Mid to late summer is the prime time to watch shorebirds in western Oregon, partly because it is the peak of southbound shorebird migration, and partly because the locally nesting songbirds have stopped singing and are very hard to see. Shorebirding in the Portland area has been a little more challenging this summer with major construction projects occurring at Fernhill Wetlands, Smith and Bybee Wetlands, and Jackson Bottom.
Broughton Beach, near the airport, has not hosted large numbers of birds this year, but has attracted some good species.
Baird’s Sandpipers come through Oregon every year, but never in huge numbers, so finding one is always a treat. They stand out with their buffy coloring and long wings.
Almost all of the Baird’s that pass through in summer are juveniles, so they show a strong scaly pattern.
While Sanderlings are quite common along the coast, it is rare to find them inland. Broughton seems to be a good spot to find them in Portland.
Here is a group shot of (L to R) a Sanderling, a Western Sandpiper, and a Baird’s Sandpiper, all juveniles. While it is fun to sort through thousands of shorebirds when the birding fates align, when birding is slow it does us good to take advantage of small numbers and really study the few birds at hand. Shorebird migration runs for another month, so I am hoping to have many more encounters before the rains return and the shorebirds depart.
Broughton Beach, along the Columbia River, has been a favorite spot in Portland to check for shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl, depending on the season. On my recent visit I enjoyed watching a family of Horned Larks working the beach. There are many subspecies of Horned Lark, and I don’t have a reference that provides a good description of the possible subspecies in this area. These birds had much more yellow on their faces than did the birds I saw recently on Mount Hood.
This juvenile showed more muted colors and lacked the distinctive facial pattern of the adults.
I’m not sure if this bird is a juvenile or an adult female.
adult female, I think
adult male, I think
Not a Horned Lark, but Brewer’s Blackbirds are among my favorites. This is a female.
And we end with a ball of fluffy cuteness. I was surprised to find such a young Killdeer so late in the summer.
Broughton Beach is along the Columbia River, right next to the Portland airport. It can be a challenging place to bird, with dogs and children chasing the birds, police carrying body bags down the beach, etc. But if you catch it on a good day you can find some excellent birding. The great attraction this past week was a Pacific Golden Plover, which spent two days there, avoiding me with great success (thus that specie’s designation as one of my nemesis birds). I tried for the plover twice with no luck, but found several other goodies along the way.
The most unexpected species was this Red Phalarope. At first glance, I wrote this bird off as a Red-necked, since Reds are very unusual inland in August, and Red-neckeds are expected. Once I looked at the photographs, however, I saw my error and got a good reminder to LOOK AT THE BIRD! That heavy bill with the light-colored base is a dead giveaway for Red Phalarope.
Another coastal species along Broughton Beach was Sanderling.
It is nice to see Sanderlings at inland locations, since you can often get closer to them there than you can at the coast.
Another nice find was this Semipalmated Sandpiper. You can see the partial webbing between the outer toes that gives this species its name. Ten years ago, a Semipalmated Sandpiper anywhere in Oregon was a pretty big deal, but now quite a few individuals are reported every year. Either the bird has become a more common migrant in this state, or people are just better at recognizing them.
Semipalmated Sandpiper (r) and Western Sandpiper (l)
Western Sandpipers were present in small numbers. . .
as were Least Sandpipers.
California Gulls like to hang out on a little sand spit that extends into the river at low tide. A few Glaucous-winged Gulls have arrived, and will become more common as autumn approaches.
This Common Loon seemed a little out of place for August. In the winter months, this species is often seen at this site with large rafts of grebes and diving ducks. There are fewer kids and dogs then, too.
Broughton Beach is the stretch of shoreline along the Columbia River, just north of the Portland airport. It has been a popular spot to access the river to scan for waterfowl in winter, and the shore attracts some neat birds, like Horned Larks, American Pipits, and the occasional Short-eared Owl. There used to be free parking there, but that was eliminated when the adjacent public boat launch was expanded to include a nice new car parking lot (with a fee station).
There weren’t many birds on the water during my recent visit. Here is a distant Horned Grebe.
A mixed flock of gulls was loafing on a sand spit. There are at least four species in this photo, lots of California, a Mew, a Herring, and a few Ring-billed.
The gull flock was resting after being harassed by this guy. This Peregrine Falcon spent several minutes flying through the flock, taking half-hearted swipes at various gulls. Perhaps he was testing for any individuals that were injured or particularly slow.