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.
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 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.
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.
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, experiencing some wing molt
This Red-winged Blackbird was one of a large flock feeding in the cattails.
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.
I 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.
note the bulging crop on the adult
This park has produced a bumper crop of Green Herons this year, great to see in such a busy suburban setting.
There were several new broods of Mallards on the lake. It seems late to see such small ducklings.
the ubiquitous American Bullfrog
The 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.
This little urban duck pond is surprisingly birdy, and warrants more frequent visits.
I 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.
Black-bellied Plover with a Mole Crab
Black-bellied Plover tracks
At Whalen Island, this Dark-eyed Junco and Purple Finch were sharing a treetop.
These Long-billed Dowitchers were some of the few shorebirds we saw on the tour. Most shorebirds were migrating well off-shore that day.
This 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.
This Barn Swallow sat and posed for us for quite a while.
There are big changes underway at Fernhill Wetlands. The main lake has been drained, and the two impoundments to the south are completely gone. This is all to make way for large emergent wetlands that will replace the ponds. This should greatly increase the bird diversity at the site when work is completed.
There weren’t any shorebirds on these newly exposed flats, but I would imagine this area would be pretty appealing to a passing plover or Baird’s Sandpiper.
This American Goldfinch was enjoying the water.
Eurasian Collared Dove
At Jackson Bottom, swallows were everywhere, with young birds out of the nest and waiting around for parents to feed them. Tree and Barn were the two species I noticed.
Baby Barn Swallows
There were lots of Least Sandpipers about. These are birds that either didn’t make it all the way to the Arctic, or had failed nesting attempts and headed back south. Shorebird migration will really pick up in about two weeks.
This male Wilson’s Phalarope was reported with three downy chicks earlier in the week, but I did not see any young when I was there. Hopefully the little ones were off hiding somewhere.
This pair of Ospreys is nesting on a piling along Sauvie Island Road. The elevation of the road provides an eye-level view of the nest. Note the piece of blue plastic.
The female is sitting on eggs, so she remained pretty still the whole time I was there, aside from from making a few adjustments. Meanwhile, the male was bringing additional sticks and continued to build the nest around her.
While I was watching the Ospreys, this young American Crow flew in carrying a Cedar Waxwing, landed on a log, and proceeded to eat. I don’t know if the crow actually caught the waxwing or happened to find a dead one, but the crow didn’t hesitate to chow down and had the waxwing consumed in about one minute. I am aging this bird as a youngster by the pale color on the bill and the scaly pattern on the back.
On a less gruesome note, a pair of Barn Swallows was building a nest in the observation platform on Reeder Road.
This is a view from the end of Rentenaar Road, lots of flowers and Great Egrets.
Barn Swallows (pictured here) and Cliff Swallows build nests almost entirely out of mud. Historically, these structures were built on cliffs or near the mouth of caves, but are now most often found on man-made structures.
The disadvantage of building nests in buildings is that sometimes the mud does not stick well to the smooth wood. Sometimes people remove the nests in an attempt to prevent a build-up of droppings. At this location, someone decided to give the birds a hand.
A cardboard berry carton was tied to a rafter, and the Barn Swallow has used it as a foundation for her nest. You can see the mud, plant fibers, and feathers sticking out over the top of the carton. Notice how the rafter is nearly covered with mud from previous nests or nesting attempts.
Here is a beautifully formed Cliff Swallow nest. The overhanging metal serves as the top of the structure, reducing the amount of mud needed. Notice how the mud at the bottom of the nest is a different color and includes plant fibers, suggesting that this nest was built on the foundation of an old Barn Swallow nest.
Migration has wound down by now, and the summer breeders are out in force. Here are a few birds I found on Sauvie Island this morning.
Savannah Sparrows can be heard at the edges of all the pastures.
This Bald Eagle hovered over me, scolding the whole time. That behavior is more typical of Red-winged Blackbirds. I thought the eagles would be done nesting by now, but apparently they still have young in the nest.
Blue-winged Teal, uncommon in the Willamette Valley
Cinnamon Teal, common, but always a delight
hungry Barn Swallow chicks