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

A Slow Start

I have been complaining a lot lately about how slow the birding has been. We are in that lull when many of the winter birds have moved on and the spring migrants haven’t returned. But, say it with me, there is always something to see. So here are a few birds to help get us primed for the spring birding bonanza that will inevitably arrive.

white-fronted gooseThis lone Greater White-fronted Goose was at the Tualatin River NWR. Not many of these geese touch down in the Portland area, but huge flocks pass overhead in spring and autumn.

Yellow-rumpedThe western U.S. does not get to enjoy the great diversity of warblers found in the east, but we do get Yellow-rumped Warblers all winter. This male Audubon’s race is coming into breeding plumage.

IMG_5091-SharpenAI-motionWe also get Myrtle race Yellow-rumps in winter. I keep hoping that these two forms will be split into separate species, as they once were. This individual seems to have a little yellow on the throat, suggesting some mixed parentage somewhere in this bird’s family tree.

bald eagleThis young Bald Eagle was looking regal in a parking lot.

savannahSavannah Sparrows have started returning to their nesting areas. This rather faded individual was at Jackson Bottom.

Happy Spring

Late Winter Ramblings

towhee

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.

IMG_5017
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.

skink

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.

ca ground
Also enjoying the morning sunshine was this California Ground Squirrel at Fernhill Wetlands.

IMG_5030-SharpenAI-sharpen
Long-toed Salamanders are the only species of salamander I have seen so far this year, but they are everywhere.

pacific treefrog
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

First Herps of the Year

The nights are still cold, often below freezing, but the days are starting to warm. With the first hints of spring come the first amphibians and reptiles of the year. You can hear Pacific Treefrogs calling all year, but this is the first one I have seen. They were hanging out under a small log. The temperature was in the 30s, so they didn’t move at all while I was there. I snapped a quick photo and replaced the log over the frog.

Long-toed Salamanders are one of the first amphibians to breed in the spring, so they are everywhere right now. These three were under a single board. Lifting a small piece of plywood revealed about a dozen of these critters.
Another Long-toed Salamander

My first snake of the year was this Common Garter Snake soaking up some sun. The subspecies we have in this area is Red-spotted Garter. I was thrilled to find this individual, but quickly saw several dozen more on this sunny morning.

The red coloring on the face is common in this subspecies.

These two Red-spotted Garters were enjoying a little amour in the sunshine.

They were soon joined by a third individual, forming a mating ball.

Happy almost 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

Winter Birding

We finally had a bout of winter weather in the Portland area. The west side of town got more ice than actual snow, so travel conditions were not ideal. Since we had an appointment in Hillsboro anyway, I made a quick stop at Amberglen Park. This Ring-necked Duck was putting on a nice show.

This Bufflehead spent much more time below the surface of the water than above it, but I managed a quick photo. Note the streaks of sleet.

This habitat doesn’t seem right for Hooded Mergansers, but I often see them here.
The Portland area doesn’t seem to have a good winter gull roost these days. Amberglen attracts a few, mostly Ring-billed Gulls.

I think gulls are really attractive in the snow. Note the slight pinkish tones on this bird.

Here are some Ring-billed Gulls swimming with an “Olympic” Gull (Western X Glaucous-winged hybird).

This is a “Cook Inlet” Gull (Herring X Glaucous-winged hybrid). The bill pattern is classic winter Herring Gull. The eye is dark and the primaries are not quite true black. It gives the impression of a Thayer’s Iceland Gull with a giant bill.
On the home front, snow often brings Varied Thrushes to the yard. We had four at one time cleaning up seeds under the feeder.

I am always grateful for the splash of color provided by this Townsend’s Warbler.

The snow is gone now, and birds are starting move. Spring will be here any minute.

Happy Winter

Winter Birding

February is usually cloudy and damp in the Portland area, making it hard for me to get too motivated to venture out. But there is always something to see, like this lovely Lincoln’s Sparrow.

This Cedar Waxwing was flycatching over the water at Koll Wetlands.

This Spotted Towhee spent quite a bit of time perched out in the open in a blackberry bramble.

Winter is a great time to study waterfowl in the Willamette Valley. This little gang of Lesser Scaup was at Force Lake in north Portland.

I was initially excited to find this young male Northern Shoveler standing out in the open, but then I realized the poor guy was ill. He was gasping for breath and his eyes were partially closed. I’m guessing he has respiratory infection caused by Aspergillis, a common type of fungus, which has been affecting a lot of waterfowl this winter.

Back home at the feeders, my vegan suet has been very popular this winter. I mix equal parts of coconut oil, peanut butter, and flour, then pour the mixture into molds to solidify. This recipe only works in the winter, as it will melt if temperatures get above 60 degrees F. Here is a Chestnut-backed Chickadee working on the last bit of a cake.

A Bushtit, one of many that come through the yard every day

Happy Winter

Winter Waterfowl

Waterfowl seem to dominate the birding scene in the Willamette Valley in winter. Year-round residents, like this Pied-billed Grebe, are joined by a host of winter migrants.

My camera hates white birds, but managed to capture this Common Merganser pretty well.

I usually gloss over Mallards, but they are a pretty duck.

Ring-necked Duck

Eurasian Wigeon have been hard to come by the past couple of winters, so it was nice to see this pretty boy at Dawson Creek.American Wigeon remain common on grassy lawns and ponds.

Green-winged Teal, also at Dawson Creek.

There are other birds around this time of year, like sparrows and raptors. But while it is nice to see that Merlin fly overhead and the flocks of Golden-crowned Sparrows deep in the brush piles, sometimes it is good to take the time to study and appreciate the waterfowl that sit out in the open in the daylight.

Happy Winter

Beach Birds

I spent a few days on the north Oregon coast to escape the New Year’s fireworks in Portland. As expected this time of year, there was plenty of wind and rain. But there were enough breaks in the weather to get out and enjoy some coastal birds.

Sanderlings are always a treat. This bird was squinting into the howling wind.

A blurry photo of typical Sanderling wave-running

This time of year, the largest shorebird flocks are made up of Dunlin.

This gull caught my eye. The marbled pattern on the bill indicates a third-cycle bird. The dark mantle and black wing tips suggest Western Gull. The heavy mottled hood suggests some Glaucous-winged Gull in this bird’s ancestry.

I ran into a small flock of Snowy Plovers. This species is making a great comeback on the Oregon Coast after nearly being extirpated.

A flock of Snow Buntings was a special treat. The high winds kept the birds moving around and usually hunkered down in the beach grass, so I couldn’t get a clear photo.

A washed-up log hosted a colony of Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacles. These were actually quite lovely despite the strong fishy smell. The gulls were delighted to find these tasty snacks.

Bodhi and Nala love a good romp on the beach, despite the weather.

We play hard, we rest hard. Happy New Year