Fernhill Wetlands

The rainy season has been slow to arrive this year, so we have had strings of sunny autumn days. While the dry conditions are preventing many of the seasonal wetlands from filling, the clear skies do make for some pleasant birding. Here are a few shots from Fernhill Wetlands.

This Mourning Dove was blending in nicely with the gravel on one of the wastewater filtering beds.

The Killdeer’s pattern provides good camouflage on a rocky background, but doesn’t do as well in dead grass.

Northern Harrier

The Green-winged Teal are starting to get some nice color.

Cinnamon Teal

The Cackling Geese are back in good numbers. There is currently an outbreak of aspergillus, a fungal infection that causes respiratory distress and pneumonia, that has killed dozens of birds at this site.

Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose

American Coot in the sunshine

The only gulls on this visit were these three Bonaparte’s Gulls, swimming with a Northern Pintail and a Green-winged Teal.

Most of the migrant shorebirds are long gone, but there are still some Long-billed Dowitchers around. Note the pattern on the tail showing wider black bars and narrow white bars. This pattern would be reversed on a Short-billed Dowitcher.

Happy Autumn

Fernhill Wetlands

Summer is settling in at Fernhill Wetlands. The birds that are here now are probably nesting. Always a treat this far west is this handsome Blue-winged Teal. I hope he has a mate sitting on eggs somewhere.

Just as lovely, and more expected here, is this Cinnamon Teal. A friend refers to them as “spicy.”

All the migrant shorebirds are gone, so we can stop to enjoy the resident Killdeer.

I have been spending more time around the back side of Dabblers Marsh at Fernhill. The wooded habitat attracts more songbirds, like this Cedar Waxwing.

Purple Martins have reclaimed their nest boxes by the lake.

This Great Egret was hanging out close to the main trail. They are often farther out in the marsh.

I have seen California Ground Squirrels here in the past, but this is the first I have seen since the major renovations. I am glad to see this species is still using the site.

This Long-toed Salamander was my only herp of the day. If you look at the back feet, you can see the extra long fourth toe that gives this species its name.

Happy Spring/Summer

Fernhill Wetlands

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.

brush rabbit
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 martin
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.

cinnamon teal
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.

merg
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
Turkey Vulture, experiencing some wing molt

red-winged
This Red-winged Blackbird was one of a large flock feeding in the cattails.

barn swallow chicks
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. 

Spring at Fernhill

While we continue to get above-average rainfall in the Portland area, there have been a few dry days of late, so I ran out for a quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands. Most of the wintering geese are gone, and there are signs that spring is slowly making progress.

Yellow-rumped Warblers, both Audubon’s and Myrtle (shown) races, are coming through in large numbers.

Red-winged Blackbirds are in full song and are staking out territories.

Song Sparrows start singing in January, but are increasingly vocal now.

Several pairs of Cinnamon Teal were courting.

Northern Harrier

A flock of Dunlins was using this log to get out of the mud for a while. They were all still in winter plumage. Dunlins are one of the first species to arrive in spring.
Spring shorebird migration peaks in late April/early May. There is still room in my shorebird class with Portland Audubon April 27/29.

This Sora was being typically elusive.

The red currants were is full bloom, attracting both Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds.

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.
IMG_7603

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.

Tualatin River NWR

eagle nest Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is still a fairly new addition to the Willamette Valley refuge complex, but it offers a nice variety of habitats very close to Portland. I don’t know if the resident Bald Eagles had a successful nesting this year, but this individual was hanging out by the nest during my recent visit.

cinnamon teal 1Cinnamon Teal were conspicuous, but Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal were also present.

killdeer 1Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers are both common nesters on the refuge.

n. rough-winged 1The air above the wetlands is filled with various species of swallows. This Northern Rough-winged Swallow was the only one that sat for a distant photo.

willow flycatcher 1This Willow Flycatcher was giving his distinctive “FITZ-bew” call.

w. wood-pewee 1Western Wood-Pewees were calling from the edges of the woods.

savannah sparrow 1The grassy areas are home to Savannah Sparrows.

white-crowned 1This White-crowned Sparrow was singing from the roof of the refuge office.

Wetland Birds

While spring migration has not really ramped up yet, locally nesting birds at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottoms are starting to pair up, and the winter flocks are breaking up.

least sandpiperA few Least Sandpipers have arrived at Fernhill.

killdeer quartetThese Killdeer were vying for position. I think this species would be more highly regarded if their voices weren’t so grating. Their plumage and red eye ring are rather stunning, but they just don’t shut up.

bushtitI found a pair of Bushtits weaving a nest. The normally gray birds were stained bright yellow with pollen.

cinnamon tealCinnamon Teal, looking all dapper

golden-crowned frontGolden-crowned Sparrow

white cheeked golden-crownedThis Golden-crowned Sparrow had odd white patches on the cheeks, and a few white feathers on the nape.

tree swallowTree Swallows are everywhere, pairing up and claiming nest boxes.

song sparrow 3Song Sparrow, not unusual, but unusually cooperative

red-winged blackbirdRed-winged Blackbird. Females and immature males have much more interesting plumage than that of the adult males.

house finch 1House Finch, just because

Tualatin River NWR

eagle nestI made a quick visit to Tualatin River NWR in the afternoon heat. One of the main trails is closed off until this young Bald Eagle decides to leave the nest. Despite the flock of European Starlings cheering him on, he didn’t show any sign of leaving.

gadwallI saw several pairs of Gadwall, but no ducklings yet. This male was putting on a show for his lady friend.

mallard momMallards have been out with broods for weeks now.
duckling
cinnamon tealCinnamon Teal siesta

pb grebePied-billed Grebe showing off his black throat

spotted sandpipersI often find Spotted Sandpipers perched on man-made structures.

bullfrog Despite the time of day, American Bullfrogs were actively singing and defending territories. This introduced species is so common in the Willamette Valley. I would think they would be a favored prey item (Great Blue Heron, Mink, River Otter, etc.) but I seldom find any evidence of predation. Bullfrogs are unfortunately very good at preying on native frogs and turtles.

Jackson Bottom 4/26/12

I took a client to Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro (Birding Oregon p. 60).  Continuing restoration efforts at that site are creating some nice habitat, and the birds are responding.


Cinnamon Teal were actively courting.

There was lots of head bobbing and chasing of rival males.

taking a break


Jackson Bottom is swarming with swallows. Tree Swallows claim most of the many nest boxes.


Cliff Swallow


Restoration work has created shallow ponds and open mud, which is attractive to migrant shorebirds like these Western Sandpipers.


Three Dunlins in various states of molt. The front bird is least advanced, while the bird in back is in full breeding plumage.


Two Dunlins on the left, Western Sandpipers on the right.


Western Sandpiper, with Dunlin in the background


Least Sandpipers


This Solitary Sandpiper was a nice surprise. They are an uncommon spring migrant.


The resident Canada Geese have already hatched their broods.

Sauvie Island

I did a point count at Oak Island on Sauvie Island today, then birded several other areas. Migration is starting to pick up with large numbers of Purple Martins and several warblers and shorebirds on the move. I also saw four Sanhill Cranes, which seemed a bit early.


Western Wood-Pewees are everywhere, and still very vocal.


This California Quail spent some time on top of a corral fence, before disappearing into the blackberry brambles.


Here is a very distant shot of two Red-necked Phalaropes in front of a Cinnamon Teal. Notice the big blue patch on the extended wing of the teal.


A Brush Rabbit, not a bird, nor uncommon, but still cute.


Pacific Treefrog. It is amazing how such a tiny animal (about 1 inch from snout to vent) can have such a loud call.