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

Random Summer Birds

black-headed grosbeakSpring migration has come and gone, and many birders agree that it was a dud. Numbers and diversity seemed quite low in the Portland area this spring. So now we concentrate on the summer residents, like this Black-headed Grosbeak.

Golden-crowned SparrowMost Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.

lazuli small singingAt Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years. lazuli small

Blue-winged Teal pairTualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.

purple martinsPurple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands

bewick's smallBewick’s Wren are usually working heavy cover, so it was a treat to find this one dust bathing in the middle of a gravel road.

hoodieHooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands

Spotted Sandpiper 1Spotted Sandpiper

gadwall smallThis Gadwall is already starting to molt into his dull summer alternate plumage. I often refer to late summer as Ugly Duck Season. It seems a little early for ducks to be losing their sharp breeding colors.

Now is the time to seek out local nesters. It will only be about four weeks before southbound shorebird migration starts up. I hope the autumn migration is a little more eventful than this spring was.

Happy Summer

Soggy Songbirds

This has been the longest February ever. I know the calendar indicates that it is actually late May, and we have had several lovely dry days, but the cold wet weather continues to dominate. Despite the nasty conditions, spring migration has progressed nicely. Here are a couple of shots from Cooper Mountain Nature Park (sunny day) and Mount Tabor (dreary rainy day).

IMG_9494This American Crow was finding either food or water in the top of the stop sign post on Mt. Tabor.

IMG_9500Black-headed Grosbeaks returned to the Portland area in large numbers last week. This damp individual was singing in low brush on Mt. Tabor.
IMG_9487Another Black-headed Grosbeak singing in the sun at Cooper Mountain, but from the top of a tall tree

IMG_9513An Olive-sided Flycatcher, singing in the rain. This species often hangs out at tree-top level, but this guy came down for some nice eye-level viewing.

IMG_9504House Finches were munching on dandelions on Mt. Tabor.

swainson'sHere is a typical view of a Swainson’s Thrush, seen on Cooper Mountain during our Warbler and Flycatcher Class. This bird did not vocalize and stayed partially hidden in the brush the whole time, but we decided on the ID based on her warm buffy color, lack of dark spots on the breast, and lack of tail dipping behavior. Darker breast spotting and tail dipping would suggest Hermit Thrush.

The weather forecast calls for warm sunny weather for the next week. We will see how accurate the forecast is, and how long it takes me to complain about how hot and sunny it is.

Random Images

Early May is always a good time for seeing returning migrants and other signs of spring. Despite our cool damp weather, spring continues to slowly make inroads. Here are some random images from the past week.


May is warbler month across most of North America. This Wilson’s Warbler was feeding just outside our living room window.


Two River Otters were swimming in the wastewater ponds at Cannon Beach.

This otter had a pink nose, perhaps from an injury.


This male Rufous Hummingbird was flashing his colors at Stanley Lake in Seaside.


Surf Scoters at Fort Stevens


Black-headed Grosbeaks returned this week. After a winter of little finches, these birds make a bold impression when they appear at the feeder.

Like most birds, this grosbeak brings his leg up over his wing to scratch his head. I would think it would be easier to go under, but it seems to be working for him.


This Raccoon was soaking up a bit of sun at the Sandy River Delta.


This large aquatic mammal was also seen at the Sandy River Delta engaging in an activity known as “fetching.” Scientists still have not determined the purpose of this obsessive behavior.

Sauvie Island in Summer

Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p.55) is best known for wintering waterfowl and raptors. While the summer birding seems quiet compared to the multiple thousands of geese and Sandhill Cranes seen on winter visits,  there is always something to see.

osprey nest
Ospreys nest on platforms provided for them, as well as on utility poles and dead trees.

ca quail
This California Quail was surveying his domain from a fence.

bh grosbeak 3
It seemed odd to see this Black-headed Grosbeak feeding in weeds along the roadside, a considerable distance from the nearest tree.

Black-headed Grosbeaks

We are starting to see some songbird movement in the Portland area. Swainson’s Thrushes can be heard flying overhead at night. Several people are reporting Black-headed Grosbeaks under their feeders. Most of the adult grosbeaks have already headed south by the end of August, so many of the birds being reported now are young of the year.


Two grosbeaks have been hanging out under my feeder in recent days. The pattern on these birds is really stunning, so it is nice to see them on the ground. I’m not positive whether the bird above is a female or first-winter male.


The intesity of the breast color on this bird suggests a young male. You can see just a bit of the yellow area under the bird’s wing.

Oak Island

I am helping with a series of point counts on the Oak Island section of Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p.56). The goal is to gather baseline information on bird species using this area before habitat restoration work begins. The habitat consists of large oaks, grassy fields, and scattered thickets along the shore of Sturgeon Lake.

The area has a nice variety of nesting species. Those who live in the wooded areas seldom display themselves in such a way that allows me to capture a photo. So here are some birds (and a couple of mammals) of the edge habitats.

Red-winged Blackbird


Rufous Hummingbird


Black-headed Grosbeak


Townsend’s Chipmunk


Black-tailed Deer