Wet (land) Birds

Here are some non-waterfowl that I’ve seen in various wetlands recently.

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I often struggle with photographing white birds, but this Great Egret came out OK.

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Most of the shorebirds have moved on, but a few Least Sandpipers are still around.

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The winter sparrow flocks are building up. This Golden-crowned Sparrow was still sporting their breeding plumage.

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Golden-crowned Sparrow taking a bath

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Song Sparrow

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I remember when it was hard to find Lesser Goldfinches in the Portland area, but they usually outnumber American Goldfinches now.

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Lesser Goldfinch taking a bath

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Belted Kingfisher sharing a perch with a European Starling

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Red-winged Blackbird striking a pose

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The numbers of Nutria in the Willamette Valley have exploded in recent years. The are indeed non-native and invasive, but the babies are so cute.

Happy Autumn

Summer in the Wetlands

Our brutal summer continues. When the weather is this hot and dry, the best bird diversity is usually found around wetlands, so I spent a little time at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom.

b phoebe smallThe first record of Black Phoebe in Washington County was in 2006 (by yours truly). Now they are rare but regular at both Jackson Bottom and Fernhill.

least sandpiperShorebird migration is in full swing. Numbers are better at the coast, but some birds are finding the small patches of mud at inland locations. This Least Sandpiper was feeding on some newly exposed mud at Jackson Bottom.

lorquin's admiralHere is the underside of a Lorquin’s Admiral. Those red eyes are intense.

green heronGreen Heron at Fernhill
Green Heron open bill small

w pelican smallAmerican White Pelican is another species that has become more common in the Portland area is recent years. They don’t nest here, but summer brings large numbers of young birds and post-breeding adults.

Happy Summer

Tillamook

I had to go to Tillamook Bay to get some photos for an upcoming webinar. This particular day had freakishly nice weather, very un-Tillamook-like. Ideally, during fall migration, a birder hopes for onshore winds to bring seabirds and shorebirds close to shore, and a light overcast to provide gentle light for viewing and cool temperatures. This day brought light east winds, a cloudless cobalt blue sky, and temperatures in the 80s. I guess we have to play the cards we are dealt.

This is the Three Graces Tidal Area. The sun hadn’t cleared the hill yet so it was too dark to photograph the Harlequin Duck that was swimming around the rocks. Harlequins are regular at this site.

At the Bay City Oyster Plant, this Double-crested Cormorant was taking advantage of the sun to dry his wings.

Black Phoebe on the pilings at the oyster plant

With the east winds, shorebirds were very rare on this trip. This mixed flock of Least and Western Sandpipers at the oyster plant was the only big flock of the day.

Western Gull, hanging out on the Purple Martin boxes

I did the Tillamook Death March around Bayocean Spit. The ocean side of the spit is typically not as birdy as the bay side, but there was not a single shorebird on this trip.

There had apparently been at least a couple of shorebirds here earlier in the day.

Always glad to see these signs, hope that the Snowy Plover population will continue to recover on the Oregon Coast.

The Common Ravens on the beach were pretty skittish. I wonder if they have been “encouraged” to avoid the plover nesting areas.

There were a lot of these jellyfish near the mouth of the bay. Yet another reason I don’t swim in the ocean.

Despite the summery weather, autumn migrants, like this Red-necked Grebe, are trickling in.

A Mew Gull with two California Gulls

Despite the eerily nice weather, there were a few birds around. We need to remind ourselves that there is always something to see.

Happy Autumn

Inland Shorebirds

From the end of April through the middle of May, migrant shorebird numbers peak along the Oregon coast. I haven’t made it out to the coast yet this spring, but my local inland sites have produced a few species. There isn’t much shorebird habitat in the Portland area in the spring since most bodies of water are full and thus lack mudflats. Muddy edges and flooded soccer fields have to do.

The most unusual find so far has been this Solitary Sandpiper. Solitaries are quite rare in spring (They are pretty rare in autumn, too.) so this bird was a nice surprise.

Least Sandpipers have been passing through in small flocks. This individual is modeling all the classic marks of the species; yellowish legs, upperparts that are brown but not too rusty, and a tiny drooping bill.

On the coast, Western Sandpipers travel in flocks of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. In my 5-mile radius so far, I have seen two. Note the dark legs, longer bills, and more rusty coloration.

Other shorebirds seen but not photographed include a flock of Long-billed Dowitchers, the local Killdeer, and my first Spotted Sandpiper of the year.

A trip to the coast next week should give me a good taste of spring shorebird migration. It will seem odd venturing out of my 5MR, but sometimes you have to go to where the birds are.

Happy Spring

Shorebirds on the rocks

A recent trip to the coast on a sunny and windy day resulted in these images of shorebirds using rocky habitats. Two of these species are usually found on rocks, but the other two are not. I wonder if the blowing sand had driven these birds to the relatively sheltered rocky areas.

Least Sandpipers are hard to spot among the rocks. This bird was part of a small flock near the jetty at Fort Stevens.

This Dunlin was hanging out on a line of rocks near the same jetty. I have seen Dunlin here before.

Surfbirds at the Seaside Cove. Their color closely matches the dry basalt boulders.

Black Turnstones are common winter residents at the Seaside Cove.

an itchy Black Turnstone

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.

swallow 2
pretty boy

Broughton Beach, Portland

Broughton Beach is along the Columbia River, right next to the Portland airport. It can be a challenging place to bird, with dogs and children chasing the birds, police carrying body bags down the beach, etc. But if you catch it on a good day you can find some excellent birding. The great attraction this past week was a Pacific Golden Plover, which spent two days there, avoiding me with great success (thus that specie’s designation as one of my nemesis birds).  I tried for the plover twice with no luck, but found several other goodies along the way.

red phalarope 1The most unexpected species was this Red Phalarope. At first glance, I wrote this bird off as a Red-necked, since Reds are very unusual inland in August, and Red-neckeds are expected. Once I looked at the photographs, however, I saw my error and got a good reminder to LOOK AT THE BIRD! That heavy bill with the light-colored base is a dead giveaway for Red Phalarope.
red phalarope 2
Another coastal species along Broughton Beach was Sanderling.
sanderling 2
sanderlings 2
sanderling 7It is nice to see Sanderlings at inland locations, since you can often get closer to them there than you can at the coast.

semipalm 1Another nice find was this Semipalmated Sandpiper. You can see the partial webbing between the outer toes that gives this species its name. Ten years ago, a Semipalmated Sandpiper anywhere in Oregon was a pretty big deal, but now quite a few individuals are reported every year. Either the bird has become a more common migrant in this state, or people are just better at recognizing them.
semipalm 9
semipalm and westernSemipalmated Sandpiper (r) and Western Sandpiper (l)

western 3Western Sandpipers were present in small numbers. . .
western 2

least 2as were Least Sandpipers.
least 6
california gullCalifornia Gulls like to hang out on a little sand spit that extends into the river at low tide. A few Glaucous-winged Gulls have arrived, and will become more common as autumn approaches.

common loonThis Common Loon seemed a little out of place for August. In the winter months, this species is often seen at this site with large rafts of grebes and diving ducks. There are fewer kids and dogs then, too.

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

Washington County Wetlands

fernhill lake
There are big changes underway at Fernhill Wetlands. The main lake has been drained, and the two impoundments to the south are completely gone. This is all to make way for large emergent wetlands that will replace the ponds. This should greatly increase the bird diversity at the site when work is completed.
fernhill
There weren’t any shorebirds on these newly exposed flats, but I would imagine this area would be pretty appealing to a passing plover or Baird’s Sandpiper.

american goldfinchThis American Goldfinch was enjoying the water.

lesser goldfinch right lesser goldfinchLesser Goldfinch

eurasian collared doveEurasian Collared Dove

tree swallowsAt Jackson Bottom, swallows were everywhere, with young birds out of the nest and waiting around for parents to feed them. Tree and Barn were the two species I noticed.

tree swallow female tree swallow maleTree Swallows

baby barn swallow barn swallowsBaby Barn Swallows

cedar waxwingCedar Waxwing

savannah sparrowSavannah Sparrow

red-winged blackbirdRed-winged Blackbird

least sandpiperThere were lots of Least Sandpipers about. These are birds that either didn’t make it all the way to the Arctic, or had failed nesting attempts and headed back south. Shorebird migration will really pick up in about two weeks.

wilson's phalaropeThis male Wilson’s Phalarope was reported with three downy chicks earlier in the week, but I did not see any young when I was there. Hopefully the little ones were off hiding somewhere.

Fort Stevens State Park

When the tides are right, the area around Parking Lot D at Fort Stevens State Park can be very productive.

caspian ternsOn my recent visit, I found about 400 Caspian Terns in the bay. Many of the birds were presenting fish to their lady loves, and a few were rewarded accordingly (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). A Bald Eagle would occasionally take a pass at the flock, sending the terns off in a big swirling mass, but the birds would quickly settle down again.

bonaparte's gullOne of my favorite birds of the day was this breeding plumaged Bonaparte’s Gull. I watched the bird fly in and settle on the mud flat. I snapped a couple of frames from a great distance, planning on getting better views. But, as is often the case, the bird took off before I could get any closer.

shorebird flockOver the past few years, this site has been become a productive spot for shorebirds. The spring shorebirds migration is well past its peak, but there were still a few birds around. This little flock was actively feeding along the shore, so I sat on my knees in the sand and waited for the birds to come to me. Shorebirds are very wary of people standing upright, but if you sit down, or better yet, lie down, the birds will come quite close.

dunlinThis blurry Dunlin was the only member of her species in the flock.

least sandpiperLeast Sandpiper

western sandpiper 3Western Sandpiper

semipalmated plover and least sandpiperSemipalmated Plover and Least Sandpiper

semipalmated ploverSemipalmated Plovers made up the bulk of this flock.
semipalmated plover feedingWhile the spring shorebird movement is about done, the southbound migration begins in about six weeks, so we don’t have too long to wait for another shorebird fix.