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.
Here are a few images of various animals I have seen lately. When the birds refuse to pose for photos, it is nice to find other creatures that are more cooperative. As I have said, there is always something to see.
Brush Rabbit, Fernhill Wetlands
The top image shows a massive male American Bullfrog found at Dober Reservoir. Note the injury around his right eye. The bottom image is of a newly emerged female. At this stage, she was about the size of the males head, but females typically grow larger than males of this species.
Orange Sulphur, found at Jackson Bottom. Unfortunately, this species perches with their wings closed, so you can’t see the vibrant colors on the top.
This Mylitta Crescent at Fernhill Wetlands was much more cooperative.
I don’t know the dragonflies, but I am told this individual from Fernhill Wetlands is a Striped Meadowhawk.
California Ground Squirrels, one of my favorite rodents, have become more common at Fernhill Wetlands since the reconstruction a few years ago.
This Black-tailed Deer and her fawn were enjoying the lush vegetation at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.
Back to birds next time.
Here are a few more images from my trip to central Oregon. The main purpose of the trip was to get the dogs away from the fireworks in Portland, but I always enjoy a trip to the dry side of the Cascades. It was indeed dry, and very hot. Bodhi cooled off a little in the Deschutes River.
I found a small flock of Turkey Vultures roosting along the river one morning.
Even in the early morning the sun was pretty intense.
This young Spotted Sandpiper was perched on a rock in the river.
The Mule Deer were usually found along the river, which provided the only green vegetation in the area.
Since birding was pretty slow, I spent a lot of time with Western Fence Lizards. This individual was basking on a big piece of obsidian. Since it was so hot, these lizards usually basked in the shade except during the early morning.
This individual was hanging out under the deck where we were staying. I had to use a flash in this dark environment. I normally don’t like the results of flash photography, but the flash really brought out the pattern on this lizard.
an adorable little dragon
The Scout Camp Loop Trail is a lovely 2.2 mile hike northwest of Terrebonne. It is not particularly birdy. I logged 11 species on my trip, and the top eBird list for this site is only 17. (eBird calls this site Scott Camp Loop Trail, a typo that I hope will be corrected soon.) Despite the low diversity, it was well worth it to spend a few hours along this stretch of the Deschutes River.
The first .4 mile is through some juniper/sage steppe, which actually held the greatest bird diversity of the hike. The trail then descends into the canyon.
This Rock Wren was singing up a storm, but insisted on doing so from a high backlit perch.
With the recent high temperatures and lack of rain, most of the vegetation on the slopes was dried to a crisp. But the Blazing Stars were in full bloom, in defiance of the harsh conditions.
Down at the river’s edge was a lush ribbon of greenery.
Several Mule Deer were taking advantage of the lush growth.
Aside from the Violet-green Swallows flying over the water, the most common bird along the river was Yellow-breasted Chat. There were at least six individuals working the riparian corridor.
I don’t study butterflies much, but this Two-tailed Swallowtail was a new one for me.
Whenever I visit eastern Oregon I am especially on the lookout for herps. This pair of Common Side-blotched Lizards was the only herp sighting of this hike, but the species was new to me.
Here is the female, whose colors are more muted.
The male was really colorful, with blue spots on the back and orange underneath.
Another look at the male. The two didn’t seem to mind my presence. I think they were more interested in each other.
While I am usually looking specifically for birds, I enjoy whatever wildlife I encounter along the way.
I don’t spend a lot of effort looking for butterflies, but I do appreciate it when one poses for me. This is a Lorquin’s Admiral.
This Northwestern Garter was hiding under a piece of bark near a stump. The cloudy eyes indicate that the snake is about to shed. Snakes in this condition cannot see well, so I generally avoid handling them.
I am having trouble distinguishing Brush Rabbits from the introduced Eastern Cottontail. I have recently learned that the two species will hybridize, making identification even harder. The rusty nape on this individual makes me think it is an Eastern Cottontail.
One of the highlights of my most recent outing was the opportunity to watch a Long-tailed Weasel hunting. This is the first time I have seen this species for more than a few seconds. The weasel’s hunt was successful, so don’t go any farther if you find images of predation disturbing.
I first saw this Long-tailed Weasel chasing a Brush Rabbit down the trail and into the vegetation. After a brief tussle, the rabbit was subdued.
The weasel then dragged the rabbit across the trail and into the brush, despite the fact that the rabbit was significantly heavier than the weasel. These are impressive little predators.
Our team for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Birdathon birded several sites in the northern parts of Portland. The weather was cool and rainy, not conducive to photography or bird activity, but we ended our efforts with 76 species for the day. This Western Wood-Pewee at Whitaker Ponds was one of the few photogenic individuals.
Bushtit, also at Whitaker Ponds
This Black-tailed Deer, with his new antlers just starting to sprout, was at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.
There are only two native species of turtle in Oregon, both of which are considered at risk do to habitat loss and pollution. Smith and Bybee Wetlands is a local stronghold for Western Painted Turtles.
Here is a Western Painted Turtle on the left, with a Red-eared Slider on the right. Red-eared Sliders are native to the southeastern U.S., but have been introduced into many areas, usually by people disposing of unwanted pets. Introduced species compete with native species for food and nesting habitat.
Every spring, birders suggest that the migration is running a little late. I think a lot of that feeling just comes from a desire to see spring migrants again. But this year, a lot of species are arriving noticeably late. It was May 11 before I detected my first flycatcher of any species. Shorebird migration on the coast didn’t really pick up until the second week in May.
So a visit to Cooper Mountain Nature Park during the first week in May provided mostly resident and locally nesting species, like this White-crowned Sparrow.
Spotted Towhee, really working that red eye in the sunlight
This young Red-tailed Hawk was checking out the meadow.
A young Northwestern Garter Snake crossing the trail
The local Dark-eyed Juncos have seemed quite tame lately. I wonder if they are just really busy gathering food for their nestlings.
Another White-crowned Sparrow. Despite their limited color palette, I have always thought this species was especially attractive.
This pond was swarming with tadpoles and salamander larvae. I think the salamanders (the light green critters on right half of the photo) are Northwestern Salamanders. I don’t know who the tadpoles are.
I went out to Smith and Bybee Wetlands in north Portland. This site can be a little challenging to bird, as the noise from Marine Drive makes it difficult to hear bird song and other natural sounds. But as you make your way farther from the road, birding tends pick up.
One of the first critters of the trip was this Eastern Cottontail. This species has been introduced into several urban areas in the Pacific NW. The rusty nape and blazing white tail help distinguish this species from the native Brush Rabbit.
Water levels were very high, so there wasn’t much shorebird habitat. This lone Greater Yellowlegs put on a nice show.
Shorebird migration is just starting to pick up, just in time for my shorebird webinar on April 13.