Still Waiting for the Birds

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Spring migration has not really picked up yet. There are a few new avian arrivals, but birding remains pretty slow. But, as I often say, there is always something to look at, so here are some non-avian images. The Beaver chew above is at Tualatin River NWR.

nutriaI very rarely get to see Beaver, but Nutria (pictured above) are everywhere, giving me my daily allowance of large aquatic rodents.

itchyIt is always a treat to see Black-tailed Deer.
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ens 2Partially because birding has been slow, and partially because I am preparing for a herping class in May, I have been looking for amphibians and reptiles a lot this spring. This is an Oregon Ensatina, a very small specimen that was about two inches long. Ensatinas are recognized by their proportionally large head and eyes. The Oregon subspecies typically has the yellow coloring at the base of the legs.

newtThis is the smallest Rough-skinned Newt I have seen, about two inches long.

lt salaThese Long-toed Salamanders were creating some neat shapes.

nw garter 4Northwestern Garter Snake

nw garter 3Two courting Northwestern Garter Snakes. Notice the variation in color pattern, typical of this species.

fishWestern Mosquito Fish

I will have some bird photos next time, promise.

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

Fernhill Wetlands

Despite morning temperatures near freezing, signs of spring are appearing at Fernhill Wetlands. This Black Phoebe was posing with some colorful buds.

The winter sparrows, like this Fox Sparrow, are still around.

Waterfowl numbers are dropping as northern breeders start to head out. This pair of Northern Pintails was grooming along the main lake.

Lesser Scaup

This young Red-tailed Hawk was very comfortable around people, perching right above some nearby birders.

The number of Nutria at Fernhill continues to grow. I don’t know if they are causing any problems or not.
We are in that late-winter slow birding time, but spring migrants should start showing up any day.

Happy final days of winter

Fernhill Wetlands

A recent foggy morning found me at Fernhill Wetlands. Birding was a little slow overall, but there were a few neat finds. These were two of about 100 Long-billed Dowitchers out that morning.

Black Phoebe has become an expected species at Fernhill in just the past few years. My camera insists on focusing on vegetation instead of birds.

The best bird of the morning was this Harlan’s Hawk soaring over the wetlands.

There has been a huge crop of Nutria at Fernhill this year. There were babies everywhere. I realize this is an invasive species in North America, but baby Nutria are pretty adorable.
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

Fernhill Wetlands

Summer is settling in at Fernhill Wetlands. The birds that are here now are probably nesting. Always a treat this far west is this handsome Blue-winged Teal. I hope he has a mate sitting on eggs somewhere.

Just as lovely, and more expected here, is this Cinnamon Teal. A friend refers to them as “spicy.”

All the migrant shorebirds are gone, so we can stop to enjoy the resident Killdeer.

I have been spending more time around the back side of Dabblers Marsh at Fernhill. The wooded habitat attracts more songbirds, like this Cedar Waxwing.

Purple Martins have reclaimed their nest boxes by the lake.

This Great Egret was hanging out close to the main trail. They are often farther out in the marsh.

I have seen California Ground Squirrels here in the past, but this is the first I have seen since the major renovations. I am glad to see this species is still using the site.

This Long-toed Salamander was my only herp of the day. If you look at the back feet, you can see the extra long fourth toe that gives this species its name.

Happy Spring/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

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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

Fernhill Wetlands

During the current pandemic, it is not always easy to visit favorite birding sites. I have found that if I go very early, I can get some good birding in at Fernhill Wetlands without encountering too many folks. (Of course, this is my goal even without a pandemic.) This Marsh Wren put on a nice show.

Greater Yellowlegs is the only species of migrant shorebird I have seen so far this spring. We are still about two weeks away from the peak.

Green Heron, completely failing at camouflage. The auto-focus on my camera insists on focusing on the vegetation behind birds, rather than on the bird. (Yes, I am blaming the equipment.)

White-throated Sparrows have been regular at Fernhill lately.

White-crowned Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

This Northern Flicker was hanging out on the gravel dike in the wetland, perfect woodpecker habitat.

This Pacific Chorus Frog was hanging out under a log on a cold morning.

Long-toed Salamander is a lifer amphibian for me this year. As is typical when I see a new species of whatever, I now see them all the time.

More Long-toed Salamanders

This Muskrat would like to remind you to eat your greens.

Still waiting for spring migration to kick in.

Happy Spring

False Spring in the Wetlands

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It is still very much winter in western Oregon, but February always brings stirrings of spring. Many birds, like this Red-winged Blackbird, are warming up their songs in preparation for setting up nesting territories.

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Male Anna’s Hummingbirds always seem to be on territory.

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This American Robin was nestled in the middle of a pine. I don’t associate robins with conifers, so I was struck by how nicely the bird was framed within the needles.

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This Northwestern Salamander was my first herp of the year. He was hanging out under a board. The temperature was cold enough that he didn’t move at all when I found him. I could have gotten a better photo if I had repositioned him, but I decided to leave him in situ.

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This was one of four White-throated Sparrows moving around in a tight group at Fernhill Wetlands.

nutria teeth
I have often noted how Nutria (Coypu) walk that fine line between adorable and hideous. Perhaps that line has finally been crossed.

Happy Winter

Mt. Hood National Forest

I had the opportunity to guide a lovely couple from Florida on a trip to Mt. Hood National Forest. The weather was not great, with dreary conditions at lower elevations and driving rain at Timberline Lodge. But we did manage to find some great birds.

Our first stop was Wildwood Recreation Site for riparian and lower elevation species. The first bird of the day was a Bald Eagle flying over the river; a nice start. Our main target was American Dipper, and the footbridge over the Salmon River is a pretty reliable spot.

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One of two American Dippers we spotted in the early morning gloom

We next tried to bird around Timberline Lodge for high-elevation species, but the rain and wind made birding impossible. So we headed down to Little Crater Lake.

IMG_2077Birding in the forests this time of year can be deadly slow, but we did encounter two groups of Canada Jays. Even when you don’t have food, these birds will come in close to check you out.

IMG_2079On the way back from Little Crater Lake, we came across a group of six Sooty Grouse. This was a lifer for my client, and the largest “flock” that I have seen.

deer duoAfter a second trip up to Timberline proved equally unbirdable, we decided to head back toward Portland to look for sparrows and other grassland species at Powell Butte Nature Park. We found a few sparrows, but the highlight of this spot was the group of three Black-tailed Deer feeding on fallen apples.

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IMG_2091One reason songbirds may have been so hard to come by at this site was the pair a American Kestrels (female shown here) that were actively hunting. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was also lurking about, so the sparrows may have been keeping a low profile.

Some nice birds and excellent company made for a good day, despite the dreary conditions.

Happy Autumn