Ridgefield NWR

On rare occasions, I cross the Columbia River to visit Washington. When the weather is less than stellar, the auto tour at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge offers a nice way to get close to wildlife without getting too wet.

A lot of Tundra Swans are wintering at Ridgefield this year. There are Trumpeter Swans, too, but I did not get any close looks at them.
   Tundra Swan bathing

Northern Harriers are common throughout the refuge. This one was having a good stretch.
A family of Nutria put on a nice show. Invasive, but adorable.

Columbian White-tailed Deer, a threatened subspecies, have been introduced to the refuge in recent years. This fawn was born last spring, so at least some of the deer are making themselves at home. Unfortunately, I believe many of the Coyotes that used to be so visible on the refuge have been “removed” to make conditions safer for the rare deer.

This lone Snow Goose was hanging out with the numerous Canada and Cackling Geese.

Northern Pintail

Sandhill Cranes were feeding in the grassy fields.

The last time I visited Ridgefield was during my mom’s final visit to Portland. Her mobility was not great, so the auto tour provided a great way for us to get out to do some birding together. During that visit, the highlight was a cooperative American Bittern. I didn’t find any Bitterns on this trip, but this Great Egret did his best to fill the void.

Ridgefield NWR

I don’t get up to Ridgefield NWR in Washington very often, even though it is a short drive from Portland. But lots of folks had recently seen adorable fuzzy little Virginia Rail babies, so I wanted to try my luck.

IMG_7595By the time I got there, the adorable fuzzy little babies had become rather unattractive adolescents, but it was still fun to see this usually shy species out in the open.
IMG_7603

IMG_7618Another adolescent foraging near the rails was this little Nutria. The refuge staff tries to control the population of this introduced species, but they remain plentiful.
nutria

northern harrierNorthern Harrier

IMG_7583Black-tailed Deer, perfectly hidden among the teasel

IMG_7591There is not a lot of water on the refuge right now, so the Great Egrets were gathered on one of the remaining ponds.

IMG_7581We are entering Ugly Duck Season, when adult ducks molt into identical ratty plumages, making them much harder to identify. I am going with Cinnamon Teal on this mama and babies (all-black bill, overall warm brown coloring).

IMG_7622On the way home we stopped at Kelly Point Park along the Columbia River in NW Portland. California Gulls were gathered on the pilings.

IMG_7623This young American Crow (note the pinkish gape) was begging for food.

IMG_7627Nala, the large aquatic mammal.

Water Babies, Tualatin River NWR

juvenile spotted walkingThere are lots of youngsters in the wetlands these days. We haven’t had any rain in July, so water levels are dropping, concentrating wetland animals into smaller areas. This is a Spotted Sandpiper in that awkward adolescent stage.

spotted in culvertThe same Spotted Sandpiper, peeking out of a culvert

spotted 1This adult Spotted Sandpiper may be the parent of the juvenile pictured above. Like many birders, she assumes the sign does not apply to her.
spotted 2
pb grebe scratchingThis young Pied-billed Grebe was grooming and stretching in the canal.
stretching pb grebe
pb grebe left

tadpolesThere are lots of tadpoles in the canal.
bullfrogUnfortunately, they belong to the invasive American Bullfrog.

bullheadsEvery puddle has a school of baby bullheads this time of year.
bullheads 2

nutria eatingAnother invasive species, but darned cute, is this young Nutria nibbling on aquatic vegetation.
nutria eating 3

Jackson Bottom, 11 July 2013

savannahI walked around Jackson Bottom in Hillsboro this morning. As you would expect at this time of year, there were lots of young birds around.  This young Savannah Sparrow posed nicely. His parents have not taught him to skulk in the weeds yet.

blue-winged and cinnamon tealThe best bird of the day was this male Blue-winged Teal (right foreground), always hard to find in the Willamette Valley. He flew in with a small flock of Cinnamon Teal.
blue-winged teal

mallard familyFamilies of young Mallards were everywhere.

canada goose familyThese Canada Geese are mostly grown, but retain a bit of their cute fuzziness.

spotty left 1I was surprised by the lack of migrant shorebirds. The resident Spotted Sandpipers were well represented.

nutriaLots of Nutria were out this morning. Yes, introduced species often wreak havoc on native ecosystems, AND, Nutria look like adorable little bears.

Winter in the Wetlands

We are in that late winter season when birding seems to slow. I don’t know whether there are actually fewer birds around this time of year or we have just already seen the local winter residents so they don’t hold our attention. In any case, the best birding is usually found in and around wetlands. Here are some recent shots from area wetlands from the past couple of weeks.

great blue heron 1Great Blue Herons are always around, and have started hanging out in their nesting colonies.

dusky canada stretchingThis Dusky Canada Goose was enjoying the sunshine at Ankeny NWR.

dusky canada feeding

coyoteCoyote, Vanport Wetlands

coyote ankenyAnother Coyote, at Ankeny NWR

nutriaThis Nutia at Fernhill Wetlands seemed unconcerned with the group of birders walking by.

red-winged blackbird and lesser goldfinchHere is a Red-winged Blackbird sharing a nyjer feeder with a Lesser Goldfinch at Jackson Bottom. I don’t recall seeing blackbirds eating nyjer before.

spotted towheeSpotted Towhee, Jackson Bottom

Random Rodents

Here are some photos from recent encounters with non-native rodents.


Two Nutria (Myocastor coypus) munching on grass. This species is native to South America. They were brought to the U.S. in the 1930s to be raised for fur. When the “raise Nutria for fun and profit” dreams proved to be unprofitable, many animals were simply released into the wild. In areas that don’t receive severe winter weather, such as western Oregon, the animals thrived. Nutrias are considered an invasive species, as their appetite for marsh vegetation alters local ecosystems and threatens some native species.


Eastern Fox Squirrel. I don’t know when or why this species was introduced to Oregon. In their native range, they prefer oak savannah and forest edge.


Eastern Gray Squirrel, another species introduced from the eastern U.S. While quite at home in Portland, in their native range they prefer extensive deciduous forests.

Great weather, if you’re a duck

I forced myself to go birding Saturday morning. It was one of those rainy November days when you want to hole up until May, so I forced myself out. (Can’t get tired of the rain this early in the season.) So I went to Smith and Bybee Wetlands in NW Portland. The rough weather kept most of the songbirds under heavy cover, but the ducks were out and about.

shovelers
While distant and poorly lit in the rainy weather, these ducks are clearly Northern Shovelers. The first clue is the fact that they are all swimming along with their faces in the water, typical shoveler feeding behavior. On the first and last ducks in line, you see a dark head, white breast, rusty sides, and white bottom, classic Northern Shoveler.

distant-ducks
These birds were clear across the lake, but several are clearly identifyable. The line of four ducks in the upper right of the photo are Northern Shovelers, for the same reasons as in the photo above. The duck on the far left, and probably the bird next to him, is a Gadwall. The bird is slightly smaller than the shovelers, lacks any blatant pattern, seems to be dark on the backside, and has a blocky head shape.

The ability to ID ducks, or any other birds, at great distances is not so much a matter of skill, as it is familiarity. The more familiar you become with a species, the greater the distance you can recognize that species.

nutria
This Nutria was enjoying the day, munching away on something. Nutria are native to South America, but have been introduced in many areas by the fur trade. (and why would you want to dress yourself to look like a large aquatic rodent?) When raising Nutria failed to be profitable, many were released into the Pacific Northwest, where they flourish at the expense of some native mammals and wetland plants.