Force Lake

Force Lake, a small lake at the edge of a golf course in north Portland, is not a terribly attractive site, but it can be quite birdy at times. On this visit, a large flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows was feeding in a little patch of lawn.

When startled, the birds would take cover in a patch of blackberries, but would soon come out again to resume feeding.

I only found two birds in the flock that weren’t Golden-crowned Sparrow. One was this White-crowned Sparrow.

The other was this White-throated Sparrow. This species has become increasingly common in Oregon over the past couple of decades, but I am still stoked to find one. This bird was especially cooperative.

The lake hosted a decent variety of waterfowl, but I was intrigued by the Canvasbacks.

This male would dive down to root around in the muck at the bottom of the lake, then come up and do this little dance on the surface. He didn’t seem bothered by the mud facial.

Happy autumn

Into the Woods

We left Portland for ten days to escape the fireworks which terrify our dogs. We stayed on a farm in the Coast Range in Benton County. The birds where we stayed were typical Coast Range birds which stayed high in the dark trees, so no great photos there.

I think this pile of feathers is the result of someone munching on a Sooty Grouse.

Bodhi and I flushed four Black-tailed Deer on the far side of a clear-cut.

This very old scat consisted of just fur and bone. From the size, I am assuming it is from a Mountain Lion.

The pond at the farm where we were staying was full of Rough-skinned Newts. I assume they were congregating to lay eggs.

To bee, or not to bee? This newt actually did take a swipe at the honeybee, but I don’t think she was able to get it down.
We didn’t get in the car very often on this trip, but when we did we usually saw Wild Turkeys along the road. Here is a crappy cell-phone-through-the-dirty-windshield shot.

I have never had a reaction to Poison Oak, but I take great care to avoid direct contact.

One morning a drove down to Fern Ridge Wildlife Area in Lane County. There wasn’t as much shorebird habitat as I had hoped for, but the Black-necked Stilts were well represented. Here is a juvenile Black-necked Stilt passing in front of a Killdeer. The juveniles are recognized by their scaly backs and dull legs.

Like most birds, they bring their leg over their wing when they need to scratch their head.

Here’s a lovely adult Black-necked Stilt, with solid black upperparts and bright pink legs.

Black-necked Stilts are fairly common breeders east of the Cascades, but harder to find on the west side. Fern Ridge, at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, is a consistent breeding site for this species. Southbound shorebird migration is starting to rev up.

Happy Summer

Jackson Bottom

Spring migration hasn’t really revved up yet, but a recent warm sunny day drew me out to Jackson Bottom Wetlands. I was as interested in herping as I was birding, and some cooperative herps easily filled the void created by relatively low bird numbers.

This Pacific Chorus Frog (also known as Pacific Tree Frog) was a neat find. I hear this species most of the year, but I seldom get a good look at one.

I normally leave herps that I find in situ, but I couldn’t resist picking up this little Northwestern Garter. The problem with combining birding and herping is that after an encounter like this, your hand smells like garter snake musk. So every time you raise your binocular to your face you get a nose full of snake skank.

Here is a much larger Northwestern Garter.

This Red-spotted Garter (a subspecies of Common Garter) was exploring a Red-flowering Currant. I don’t know what he was looking for, but he explored the whole bush before climbing back down.
Here is another Red-spotted Garter drinking at a water feature. This individual was at least three feet long.

I did actually see a few birds on this trip, although they were not nearly as photogenic.
There are still flocks of Golden-crowned Sparrows around. I would expect them to head north pretty soon.

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal making friends

Happy Spring

 

Virginia Rail

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As many people are jumping on the “bird local” bandwagon, little Commonwealth Lake Park in Beaverton has been getting a lot of birding attention and producing an increasing array of interesting species. One of the stars of this winter is this Virginia Rail. While Virginia Rails are scarce in winter, and almost always hard to see, this individual has been venturing out into the open to feed, sometimes onto the athletic field.

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We should appreciate the value of little parks like Commonwealth Lake to wildlife. But we should also remember that the reason birds can be easy to see in such places is because the habitat is so limited. This park is a small isolated patch of wetland surrounded by high-density housing. Wildlife thrives in large tracts of habitat. Since large tracts are no longer available in many areas, we should at least strive to preserve corridors between smaller parks to allow wildlife to safely travel from site to site, and to allow young to disperse.

Tualatin River NWR

I visited Tualatin River NWR last week. The weather has been very hot and dry, so I started early in the morning. There was a surprisingly large diversity of species for mid-summer. I ended the trip with 55 species. I didn’t pay too much attention to waterfowl, so there may have been more. This Savannah Sparrow was backlit by rising sun.

Here is one reason I don’t pay too much attention to waterfowl this time of year. There are a lot of young birds and molting adults around in Ugly Duck Season. Some birders love the challenge of studying these birds, but since ducks are not migrating during their summer molt, the likelihood of finding anything other than the local breeders is slim to none. I’m calling this an immature Wood Duck, but I could be wrong.

Willow Flycatchers were still singing from prominent perches.

This Lazuli Bunting was singing from a little thicket.

There is not a lot of shorebird habitat at the refuge right now, but Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, and Western Sandpipers were present in small numbers along with hundreds of Killdeer. As water levels drop, shorebird numbers should increase.

Happy Summer!

Shorebirds on the rocks

A recent trip to the coast on a sunny and windy day resulted in these images of shorebirds using rocky habitats. Two of these species are usually found on rocks, but the other two are not. I wonder if the blowing sand had driven these birds to the relatively sheltered rocky areas.

Least Sandpipers are hard to spot among the rocks. This bird was part of a small flock near the jetty at Fort Stevens.

This Dunlin was hanging out on a line of rocks near the same jetty. I have seen Dunlin here before.

Surfbirds at the Seaside Cove. Their color closely matches the dry basalt boulders.

Black Turnstones are common winter residents at the Seaside Cove.

an itchy Black Turnstone

Random Images

Life and inclement weather have conspired against me of late, so my outings have been far too few. But here are some photos from recent weeks.

horned-lark-2A trip to Broughton Beach provided nice looks at a small flock of Horned Larks. I want to read up on the many subspecies of Horned Larks to see which ones are found in Oregon. Whether I would be able to distinguish them in the field remains to be seen.
horned-lark-3eurasianThis female Eurasian Wigeon has been hanging out at Commonwealth Lake.

grebes-2Pied-billed Grebes, Commonwealth Lake
grebeshummerThe Portland area received about ten inches of snow last night. While this unusually large snowfall made for a lovely winter wonderland, it is quite challenging for the resident Anna’s Hummingbirds.

nuthatchI finally got around to making some vegan suet (equal parts coconut oil and peanut butter with a little corn meal mixed in). It took the birds a while to find it, but it has become quite popular. Here is a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

img_9205the nuthatch sharing with a few Bushtits

img_9194and a big old wad of Bushtits. Other species seen eating the suet include Bewick’s Wren, Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Black-capped Chickadee. I hope some warblers find it soon. We shall see.

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.

Commonwealth Lake

IMG_8730I brief walk around Commonwealth Lake in Beaverton revealed lots of recently fledged Barn Swallows. They were perching on branches above the water, waiting for their parents to fly in with food.

barn swallow fledglingsstill waiting

barn swallow feedingnote the bulging crop on the adult

IMG_8720This park has produced a bumper crop of Green Herons this year, great to see in such a busy suburban setting.

IMG_8754There were several new broods of Mallards on the lake. It seems late to see such small ducklings.

bullfrogthe ubiquitous American Bullfrog

spotty frontThe highlight of this visit was watching this Spotted Sandpiper hunting flies in the lawn. He would crouch low to approach his prey, then reach out and grab it, hitting the mark more often than not.
spotty huntingThis little urban duck pond is surprisingly birdy, and warrants more frequent visits.

Pacific City

black-bellied 2I led the Three Capes Tour for the Birding and Blues Festival last weekend. Spring migration had not quite kicked into high gear, but there were some nice birds around. This is one of two Black-bellied Plovers we saw on the beach the day before the tour. They were losing their dull winter plumage and growing in some crisp black and white feathers.

IMG_8632Black-bellied Plover with a Mole Crab

IMG_8634Black-bellied Plover tracks

IMG_8641At Whalen Island, this Dark-eyed Junco and Purple Finch were sharing a treetop.

IMG_8643These Long-billed Dowitchers were some of the few shorebirds we saw on the tour. Most shorebirds were migrating well off-shore that day.

IMG_8645This patch of Red-hot Poker at the Whiskey Creek Fish Hatchery always seems to attract good birds. This year it was a pair of Downy Woodpeckers.

barn swallowThis Barn Swallow sat and posed for us for quite a while.