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

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.

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Eight-spotted Skimmer

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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

There was a recent flurry of shorebird activity at Jackson Bottom, south of Hillsboro. I missed out on seeing some of the less common species, but a brief visit one morning provided lots of both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, among others.

IMG_5576Greater Yellowlegs were wading in the deeper water, chasing small fish.
IMG_5579IMG_5589Lesser Yellowlegs tended to stay in shallower water, and feed in a more delicate manner.
IMG_5591IMG_5595Common Carp, hoping the rainy season starts soon.

Shorebird Class

My Shorebirds of the Willamette Valley class had their first field trip on Saturday. We found nine species of shorebirds, a nice collection of the expected species. We missed the Semipalmated Sandpiper that had been reported earlier in the week. All the migrants we saw were adults. The juveniles should be arriving soon, hopefully in time for our next field trip. Since I was leading the trip, I didn’t have much opportunity to seek out photos, but here are a few back-lit images.

leastLeast Sandpiper was the most common species of the day.

lesser yellowlegsWe found one Lesser Yellowlegs at Jackson Bottom and one at Fernhill Wetlands. The one at Jackson very cooperatively posed next to some Greater Yellowlegs for direct comparison.

western and semipalmThis Semipalmated Plover, to the right of the Western Sandpiper, was the only one of the day. He nestled down into the mud, perhaps to cool off.

bald eagleA blurry Bald Eagle at Fernhill Wetlands didn’t pose much of a threat to the shorebirds, but did make the waterfowl nervous.

westernWestern Sandpiper at Fernhill Wetlands

spottedLots of Spotted Sandpipers remain at both Jackson Bottoms and Fernhill.

Fernhill Wetlands, 10/19/2011


Wintering waterfowl are returning to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61). Cackling Geese started arriving this week, and will soon be joined by a few thousand more.


a former waterfowl


Most shorebirds have moved on by now. This Lesser Yellowlegs was feeding by himself.


The Lesser Yellowlegs was eventually joined by a small flock of Long-billed Dowitchers.


One of the paths at Fernhill has recently been extended around the back side of Dabblers Marsh. This brushy area hosted a large flock of Bushtits (a female above), along with Mourning Doves, Northern Flickers, Black-capped Chickadees, and my first-of-season Golden-crowned Sparrow.


male Bushtit

And More Shorebirds

Another quick trip to Fernhill Wetlands this afternoon produced a couple of species that were not present a few days ago.


A Long-billed Dowitcher (left) and a Pectoral Sandpiper. Both birds are in juvenal plumage, indicated by the pale edges on the scapulars and wing coverts which create a scaly pattern. The Pectoral has a clump of mud on the base of his bill.


Another view of the Pectoral Sandpiper with two Long-billed Dowitchers. The crouching posture suggests that the bird is on alert and ready to flush. That is a good clue for the birder to back off.


A Lesser Yellowlegs.   


Greater Yellowlegs on the left, Lesser Yellowlegs on the right