Random Non-birds

Here are a few images of various animals I have seen lately. When the birds refuse to pose for photos, it is nice to find other creatures that are more cooperative. As I have said, there is always something to see.

brush rabbit smallBrush Rabbit, Fernhill Wetlands

bullfrog smallBullfrog female smallThe top image shows a massive male American Bullfrog found at Dober Reservoir. Note the injury around his right eye. The bottom image is of a newly emerged female. At this stage, she was about the size of the males head, but females typically grow larger than males of this species.

butterfly smallOrange Sulphur, found at Jackson Bottom. Unfortunately, this species perches with their wings closed, so you can’t see the vibrant colors on the top.

Mylitta Crescent smallThis Mylitta Crescent at Fernhill Wetlands was much more cooperative.

striped meadowhawk smallI don’t know the dragonflies, but I am told this individual from Fernhill Wetlands is a Striped Meadowhawk.

ground squirrel smallCalifornia Ground Squirrels, one of my favorite rodents, have become more common at Fernhill Wetlands since the reconstruction a few years ago.

Black-tailed Deer and fawnThis Black-tailed Deer and her fawn were enjoying the lush vegetation at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.
Black-tailed fawn

Back to birds next time.

Happy Autumn

North Portland

peweeOur team for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Birdathon birded several sites in the northern parts of Portland. The weather was cool and rainy, not conducive to photography or bird activity, but we ended our efforts with 76 species for the day. This Western Wood-Pewee at Whitaker Ponds was one of the few photogenic individuals.

bushtit smBushtit, also at Whitaker Ponds

bt deerThis Black-tailed Deer, with his new antlers just starting to sprout, was at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.

paintedThere are only two native species of turtle in Oregon, both of which are considered at risk do to habitat loss and pollution. Smith and Bybee Wetlands is a local stronghold for Western Painted Turtles.

re slidersHere is a Western Painted Turtle on the left, with a Red-eared Slider on the right. Red-eared Sliders are native to the southeastern U.S., but have been introduced into many areas, usually by people disposing of unwanted pets. Introduced species compete with native species for food and nesting habitat.

Happy Spring

Still Waiting for the Birds

beaver chew
Spring migration has not really picked up yet. There are a few new avian arrivals, but birding remains pretty slow. But, as I often say, there is always something to look at, so here are some non-avian images. The Beaver chew above is at Tualatin River NWR.

nutriaI very rarely get to see Beaver, but Nutria (pictured above) are everywhere, giving me my daily allowance of large aquatic rodents.

itchyIt is always a treat to see Black-tailed Deer.
deer 1
deer 2

ens 2Partially because birding has been slow, and partially because I am preparing for a herping class in May, I have been looking for amphibians and reptiles a lot this spring. This is an Oregon Ensatina, a very small specimen that was about two inches long. Ensatinas are recognized by their proportionally large head and eyes. The Oregon subspecies typically has the yellow coloring at the base of the legs.

newtThis is the smallest Rough-skinned Newt I have seen, about two inches long.

lt salaThese Long-toed Salamanders were creating some neat shapes.

nw garter 4Northwestern Garter Snake

nw garter 3Two courting Northwestern Garter Snakes. Notice the variation in color pattern, typical of this species.

fishWestern Mosquito Fish

I will have some bird photos next time, promise.

Happy Spring

Into the Woods

We left Portland for ten days to escape the fireworks which terrify our dogs. We stayed on a farm in the Coast Range in Benton County. The birds where we stayed were typical Coast Range birds which stayed high in the dark trees, so no great photos there.

I think this pile of feathers is the result of someone munching on a Sooty Grouse.

Bodhi and I flushed four Black-tailed Deer on the far side of a clear-cut.

This very old scat consisted of just fur and bone. From the size, I am assuming it is from a Mountain Lion.

The pond at the farm where we were staying was full of Rough-skinned Newts. I assume they were congregating to lay eggs.

To bee, or not to bee? This newt actually did take a swipe at the honeybee, but I don’t think she was able to get it down.
We didn’t get in the car very often on this trip, but when we did we usually saw Wild Turkeys along the road. Here is a crappy cell-phone-through-the-dirty-windshield shot.

I have never had a reaction to Poison Oak, but I take great care to avoid direct contact.

One morning a drove down to Fern Ridge Wildlife Area in Lane County. There wasn’t as much shorebird habitat as I had hoped for, but the Black-necked Stilts were well represented. Here is a juvenile Black-necked Stilt passing in front of a Killdeer. The juveniles are recognized by their scaly backs and dull legs.

Like most birds, they bring their leg over their wing when they need to scratch their head.

Here’s a lovely adult Black-necked Stilt, with solid black upperparts and bright pink legs.

Black-necked Stilts are fairly common breeders east of the Cascades, but harder to find on the west side. Fern Ridge, at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, is a consistent breeding site for this species. Southbound shorebird migration is starting to rev up.

Happy Summer

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

Late Summer Wetlands

I made a quick trip to Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom to look for shorebirds. My first bird of the morning was this Killdeer standing on the sidewalk. I guess that counts.

There is a frustrating lack of mudflats in area wetlands this year. Areas are either dry with lots of vegetation or are full of water. I did manage to find this Wilson’s Snipe (front) feeding with a juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher.

Young Spotted Sandpiper on a log

Lots of American White Pelicans are in the Willamette Valley right now.

The wetland rehabilitation at Fernhill Wetlands has resulted in much less exposed mud, but the thick emergent vegetation is hog heaven to rails, like this Virginia Rail.

In the “invasive but adorable” category are this Nutria with her baby.

Brush Rabbits rule the “native AND adorable” category.
So cute

These two Black-tailed Deer were at Jackson Bottom. I found it interesting that the little spike buck in front still had his antlers completely encased in velvet while the fork buck in back has already shed his velvet to reveal polished antler.

There is still about a month of shorebird migration left. I hope we get some good mudflats to bring them in. Happy Summer.

Birds vs. Birding

We spent close to a week in northern Wasco County, OR, to get our dogs away from the barrage of illegal fireworks that plague the Portland area every July. While the property where we stayed provided some nice hiking opportunities, there is little public land in the northern part of Wasco County. I drove a few country roads looking for birds, but there were no public areas to really explore on foot. We were too ambitious with our hiking the first couple of days and ended up pushing Nala (who turns 10 next month) too far. She couldn’t walk on her own for two days, so we didn’t get out at all on those days.

Looking back on the trip, I got a total of one bird photo for the week, and never really got good views of any birds. It is tempting to say that the birding was bad, but thinking back, I really did see a lot of birds. Most were flybys, or birds seen without optics, but the diversity was actually pretty good. There were Ash-throated Flycatchers, Western Kingbirds, and Say’s Phoebes. Western Bluebirds, Western Meadowlarks, and Lewis’s Woodpeckers were common. The hummingbird feeder at the house where we stayed was visited by Rufous and Black-chinned Hummingbirds. A Wild Turkey crossed the road in front of me one morning. There were a lot of birds that I don’t get to see in the Portland area. Granted, views were often fleeting, but one of the advantages of being an experienced birder is the ability to recognize many species with less-than-stellar views. So given the fact that I didn’t actually do a lot of birding, the birding wasn’t too bad after all. We are always birding. Sometimes the views and species diversity are better than others, but there is always something to see.

Horned Lark, perched on a barbed wire fence, the only bird photo from the week

California Ground Squirrels were EVERYWHERE.

Not quite as common as the ground squirrels, Black-tailed Deer were seen on every outing.

These two fawns were “hiding” in the tall grass.

Here Bodhi contemplates his first cow. Nala cares not for such beasts.

Looking west toward Mt. Hood

In a pasture of mostly browns and pale olives, a few Blanket Flowers provided some intense color.

Happy Summer

Random Ramblings

Most of my recent outings have been while leading trips or in dreary conditions, both of which limit any photo opportunities. So here are some dribs and drabs from recent weeks.

This Black-tailed Deer and her fawn were at Cooper Mountain Nature Park in Beaverton. There was a second fawn present out of frame.

This Long-billed Dowitcher was blending in well with the rocks at Parking Lot C at Fort Stevens State Park. I often find shorebirds, usually Least Sandpipers or Dunlin, in this little patch of rocks.

I saw this Pied-billed Grebe on a cloudy morning at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Crystal Springs is thick with Wood Ducks.

Eastern Gray Squirrel at Crystal Springs

Sandhill Cranes have arrived in good numbers at Sauvie Island.

Crane fight

A young Bald Eagle flying by on Sauvie

This White-crowned Sparrow posed nicely in filtered sunlight along Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island. This is a first winter bird, but he was singing from this perch for a while.

Most shorebird migration is long past, but this mixed flock of Dunlin and Long-billed Dowitchers were hanging out at the small ponds near the parking lot at Fernhill Wetlands.

Long-billed Dowitcher at Fernhill. This intense sunlight is certainly not the norm for mid-November, but the rains will return soon enough.

Happy Autumn

Summer Shorebirds

There isn’t much going on bird-wise in mid-summer besides shorebirds. It is nice to have an opportunity to really focus on a single group of birds. Here are a few images from recent weeks.

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This Long-billed Dowitcher, to the right of the Killdeer, really caught my eye since she was still in nearly pristine breeding plumage.
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The bright cinnamon color goes all the way down through the undertail coverts. This bird was at Jackson Bottom Wetlands.

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more Long-billed Dowitchers at Jackson Bottom. These birds are already fading into their duller winter plumage.

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Spotted Sandpiper, still in breeding plumage, perched on a spotted log

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From the cuteness department comes this fuzzy baby Killdeer. Seeing a young Killdeer with his single breast band this late in the summer might suggest a Semipalmated Plover. But the fluffy plumage and the long legs (not to mentions the tiny wings) let us know we are looking at a fledgling.

IMG_0839
Take the time to look at shorebird specimens whenever you have the chance. The first thing you will notice is just how small these birds are. Since we usually look at shorebirds through powerful optics, we tend to think they are actually larger than they are. (A Least Sandpiper is a little smaller than a House Sparrow.) Here we have a nice comparison of a Greater and a Lesser Yellowlegs. Note the differences in the proportions of the bills.

IMG_0814
A trip to the coast provided good numbers of Semipalmated Plovers, seen here with a Western Sandpiper.

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Several hundred Marbled Godwits spent a couple of weeks at the beach in Fort Stevens State Park.

blue small
Dragonflies provide a nice burst of color in the summer. I believe this a Blue Dasher, but please correct me if I am wrong.

8 spot
Eight-spotted Skimmer

black-tailed small
This Black-tailed Deer was behind the visitor center at Jackson Bottom.

Shorebird migration will be the big thing for another few weeks, but it will be gull season before you know it.

Ridgefield NWR

I don’t get up to Ridgefield NWR in Washington very often, even though it is a short drive from Portland. But lots of folks had recently seen adorable fuzzy little Virginia Rail babies, so I wanted to try my luck.

IMG_7595By the time I got there, the adorable fuzzy little babies had become rather unattractive adolescents, but it was still fun to see this usually shy species out in the open.
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IMG_7618Another adolescent foraging near the rails was this little Nutria. The refuge staff tries to control the population of this introduced species, but they remain plentiful.
nutria

northern harrierNorthern Harrier

IMG_7583Black-tailed Deer, perfectly hidden among the teasel

IMG_7591There is not a lot of water on the refuge right now, so the Great Egrets were gathered on one of the remaining ponds.

IMG_7581We are entering Ugly Duck Season, when adult ducks molt into identical ratty plumages, making them much harder to identify. I am going with Cinnamon Teal on this mama and babies (all-black bill, overall warm brown coloring).

IMG_7622On the way home we stopped at Kelly Point Park along the Columbia River in NW Portland. California Gulls were gathered on the pilings.

IMG_7623This young American Crow (note the pinkish gape) was begging for food.

IMG_7627Nala, the large aquatic mammal.