I 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.
I had hoped to get to the coast this week, but a big weather system was blowing in so I visited Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom. Both sites had a few shorebirds sporting their breeding plumage.
Long-billed Dowitchers at Jackson Bottom. The sticks in the foreground are willow stakes planted by Clean Water Services. As these willows grow, they form a canopy over the mud flats, making the habitat useless to migrating shorebirds. Birders have been complaining about the practice at this site for years, to no avail.
Things are hopping at Fernhill Wetlands, with rising water levels, an influx of several thousand geese and other waterfowl, and a few other goodies.
A small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese were hanging out with the Mallards in Dabblers Marsh.
The resident Bald Eagles were sitting around looking majestic. I watched one carrying a stick to add to their nest.
I saw three Common Garter Snakes on this trip, including one very young newborn about the width of a linguine. The colorful individual in this photo was about 20 inches long. Note the large laceration on his neck, presumably from a predator. Despite the severity of the wound, the snake was not bleeding and he crawled away after this photo was taken, so I am hopeful he will recover.
I visited several sites in Washington County to check for migrant shorebirds, inspired by the recent appearance of a Spotted Redshank at Fern Ridge Reservoir (Birding Oregon p 89) . I didn’t find anything so rare, but a few birds are moving through and there is promising mudflat habitat available.
Tree Swallows are thick at Jackson Bottom. Notice the dusky wash across the upper breast. Young Tree Swallows can show extensive dark coloring here, leading some birders to confuse them with Bank Swallows.
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.
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.
Greater Yellowlegs on the left, Lesser Yellowlegs on the right