This is April?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think we had more snow in April than we did in December. It has been cold and wet most of the month, and while I am very grateful for the rain and the added mountain snowpack, the weather has seemed to delay the onset of spring. Migrants have been few, and resident species a just starting to get revved up for the season. This Pacific Wren was trying out his song at Tualatin River NWR.

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The Townsend’s Chipmunks are out and about. I think the two lumps in this one’s ear are ticks.

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Hermit Thrushes, which are considered a winter species here in the Willamette Valley, are still around.

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This Virginia Rail put on a nice show at Commonwealth Lake Park.

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If we can’t have spring migrants yet, we might as well enjoy the local residents. Spotted Towhees never fail to impress.

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On a recent semi-birdless outing, I noticed a nice flight of these, Western White-ribboned Carpet Moth. These are tiny, with a wingspan of about an inch and a stunning pattern. It is always great to learn a new species.

So, colorful migrant birds and will show up any minute. Right? 

Happy Spring

Fernhill Wetlands

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Spring migration hasn’t really kicked in, yet, but the birds that are here are getting more active. Here are some recent images from Fernhill Wetlands. This Brewer’s Blackbird was looking good in the sunshine.

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Black Phoebes are now expected at Fernhill Wetlands. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I found Washington County’s first Black Phoebe there.

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This was my first Rufous Hummingbird of the year. He refused to perch in decent light.

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A large flock of Taverner’s Cackling Geese were hanging out on Fernhill Lake. The Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese were either off feeding somewhere or have moved on.

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Brush Rabbit, always adorable

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California Ground Squirrel, soaking up the sun

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Spotted Towhee

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Downy Woodpecker

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Bright sunlight makes it hard for me to get a decent of photo of an American Coot, but this bird’s yoga pose was too good not to share.

Happy Spring!

Tualatin River NWR

Like other national wildlife refuges in the Willamette Valley, Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge has limited access in autumn and winter. But the trail that is open can provide some good birding.

The highlight of this trip was a fresh sapsucker well that was attracting both Anna’s Hummingbirds and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Sapsucker wells are an important source of nectar and insects for birds in the colder months.

Bewick’s Wrens spend much of their time buried in the depths of brush piles, but this individual popped up and posed for a few photos.

It is always worth the time to check out brushy hedgerows this time of year.

California Scrub-Jay
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Spotted Towhee

I don’t normally think of Dark-eyed Juncos as having a camouflage pattern, but this individual was doing a great job of blending in with his environment.

Happy Autumn

Still Waiting

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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.

towhee 1Spotted Towhee, really working that red eye in the sunlight

rt hawk 2This young Red-tailed Hawk was checking out the meadow.

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Northwestern Garter SnakeA young Northwestern Garter Snake crossing the trail

juncoThe local Dark-eyed Juncos have seemed quite tame lately. I wonder if they are just really busy gathering food for their nestlings.

wt sparrow 1Another White-crowned Sparrow. Despite their limited color palette, I have always thought this species was especially attractive.

Happy Spring

Late Winter Ramblings

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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

Winter Birding

February is usually cloudy and damp in the Portland area, making it hard for me to get too motivated to venture out. But there is always something to see, like this lovely Lincoln’s Sparrow.

This Cedar Waxwing was flycatching over the water at Koll Wetlands.

This Spotted Towhee spent quite a bit of time perched out in the open in a blackberry bramble.

Winter is a great time to study waterfowl in the Willamette Valley. This little gang of Lesser Scaup was at Force Lake in north Portland.

I was initially excited to find this young male Northern Shoveler standing out in the open, but then I realized the poor guy was ill. He was gasping for breath and his eyes were partially closed. I’m guessing he has respiratory infection caused by Aspergillis, a common type of fungus, which has been affecting a lot of waterfowl this winter.

Back home at the feeders, my vegan suet has been very popular this winter. I mix equal parts of coconut oil, peanut butter, and flour, then pour the mixture into molds to solidify. This recipe only works in the winter, as it will melt if temperatures get above 60 degrees F. Here is a Chestnut-backed Chickadee working on the last bit of a cake.

A Bushtit, one of many that come through the yard every day

Happy Winter

Dog Days

I am not sure why the hottest days of mid-summer are referred to as “dog days.” My dogs want nothing to do with the heat, and the hot weather puts a damper on bird activity as well. Wetlands tend to be a little more active than woodlands this time of year, so here are some recent images from area wetlands.

This Purple Martin is from the colony at Fernhill Wetlands. The recently installed nesting boxes there have been a great success.

Tree Swallows are everywhere. It is nice to find one perched on a stick instead of on a nest box.

Ospreys on the nest at Jackson Bottom

This House Finch was feeding on green Elderberries at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.

Spotted Towhee at Smith and Bybee

Bewick’s Wrens seem to be very fond of dust baths this time of year.

It is baby crow season. These youngsters were exploring the shallow waters of a slough at Smith and Bybee.

It is harder to find herps in the hot weather. This Northwestern Garter was stuck in a vault for a water shut-off valve. I lifted him out and sent him on his way.

This is a very small, very thin Long-toed Salamander (note the insect parts nearby for scale).

Smith and Bybee Wetlands is thick with Green Herons right now. There were at least a dozen in this little slough.

Shorebird migration is starting to pick up. Unfortunately, there is very little mudflat habitat in the Portland area right now. This Greater Yellowlegs was one of several sharing the slough with the Green Herons.

Three Lesser Yellowlegs were also present at Smith and Bybee.

On the home front, we were treated to three baby Western Screech-Owls playing in the back yard. Two of them perched on the rope holding the sunshade and tried to untie the knots. It was almost too dark to see, so this is the best image I was able to get (6400 ISO). Pretty adorable.

Happy Summer

Pittock in the Pandemic

IMG_3039I visited Pittock Mansion in northwest Portland the other morning. The gate to the park is locked, but you can park in the neighborhood and walk up the hill. It is nice to be able to bird the entrance road without having to worry about cars.

The main attraction of this site in spring is the flocks of migrant songbirds that come through and touch down on this forested hilltop. The birds were actually here this morning, but most of them stayed very high up in the treetops. So no great warbler photos for me.

IMG_2994This Wilson’s Warbler was down in his normal level of undergrowth. Of course, it is a law of nature that every warbler must keep at least one branch between themselves and my camera lens.

golden-crownedTwo Golden-crowned Sparrows obliged by posing on the open ground. I do enjoy seeing them in their breeding plumage.

towhee 2This Spotted Towhee posed right at eye level, showing her red iris with a nice eye catch. Who needs a flashy warbler, anyway?

Happy Spring, and stay safe

Post-Snowpocalypse Ramblings

small-ring-billedThe Portland area got a dump of about 10″ of snow recently. It was lovely on the first day, but for the next week it was a pain, with roads being impassable from the ice and snow. When I was finally able to get out, I went to Amberglen office park in Hillsboro to scout for my Hillsboro Parks and Rec gull class. This Ring-billed Gull was posing on the ice.

california-gullI found a few California Gulls on my scouting trip, but they were a no-show on class day.

lesser-scaupThis Lesser Scaup was bathing at Dawson Creek. The bill color on these birds is striking.

red-tailedOn Thursday I went to Sauvie Island, partly just to go birding and partly to scout for my upcoming waterfowl class. There was so much water from the melting snow that the ducks were scattered everywhere. Raptors put on a good show. Here is a young Red-tailed Hawk.

peregrineThis Peregrine Falcon was keeping an eye on the ducks.

harrierNorthern Harrier

I laid down some millet in various spots to chum for sparrows (class in March, hint, hint).

golden-crownedGolden-crowned Sparrow, one of the more common winter residents.

white-throatedWhite-throated Sparrows were a big deal when I first moved to Oregon, but they are now considered rare but regular in the winter.

towheeSpotted Towhees are so common they tend to be overlooked. But it is nice to stop and appreciate just how gaudy and beautiful they are.

Lots to see in the Portland area this time of year. Cheers.

 

Baby Towhees

towhee topYoung Spotted Towhees have been showing up at the feeder. It is always fun to see them, as they look so different from their parents. This plumage can be confusing to those unfamiliar with it, but there are clues to the bird’s identity, other than the parents that are usually nearby.
towheeDespite the overall dark coloring, they still show spots on their wing coverts, like their parents. By the time they leave the nest, they possess the large size and long tail of the adults.  Like most fledgelings, the young towhees show yellow at the gape (corner of the mouth).