The nights are still cold, often below freezing, but the days are starting to warm. With the first hints of spring come the first amphibians and reptiles of the year. You can hear Pacific Treefrogs calling all year, but this is the first one I have seen. They were hanging out under a small log. The temperature was in the 30s, so they didn’t move at all while I was there. I snapped a quick photo and replaced the log over the frog.
Long-toed Salamanders are one of the first amphibians to breed in the spring, so they are everywhere right now. These three were under a single board. Lifting a small piece of plywood revealed about a dozen of these critters.
Another Long-toed Salamander
My first snake of the year was this Common Garter Snake soaking up some sun. The subspecies we have in this area is Red-spotted Garter. I was thrilled to find this individual, but quickly saw several dozen more on this sunny morning.
The red coloring on the face is common in this subspecies.
These two Red-spotted Garters were enjoying a little amour in the sunshine.
They were soon joined by a third individual, forming a mating ball.
Happy almost spring.
I scouted Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro for my shorebird class this week. Much of the area is dry, but Pintail Pond still has enough water to create mudflats and easy fishing for the Great Egrets.
One Ring-billed Gull was hanging out with several California Gulls.
This Northern Harrier repeatedly strafed the mudflats, sending all the shorebirds into a panic. Jerk.
Most of the shorebirds were beyond decent photo range, but this Spotted Sandpiper came fairly close.
The Common Garter Snakes at this site have great coloring. We saw several chasing fish in the shallow water.
This young Downy Woodpecker was checking out a swallow house. He didn’t go in, but explored all around the outside.
We are two weeks into a nasty heat wave in the Portland area. Sunrise is the only time of day when you can bird in any comfort and hope to find any birds active and singing. So I got up early and did a bird survey at Fernhill, then made a quick stop at Jackson Bottom on the way home.
Some of the flowers have gone to seed, providing forage for both American (above) and Lesser (below) Goldfinches.
The refurbished wetlands at Fernhill have lots of tree trunks installed vertically to provide perches for birds like this Great Blue Heron.
This Downy Woodpecker was checking out some of the new plantings around the water garden at Fernhill.
a young Killdeer, at that awkward teenager stage
Spotted Sandpipers are the other shorebird that nests at Fernhill and Jackson.
Checking the sky for falcons
This Common Garter Snake was very thick in the middle. I assume she is gravid. Garters give birth starting in late July. Broods are typically around a dozen, but broods of over 80 young have been reported.
male Tree Swallow, being all sparkly
Things are hopping at Fernhill Wetlands, with rising water levels, an influx of several thousand geese and other waterfowl, and a few other goodies.
Cackling Geese have been arriving for weeks now, and the skies and fields around Fernhill are covered with these little guys.
A small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese were hanging out with the Mallards in Dabblers Marsh.
This interesting beast is a hybrid, a product of one of the local Canada Geese and a domestic Greylag Goose.
Here are some of the many Northern Shovelers feeding in their typical manner, swimming along with their faces in the water, as if their enormous bills are too heavy to hold up.
Two American White Pelicans have been hanging out at Fernhill for a couple of months now.
Shorebird numbers and diversity have dwindled. Here are a few Long-billed Dowitchers.
The resident Bald Eagles were sitting around looking majestic. I watched one carrying a stick to add to their nest.
Several Northern Shrikes have been reported around the Portland area in recent days. This one is snacking on a large insect.
I saw three Common Garter Snakes on this trip, including one very young newborn about the width of a linguine. The colorful individual in this photo was about 20 inches long. Note the large laceration on his neck, presumably from a predator. Despite the severity of the wound, the snake was not bleeding and he crawled away after this photo was taken, so I am hopeful he will recover.
I spent a gorgeous day at Sauvie Island, northwest of Portland. There are still good numbers of waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes, but the sparrows have started to thin out.
Sandhill Cranes (and Mallards)
Dusky Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes (and Mallards)
I believe the front bird is a Lesser Canada Goose. The bill is long and slopes gently into the forehead, unlike the stubby bills and rounded foreheads seen on Cackling and Taverner’s Cackling Geese.
I saw at least a dozen Garter Snakes around Wapato Access Greenway. This was one of two that sat still long enough for photos.