While I am usually looking specifically for birds, I enjoy whatever wildlife I encounter along the way.
I don’t spend a lot of effort looking for butterflies, but I do appreciate it when one poses for me. This is a Lorquin’s Admiral.
This Northwestern Garter was hiding under a piece of bark near a stump. The cloudy eyes indicate that the snake is about to shed. Snakes in this condition cannot see well, so I generally avoid handling them.
I am having trouble distinguishing Brush Rabbits from the introduced Eastern Cottontail. I have recently learned that the two species will hybridize, making identification even harder. The rusty nape on this individual makes me think it is an Eastern Cottontail.
One of the highlights of my most recent outing was the opportunity to watch a Long-tailed Weasel hunting. This is the first time I have seen this species for more than a few seconds. The weasel’s hunt was successful, so don’t go any farther if you find images of predation disturbing.
I first saw this Long-tailed Weasel chasing a Brush Rabbit down the trail and into the vegetation. After a brief tussle, the rabbit was subdued.
The weasel then dragged the rabbit across the trail and into the brush, despite the fact that the rabbit was significantly heavier than the weasel. These are impressive little predators.
Every spring, birders suggest that the migration is running a little late. I think a lot of that feeling just comes from a desire to see spring migrants again. But this year, a lot of species are arriving noticeably late. It was May 11 before I detected my first flycatcher of any species. Shorebird migration on the coast didn’t really pick up until the second week in May.
So a visit to Cooper Mountain Nature Park during the first week in May provided mostly resident and locally nesting species, like this White-crowned Sparrow.
Spotted Towhee, really working that red eye in the sunlight
This young Red-tailed Hawk was checking out the meadow.
A young Northwestern Garter Snake crossing the trail
The local Dark-eyed Juncos have seemed quite tame lately. I wonder if they are just really busy gathering food for their nestlings.
Another White-crowned Sparrow. Despite their limited color palette, I have always thought this species was especially attractive.
I went out to Smith and Bybee Wetlands in north Portland. This site can be a little challenging to bird, as the noise from Marine Drive makes it difficult to hear bird song and other natural sounds. But as you make your way farther from the road, birding tends pick up.
One of the first critters of the trip was this Eastern Cottontail. This species has been introduced into several urban areas in the Pacific NW. The rusty nape and blazing white tail help distinguish this species from the native Brush Rabbit.
Long-toed Salamanders have been the only species of salamander I have been able to find lately. This individual is the largest I have seen.
The weather was quite cool, so there were no snakes out. I found this baby Northwestern Garter under a little piece of asphalt. He was too cold to flee, so he just coiled up tightly.
Water levels were very high, so there wasn’t much shorebird habitat. This lone Greater Yellowlegs put on a nice show.
Shorebird migration is just starting to pick up, just in time for my shorebird webinar on April 13.
Spring migration has not really picked up yet. There are a few new avian arrivals, but birding remains pretty slow. But, as I often say, there is always something to look at, so here are some non-avian images. The Beaver chew above is at Tualatin River NWR.
I very rarely get to see Beaver, but Nutria (pictured above) are everywhere, giving me my daily allowance of large aquatic rodents.
It is always a treat to see Black-tailed Deer.
Partially because birding has been slow, and partially because I am preparing for a herping class in May, I have been looking for amphibians and reptiles a lot this spring. This is an Oregon Ensatina, a very small specimen that was about two inches long. Ensatinas are recognized by their proportionally large head and eyes. The Oregon subspecies typically has the yellow coloring at the base of the legs.
This is the smallest Rough-skinned Newt I have seen, about two inches long.
These Long-toed Salamanders were creating some neat shapes.
Northwestern Garter Snake
Two courting Northwestern Garter Snakes. Notice the variation in color pattern, typical of this species.
Western Mosquito Fish
I will have some bird photos next time, promise.
If you haven’t been to Fernhill Wetlands since the major renovations were completed, you should definitely check it out. There is still a fairly large lake to attract divers, but now there is also a large emergent wetland to explore.
Brewer’s Blackbirds were holding court in the parking lot.
The Red-winged Blackbirds are setting up their territories.
Tree Swallows, giving each other that “come hither” look.
Even though the local nesters are getting down to business, there are still plenty of wintering Cackling Geese around. These are Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese.
There is certainly no shortage of American Bullfrogs at Fernhill, which may explain why I didn’t find any native frogs.
The shallow waters are teaming with these minnows. I can’t tell what species they are.
I surprised this little Northwestern Garter Snake while she was sunning herself. I saw a Common Garter later in the visit.
Northwestern Garter Snake
Nesting season is in full swing at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in northwest Portland. There is a small colony of Cliff Swallows nesting under the highway overpass.
Here is the tail end of a Cedar Waxwing sitting on a nest. This seems like an awfully large nest for such a small bird.
Several Cedar Waxwings were raiding nesting material from this Bushtit nest. I hope the Bushtits were done with it.
Cedar Waxwing with fruit
This Sparrow was carrying a mouthful of bugs, indicating that she had a nest of babies nearby.
Marsh Wrens were actively singing in several locations.
Great Blue Heron on Smith Lake
The warm sun brought the reptiles out in good numbers. Smith and Bybee is a stronghold for the threatened Western Painted Turtle.
Northwestern Garter Snakes were also enjoying the sun. Northwestern Garters are distinguished from Common Garters by their smaller head and gentler disposition.
This is that long awkward time of year between winter and spring. The big winter flocks have broken up, but the spring migrants haven’t returned yet. As I have said before, there is always something to see, but we have to find simple pleasures until the full decadence of spring migration commences in a month or so.
On a recent sunny day, this Varied Thrush perched outside the living room window. I don’t often see this species in sunlight. They are usually muted by the gloom of a rainy day or the shadows of the forest.
Pine Siskin at the nyjer feeder
For some reason, songbirds just look weird when viewed from the front.
The male American Goldfinches are starting to get their summer color.
Golden-crowned Sparrow, Vanport Wetlands
This fairly large tree has been felled by Beavers at Smith and Bybee Wetlands. None of the branches appear to have been eaten, so I don’t know why the Beavers felled it, perhaps because it was there.
Northwestern Garter Snake, Tualatin Hills Nature Park. I am making the identification based on the small head, although I am not completely comfortable differentiating Northwestern Garter from Common Garter.
I walked for several hours at the Sandy River Delta this afternoon (Birding Oregon p. 63). Aside from two American Pipits and a Peregrine Falcon, birding was pretty slow, which was not too surprising given the heat and time of day. Even when there aren’t a lot of birds around, there is always something to see.
I spent a lot of time exploring the tidal ponds along the Columbia River. The river level is affected daily by tides and by releases from dams upstream. The water was low today, so lots of wildlife was crowded into the shrinking pools.
The little pools were filled with Banded Killifish. This species has been introduced to Oregon.
Along the with many non-native Bullfrogs was this Pacific Treefrog in a brilliant green.
Here’s another Pacific Treefrog in brown. He was “hiding” under water.
Of course, where you have fish and frogs in shallow pools, you will have garter snakes. I believe this is a Northwestern Garter.
Northwestern Garter Snakes are supposed to have seven scales on their upper lips, but this guy has eight.
And for those of you who don’t appreciate fish and herps, enjoy these lovely flowers (and tell me what they are if you know).