Summer in the Wetlands

Our brutal summer continues. When the weather is this hot and dry, the best bird diversity is usually found around wetlands, so I spent a little time at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom.

b phoebe smallThe first record of Black Phoebe in Washington County was in 2006 (by yours truly). Now they are rare but regular at both Jackson Bottom and Fernhill.

least sandpiperShorebird migration is in full swing. Numbers are better at the coast, but some birds are finding the small patches of mud at inland locations. This Least Sandpiper was feeding on some newly exposed mud at Jackson Bottom.

lorquin's admiralHere is the underside of a Lorquin’s Admiral. Those red eyes are intense.

green heronGreen Heron at Fernhill
Green Heron open bill small

w pelican smallAmerican White Pelican is another species that has become more common in the Portland area is recent years. They don’t nest here, but summer brings large numbers of young birds and post-breeding adults.

Happy Summer

Fernhill Wetlands

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.

Lesser Scaup

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.

Happy final days of winter

Fernhill Wetlands

A recent foggy morning found me at Fernhill Wetlands. Birding was a little slow overall, but there were a few neat finds. These were two of about 100 Long-billed Dowitchers out that morning.

Black Phoebe has become an expected species at Fernhill in just the past few years. My camera insists on focusing on vegetation instead of birds.

The best bird of the morning was this Harlan’s Hawk soaring over the wetlands.

There has been a huge crop of Nutria at Fernhill this year. There were babies everywhere. I realize this is an invasive species in North America, but baby Nutria are pretty adorable.
Happy Autumn

Tillamook

I had to go to Tillamook Bay to get some photos for an upcoming webinar. This particular day had freakishly nice weather, very un-Tillamook-like. Ideally, during fall migration, a birder hopes for onshore winds to bring seabirds and shorebirds close to shore, and a light overcast to provide gentle light for viewing and cool temperatures. This day brought light east winds, a cloudless cobalt blue sky, and temperatures in the 80s. I guess we have to play the cards we are dealt.

This is the Three Graces Tidal Area. The sun hadn’t cleared the hill yet so it was too dark to photograph the Harlequin Duck that was swimming around the rocks. Harlequins are regular at this site.

At the Bay City Oyster Plant, this Double-crested Cormorant was taking advantage of the sun to dry his wings.

Black Phoebe on the pilings at the oyster plant

With the east winds, shorebirds were very rare on this trip. This mixed flock of Least and Western Sandpipers at the oyster plant was the only big flock of the day.

Western Gull, hanging out on the Purple Martin boxes

I did the Tillamook Death March around Bayocean Spit. The ocean side of the spit is typically not as birdy as the bay side, but there was not a single shorebird on this trip.

There had apparently been at least a couple of shorebirds here earlier in the day.

Always glad to see these signs, hope that the Snowy Plover population will continue to recover on the Oregon Coast.

The Common Ravens on the beach were pretty skittish. I wonder if they have been “encouraged” to avoid the plover nesting areas.

There were a lot of these jellyfish near the mouth of the bay. Yet another reason I don’t swim in the ocean.

Despite the summery weather, autumn migrants, like this Red-necked Grebe, are trickling in.

A Mew Gull with two California Gulls

Despite the eerily nice weather, there were a few birds around. We need to remind ourselves that there is always something to see.

Happy Autumn

Fernhill Wetlands

I visited Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove on a rare sunny December day. The sun is so low at this time of year that if there is no cloud cover the sun is either at your back or directly in your eyes. The latter makes birding very challenging, but the former can produce some lovely light, as seen on this Mourning Dove.

At least one Black Phoebe has been hanging out near the ponds behind the picnic shelter this fall. Black Phoebes were unheard of in Washington County a few year ago.

Any shorebird seen at this time of year is a treat. This lone Greater Yellowlegs was one of four shorebird species found on this trip. (Long-billed Dowitchers and Wilson’s Snipe were flybys.)

This Killdeer was probing with her foot to try to stir up food in one of the new gravel filtration tanks.

The main lake at Fernhill is hosting a nice variety of waterfowl, but most were distant or in the harsh sunlight. A  Swamp Sparrow was a nice find, but stayed in the cattails to avoid being photographed.

Happy Autumn.

North Coast, 21 November 2013

phoebe 2I spent a cold but sunny day on the coast, from Seaside to the Columbia River. One of the best surprises of the day was this Black Phoebe at Millponds Park in Seaside. This species continues to expand its range northward, both along the coast and in the Willamette Valley.

song sparrowWhile the ponds at this park are attractive to freshwater waterfowl like Ring-necked Ducks and Hooded Mergansers, the brushy areas hold good numbers of sparrows. Here is a Song Sparrow in the harsh sunlight.

fox sparrowFox Sparrows are common in the brushy areas. Unfortunately, my camera prefers to focus on the brush, rather than on the birds.

dunlin 6This lone Dunlin was the only shorebird I found at Fort Stevens. He was very tolerant of my presence.
dunlin 3The same bird, blending in well with the sand
dunlin 2
rn grebeThe Seaside Cove hosted huge rafts of birds; all three scoters, Greater Scaup, Western Grebe, and a single Long-tailed Duck. Most birds were beyond the breakers (aka beyond camera range), but this Red-necked Grebe came in close enough for a blurry photo.

surfbird 1sleepy Surfbird

turnstones 1preening and sleeping Black Turnstones

turnstone and surfbird 2sleepy Black Turnstone and Surfbird

Tillamook

I took advantage of the glorious spring weather recently to visit Tillamook (Birding Oregon p. 125). Nala and I completed the Tillamook Death March, walking all the way around Bayocean Spit. This is the only spot I have visited on the Oregon coast where you can walk for several miles along the beach and not see another person. You can barely discern the south jetty on the horizon.


As expected, there weren’t a lot of birds on the ocean side of Bayocean. It is still too early for spring migrants and too late for winter specialties. Aside from one Black-bellied Plover, the only shorebirds were Sanderlings, shown here doing their typical running along the water’s edge.


There wasn’t much going on, birdwise, on the bay side of the spit either. The tide was high and there were a lot of boats on the water. This was one of several Bald Eagles seen on our walk.


The main reason for my trip that day was to explore the Tillamook Bay Wetlands Area. While this isn’t the most scenic of sites, it provides wonderful access to wetland and meadow habitats along Tillamook Bay. From US 101 on the north edge of the city of Tillamook, turn west onto Goodspeed Road. Follow this very rough paved/gravel road for one mile, bear right, then left, then right again to end at a small parking area with this sign.


Wilson River


Wilson River, near where it empties into Tillamook Bay. The patch of trees in the distance is the wooded area of Bayocean Spit across the bay.


Black Phoebes were actively hunting from perches along the water’s edge.


Marshy habitat with the Coast Range in the distance. Snow is visible on the clear-cuts.