Our freakishly nice spring weather continued this week, so I took Nala to the Sandy River Delta to check for spring migrants. Actually, Nala could not care less about spring migrants, but found the cool waters of the Sandy River just right for ball fetching. Nesting species have not arrived in any numbers yet, but spring is definitely taking off.
Savannah Sparrows were the most obvious singers in the grassland habitats.
catching his breath before the next number
A pair of Belted Kingfishers is nesting along the channel that runs between the Sandy and the Columbia. They kept to the far bank, so these distant grainy images will have to do. This is the female.
And here is the male.
This is a hole. Not terribly interesting on its own, but very cool when it has a Belted Kingfisher entering or leaving it.
Northern Rough-winged Swallows also frequent this area.
The next couple of weeks should bring the delta’s specialties; Lazuli Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Willow Flycatcher, and perhaps Eastern Kingbird. Happy Spring.
Here are a few photos from recent ramblings.
After delivering some books to Tualatin River NWR, I took a quick walk on the path that leads through some newly planted oaks and along the river. This male American Kestrel had just captured a shrew.
These Western Canada Geese (and the Common Merganser on the log in the foreground) were napping at the Sandy River Delta.
The Beavers are really enjoying the young trees at Sandy River Delta.
This old American Robin nest was tucked into a crevice of a tree.
Pileated Woodpeckers are fairly easy to find at Sandy River Delta. This one was perfectly hidden behind a branch.
Peregrine Falcon, Sandy River Delta
This Hermit Thrush was chasing another outside my bedroom window early in the morning.
I took Nala to the Sandy River Delta this week. One of the target birds for this area is Yellow-breasted Chat, a species hard to find elsewhere in the Portland area.
This was the only individual I found that day, but new migrants are arriving daily. Willow Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds, two other specialties of this site, were largely absent during my visit, but were reported a few days later.
Lazuli Buntings are back in force and singing on territory.
Savannah Sparrow, in harsh sunlight. One of these days I will learn how to photograph in such conditions.
We often associate Pileated Woodpeckers with dense forest, but this species is often found on isolated cottonwood trees along the Columbia River.
While late July is normally pretty slow birding in the Willamette Valley, the Sandy River Delta continues to be active. The regular nesting species that are local specialties at this site (Yellow-breasted Chat, Lazuli Bunting, Willow Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, etc.) are still easy to find. A very vocal Indigo Bunting has been a rare treat the past week or so, and an even rarer Yellow-billed Cuckoo has been reported. On my recent visit, I enjoyed brief views of the bunting, but the cuckoo has not been relocated.
This Yellow-breasted Chat was singing away in the blackberry thickets. He stayed out of sight most of the time, but popped up briefly for a distant photo.
American Goldfinches were common in both the grassy and brushy habitats.
An Eastern Kingbird was using this pipeline marker as a hunting perch in the middle of a large grassy area.
Western Tiger Swallowtail at the mud near the edge of Nala’s favorite swimming pond
Water levels are dropping, so Nala’s pond will soon be too shallow for swimming. But the the Sandy River has dropped enough to be accessible now, and the water in the river is a lot cleaner than the brown pond water.
Migration is winding down and the summer residents are back in force at the Sandy River Delta. Specialty species such as Eastern Kingbird and Yellow-breasted Chat put in appearances, but were not photogenic.
Lazuli Buntings can be found singing from virtually every blackberry thicket.
This male Brown-headed Cowbird was wooing a female. Cowbirds don’t really form pairs. The males display, sometimes in groups, to attract a female. After mating, the two go their separate ways. Since the female deposits her eggs in the nests of other species, there is no need for the male to stick around to help.
I never tire of seeing Bullock’s Orioles, especially when they pose in the open sunshine.
River levels are still very high, so some of the trails at the north end of the site are flooded. Nala, the all-weather, all-terrain, all-the-time puppy, does not mind at all.
A few years ago I blogged on birding and aesthetics , describing how beautiful birds and beautiful scenery do not always occur together. I saw another example of this recently.
Tucked away in this scene of power lines and invasive Himalayan Blackberries is a lovely Eastern Kingbird. This species is very hard to find in the Portland area, regularly occurring in small numbers only at the Sandy River Delta.
Part of birding’s appeal is the fact that birds can show up just about anywhere. No matter how badly we have degraded the landscape, there is still a chance that some wonderful creature might fly in, at least for a brief stop.
The Sandy River Delta (Birding Oregon p. 63) lies at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge. Habitats include large areas of grassland and riparian forest.
Within the grassy areas are little islands of Himalayan Blackberry. This is an alien invasive which can overwhelm native plant communities, but Common Yellowthroats (above), Willow Flycatchers, and Lazuli Buntings (below) will take advantage of the cover and perches offered by the thorny vegetation.
The groves of cottonwoods are home to many of the common woodland species found in the Willamette Valley. Bushtits (above), Black-headed Grosbeaks, Bullock’s Orioles, Swainson’s Thrushes, Red-eyed Vireo, and Yellow-breasted Chat can all be found here.
The Sandy River Delta is also known as the 1000 Acre Dog Park. Dogs are allowed off-leash except in the parking lot and on one trail. Despite the many trash cans available, some people do not pick up after their dogs, so watch your step. Here is a photo of Nala, The Birding Dog, showing off her retriever moves.
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).