September Shorebirds

Greater Yellowlegs

Shorebirds have been trickling through the Portland area all month. Finding proper habitat can be challenging. As wetlands dry up during the summer, we have to hope that deeper bodies of water recede enough to create mudflats for shorebirds to feed on. This Greater Yellowlegs was at Force Lake in north Portland.

g yellowlegs trioTypically seen wading, Greater Yellowlegs will occasionally swim in groups to catch small fish.
greater yellowlegs swimming

westernThis juvenile Western Sandpiper, showing the characteristic rusty suspenders, was taking advantage of low water levels at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.

pectoral sandpiperThe main lake at Fernhill Wetlands has receded enough to create some nice mudflats, here being enjoyed by a Pectoral Sandpiper.

long-billed dowitcherjuvenile Long-billed Dowitcher, showing the characteristic solid dark tertials

short-billed dowitcher smalljuvenile Short-billed Dowitcher, showing the characteristic tiger-striped tertials

spotted sandpiper smallSpotted Sandpipers nest in the Portland area. Juveniles, like this one, can be recognized by the barring on the wing coverts.

semipalmated plover smallSemipalmated Plovers are surely one of the cutest shorebirds. The scaly pattern on the wings tells us that this is a juvenile.

Happy Autumn

Low Tide

trestle bay 2Trestle Bay, just off Parking Lot D at Fort Stevens State Park, can be one of the more productive shorebird spots on the north coast. Timing is critical, as the bay fills completely with the high tide.

trestle bay 1When the tide is out, the bay provides extensive mudflats. With this much exposed mud, the birds can be quite distant, so timing your visit when the tide is coming in can produce some nice viewing.

sea lion 1On this visit we observed what we thought was a California Sea Lion carcass way out on the flat.

sea lionLater we noticed the the sea lion had rolled over and extended a flipper. Apparently he was just hanging out on the mudflat catching some sun.

sea lion stretchI normally see these animals basking on rocks, but the mud was apparently working for this guy.

mergansersSouthbound shorebird migration tends to come in waves, and we were between waves on this visit. Our consolation birds were this flock of Common Mergansers with a California Gull.

Happy last days of summer.

Summer in the Wetlands

Our brutal summer continues. When the weather is this hot and dry, the best bird diversity is usually found around wetlands, so I spent a little time at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom.

b phoebe smallThe first record of Black Phoebe in Washington County was in 2006 (by yours truly). Now they are rare but regular at both Jackson Bottom and Fernhill.

least sandpiperShorebird migration is in full swing. Numbers are better at the coast, but some birds are finding the small patches of mud at inland locations. This Least Sandpiper was feeding on some newly exposed mud at Jackson Bottom.

lorquin's admiralHere is the underside of a Lorquin’s Admiral. Those red eyes are intense.

green heronGreen Heron at Fernhill
Green Heron open bill small

w pelican smallAmerican White Pelican is another species that has become more common in the Portland area is recent years. They don’t nest here, but summer brings large numbers of young birds and post-breeding adults.

Happy Summer

Summer at Fernhill

Record-setting heat and cloudless days are not the best conditions for birding or photography, but here we are. It is sometimes hard to motivate oneself to get outside when the weather is so harsh, but there is always something to see. So here are some images from a warm walk around Fernhill Wetlands.

bh grosbeakBlack-headed Grosbeaks are one of our more attractive summer residents.

red-wingedLots of babies have already fledged. Here a Red-winged Blackbird is being harassed by a hungry youngster.

purple martinsIt has been such a delight to have an active Purple Martin colony at Fernhill the past few years.

p martinPurple Martin on an unclouded day

ospreyOspreys were soaring high over Fernhill Lake. I didn’t see any dive for fish while I was there.

pb grebeThe ducks have started their summer molt, but the Pied-billed Grebes are still looking dapper.

modoA lovely Mourning Dove on an ugly fence

western grebeThe most unusual bird of the day was this Western Grebe. They are frequent winter visitors here, but they do not nest anywhere nearby.

Southbound shorebird migration has already begun, so expect them to show up soon.

Happy Summer

Random Summer Birds

black-headed grosbeakSpring migration has come and gone, and many birders agree that it was a dud. Numbers and diversity seemed quite low in the Portland area this spring. So now we concentrate on the summer residents, like this Black-headed Grosbeak.

Golden-crowned SparrowMost Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.

lazuli small singingAt Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years. lazuli small

Blue-winged Teal pairTualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.

purple martinsPurple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands

bewick's smallBewick’s Wren are usually working heavy cover, so it was a treat to find this one dust bathing in the middle of a gravel road.

hoodieHooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands

Spotted Sandpiper 1Spotted Sandpiper

gadwall smallThis Gadwall is already starting to molt into his dull summer alternate plumage. I often refer to late summer as Ugly Duck Season. It seems a little early for ducks to be losing their sharp breeding colors.

Now is the time to seek out local nesters. It will only be about four weeks before southbound shorebird migration starts up. I hope the autumn migration is a little more eventful than this spring was.

Happy Summer

Tualatin River NWR

BW Teal smallThe long hiking trail at Tualatin River NWR is open, and this refuge always offers some good birding in the spring and early summer. A pair of Blue-winged Teal was in the southwest pond.

Hutton's VireoAs is typical for this species, this Hutton’s Vireo stayed back in heavy cover.

brewer's smallIt is really hard to shoot a Brewer’s Blackbird against the sky without ending up with just a silhouette, but  I keep trying.

LB dowitcherLong-billed Dowitcher was the most common shorebird on this visit. It is nice to see them in full breeding plumage.

pec and LBThe best bird of the trip was this Pectoral Sandpiper. Pectorals are regular autumn migrants in this area, but are very rare in spring.
Pectoral Sandpiper 1

Happy Spring

Still Waiting

wt sparrow 2

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.

towhee 1Spotted Towhee, really working that red eye in the sunlight

rt hawk 2This young Red-tailed Hawk was checking out the meadow.

rt hawk

Northwestern Garter SnakeA young Northwestern Garter Snake crossing the trail

juncoThe local Dark-eyed Juncos have seemed quite tame lately. I wonder if they are just really busy gathering food for their nestlings.

wt sparrow 1Another White-crowned Sparrow. Despite their limited color palette, I have always thought this species was especially attractive.

Happy Spring

Fort Stevens State Park

IMG_5262I went to Fort Stevens to look for shorebirds this week. The main push of spring migrants hadn’t arrived yet, but numbers were definitely on the increase. I was pleased that I timed the tide correctly at Parking Lot D. This little bay fills quickly when the tide comes in, so it was nice to have extensive mudflats on this visit.

semipalmSemipalmated Plovers enjoying the mud

Caspian Tern duo smallThis spot often hosts good numbers of Caspian Terns. Several birds were seen courting.

Black-bellied Plover smallOf the six Black-bellied Plovers I saw that day, only one was in full breeding plumage. The others, including this bird, were still in molt.

Whimbrel duo smallThe beach hosted good numbers of Whimbrels.

whimbrel small

Sanderling smallThe most common shorebird on the beach that day was Sanderling. Most were still in winter plumage.

Sanderling duo small

Sanderling flock small

Shorebird migration should peak within the next week.

Happy Spring.

Cooper Mountain

I went to Cooper Mountain Nature Park in Beaverton primarily to look for herps, but the birds were a lot more cooperative. White-crowned Sparrows were singing everywhere.

Chipping Sparrows nest at higher elevations, but a few can be found in the Willamette Valley during migration.

Most of the Western Trilliums are past their peak, but this one was still in good condition.

This Northwestern Fence Lizard was catching some rays. This lizard and one baby Northwestern Garter Snake were the only reptiles of the trip.

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.

Happy Spring

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