go to Tillamook Bay to get some photos for an upcoming webinar. This particular day had freakishly nice weather, very un-Tillamook-like. Ideally, during fall migration, a birder hopes for onshore winds to bring seabirds and shorebirds close to shore, and a light overcast to provide gentle light for viewing and cool temperatures. This day brought light east winds, a cloudless cobalt blue sky, and temperatures in the 80s. I guess we have to play the cards we are dealt.

This is the Three Graces Tidal Area. The sun hadn’t cleared the hill yet so it was too dark to photograph the Harlequin Duck that was swimming around the rocks. Harlequins are regular at this site.

At the Bay City Oyster Plant, this Double-crested Cormorant was taking advantage of the sun to dry his wings.

Black Phoebe on the pilings at the oyster plant

With the east winds, shorebirds were very rare on this trip. This mixed flock of Least and Western Sandpipers at the oyster plant was the only big flock of the day.

Western Gull, hanging out on the Purple Martin boxes

I did the Tillamook Death March around Bayocean Spit. The ocean side of the spit is typically not as birdy as the bay side, but there was not a single shorebird on this trip.

There had apparently been at least a couple of shorebirds here earlier in the day.

Always glad to see these signs, hope that the Snowy Plover population will continue to recover on the Oregon Coast.

The Common Ravens on the beach were pretty skittish. I wonder if they have been “encouraged” to avoid the plover nesting areas.

There were a lot of these jellyfish near the mouth of the bay. Yet another reason I don’t swim in the ocean.

Despite the summery weather, autumn migrants, like this Red-necked Grebe, are trickling in.

A Mew Gull with two California Gulls

Despite the eerily nice weather, there were a few birds around. We need to remind ourselves that there is always something to see.

Happy Autumn

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“Autumn” Shorebirds

Late summer is a challenging time to bird. The local nesters have finished raising their families and have grown quiet and harder to see. Most southbound migrants have not arrived yet. The weather is hot and many parks are crowded. The biggest return on your birding investment this time of year is shorebirds. Southbound migrants are showing up in good numbers and species diversity is increasing. Here are few shorebirds from the past week.

Baird’s Sandpiper, Gearhart. Most individuals of this species migrate through the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, but Oregon always gets a few juveniles that head a little too far west.

Semipalmated Plover, Fort Stevens SP. While these adorable little plovers can be found anywhere in migration, a great many are found working the coastal beaches.

Black Turnstone, Seaside. A quick stop at the Seaside Cove will usually turn up a lot of Black Turnstones.

Surfbird, Seaside. Surfbirds are also regular at the Cove, still sporting a little of their breeding plumage.

Ruddy Turnstone, Seaside. Scanning the flocks of Black Turnstones will often produce one or two Ruddy Turnstones.

Killdeer, Fernhill Wetlands. Not a migrant, but Killdeer still counts on a shorebird list.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Fernhill Wetlands. I have seen several Pectoral Sandpipers lately. It seems a little early for them, as they are often found well into October.

Shorebird numbers should continue to build for the next couple of weeks, and by then we should start seeing some other migrants as well.

Happy Migration

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Racetrack Lake

Racetrack Lake, located on Sauvie Island, sort of in between the end of Rentenaar Road and the east shore of Sturgeon Lake, has been quite good for shorebirds recently. Good shorebird habitat has been very hard to find in the Willamette Valley this summer, with conditions either too dry or too wet, so this patch of mud has been quite attractive to southbound migrants. Unfortunately, birds were pretty distant so they didn’t present great photo opportunities.

Long-billed Dowitchers were one of the more common shorebirds on this visit.

There were a few Short-billed Dowitchers mixed in, although the distance made identification challenging. Note the whitish belly, the spotted sides of the breast, and the tiger-striped tertials.

Semipalmated Plovers rank near the top of the most adorable shorebird category.

American White Pelicans were considered pretty rare in the Portland area not that long ago. Now you can expect 100 or more around Sauvie Island in the late summer.

Great Egrets are also very common this time of year.

Water levels continue to drop at Racetrack Lake, so there should be some decent mud for a while longer. Happy Summer.

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Dog Days

I am not sure why the hottest days of mid-summer are referred to as “dog days.” My dogs want nothing to do with the heat, and the hot weather puts a damper on bird activity as well. Wetlands tend to be a little more active than woodlands this time of year, so here are some recent images from area wetlands.

This Purple Martin is from the colony at Fernhill Wetlands. The recently installed nesting boxes there have been a great success.

Tree Swallows are everywhere. It is nice to find one perched on a stick instead of on a nest box.

Ospreys on the nest at Jackson Bottom

This House Finch was feeding on green Elderberries at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.

Spotted Towhee at Smith and Bybee

Bewick’s Wrens seem to be very fond of dust baths this time of year.

It is baby crow season. These youngsters were exploring the shallow waters of a slough at Smith and Bybee.

It is harder to find herps in the hot weather. This Northwestern Garter was stuck in a vault for a water shut-off valve. I lifted him out and sent him on his way.

This is a very small, very thin Long-toed Salamander (note the insect parts nearby for scale).

Smith and Bybee Wetlands is thick with Green Herons right now. There were at least a dozen in this little slough.

Shorebird migration is starting to pick up. Unfortunately, there is very little mudflat habitat in the Portland area right now. This Greater Yellowlegs was one of several sharing the slough with the Green Herons.

Three Lesser Yellowlegs were also present at Smith and Bybee.

On the home front, we were treated to three baby Western Screech-Owls playing in the back yard. Two of them perched on the rope holding the sunshade and tried to untie the knots. It was almost too dark to see, so this is the best image I was able to get (6400 ISO). Pretty adorable.

Happy Summer

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Into the Woods

We left Portland for ten days to escape the fireworks which terrify our dogs. We stayed on a farm in the Coast Range in Benton County. The birds where we stayed were typical Coast Range birds which stayed high in the dark trees, so no great photos there.

I think this pile of feathers is the result of someone munching on a Sooty Grouse.

Bodhi and I flushed four Black-tailed Deer on the far side of a clear-cut.

This very old scat consisted of just fur and bone. From the size, I am assuming it is from a Mountain Lion.

The pond at the farm where we were staying was full of Rough-skinned Newts. I assume they were congregating to lay eggs.

To bee, or not to bee? This newt actually did take a swipe at the honeybee, but I don’t think she was able to get it down.
We didn’t get in the car very often on this trip, but when we did we usually saw Wild Turkeys along the road. Here is a crappy cell-phone-through-the-dirty-windshield shot.

I have never had a reaction to Poison Oak, but I take great care to avoid direct contact.

One morning a drove down to Fern Ridge Wildlife Area in Lane County. There wasn’t as much shorebird habitat as I had hoped for, but the Black-necked Stilts were well represented. Here is a juvenile Black-necked Stilt passing in front of a Killdeer. The juveniles are recognized by their scaly backs and dull legs.

Like most birds, they bring their leg over their wing when they need to scratch their head.

Here’s a lovely adult Black-necked Stilt, with solid black upperparts and bright pink legs.

Black-necked Stilts are fairly common breeders east of the Cascades, but harder to find on the west side. Fern Ridge, at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, is a consistent breeding site for this species. Southbound shorebird migration is starting to rev up.

Happy Summer

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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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