Late Winter Ramblings

towhee

Birding has been rather slow lately, as many of the winter residents have moved on and the spring migrants haven’t arrived yet. The local nesters, like this Spotted Towhee are becoming more active and vocal.

IMG_5017
A remnant of last autumn’s rut, this “buck rub,” where the local Black-tailed Deer used these small trees to polish their antlers, is in Cooper Mountain Nature Park.

skink

Also at Cooper Mountain was this Western Skink basking in the sun. This was a lifer herp for me.

Here’s another Western Skink that emerged from a burrow in a rocky hillside.

ca ground
Also enjoying the morning sunshine was this California Ground Squirrel at Fernhill Wetlands.

IMG_5030-SharpenAI-sharpen
Long-toed Salamanders are the only species of salamander I have seen so far this year, but they are everywhere.

pacific treefrog
This Pacific Treefrog was hiding under a small board. It might be from the bright sunlight, but this frog’s golden eyes were intriguing.

Warmer weather is coming soon, so I am anxious to see what creatures arrive with it.

Happy Spring

First Herps of the Year

The nights are still cold, often below freezing, but the days are starting to warm. With the first hints of spring come the first amphibians and reptiles of the year. You can hear Pacific Treefrogs calling all year, but this is the first one I have seen. They were hanging out under a small log. The temperature was in the 30s, so they didn’t move at all while I was there. I snapped a quick photo and replaced the log over the frog.

Long-toed Salamanders are one of the first amphibians to breed in the spring, so they are everywhere right now. These three were under a single board. Lifting a small piece of plywood revealed about a dozen of these critters.
Another Long-toed Salamander

My first snake of the year was this Common Garter Snake soaking up some sun. The subspecies we have in this area is Red-spotted Garter. I was thrilled to find this individual, but quickly saw several dozen more on this sunny morning.

The red coloring on the face is common in this subspecies.

These two Red-spotted Garters were enjoying a little amour in the sunshine.

They were soon joined by a third individual, forming a mating ball.

Happy almost spring.

Along the Columbia River

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).

Sauvie Island

I did a point count at Oak Island on Sauvie Island today, then birded several other areas. Migration is starting to pick up with large numbers of Purple Martins and several warblers and shorebirds on the move. I also saw four Sanhill Cranes, which seemed a bit early.


Western Wood-Pewees are everywhere, and still very vocal.


This California Quail spent some time on top of a corral fence, before disappearing into the blackberry brambles.


Here is a very distant shot of two Red-necked Phalaropes in front of a Cinnamon Teal. Notice the big blue patch on the extended wing of the teal.


A Brush Rabbit, not a bird, nor uncommon, but still cute.


Pacific Treefrog. It is amazing how such a tiny animal (about 1 inch from snout to vent) can have such a loud call.