Tualatin River NWR

The pandemic birding continues. While the visitor center and parking lot are closed, you can still walk the trails at Tualatin River NWR.

Social distancing, birder style

The big news at the refuge this spring has been this pair of American Avocets, a rare species on Oregon’s west side.

It’s always a treat to see these guys, especially this year when the shorebird migration has been rather lackluster.

This Bonaparte’s Gull was hanging out with the Avocets for a while.

This distant pair of Long-billed Dowitchers was the only other evidence of shorebird migration on the refuge this morning.

This Purple Finch was keeping with the “birds at a distance theme” that prevailed this trip.

Lazuli Bunting, not quite as distant

Probably the most unusual bird of the trip was this intergrade Northern Flicker. He shows the normal red mustache of the Red-shafted form and the red nape of the Yellow-shafted form.

Happy Spring

Warner Wetlands 6-7-12

Just north of the little town of Plush, OR, is Hart Bar, a small interpretive site at the southern end of the Warner Wetlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern (Birding Oregon p. 21). A short trail leads through the marsh, providing views of shorebirds and waterfowl. The parking area has a primitive toilet and several interpretive signs. On the day of my recent visit, the wind was quite strong, making it difficult to hold optics steady but also protecting me from the clouds of mosquitoes that can be a problem here.


White-faced Ibis feed in the grassy areas near the water. I think the tall grasses provided them with shelter from the wind.


American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts are two common nesting species in this area. Willets are also common, but proved to be a little shy.


American Avocet


Black-necked Stilt


Wilson’s Phalarope


Blue-winged Teal is always a good find in Oregon. Gadwall and Cinnamon Teal are more plentiful here.


Yellow-headed Blackbirds share the marsh with Brewer’s Blackbirds.

There are gravel roads running through the Warner Valley. But Hart Bar is easily accessed from paved Hogback Road, and provides a nice variety of wetland species. It is definitely worth a stop on your way to Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge.

Cimarron National Grassland, Kansas

In the very southwest corner of Kansas lies the Cimarron National Grassland. This area, along with the nearby town of Elkhart,  is a favorite birding destination for Kansas birders. Several western species reach the eastern edge of their ranges here, and lost eastern migrants are attracted to the patches of trees in a sea of sand-sage prairie and cropland.

cimmaron river
Cottonwoods along the usually dry Cimarron River provide a wooded migration corridor from eastern Colorado through southwestern Kansas.

clay-colored sparrow
Middle Springs is one of several oases on the grassland that provide trees and water to migrants like this Clay-colored Sparrow.

blue grosbeak female
female Blue Grosbeak

blue grosbeak male
male Blue Grosbeak

pronghorn
The fastest land animal in North America, Pronghorn evolved to outrun American Cheetahs, which became extinct somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.

pronghorn back
The white backsides of Pronghorn are visible from great distances.

mourning doves
Mourning Doves were by far the most common species seen on this day, with Eurasian Collared-Doves coming in a close second.

barn owl
This Barn Owl was in a little cavern in a bluff overlooking the Cimarron River corridor. Note the little bones and other debris in front of the entrance.

bluff
This is the bluff where the Barn Owl had her cavity.

curve-billed thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

northern mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

indian blanket
Gaillardia pulchella

sunflower
As one would expect in the Sunflower State, these were everywhere.

prickly pear
The abundant Prickly Pear cactus makes walking a challenge in many areas.

american avocet
The Elkhart sewage ponds are the only permanent bodies of water for many miles around, so they attract good numbers of migrant shorebirds and waterfowl. These American Avocets were swimming in the middle of one of the pools.

spotted sandpiper
Spotted Sandpipers

semipalmated sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper

burrowing owl
Burrowing Owls are one of many species that rely on prairie dog towns for shelter or food. I found several Black-tailed Prairie Dog towns on this day, each containing an owl or two, but the dogs kept out of camera range.