September Shorebirds

Greater Yellowlegs

Shorebirds have been trickling through the Portland area all month. Finding proper habitat can be challenging. As wetlands dry up during the summer, we have to hope that deeper bodies of water recede enough to create mudflats for shorebirds to feed on. This Greater Yellowlegs was at Force Lake in north Portland.

g yellowlegs trioTypically seen wading, Greater Yellowlegs will occasionally swim in groups to catch small fish.
greater yellowlegs swimming

westernThis juvenile Western Sandpiper, showing the characteristic rusty suspenders, was taking advantage of low water levels at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.

pectoral sandpiperThe main lake at Fernhill Wetlands has receded enough to create some nice mudflats, here being enjoyed by a Pectoral Sandpiper.

long-billed dowitcherjuvenile Long-billed Dowitcher, showing the characteristic solid dark tertials

short-billed dowitcher smalljuvenile Short-billed Dowitcher, showing the characteristic tiger-striped tertials

spotted sandpiper smallSpotted Sandpipers nest in the Portland area. Juveniles, like this one, can be recognized by the barring on the wing coverts.

semipalmated plover smallSemipalmated Plovers are surely one of the cutest shorebirds. The scaly pattern on the wings tells us that this is a juvenile.

Happy Autumn

Smith and Bybee Wetlands

I went out to Smith and Bybee Wetlands in north Portland. This site can be a little challenging to bird, as the noise from Marine Drive makes it difficult to hear bird song and other natural sounds. But as you make your way farther from the road, birding tends pick up.

One of the first critters of the trip was this Eastern Cottontail. This species has been introduced into several urban areas in the Pacific NW. The rusty nape and blazing white tail help distinguish this species from the native Brush Rabbit.

Long-toed Salamanders have been the only species of salamander I have been able to find lately. This individual is the largest I have seen.

The weather was quite cool, so there were no snakes out. I found this baby Northwestern Garter under a little piece of asphalt. He was too cold to flee, so he just coiled up tightly.

Water levels were very high, so there wasn’t much shorebird habitat. This lone Greater Yellowlegs put on a nice show.
Shorebird migration is just starting to pick up, just in time for my shorebird webinar on April 13.

Happy Spring

Dog Days

I am not sure why the hottest days of mid-summer are referred to as “dog days.” My dogs want nothing to do with the heat, and the hot weather puts a damper on bird activity as well. Wetlands tend to be a little more active than woodlands this time of year, so here are some recent images from area wetlands.

This Purple Martin is from the colony at Fernhill Wetlands. The recently installed nesting boxes there have been a great success.

Tree Swallows are everywhere. It is nice to find one perched on a stick instead of on a nest box.

Ospreys on the nest at Jackson Bottom

This House Finch was feeding on green Elderberries at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.

Spotted Towhee at Smith and Bybee

Bewick’s Wrens seem to be very fond of dust baths this time of year.

It is baby crow season. These youngsters were exploring the shallow waters of a slough at Smith and Bybee.

It is harder to find herps in the hot weather. This Northwestern Garter was stuck in a vault for a water shut-off valve. I lifted him out and sent him on his way.

This is a very small, very thin Long-toed Salamander (note the insect parts nearby for scale).

Smith and Bybee Wetlands is thick with Green Herons right now. There were at least a dozen in this little slough.

Shorebird migration is starting to pick up. Unfortunately, there is very little mudflat habitat in the Portland area right now. This Greater Yellowlegs was one of several sharing the slough with the Green Herons.

Three Lesser Yellowlegs were also present at Smith and Bybee.

On the home front, we were treated to three baby Western Screech-Owls playing in the back yard. Two of them perched on the rope holding the sunshade and tried to untie the knots. It was almost too dark to see, so this is the best image I was able to get (6400 ISO). Pretty adorable.

Happy Summer

Still Waiting for Spring – Jackson Bottom

Jackson Bottom is another site that I can visit during the pandemic, assuming I get there early. The big push of spring migration has not hit, but you can tell it’s so close. Tree Swallows have been back for quite a while now. They are usually perched on the many bird houses at this site, so it was nice to catch a couple actually using a tree.
The Savannah Sparrows are setting up territory. This would have been a nice shot if I could have caught a reflection in the bird’s eye.

There we go.

This Osprey spent a lot of time preening while I was there. He still looks pretty disheveled.

Anna’s Hummingbird, just high enough that I can’t get a good flash from his gorget

Common Yellowthroat

witchity-witchity-witchity

I’m still waiting for shorebirds to show up. Greater Yellowlegs have been the only arrivals so far.

Some Killdeer have started nesting already.

Brush Rabbit

Long-toed Salamander

Several Common Garters (Red-spotted) were sunning themselves on this rock pile.

This garter had propped her body up against a log to better catch the morning sun.

I don’t remember seeing Camas at Jackson Bottom before, but they were in full bloom on this trip.

Happy spring

Fernhill Wetlands

During the current pandemic, it is not always easy to visit favorite birding sites. I have found that if I go very early, I can get some good birding in at Fernhill Wetlands without encountering too many folks. (Of course, this is my goal even without a pandemic.) This Marsh Wren put on a nice show.

Greater Yellowlegs is the only species of migrant shorebird I have seen so far this spring. We are still about two weeks away from the peak.

Green Heron, completely failing at camouflage. The auto-focus on my camera insists on focusing on the vegetation behind birds, rather than on the bird. (Yes, I am blaming the equipment.)

White-throated Sparrows have been regular at Fernhill lately.

White-crowned Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

This Northern Flicker was hanging out on the gravel dike in the wetland, perfect woodpecker habitat.

This Pacific Chorus Frog was hanging out under a log on a cold morning.

Long-toed Salamander is a lifer amphibian for me this year. As is typical when I see a new species of whatever, I now see them all the time.

More Long-toed Salamanders

This Muskrat would like to remind you to eat your greens.

Still waiting for spring migration to kick in.

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

Early Spring in the 5MR

The weather has gone from winter rain to spring rain, still rather gloomy but definitely more pleasant overall. Spring migration is slowly picking up with new species gradually accumulating in my 5-Mile Radius.

Most of the new sites that I have explored in my 5MR have been very underwhelming, but I was recently introduced to Cedar Mill Wetlands in Beaverton. This little site has produced 45 species in two short visits, as well as this encounter with a Coyote.

Sharp-shinned Hawk at Cedar Mill Wetlands

Great Egret, sporting their nuptial plumes

The little wetland associated with Commonwealth Lake Park continues to be a favorite site with local birders. The flock of Wilson’s Snipes has thinned out a bit.

This Greater Yellowlegs was a nice surprise at Commonwealth. Hopefully the habitat will attract other shorebirds as the spring progresses.

Commonwealth is the only reliable spot in my 5MR for House Sparrow.

Bufflehead, Commonwealth Lake

Koll Center Wetlands in Beaverton is not the most pleasant place to bird. You are basically peering into the wetlands from various parking lots. But there are a few species here that are hard to find elsewhere. This Black-crowned Night-Heron was barely visible through the brush.

A small flock of Band-tailed Pigeons is reliable at Koll.

Yellow-rumped Warblers have been common all year at Koll, but some are just now molting into breeding plumage.

I have only birded outside my 5MR twice so far this year, both times while teaching Little Brown Bird Classes. This Rufous Hummingbird was at Jackson Bottom Wetlands in Hillsboro. I have yet to find this species in my 5MR, but it is one of many that I expect to see in the coming weeks.

Happy Spring

Fernhill Wetlands

I visited Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove on a rare sunny December day. The sun is so low at this time of year that if there is no cloud cover the sun is either at your back or directly in your eyes. The latter makes birding very challenging, but the former can produce some lovely light, as seen on this Mourning Dove.

At least one Black Phoebe has been hanging out near the ponds behind the picnic shelter this fall. Black Phoebes were unheard of in Washington County a few year ago.

Any shorebird seen at this time of year is a treat. This lone Greater Yellowlegs was one of four shorebird species found on this trip. (Long-billed Dowitchers and Wilson’s Snipe were flybys.)

This Killdeer was probing with her foot to try to stir up food in one of the new gravel filtration tanks.

The main lake at Fernhill is hosting a nice variety of waterfowl, but most were distant or in the harsh sunlight. A  Swamp Sparrow was a nice find, but stayed in the cattails to avoid being photographed.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jackson Bottom

savannahI made a quick visit to Jackson Bottom in Hillsboro. This is a very busy spot in the summer. The Savannah Sparrows are still in full song.

puddlePintail Pond has been drained to accommodate some restoration work on the site, so it has dried out about two months earlier than normal. This is normally one of the better shorebird sites in the Portland area during the summer, so we will have to find other spot this year.  There is only about three weeks between the end of northbound shorebird migration and the beginning of southbound migration. Western and Least Sandpipers have arrived in good numbers, and were feeding in the little puddle that remains of Pintail Pond.

western least
Western (l) and Least (r) Sandpipers

spotted adult
Spotted Sandpipers are common nesters in the area.

spotted chick
Spotted Sandpiper chick

greater yellowlegs
Four Greater Yellowlegs made a brief appearance.

swallow box
Tree Swallows are everywhere at Jackson Bottom, thanks in part to the many nesting boxes that have been installed here.

swallows 3
The first broods are grown up now, and it looks like second broods will be arriving shortly.

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pretty boy