Fernhill Wetlands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spring migration hasn’t really kicked in, yet, but the birds that are here are getting more active. Here are some recent images from Fernhill Wetlands. This Brewer’s Blackbird was looking good in the sunshine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Phoebes are now expected at Fernhill Wetlands. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I found Washington County’s first Black Phoebe there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was my first Rufous Hummingbird of the year. He refused to perch in decent light.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A large flock of Taverner’s Cackling Geese were hanging out on Fernhill Lake. The Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese were either off feeding somewhere or have moved on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brush Rabbit, always adorable

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

California Ground Squirrel, soaking up the sun

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spotted Towhee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downy Woodpecker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bright sunlight makes it hard for me to get a decent of photo of an American Coot, but this bird’s yoga pose was too good not to share.

Happy Spring!

Autumn Images

Between the recent bouts of rain, we have seen a few sunny days. The birds seem to really take advantage of the nice weather to bulk up for winter. Cedar Waxwings, like this juvenile, have been working fruiting trees and shrubs. Most of these images were taken at Koll Wetlands in Beaverton.

adult Cedar Waxwing

The red nape on this Downy Woodpecker blended in with the red berries.

This noisy Belted Kingfisher blended in amazingly well with the foliage.

This one was not so well camouflaged.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are starting to arrive in the valley.

Most migrant shorebirds are long gone, but three Greater Yellowlegs were lingering at Koll. There is no exposed mud, so the birds were wading deep or actually swimming.

Young Red-tailed Hawk, keeping an eye on me

The male ducks have mostly finished their molt into their colorful plumage, a nice change from the dreary summer look of “Ugly Duck Season.” These Wood Ducks were at Commonwealth Lake.

I followed this Bewick’s Wren around for a while, waiting for him to emerge from the shade and land in a bit of sunshine. When I shoot in RAW, my camera cannot shoot multiple frames, so I only got one chance when the bird popped up into the light.

A much more cooperative model, this Barred Owl hung out by my bird feeder for about half and hour one day. He watched the little birds flitting around, but I think he was hoping for one of the squirrels or rats that often clean up under the feeder. Unfortunately, the rodents did not make an appearance, so the owl eventually moved on.

Happy Autumn

Spring Continues

Spring migration continues to rev up. Warbler numbers and diversity are increasing along with other songbirds. This Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler was at Tualatin River NWR.

Downy Woodpecker showing his tongue

This Pacific Wren was singing at Pittock Mansion. These birds are usually concealed in the thickest cover. But when a male is in full song, they will often find a tall perch in the open and put on a show.

This Red-breasted Sapsucker posed on a fence at Cooper Mountain Nature Park. It is always nice to see this species at eye level.

Along with the influx of migration, another sign of spring is Birdathon, the annual fundraiser for the Audubon Society of Portland. This is a highly effective conservation organization in the Pacific Northwest. ASP also offers classes for children and adults, and runs the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in the Portland area. I am part of the team from the Backyard Bird Shops, the Retailed Hawks. We will be birding the southern Willamette Valley before crossing the Cascades to the high desert. Please consider making a donation here.

Pacific City

black-bellied 2I led the Three Capes Tour for the Birding and Blues Festival last weekend. Spring migration had not quite kicked into high gear, but there were some nice birds around. This is one of two Black-bellied Plovers we saw on the beach the day before the tour. They were losing their dull winter plumage and growing in some crisp black and white feathers.

IMG_8632Black-bellied Plover with a Mole Crab

IMG_8634Black-bellied Plover tracks

IMG_8641At Whalen Island, this Dark-eyed Junco and Purple Finch were sharing a treetop.

IMG_8643These Long-billed Dowitchers were some of the few shorebirds we saw on the tour. Most shorebirds were migrating well off-shore that day.

IMG_8645This patch of Red-hot Poker at the Whiskey Creek Fish Hatchery always seems to attract good birds. This year it was a pair of Downy Woodpeckers.

barn swallowThis Barn Swallow sat and posed for us for quite a while.

Jackson Bottom

great egretsI 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.

ring-billed gullOne Ring-billed Gull was hanging out with several California Gulls.

northern harrierThis Northern Harrier repeatedly strafed the mudflats, sending all the shorebirds into a panic. Jerk.

spotted sandpiperMost of the shorebirds were beyond decent photo range, but this Spotted Sandpiper came fairly close.

common garter 1The Common Garter Snakes at this site have great coloring. We saw several chasing fish in the shallow water.

downy frontThis young Downy Woodpecker was checking out a swallow house. He didn’t go in, but explored all around the outside.
downy rightdowny left

Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom

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.

am. goldfinchSome of the flowers have gone to seed, providing forage for both American (above) and Lesser (below) Goldfinches.

lesser goldfinch
great blueThe refurbished wetlands at Fernhill have lots of tree trunks installed vertically to provide perches for birds like this Great Blue Heron.

green heronGreen Heron

downyThis Downy Woodpecker was checking out some of the new plantings around the water garden at Fernhill.

killdeera young Killdeer, at that awkward teenager stage

spotted sandpiper leftSpotted Sandpipers are the other shorebird that nests at Fernhill and Jackson.

spotted sandpiper upChecking the sky for falcons

garterThis 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.

tree swallowmale Tree Swallow, being all sparkly

Random February Birds

I have spent very little time outdoors this month, but here are a few nice birds from the past few weeks.

yellow-rumped backThis Yellow-rumped Warbler was displaying his namesake near Ankeny NWR.

shrikeNorthern Shrike, also at Ankeny.

lewis's 1This Lewis’s Woodpecker has spent the winter near Ankeny. It is unusual to find them west of the Cascade Crest. You have to love a green woodpecker with a red belly.

anna'sPortland’s recent “Snowpocalypse” was not appreciated by the local Anna’s Hummingbirds.

white-throatedThis White-throated Sparrow has spent much of the winter on our property, but I haven’t seen him since the big snow melted.

modoMourning Dove at the feeder

downyThis Downy Woodpecker has made several visits to the dead cedar  outside our living room window.

To Bird or to Twitch?

I finally had a few hours to get out birding, and had planned to visit some of the Washington County wetlands. But a Brambling visiting a feeder in Woodburn presented me with a dilemma. Should I spend my birding time standing around in someone’s back yard hoping to see a particular bird, or should I explore large areas of habitat and find birds on my own?

The Brambling, an uncommon visitor from Asia, was only a 30 minute drive from home, well within my “chase radius.” (I will drive up to an hour and a half to chase a rarity, although it had better be a darned good bird if it is over an hour away.) The species would be a lifer for me, a nice tick on my Oregon list, and this would perhaps be my only chance to see this species. Then again, if the bird didn’t show up, I would have spent my limited birding time not looking at birds. With some reluctance, I decided to go for the twitch.

When I arrived at the stake-out site, a small group of birders informed me that I had just missed the Brambling. How typical is that? So I began my wait, hoping that the bird would maintain her schedule of repeated visits to her favorite feeder. I had come this far, so I might as well stick it out.


As luck would have it, this yard was very birdy. A small flock of Evening Grosbeaks was a rare treat. Several species of finches and sparrows worked the feeders, interrupted occasionally by a hungry Cooper’s Hawk. After about an hour of waiting, three things happened; my cell phone rang, the owner of the home came out to offer me a cup of coffee, and the Brambling appeared.


So with one hand holding my phone (it was an important call), I used the other hand to hold my binocular to get a brief look at the bird, then snap a few photos, all while thanking my host for the coffee (he didn’t realize that I was on the phone, and didn’t know that I don’t drink coffee). Then the Brambling flew away.

So now what? I had gotten a brief glimpse of the Brambling, although not a very satisfying view of a lifer, and had no idea if any of my photos would be usable or not. The bird had established a pattern of visiting the yard about once an hour for less than a minute. Do I hang out for another hour (did I mention it was really cold?), or do I cut my losses and go do some real birding? I was leaning toward the latter when an acquaintance of mine arrived to look for the bird. The prospect of visiting with him, along with the general birdiness of the this yard, convinced me to stay and try for another look at the Brambling.


This Downy Woodpecker worked on the suet feeder.


Notice that the Dark-eyed Junco on the left has some dark gray on the sides and a darker back than the typical Oregon race birds.

Here is the same bird from the back. The brownish cast on the bird’s back is not right for a pure Slate-colored Junco, so I think this bird is an intergrade Slate-colored/Oregon.


After about an hour, the Brambling returned for less than twenty seconds. I spent the entire time watching her with my binocular, making up for the fleeting view of the previous visit.

So I had gotten my lifer, adding my twitch to the checklist, but I had also gotten some actual birding in, as well. I had seen about 20 species in that little yard, and had a nice visit with some other birders. While I really enjoy getting out and finding large numbers of species, there is often birding to be had in confined situations such as this. I will still struggle with the choice of birding or twitching, but hopefully I will allow myself to find the joy in either.