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

Late Summer Wetlands

I made a quick trip to Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom to look for shorebirds. My first bird of the morning was this Killdeer standing on the sidewalk. I guess that counts.

There is a frustrating lack of mudflats in area wetlands this year. Areas are either dry with lots of vegetation or are full of water. I did manage to find this Wilson’s Snipe (front) feeding with a juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher.

Young Spotted Sandpiper on a log

Lots of American White Pelicans are in the Willamette Valley right now.

The wetland rehabilitation at Fernhill Wetlands has resulted in much less exposed mud, but the thick emergent vegetation is hog heaven to rails, like this Virginia Rail.

In the “invasive but adorable” category are this Nutria with her baby.

Brush Rabbits rule the “native AND adorable” category.
So cute

These two Black-tailed Deer were at Jackson Bottom. I found it interesting that the little spike buck in front still had his antlers completely encased in velvet while the fork buck in back has already shed his velvet to reveal polished antler.

There is still about a month of shorebird migration left. I hope we get some good mudflats to bring them in. Happy Summer.

Early Spring in the 5MR

The weather has gone from winter rain to spring rain, still rather gloomy but definitely more pleasant overall. Spring migration is slowly picking up with new species gradually accumulating in my 5-Mile Radius.

Most of the new sites that I have explored in my 5MR have been very underwhelming, but I was recently introduced to Cedar Mill Wetlands in Beaverton. This little site has produced 45 species in two short visits, as well as this encounter with a Coyote.

Sharp-shinned Hawk at Cedar Mill Wetlands

Great Egret, sporting their nuptial plumes

The little wetland associated with Commonwealth Lake Park continues to be a favorite site with local birders. The flock of Wilson’s Snipes has thinned out a bit.

This Greater Yellowlegs was a nice surprise at Commonwealth. Hopefully the habitat will attract other shorebirds as the spring progresses.

Commonwealth is the only reliable spot in my 5MR for House Sparrow.

Bufflehead, Commonwealth Lake

Koll Center Wetlands in Beaverton is not the most pleasant place to bird. You are basically peering into the wetlands from various parking lots. But there are a few species here that are hard to find elsewhere. This Black-crowned Night-Heron was barely visible through the brush.

A small flock of Band-tailed Pigeons is reliable at Koll.

Yellow-rumped Warblers have been common all year at Koll, but some are just now molting into breeding plumage.

I have only birded outside my 5MR twice so far this year, both times while teaching Little Brown Bird Classes. This Rufous Hummingbird was at Jackson Bottom Wetlands in Hillsboro. I have yet to find this species in my 5MR, but it is one of many that I expect to see in the coming weeks.

Happy Spring

Dreary February

February weather can be the most challenging, with cold temperatures and frequent rain. We desperately need the moisture so I am not complaining, but it is harder to get motivated to get out into the cold and damp. I continue to concentrate on my 5-mile radius, with my total currently sitting at 70 species for the year. I expect that to jump up a bit this week.

This lovely American Wigeon has been hanging out at Commonwealth Lake Park. Birds with this much white on the head are known as Storm Wigeon.

This Killdeer, along with two others, was doing a pretty good job hiding in a little clump of leaves.

Wilson’s Snipes continue to be common at Commonwealth. That long bill helps him blend in with the sticks.

Red-winged Blackbird in fresh spring plumage. I imagine those rusty fringes will wear off to reveal a more uniform black outfit soon.

Happy winter

5MR: The First Month

For the month of January, virtually all of my birding has been conducted within my 5 Mile Radius. This included dedicated birding trips and keeping track of birds while at the dog park and on family hikes.  (This Red-breasted Sapsucker was at Greenway Park.) Some birds came quite easily, like the Barred Owls that sang in my yard and at the dog park, while others were hard to find, like Rock Pigeon which I didn’t see until January 30.

The purpose of the 5 Mile Radius challenge, in addition to reducing your gas consumption, is to explore under-birded sites close to home. I visited several sites I had never birded before, and explored some familiar sites in greater detail.

The hope is that you will find previously unknown great birding spots, but this was not my experience. Of the new places I visited so far, all of which are eBird “Hotspots,” none of them are sites I am particularly motivated to visit again.

My circle has a few great birding sites that include wetlands, mixed forest, and hilltop migrant traps. If I concentrate my birding on five sites, I will have the opportunity to see the vast majority of species likely to occur within my circle. Yes, great birds can show up anywhere. If you are lucky enough to be able to go birding every day, then it makes a lot of sense to visit as many different sites as possible. But if your birding time is limited because you have a life (oops, did I say that out loud?), I think it makes more sense to spend your time in the best habitats. I also enjoy my birding more when the habitat is more pleasant. I have peeked into people’s back yards to see rare birds (Brambling, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Ovenbird, Costa’s Hummingbird), but I would much rather hike around a nice park.

Here are a few photos from the past month.

Brown Creeper, Greenway Park

Nutria at Koll Wetlands

Wilson’s Snipes at Commonwealth Lake

I dipped on the American Dipper that has been hanging out in my circle this winter, but I did see lots of dipper poop, so that should count, right?

Onward to February.

Random Bits of August

I taught two shorebird classes and led three shorebird field trips in August. The southbound shorebird migration has been pretty great so far, with unprecedented numbers of Baird’s Sandpipers and a nice smattering of rarities throughout Oregon. My trips missed the really rare stuff, but we had a nice variety of shorebirds.

The addition of a new family member with special needs (an adorable coonhound who was rescued from an animal testing lab) kept me from doing much birding outside of my classes. Leading trips does not usually allow for getting decent photos, but here are a few images from the month.

ruddyThis Ruddy Turnstone was snoozing with the Black Turnstones at the Seaside Cove.

surfSurfbirds are another specialty of Seaside Cove

snipeThis Wilson’s Snipe gave great scope views at Jackson Bottom.

pelicansNot shorebirds, but always nice to see, this flock of American White Pelicans was at Fernhill Wetlands.

I have one more shorebird class at Jackson Bottom on September 24. I’m hoping this strong migration continues throughout the fall. Click on the Classes tab for more information.

FullSizeRender
Not ready for birding yet, but perhaps someday Bohdi can join his sister Nala and me in the field.

 

Changes Continue at Fernhill Wetlands

Exciting changes continue at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61). This photo is from the drying lake bed of Fernhill Lake. Low water levels this summer have created some great shorebird habitat. Notice the clump of cottonwood trees that have sprung up already. The construction (note the equipment in the background) will create rocky waterfalls that will cool and aerate the water that flows into the lake. I will be leading a free tour of the site on Saturday, October 6, at 10:00 AM as part of the Birds and Beer at Fernhill Wetlands event. Click on the Classes page for more details.

In addition to creating shorebird flats this summer, the low water levels are also helping to purge the lake of carp, which compete with birds for aquatic prey and muddy the waters with their feeding habits.

Greater Yellowlegs, sinking into the soft mud

In the Mitigation Marsh, two Wilson’s Snipe were feeding out in the open, which is rather uncharacteristic of this species.

On this visit, a flock of Lesser Goldfinches was working the weedy patches. It is always a treat to get close looks at these birds.

The coming weeks should see increases in sparrows, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors.

Shorebirds

The big news in Oregon birding this week is the Wood Sandpiper found at Fern Ridge Reservoir west of Eugene (Birding Oregon p. 90). This is the first record for Oregon, and one of only a few records for North America south of Alaska. Of regional interest was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Tualatin River NWR, just west of Tigard. I wasn’t able to chase either of these birds, so I had to settle for a few more common species at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61).


While we can’t see the bill on this individual, the bold stripes and orange tail identify this bird as a Wilson’s Snipe.


Here is a Greater Yellowlegs. The bill is more than half the total length of the head. On a Lesser Yellowlegs, the bill is about half the total head length, and the bird is considerably smaller overall.