Crooked River Wetlands Complex

crooked river parking lotI had a chance to visit Crooked River Wetlands near Prineville. Like Fernhill Wetlands, this site was constructed as part of a wastewater treatment system. But Crooked River Wetlands was designed from the beginning to accommodate both birds and birders. The parking lot has a covered picnic area (the only shade on the property) and a restroom. Paved and gravel paths provide easy viewing of the wetlands.

crooked river wetlandsThere are 15 bodies of water in the complex, which is right next to the Crooked River. Water levels vary with the seasons, so there is a variety of water depths which attract different species.

western sandpiperShorebird migration is getting underway. Here are some Western Sandpipers.

spotted sandpiperSpotted Sandpiper

ruddy duckOne of the deeper ponds held this pair of Ruddy Ducks.

eared grebe and babyEared Grebe with baby

Tree SwallowBetween the river, the ponds, and the adjacent wastewater plant, this site attracts swarms of swallows. Tree Swallows use the many nest boxes.

Bank SwallowThis is one of the easiest places I know to see Bank Swallows.

n harrierNorthern Harrier

brewer'sBrewer’s Blackbird was one of five blackbird species I saw on this visit.

Tricolored BlackbirdTricolored Blackbirds can be hard to find in Oregon, but this site is pretty reliable.

yellow-headed blackbirdsYellow-headed Blackbirds are common here. The males tended to hide in the reeds, but this female and youngster posed nicely.

Say's PhoebeThis is one of two Say’s Phoebes that were working the fence line at the edge of the property.

Crooked River Wetlands is one of the best birding sites in central Oregon, providing access to a great variety of wetland species in a very dry part of the state. It provides a nice pocket of avian diversity at a time of year when birding can be pretty slow.

Happy Summer

Spring at Fernhill

t swallowA quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands showed bird activity picking up, with the appearance of newly arrived migrants and nest building by the local breeders. This Tree Swallow was staking out a cavity.

geeseThere are still some Cackling Geese around, although they should be heading north any day now. Here is a nice side-by-side view of a Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose and a Taverner’s Cackling Goose.

brewersThe male Brewer’s Blackbird was showing his colors in the bright sunlight. I caught him in the middle of a blink, so his eye looks weird.

wilson's snipeWilson’s Snipe

quailCalifornia Quail have become slightly more common at Fernhill in recent years.

carpThe Common Carp are spawning in Fernhill Lake.

MuskratI was pleased to find this Muskrat. The non-native Nutria have become so common at this site I worry they might crowd out the native Muskrats and Beavers.

ca ground squirrelCalifornia Ground Squirrels have been taking advantage of the large rocks used in the landscaping at this site.

rabbitThis Brush Rabbit was looking very regal in his thicket.

Happy Spring

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

Still Waiting for Spring – Jackson Bottom

Jackson Bottom is another site that I can visit during the pandemic, assuming I get there early. The big push of spring migration has not hit, but you can tell it’s so close. Tree Swallows have been back for quite a while now. They are usually perched on the many bird houses at this site, so it was nice to catch a couple actually using a tree.
The Savannah Sparrows are setting up territory. This would have been a nice shot if I could have caught a reflection in the bird’s eye.

There we go.

This Osprey spent a lot of time preening while I was there. He still looks pretty disheveled.

Anna’s Hummingbird, just high enough that I can’t get a good flash from his gorget

Common Yellowthroat

witchity-witchity-witchity

I’m still waiting for shorebirds to show up. Greater Yellowlegs have been the only arrivals so far.

Some Killdeer have started nesting already.

Brush Rabbit

Long-toed Salamander

Several Common Garters (Red-spotted) were sunning themselves on this rock pile.

This garter had propped her body up against a log to better catch the morning sun.

I don’t remember seeing Camas at Jackson Bottom before, but they were in full bloom on this trip.

Happy spring

Random Spring Migrants

Our sunny warm spring has turned cool and wet. This is a good thing, as we continue to be far below average in rainfall amounts, but the weather has put a bit of a damper on birding and photography. This Tree Swallow put on a nice show at Koll Center Wetlands. I believe this is a young male, hatched last summer and just now molting into full adult plumage.

Most Golden-crowned Sparrows have returned north by now, but the few that remain are in full breeding plumage.

This past winter was not a big year for Pine Siskins, but one or two have recently been showing up at my feeder.

Mourning Dove at Tualatin Hills Nature Park

This singing Orange-crowned Warbler was actually displaying his orange crown at Pittock Mansion.

Male Anna’s Hummingbird, singing in the rain at Pittock Mansion

This next week will see spring migration winding down and the local nesting season kick into high gear. The slower pace will provide an opportunity to really study the local nesters, provided the rain stops.

Happy Spring

Jackson Bottom

savannahI made a quick visit to Jackson Bottom in Hillsboro. This is a very busy spot in the summer. The Savannah Sparrows are still in full song.

puddlePintail Pond has been drained to accommodate some restoration work on the site, so it has dried out about two months earlier than normal. This is normally one of the better shorebird sites in the Portland area during the summer, so we will have to find other spot this year.  There is only about three weeks between the end of northbound shorebird migration and the beginning of southbound migration. Western and Least Sandpipers have arrived in good numbers, and were feeding in the little puddle that remains of Pintail Pond.

western least
Western (l) and Least (r) Sandpipers

spotted adult
Spotted Sandpipers are common nesters in the area.

spotted chick
Spotted Sandpiper chick

greater yellowlegs
Four Greater Yellowlegs made a brief appearance.

swallow box
Tree Swallows are everywhere at Jackson Bottom, thanks in part to the many nesting boxes that have been installed here.

swallows 3
The first broods are grown up now, and it looks like second broods will be arriving shortly.

swallow 2
pretty boy

Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom

I made a quick trek around Washington County’s two prominent wetlands. There was nothing unusual to report, but there is plenty of bird activity at these sites this time of year.

green heronGreen Heron, lurking

gb heronGreat Blue Heron, not lurking

californiaJuvenile California Gulls are very common lately.

spotty 2I didn’t find many migrant shorebirds this trip, but the resident Spotted Sandpipers posed nicely.

killdeerKilldeer

pelicansFifteen years ago, White Pelicans in the Portland area were a pretty big deal, but now they are expected in the larger wetlands in summer.

kingfisherBelted Kingfishers like the perches that have been installed at Fernhill.

ospreyOsprey over the lake at Fernhill

treeClouds of swallows are hanging out at Jackson Bottom. This Tree Swallow spent a long time just sitting in the opening of her nest box.

chickadeeThey have installed a water feature near the visitor center at Jackson Bottom. This soggy Black-capped Chickadee was enjoying a dip.

lesser goldLesser Goldfinch on the fountain

As nesting season wraps up and water levels drop, I can soon start obsessing on migrant shorebirds.

Fernhill Wetlands

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 bbBrewer’s Blackbirds were holding court in the parking lot.

rw blackbirdThe Red-winged Blackbirds are setting up their territories.

swallowsTree Swallows, giving each other that “come hither” look.

ridgeway's cacklingEven though the local nesters are getting down to business, there are still plenty of wintering Cackling Geese around. These are Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese.

bullfrogThere is certainly no shortage of American Bullfrogs at Fernhill, which may explain why I didn’t find any native frogs.

fishThe shallow waters are teaming with these minnows. I can’t tell what species they are.

garter and feetI surprised this little Northwestern Garter Snake while she was sunning herself. I saw a Common Garter later in the visit.
nw garterNorthwestern Garter Snake

Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom

We are two weeks into a nasty heat wave in the Portland area. Sunrise is the only time of day when you can bird in any comfort and hope to find any birds active and singing. So I got up early and did a bird survey at Fernhill, then made a quick stop at Jackson Bottom on the way home.

am. goldfinchSome of the flowers have gone to seed, providing forage for both American (above) and Lesser (below) Goldfinches.

lesser goldfinch
great blueThe refurbished wetlands at Fernhill have lots of tree trunks installed vertically to provide perches for birds like this Great Blue Heron.

green heronGreen Heron

downyThis Downy Woodpecker was checking out some of the new plantings around the water garden at Fernhill.

killdeera young Killdeer, at that awkward teenager stage

spotted sandpiper leftSpotted Sandpipers are the other shorebird that nests at Fernhill and Jackson.

spotted sandpiper upChecking the sky for falcons

garterThis Common Garter Snake was very thick in the middle. I assume she is gravid. Garters give birth starting in late July. Broods are typically around a dozen, but broods of over 80 young have been reported.

tree swallowmale Tree Swallow, being all sparkly

Wetland Birds

While spring migration has not really ramped up yet, locally nesting birds at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottoms are starting to pair up, and the winter flocks are breaking up.

least sandpiperA few Least Sandpipers have arrived at Fernhill.

killdeer quartetThese Killdeer were vying for position. I think this species would be more highly regarded if their voices weren’t so grating. Their plumage and red eye ring are rather stunning, but they just don’t shut up.

bushtitI found a pair of Bushtits weaving a nest. The normally gray birds were stained bright yellow with pollen.

cinnamon tealCinnamon Teal, looking all dapper

golden-crowned frontGolden-crowned Sparrow

white cheeked golden-crownedThis Golden-crowned Sparrow had odd white patches on the cheeks, and a few white feathers on the nape.

tree swallowTree Swallows are everywhere, pairing up and claiming nest boxes.

song sparrow 3Song Sparrow, not unusual, but unusually cooperative

red-winged blackbirdRed-winged Blackbird. Females and immature males have much more interesting plumage than that of the adult males.

house finch 1House Finch, just because