Early Spring

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Spring is kicking into gear. Lots of birds have starting pairing up in anticipation of nesting. These Tree Swallows were checking out a tree cavity.
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Yellow-rumped Warblers are becoming more common and some have acquired full breeding plumage.
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There are still a lot of “winter” sparrows in the Willamette Valley. Here is a typical view of a Lincoln’s Sparrow. This bird had no interest in posing out in the open.
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Green-winged Teal do not nest in western Oregon, but they have started to pair up and are looking very dapper.
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This Double-crested Cormorant has caught a Rainbow Trout. When the county parks department stocked this lake with trout, I doubt that cormorants were the intended recipients, but I always like to see native wildlife benefiting whenever they can.
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I have found just a few Long-toed Salamanders so far this year. Amphibians should become more active in the next week or so.

Happy Spring

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.
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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

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

Spring at Fernhill

t swallowA quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands showed bird activity picking up, with the appearance of newly arrived migrants and nest building by the local breeders. This Tree Swallow was staking out a cavity.

geeseThere are still some Cackling Geese around, although they should be heading north any day now. Here is a nice side-by-side view of a Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose and a Taverner’s Cackling Goose.

brewersThe male Brewer’s Blackbird was showing his colors in the bright sunlight. I caught him in the middle of a blink, so his eye looks weird.

wilson's snipeWilson’s Snipe

quailCalifornia Quail have become slightly more common at Fernhill in recent years.

carpThe Common Carp are spawning in Fernhill Lake.

MuskratI was pleased to find this Muskrat. The non-native Nutria have become so common at this site I worry they might crowd out the native Muskrats and Beavers.

ca ground squirrelCalifornia Ground Squirrels have been taking advantage of the large rocks used in the landscaping at this site.

rabbitThis Brush Rabbit was looking very regal in his thicket.

Happy Spring

Random Images

Here are some random birds from recent weeks. This Great Blue Heron was wading deep at Commonwealth Lake. The white face and yellow eye really popped, giving her a creepy look.

A Black-capped Chickadee was excavating a cavity in a dead tree at Commonwealth Lake. It is a little early for nesting, but birds will be pairing up soon.

This is a lousy photo, but it documents the Yellow-billed Loon that hung out at Hagg Lake for a few days in early January. Lifers are few and very far between for me, so it is great when one shows up relatively close to home.

This Black Turnstone was taking shelter from the high tides on the little lawn at the Seaside Cove.

Western Gull at the Seaside Cove

The marbled pattern on the bill and the bit of dark smudging on the tail suggests this is a third cycle Western Gull.

Varied Thrush at Summer Lake Park in Tigard

Black-crowned Night-Herons have been regular at Koll Center Wetlands for several years now. They used to be a little more accommodating, but lately they have remained in dense cover most of the time.

This Bushtit was hanging out in the back yard for quite a while. I hope the extreme puffiness of this bird was due to it being cold and was not an indication of illness.

Happy Winter

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

Spring in the wetlands

Nesting season continues to progress. While some songbirds have already fledged a batch of babies, other species are just getting under way. This Pied-billed Grebe was sitting on a nest at Commonwealth Lake.

Blue-winged Teal can be hard to find in the Willamette Valley at any time, so it was nice to see a pair at Fernhill Wetlands.

female Blue-winged Teal

Eurasian Collared-Doves continue to expand their range and numbers in Oregon. It wasn’t all that long ago that these birds were first found in the state, or maybe I am just old. This bird was singing at Fernhill.

Song Sparrow at Fernhill, living up to his name

A few Purple Martins have returned to the nest boxes at Fernhill. They are still a treat to see here.

While most of the Tundra Swans that winter in Oregon left for the breeding grounds long ago, this individual continues to hang out at Fernhill. A few observers have reported this bird as a Trumpeter Swan, but the straight feathering across the forehead (as opposed to the widow’s peak on a Trumpeter) is consistent with Tundra.

Bullock’s Oriole Nest

I spent a little time watching an active Bullock’s Oriole nest at Fernhill Wetlands. Notice how the birds have incorporated strands from a blue plastic tarp into the nest. Using plastic debris in nest construction is not unusual. In Kansas I saw a Baltimore Oriole nest made entirely from fishing line. The plastic makes a sturdy nest, but the material can be deadly if a bird gets a foot entangled in it. These orioles, including the baby shown here, seem to be doing alright.

Here is the female feeding the babies. She was not very photogenic.

Here’s Dad, feeding the babies from above.

After feeding the kids, the male stopped to pose in all his orangey deliciousness. Summer is the time to slow down and study the local nesting species. Checklists can be pretty short this time of year, but the slower pace gives you a chance to really get to know the locals.

Birdathon

Our team for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Birdathon made a 360-mile loop through the Willamette Valley, across the Cascades, and east to the high desert. We tallied 110 species for the day. Here are a few.

Acorn Woodpeckers are reliable near Ankeny NWR. This one was hanging out in a nest hole.

Also at Ankeny, this Yellow-breasted Chat posed and sang for us.

This Pygmy Nuthatch was nesting at Black Butte Ranch, just east of Sisters.

Calliope Crossing, north of Sisters, came through with several examples of its namesake hummingbird. The feeder, placed by one of my teammates on a scouting trip, made watching these little guys easier.

Mountain Chickadees were nesting in a hollow stump just inches from the ground.

Calliope Crossing is also famous for hosting a great variety of woodpeckers. This is a hybrid Red-naped X Red-breasted Sapsucker.

At Smith Rock, we watched this Golden Eagle nest with one downy chick.

Bald Eagles were also nesting at Smith Rock.

Ogden Wayside hosted a colony of ground Squirrels. I believe these are Merriam’s Ground Squirrels, although I have trouble distinguishing Merriam’s from Belding’s Ground Squirrel. I need to do some rodent research.

It was a fun, albeit exhausting, day. There is still time to contribute to Portland Audubon’s fundraiser. Click here for more information.

 

 

Fernhill Wetlands

With the ongoing renovations taking place at Fernhill Wetlands, each visit throughout the year is a new experience. Most of the breeding species have done their thing, and the resident waterfowl have molted into ugly duck season. Water levels are still a little too high to provide shorebird habitat, but that should change soon enough.

brush rabbit
Afternoon temperatures have been getting quite warm, so the brush rabbits come out early in the morning to enjoy the cool. The backlighting on this guy highlights the blood vessels in his ears.

purple martin
Purple Martins are a new addition to Fernhill this year. A new nesting box installed beside the main lake has attracted at least one pair. If you build it, they will come.

cinnamon teal
These Cinnamon Teal were plowing through a thick mat of algae. Note the very large bills on these ducks, which help identify them in their summer plumage.

merg
This hatch-year Hooded Merganser was hanging out in the middle of the lake. The unusual habitat choice and the unfamiliar juvenile plumage caused many birders, myself included, to initially call this a bird a Red-breasted Merganser. While a Red-breasted had been documented at this site in May, closer inspection of this bird reveals the solid head shape and the slightly smaller bill of a Hooded. Another reminder to actually look at every bird and don’t rely on others to identify them for you. 

turkey vulture
Turkey Vulture, experiencing some wing molt

red-winged
This Red-winged Blackbird was one of a large flock feeding in the cattails.

barn swallow chicks
Some of the local breeders are working on a second clutch. These young Barn Swallows are waiting for someone to come feed them. Soon the power lines will be crowded with young swallows preparing for their first migration.