Despite air temperatures in the 40s, the sunshine brought out some signs of spring on a recent visit to Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro.
Tree Swallows are usually the first swallow species to arrive in spring. When the weather is still cold, they hunt for insects close to the water’s surface.
Some Tree Swallows were already laying claim to the many nest boxes at this site.
This California Ground Squirrel was singing (screaming) from a log perch.
The sunshine brought out a good number of snakes, despite the cold temperature. These are Northwestern Garters.
This is a typical Common (Red-spotted) Garter.
This Common Garter is lacking the red pigment shown by most members of this subspecies.
This Long-toed Salamander was hanging out under a big piece of bark.
Happy last days of winter.
I 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.
There 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.
Shorebird migration is getting underway. Here are some Western Sandpipers.
One of the deeper ponds held this pair of Ruddy Ducks.
Eared Grebe with baby
Between the river, the ponds, and the adjacent wastewater plant, this site attracts swarms of swallows. Tree Swallows use the many nest boxes.
This is one of the easiest places I know to see Bank Swallows.
Brewer’s Blackbird was one of five blackbird species I saw on this visit.
Tricolored Blackbirds can be hard to find in Oregon, but this site is pretty reliable.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds are common here. The males tended to hide in the reeds, but this female and youngster posed nicely.
This 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.
A 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.
There 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.
The 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.
California Quail have become slightly more common at Fernhill in recent years.
The Common Carp are spawning in Fernhill Lake.
I 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.
California Ground Squirrels have been taking advantage of the large rocks used in the landscaping at this site.
This Brush Rabbit was looking very regal in his thicket.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
Pintail 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 (l) and Least (r) Sandpipers
Spotted Sandpipers are common nesters in the area.
Spotted Sandpiper chick
Four Greater Yellowlegs made a brief appearance.
Tree Swallows are everywhere at Jackson Bottom, thanks in part to the many nesting boxes that have been installed here.
The first broods are grown up now, and it looks like second broods will be arriving shortly.
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.
As nesting season wraps up and water levels drop, I can soon start obsessing on migrant shorebirds.
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.