Spring migration has come and gone, and many birders agree that it was a dud. Numbers and diversity seemed quite low in the Portland area this spring. So now we concentrate on the summer residents, like this Black-headed Grosbeak.
Most Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.
At Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years.
Tualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.
Purple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands
Bewick’s Wren are usually working heavy cover, so it was a treat to find this one dust bathing in the middle of a gravel road.
Hooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands
This Gadwall is already starting to molt into his dull summer alternate plumage. I often refer to late summer as Ugly Duck Season. It seems a little early for ducks to be losing their sharp breeding colors.
Now is the time to seek out local nesters. It will only be about four weeks before southbound shorebird migration starts up. I hope the autumn migration is a little more eventful than this spring was.
I spent some time exploring the area just west of the Sandy River Delta in Troutdale, OR. A section of the 40-Mile Loop Trail starts just north of I-84 and runs north along the Sandy River, then west past Company Lake along the Columbia River. This baby Great Horned Owl was hanging out near the mouth of the Sandy.
The area is home to large FedEx and Amazon facilities, but there are still some weedy fields that attract open country birds like Savannah Sparrow and this Lazuli Bunting. Note the swallow photo bomb.
The highlight of this trip was the PAIR of Ash-throated Flycatchers that were hanging out near the Troutdale wastewater facility. Ash-throated Flycatchers are quite rare west of the Cascades, so it is pretty special to have a pair hanging out in Multnomah County.
A flash of rust on the tail, typical of this genus
There were a lot of dogs running around this area, but it was not nearly as crowded as the Sandy River Delta just across the river. A surprising number of vagrants have been found in this area is recent years, so it definitely warrants more visits.
The pandemic birding continues. While the visitor center and parking lot are closed, you can still walk the trails at Tualatin River NWR.
Social distancing, birder style
The big news at the refuge this spring has been this pair of American Avocets, a rare species on Oregon’s west side.
It’s always a treat to see these guys, especially this year when the shorebird migration has been rather lackluster.
This Bonaparte’s Gull was hanging out with the Avocets for a while.
This distant pair of Long-billed Dowitchers was the only other evidence of shorebird migration on the refuge this morning.
This Purple Finch was keeping with the “birds at a distance theme” that prevailed this trip.
Lazuli Bunting, not quite as distant
Probably the most unusual bird of the trip was this intergrade Northern Flicker. He shows the normal red mustache of the Red-shafted form and the red nape of the Yellow-shafted form.
I visited Tualatin River NWR last week. The weather has been very hot and dry, so I started early in the morning. There was a surprisingly large diversity of species for mid-summer. I ended the trip with 55 species. I didn’t pay too much attention to waterfowl, so there may have been more. This Savannah Sparrow was backlit by rising sun.
Here is one reason I don’t pay too much attention to waterfowl this time of year. There are a lot of young birds and molting adults around in Ugly Duck Season. Some birders love the challenge of studying these birds, but since ducks are not migrating during their summer molt, the likelihood of finding anything other than the local breeders is slim to none. I’m calling this an immature Wood Duck, but I could be wrong.
Willow Flycatchers were still singing from prominent perches.
This Lazuli Bunting was singing from a little thicket.
There is not a lot of shorebird habitat at the refuge right now, but Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, and Western Sandpipers were present in small numbers along with hundreds of Killdeer. As water levels drop, shorebird numbers should increase.
A spate of cloudy damp days has not allowed many photo opportunities the past couple of weeks, but here are a few random images.
Lazuli Bunting, Cooper Mountain Nature Park, Beaverton. This is a great natural area that I really need to visit more often.
I made two trips to the clearcut near Milepost 8 on Larch Mountain. It is very birdy this year, with a lot of nesting activity going on. Here is a rather wind-blown Dark-eyed Junco.
A trip to the north coast brought all the expected species. One of the highlights were these two Heermann’s Gulls among the Westerns. Heermann’s are common in mid to late summer, but are just starting to arrive on the Oregon Coast now. This is the first time I have seen them in breeding plumage. In a few weeks they will lose the white plumage on their heads and replace it with mottled gray.
Today is the summer solstice. Pretty soon the nesting season will wrap up and the southbound shorebird migration will begin. Always something to look forward to.
Nala and I spent several hours hiking (and swimming) at the Sandy River Delta. Local nesters, like this Common Yellowthroat, were busy gather food for nestlings.
Male Lazuli Buntings were very vocal, and seemed to be vying for the attention of the females (below).
Osprey flying along the Columbia River
This Western Canada Goose had an unusual head pattern, with white reaching across the forehead and around the nape.
Rufous Hummingbirds were defending their blackberry patches.
I took Nala to the Sandy River Delta this week. One of the target birds for this area is Yellow-breasted Chat, a species hard to find elsewhere in the Portland area.
This was the only individual I found that day, but new migrants are arriving daily. Willow Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds, two other specialties of this site, were largely absent during my visit, but were reported a few days later.
Lazuli Buntings are back in force and singing on territory.
Savannah Sparrow, in harsh sunlight. One of these days I will learn how to photograph in such conditions.
We often associate Pileated Woodpeckers with dense forest, but this species is often found on isolated cottonwood trees along the Columbia River.
I took Nala on a hiking/swimming tour of the Sandy River Delta. We were there at midday, so we missed the dawn chorus, but the common species were still active and vocal.
In the open brushy habitats, you can’t turn around without seeing a Lazuli Bunting.
It was nice to find a couple of native Red-legged Frogs. This species often succumbs to introduced American Bullfrogs.
Nala’s main interest in the trip was swimming. She swam in a vernal pool, the Sandy River, and the Columbia River.
During the long hot walk back toward the car, she needed to cool off in this convenient mud hole.
Migration is winding down and the summer residents are back in force at the Sandy River Delta. Specialty species such as Eastern Kingbird and Yellow-breasted Chat put in appearances, but were not photogenic.
Lazuli Buntings can be found singing from virtually every blackberry thicket.
This male Brown-headed Cowbird was wooing a female. Cowbirds don’t really form pairs. The males display, sometimes in groups, to attract a female. After mating, the two go their separate ways. Since the female deposits her eggs in the nests of other species, there is no need for the male to stick around to help.
I never tire of seeing Bullock’s Orioles, especially when they pose in the open sunshine.
River levels are still very high, so some of the trails at the north end of the site are flooded. Nala, the all-weather, all-terrain, all-the-time puppy, does not mind at all.