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.
This Long-billed Dowitcher, to the right of the Killdeer, really caught my eye since she was still in nearly pristine breeding plumage.
The bright cinnamon color goes all the way down through the undertail coverts. This bird was at Jackson Bottom Wetlands.
more Long-billed Dowitchers at Jackson Bottom. These birds are already fading into their duller winter plumage.
Spotted Sandpiper, still in breeding plumage, perched on a spotted log
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.
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.
A trip to the coast provided good numbers of Semipalmated Plovers, seen here with a Western Sandpiper.
Several hundred Marbled Godwits spent a couple of weeks at the beach in Fort Stevens State Park.
Dragonflies provide a nice burst of color in the summer. I believe this a Blue Dasher, but please correct me if I am wrong.
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.
I made two trips to the northern Oregon Coast for my recent shorebird class. The “autumn” migration is well underway.
The Seaside Cove has a nice gathering of gulls. This California Gull is undergoing a rather extensive molt, I believe from second cycle to third. The severity of feather loss has actually created some interesting patterns.
This adult California Gull is showing a little wear, but nothing like the previous individual.
The Cove is a favorite hang-out for Heerman’s Gulls.
Young Heerman’s Gulls are a rich chocolate brown. I believe this is a second-cycle bird, given the smattering of gray feathers coming in.
This female Harlequin Duck was near the southern end of The Cove both days.
Black Turnstones, which spend the winter here, are back.
The best bird of the day Thursday was this Ruddy Turnstone, an uncommon migrant along the coast. Unfortunately, he did not stick around for my shorebird class field trip on Saturday.
Caspian Terns, seen here with California Gulls, were common on the beaches. Note the young tern in the center of the photo.
More Caspian Terns with Brown Pelicans and a Western Gull
These Elk tracks were on the beach near the south jetty of the Columbia River at Fort Stevens State Park.
At high tide, the Hammond Boat Basin has been hosting large flocks of Marbled Godwits and Whimbrels (and an unidentified dowitcher species in the middle of this image). Similar roosts in Washington attract rare migrants every year. I hope the same is true for the Oregon side of the river.
I’ve recently made two trips to Grays Harbor in Washington, once to scout and the other to lead my shorebird class. This estuary is a major staging area for migrating shorebirds in spring.
Marbled Godwit, Dunlin, and Short-billed Dowitcher feeding at Damon Point, near the mouth of the harbor
Don’t neglect to look at all the little brown ducks! This is a King Eider, a rare visitor from Alaska. It is distinguished from Common Eider by the slender bill and the scalloped markings on the sides.
Bowerman Basin is an inlet on the north shore of the harbor. It is the last area to fill during high tides, so shorebirds often congregate here. This is a view from the boardwalk.
Peregrine Falcons are attracted by the large numbers of shorebirds in the harbor.
This is a view of the boardwalk on a Thursday morning.
This is the boardwalk on a Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, birders outnumbered birds by about five to one on this afternoon.
Greater White-fronted Geese
Marsh Wrens are common along the marshy edges of Bowerman Basin.
The willow thickets and woods along the boardwalk attract migrants like this Golden-crowned Sparrow.
I took my shorebird class to Grays Harbor in Washington, one of the prominent staging areas for migrant shorebirds on the West Coast. The cold wet spring continues, so diversity was a little low, but there were lots of birds to see.
At Damon Point State Park, near the mouth of the bay, we found good numbers of Marbled Godwits and Short-billed Dowitchers.
At Bowerman Basin, part of Grays Harbor NWR, a long boardwalk extends along the edge of the mudflats. As the basin fills with the rising tide, the birds are pushed closer to shore for excellent views.
Here we can see a Black-bellied Plover, a couple of Semipalmated Plovers, two Caspian Terns, lots of Dunlin, and some Western Sandpipers.
Here is a closer look at the lovely Semipalmated Plovers mixed in with Western Sandpipers.
I didn’t notice the bird at the time, but when I downloaded this shot of Western Sandpipers I immediately noticed the Least Sandpiper among them. Least Sandpipers feed in a crouched position with their feet far forward. On closer inspection, you can see the tiny bill and the pale legs. (lower right corner, if you are still looking)
Here’s a closer look at the Least Sandpiper between two Westerns.