Wetlands in the Summer

In mid to late summer, when conditions are very hot and dry in Oregon, most of the wildlife activity is found near wetlands, at least until they dry up as well. Here are a few images from various wetlands in the Portland area this summer.

A Purple Martin strafes an American Kestrel at Tualatin River NWR
Barn Swallow about to nab an insect off the water’s surface
Anna’s Hummingbird feeding on a cedar at Fernhill Wetlands
Two Northern River Otters at Koll Center Wetlands
This otter was almost too close for my camera to focus
Several young Soras put on a nice show at Commonwealth Lake Park
Snacking on a snail
Black Phoebe with a damselfly at Fernhill Wetlands
I always love seeing Brush Rabbits
Summer is Ugly Duck Season, as males molt into eclipse plumage and all the duck replace their flight feathers. This Cinnamon Teal at Beal Street Wetland is best identified by his shape.

Happy Summer

Shorebirds at Tualatin River NWR

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge has been good for southbound shorebirds this summer. Early in the season, the Long-billed Dowitchers were still sporting their breeding plumage.

At this point, most of the dowitchers have molted into winter plumage.

Normally seen later in the fall, a few Pectoral Sandpipers have made an appearance at the refuge.

Up to three young Wilson’s Phalaropes were at the refuge this summer.

Least Sandpiper

Greater Yellowlegs are one of the more common, and more vocal, of the migrant shorebirds.

Lesser Yellowlegs are harder to find, but have been reliable at the refuge this summer.

Occasionally, the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs will pose together for a nice comparison.

This Wilson’s Snipe made an unusual appearance out in the open.

Shorebird migration lasts through October, but the water at the refuge typically dries up before then. We’ll see how recent restoration efforts affect water levels this year.

Happy summer

Migration Update

Our cold wet April has blossomed into a cold wet May. I shouldn’t complain, since we need whatever moisture we can get, but a few balmy spring days would be nice.

Shorebirds on the northern Oregon coast peaked last week. This Black Oystercatcher was one of four hanging out at the Seaside Cove.

Black Turnstones are common in winter at Seaside Cove, but the few that remain are sporting crisp breeding plumage.

A single Ruddy Turnstone has been at The Cove for a while now.

Songbirds have been moving, too, despite the weather. This Common Yellowthroat was singing at Cooper Mountain Nature Park.

The locally nesting White-crowned Sparrows are on territory and ready for nesting.

Ruby-crowned Kinglets don’t nest around here, but they have been singing like crazy. I cannot seem to get a decent photo of a kinglet, but at least the parts of this bird we can see are clear.

In the “totally creepy and yet fascinating” department: here is a second cycle Western Gull showing the structure of their tongue. I didn’t realize their tongues were that big, let alone such an interesting shape. The more you look, the more you see.

Happy Spring

This is April?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think we had more snow in April than we did in December. It has been cold and wet most of the month, and while I am very grateful for the rain and the added mountain snowpack, the weather has seemed to delay the onset of spring. Migrants have been few, and resident species a just starting to get revved up for the season. This Pacific Wren was trying out his song at Tualatin River NWR.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Townsend’s Chipmunks are out and about. I think the two lumps in this one’s ear are ticks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hermit Thrushes, which are considered a winter species here in the Willamette Valley, are still around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This Virginia Rail put on a nice show at Commonwealth Lake Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If we can’t have spring migrants yet, we might as well enjoy the local residents. Spotted Towhees never fail to impress.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On a recent semi-birdless outing, I noticed a nice flight of these, Western White-ribboned Carpet Moth. These are tiny, with a wingspan of about an inch and a stunning pattern. It is always great to learn a new species.

So, colorful migrant birds and will show up any minute. Right? 

Happy Spring

Early Spring

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Spring is kicking into gear. Lots of birds have starting pairing up in anticipation of nesting. These Tree Swallows were checking out a tree cavity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Yellow-rumped Warblers are becoming more common and some have acquired full breeding plumage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
There are still a lot of “winter” sparrows in the Willamette Valley. Here is a typical view of a Lincoln’s Sparrow. This bird had no interest in posing out in the open.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Green-winged Teal do not nest in western Oregon, but they have started to pair up and are looking very dapper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This Double-crested Cormorant has caught a Rainbow Trout. When the county parks department stocked this lake with trout, I doubt that cormorants were the intended recipients, but I always like to see native wildlife benefiting whenever they can.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I have found just a few Long-toed Salamanders so far this year. Amphibians should become more active in the next week or so.

Happy Spring

Fernhill Wetlands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spring migration hasn’t really kicked in, yet, but the birds that are here are getting more active. Here are some recent images from Fernhill Wetlands. This Brewer’s Blackbird was looking good in the sunshine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Phoebes are now expected at Fernhill Wetlands. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I found Washington County’s first Black Phoebe there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was my first Rufous Hummingbird of the year. He refused to perch in decent light.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A large flock of Taverner’s Cackling Geese were hanging out on Fernhill Lake. The Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese were either off feeding somewhere or have moved on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brush Rabbit, always adorable

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

California Ground Squirrel, soaking up the sun

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spotted Towhee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downy Woodpecker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bright sunlight makes it hard for me to get a decent of photo of an American Coot, but this bird’s yoga pose was too good not to share.

Happy Spring!

Jackson Bottom

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 swallowTree 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.

tree swallo perchedSome Tree Swallows were already laying claim to the many nest boxes at this site.

ca ground squirrel smallThis California Ground Squirrel was singing (screaming) from a log perch.

Northwestern Garters instaThe sunshine brought out a good number of snakes, despite the cold temperature. These are Northwestern Garters.

Common Garter instaThis is a typical Common (Red-spotted) Garter.

pale Common Garter left instaThis Common Garter is lacking the red pigment shown by most members of this subspecies.

Long-toed SalamanderThis Long-toed Salamander was hanging out under a big piece of bark.

Happy last days of winter.

New year’s birds

The end of the year brings cold wet weather and busy schedules, so I look forward to the start of the new year to get back out in the field. The weather is still bad most of the time, but schedules allow a better chance to get out if there is a dry patch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This White-breasted Nuthatch put on a nice show in the back yard.

golden-crowned leftThis Golden-crowned Sparrow was foraging around the shrubs at the Hillsboro library.

white-crowned smallHere’s a young White-crowned Sparrow for comparison.

ring-billedWe still have about a month to enjoy a good diversity of gull species before they start to disperse. This first-cycle Ring-billed Gull was swimming with two adults.

gullsThis Olympic Gull (Glaucous-winged X Western hybrid) was hanging out with the Ring-billed Gulls.

At least in western Oregon, January provides some really good winter birding. Get out and enjoy it before the February doldrums kick in.

Happy Winter

Gull Season

Late autumn and early winter is the time to find the biggest diversity of gulls in Oregon. I led a field trip to the coast at the end of October. Strong storms from the west had moved a lot of birds close to shore earlier in the week, but on the day we arrived, strong east winds had driven a lot of birds back out to sea. At least we didn’t get rained on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the Seaside Cove, a few gulls posed for us in the sun. This gull is mostly Western, but the streaking on the head and neck suggest some Glaucous-winged ancestry.

This is a fairly robust Iceland Gull (Thayer’s subspecies).

A closer look at the Iceland. The yellow bill will fade as the season progresses.

There aren’t a lot of places in the Portland area to get close looks at gulls anymore. This group was hanging out on a bar in the Willamette River. The flock was a mix of California, Ring-billed, Herring, Iceland, Glaucous-winged, Western, and a mass of messy hybrids.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While scanning the genetic soup of confusing hybrids, it was refreshing to land on a Ring-billed Gull.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

California Gull

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While this bird ticks most of the boxes for Herring Gull, the bill seemed a little too heavy to me. This, combined with the primaries which were slightly less than jet black, suggest this might be a Cook Inlet Gull (Herring X Glaucous-winged).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This Glaucous-winged Gull was hanging out in a flock of Cackling Geese at Amberglen Park. I am guessing that the grazing geese were stirring up worms for the gull.

Happy Gulling!

Wet (land) Birds

Here are some non-waterfowl that I’ve seen in various wetlands recently.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I often struggle with photographing white birds, but this Great Egret came out OK.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Most of the shorebirds have moved on, but a few Least Sandpipers are still around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The winter sparrow flocks are building up. This Golden-crowned Sparrow was still sporting their breeding plumage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Golden-crowned Sparrow taking a bath

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Song Sparrow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I remember when it was hard to find Lesser Goldfinches in the Portland area, but they usually outnumber American Goldfinches now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lesser Goldfinch taking a bath

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Belted Kingfisher sharing a perch with a European Starling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red-winged Blackbird striking a pose

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The numbers of Nutria in the Willamette Valley have exploded in recent years. The are indeed non-native and invasive, but the babies are so cute.

Happy Autumn