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.
Spotted Towhee, really working that red eye in the sunlight
This young Red-tailed Hawk was checking out the meadow.
A young Northwestern Garter Snake crossing the trail
The local Dark-eyed Juncos have seemed quite tame lately. I wonder if they are just really busy gathering food for their nestlings.
Another White-crowned Sparrow. Despite their limited color palette, I have always thought this species was especially attractive.
I 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.
Semipalmated Plovers enjoying the mud
This spot often hosts good numbers of Caspian Terns. Several birds were seen courting.
Of 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.
The beach hosted good numbers of Whimbrels.
The most common shorebird on the beach that day was Sanderling. Most were still in winter plumage.
Shorebird migration should peak within the next week.
I went to Cooper Mountain Nature Park in Beaverton primarily to look for herps, but the birds were a lot more cooperative. White-crowned Sparrows were singing everywhere.
Chipping Sparrows nest at higher elevations, but a few can be found in the Willamette Valley during migration.
Most of the Western Trilliums are past their peak, but this one was still in good condition.
This Northwestern Fence Lizard was catching some rays. This lizard and one baby Northwestern Garter Snake were the only reptiles of the trip.
This pond was swarming with tadpoles and salamander larvae. I think the salamanders (the light green critters on right half of the photo) are Northwestern Salamanders. I don’t know who the tadpoles are.
I have been complaining a lot lately about how slow the birding has been. We are in that lull when many of the winter birds have moved on and the spring migrants haven’t returned. But, say it with me, there is always something to see. So here are a few birds to help get us primed for the spring birding bonanza that will inevitably arrive.
This lone Greater White-fronted Goose was at the Tualatin River NWR. Not many of these geese touch down in the Portland area, but huge flocks pass overhead in spring and autumn.
The western U.S. does not get to enjoy the great diversity of warblers found in the east, but we do get Yellow-rumped Warblers all winter. This male Audubon’s race is coming into breeding plumage.
We also get Myrtle race Yellow-rumps in winter. I keep hoping that these two forms will be split into separate species, as they once were. This individual seems to have a little yellow on the throat, suggesting some mixed parentage somewhere in this bird’s family tree.
This young Bald Eagle was looking regal in a parking lot.
Savannah Sparrows have started returning to their nesting areas. This rather faded individual was at Jackson Bottom.
Birding has been rather slow lately, as many of the winter residents have moved on and the spring migrants haven’t arrived yet. The local nesters, like this Spotted Towhee are becoming more active and vocal.
A remnant of last autumn’s rut, this “buck rub,” where the local Black-tailed Deer used these small trees to polish their antlers, is in Cooper Mountain Nature Park.
Also at Cooper Mountain was this Western Skink basking in the sun. This was a lifer herp for me.
Here’s another Western Skink that emerged from a burrow in a rocky hillside.
Also enjoying the morning sunshine was this California Ground Squirrel at Fernhill Wetlands.
Long-toed Salamanders are the only species of salamander I have seen so far this year, but they are everywhere.
This Pacific Treefrog was hiding under a small board. It might be from the bright sunlight, but this frog’s golden eyes were intriguing.
Warmer weather is coming soon, so I am anxious to see what creatures arrive with it.
The nights are still cold, often below freezing, but the days are starting to warm. With the first hints of spring come the first amphibians and reptiles of the year. You can hear Pacific Treefrogs calling all year, but this is the first one I have seen. They were hanging out under a small log. The temperature was in the 30s, so they didn’t move at all while I was there. I snapped a quick photo and replaced the log over the frog.
Long-toed Salamanders are one of the first amphibians to breed in the spring, so they are everywhere right now. These three were under a single board. Lifting a small piece of plywood revealed about a dozen of these critters. Another Long-toed Salamander
My first snake of the year was this Common Garter Snake soaking up some sun. The subspecies we have in this area is Red-spotted Garter. I was thrilled to find this individual, but quickly saw several dozen more on this sunny morning.
The red coloring on the face is common in this subspecies.
These two Red-spotted Garters were enjoying a little amour in the sunshine.
They were soon joined by a third individual, forming a mating ball.
Despite morning temperatures near freezing, signs of spring are appearing at Fernhill Wetlands. This Black Phoebe was posing with some colorful buds.
The winter sparrows, like this Fox Sparrow, are still around.
Waterfowl numbers are dropping as northern breeders start to head out. This pair of Northern Pintails was grooming along the main lake.
This young Red-tailed Hawk was very comfortable around people, perching right above some nearby birders.
The number of Nutria at Fernhill continues to grow. I don’t know if they are causing any problems or not. We are in that late-winter slow birding time, but spring migrants should start showing up any day.
We finally had a bout of winter weather in the Portland area. The west side of town got more ice than actual snow, so travel conditions were not ideal. Since we had an appointment in Hillsboro anyway, I made a quick stop at Amberglen Park. This Ring-necked Duck was putting on a nice show.
This Bufflehead spent much more time below the surface of the water than above it, but I managed a quick photo. Note the streaks of sleet.
This habitat doesn’t seem right for Hooded Mergansers, but I often see them here. The Portland area doesn’t seem to have a good winter gull roost these days. Amberglen attracts a few, mostly Ring-billed Gulls.
I think gulls are really attractive in the snow. Note the slight pinkish tones on this bird.
Here are some Ring-billed Gulls swimming with an “Olympic” Gull (Western X Glaucous-winged hybird).
This is a “Cook Inlet” Gull (Herring X Glaucous-winged hybrid). The bill pattern is classic winter Herring Gull. The eye is dark and the primaries are not quite true black. It gives the impression of a Thayer’s Iceland Gull with a giant bill. On the home front, snow often brings Varied Thrushes to the yard. We had four at one time cleaning up seeds under the feeder.
I am always grateful for the splash of color provided by this Townsend’s Warbler.
The snow is gone now, and birds are starting move. Spring will be here any minute.