Jackson Bottom

I spent a foggy morning at Jackson Bottom Wetland Reserve. This Great Egret was blending in with the foggy background at Pintail Pond.

Belted Kingfishers are almost always distant subjects for my photos. They are quite skittish.

The Coyote Hill Trail is a nice loop around a weedy field that can be good for upland species, like this American Kestrel.

House Finch

Northern Pintail was the most abundant species of waterfowl on this day.

The north end of the reserve hosted a flock of 20 Tundra Swans, always a nice find.

There weren’t any great rarities on this trip. But there were a lot of good birds and a nice four-mile hike without any rain – a great trip for December.

Happy Autumn

Mt. Hood National Forest

I had the opportunity to guide a lovely couple from Florida on a trip to Mt. Hood National Forest. The weather was not great, with dreary conditions at lower elevations and driving rain at Timberline Lodge. But we did manage to find some great birds.

Our first stop was Wildwood Recreation Site for riparian and lower elevation species. The first bird of the day was a Bald Eagle flying over the river; a nice start. Our main target was American Dipper, and the footbridge over the Salmon River is a pretty reliable spot.

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One of two American Dippers we spotted in the early morning gloom

We next tried to bird around Timberline Lodge for high-elevation species, but the rain and wind made birding impossible. So we headed down to Little Crater Lake.

IMG_2077Birding in the forests this time of year can be deadly slow, but we did encounter two groups of Canada Jays. Even when you don’t have food, these birds will come in close to check you out.

IMG_2079On the way back from Little Crater Lake, we came across a group of six Sooty Grouse. This was a lifer for my client, and the largest “flock” that I have seen.

deer duoAfter a second trip up to Timberline proved equally unbirdable, we decided to head back toward Portland to look for sparrows and other grassland species at Powell Butte Nature Park. We found a few sparrows, but the highlight of this spot was the group of three Black-tailed Deer feeding on fallen apples.

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IMG_2091One reason songbirds may have been so hard to come by at this site was the pair a American Kestrels (female shown here) that were actively hunting. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was also lurking about, so the sparrows may have been keeping a low profile.

Some nice birds and excellent company made for a good day, despite the dreary conditions.

Happy Autumn

Autumn at Fernhill

cackling-geeseFernhill Wetlands is the place to be in autumn. Even after the extensive wetland renovations that have taken place, resulting in less open water, the Cackling Geese still congregate here by the thousands.

great-egretThis Great Egret was catching the sunshine on the top of a tree.

pintailNorthern Pintail. I don’t often see them hanging out on dry ground.

killdeer-green-wingedKilldeer and Green-winged Teal

greater-white-frontsGreater White-fronted Geese migrate over the Willamette Valley in large numbers, but not many touch down, so it is always nice to see some on the ground.

horned-grebeFernhill Lake is about half of its original size, but it is still big enough to attract divers, like this Horned Grebe.

western-grebeWestern Grebe

kestrel-5male American Kestrel

Waterfowl diversity continues to increase, and winter sparrow flocks should pick us soon. I’m looking forward to watching the show, assuming the Bundys don’t move in.

Powell Butte

I hadn’t been to Powell Butte Nature Park in east Portland since they finished renovations. They had been working on one of the water system reservoirs and have added more parking, a visitor center, and new trail markers and maps. The targets of this visit were several Mountain Bluebirds that had been hanging out for a while.

mt bluebirdI found a male and two three females, all of whom kept their distance.

yellow-rumpedThere was a big wave of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the park. All that I got a good look at were Audubon’s race, and most were male.

say'sAnother regional rarity that has been hanging out at Powell Butte is this Say’s Phoebe. This bird was active and vocal, but also kept his distance.

kestrelThe open meadows are attractive to Northern Harriers (not photogenic) and American Kestrels (slightly more cooperative). The raptors can make it harder to study the grassland songbirds, but this site is still very productive. There was one singing Savannah Sparrow while I was there. In a few weeks, that bird will be joined by more Savannahs and Lazuli Buntings.

Random Images

Here are a few photos from recent ramblings.

kestrel 2After delivering some books to Tualatin River NWR, I took a quick walk on the path that leads through some newly planted oaks and along the river. This male American Kestrel had just captured a shrew.

waterfowlThese Western Canada Geese (and the Common Merganser on the log in the foreground) were napping at the Sandy River Delta.

beaver chewThe Beavers are really enjoying the young trees at Sandy River Delta.

IMG_6001This old American Robin nest was tucked into a crevice of a tree.

pileatedPileated Woodpeckers are fairly easy to find at Sandy River Delta. This one was perfectly hidden behind a branch.

peregrine 2Peregrine Falcon, Sandy River Delta

hermit thrushThis Hermit Thrush was chasing another outside my bedroom window early in the morning.

Dawson Creek

Nala and I went out to Dawson Creek Park in Hillsboro to look for a Rusty Blackbird reported the day before. This site, a private park associated with the office park behind the public library, is a manicured park with paved trails around a series of small ponds. It attracts good numbers of waterfowl in winter, some migrant songbirds, and a few resident Acorn Woodpeckers.

wood duck 5Wood Ducks are common in the ponds.
wood duck 2Some of the males were displaying to the females, swimming around slowly with their heads lowered.
wood duck 3Such a handsome boy

l cackling flockCackling Geese were grazing on the lawns.

kestrel 1American Kestrel
kestrel 2The same bird later, with lunch

wigeon 1There were just a few American Wigeons in one of the ponds. I expect their numbers to increase at this site within the next couple of weeks.
wigeon 2

rusty blackbird 1Just as I was finishing my tour of the site, I finally saw my target bird (the Rusty Blackbird, not the Mallard). It would have been nice to get some full-frame photos like some other birders were able to get about three minutes earlier, but I was glad to add this species to my Oregon list. There are less than 20 accepted records of this species in the state. Rusty Blackbirds have experienced drastic population declines in the last few decades.

Birds and Brew Fest, 12 October 2013

pelicansI led a tour of Fernhill Wetlands for the Birds and Brew Festival. Since there were about 50 people in the group, including many who didn’t have optics, we concentrated on the “charismatic mega-fauna,” like these American White Pelicans.

A Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron were looking all artsy with their reflections.

egret 2
egret 1
heron 2
heron 1

kestrelThis distant American Kestrel was showing off his colors.

yellow-rumpedAfter the group dispersed, I took another lap around the lake so I could check out the smaller birds. Along with five species of sparrow, there were lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers moving around.

Fernhill Wetlands, 2-15-12

I walked around Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon, p. 61) in the mid afternoon. Most of the waterfowl that roost here on winter evenings were still off feeding in the area fields, but there is always something to see.


A flock of Brewer’s Blackbirds were hanging out in a tree by the parking lot.


This American Kestrel was in the same tree as the blackbirds, but the two didn’t seem to pay any attention to each other.


A pair of Bald Eagles is usually visible in the grove of large cottonwoods on the southeast corner of the property.


The eagles have started a new nest this year.


This observation platform was destroyed by arsonists. Fernhill Wetlands is not a park, but is owned by the area waste water department. As a result, there are few resources for facilities or habitat management.


Tundra Swans were flying in to roost. They tend to stay in the more distant parts of Mitigation Marsh.


Great Blue Herons are nesting in the trees to the east of the wetlands. This individual was resting on a snag in Cattail Marsh.


The deeper water of Fernhill Lake attracts divers like this Horned Grebe.

Fields Oasis

The oasis at Fields (Birding Oregon p. 19) is a tiny site, but one of the better known hotspots in Oregon. This little clump of willows around a spring is surrounded by miles of sage steppe, so it is very attractive to species normally found in woodland habitats.


A pair of Great Horned Owls can usually be seen here.


This adult was sitting on a fallen tree right over the water.


They were keeping track of this little guy.


A pair of American Kestrels were also nesting at the oasis. Here is the male with a rodent.


The big attraction for birders is the possibility of vagrants from the east. On this day a Northern Parula was the highlight. Other eastern warblers had been found the week before, and still others appeared later. One never knows what will show up on a given day.

Frozen Fernhill

An arctic air mass brought cold temperatures and ice to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), but there was no shortage of birds. Here are some grainy gray photos from a lap around the ponds.


Horned Grebe


Tundra Swans and California Gull


Taverner’s Cackling Goose and Northern Shovelers


Cackling Geese and Northern Pintails


Snow Goose and Cackling Geese


American Kestrel


immature Bald Eagles


This American White Pelican, a very late straggler, was circling high overhead, trying to find a thermal on this cold cloudy morning.


Cackling Cackling Geese


Great Blue Heron standing on a Beaver dam. Note the frost on the bird’s back.