I spent a foggy morning at Jackson Bottom Wetland Reserve. This Great Egret was blending in with the foggy background at Pintail Pond.
Belted Kingfishers are almost always distant subjects for my photos. They are quite skittish.
The Coyote Hill Trail is a nice loop around a weedy field that can be good for upland species, like this American Kestrel.
Northern Pintail was the most abundant species of waterfowl on this day.
The north end of the reserve hosted a flock of 20 Tundra Swans, always a nice find.
There weren’t any great rarities on this trip. But there were a lot of good birds and a nice four-mile hike without any rain – a great trip for December.
I had the opportunity to guide a lovely couple from Florida on a trip to Mt. Hood National Forest. The weather was not great, with dreary conditions at lower elevations and driving rain at Timberline Lodge. But we did manage to find some great birds.
Our first stop was Wildwood Recreation Site for riparian and lower elevation species. The first bird of the day was a Bald Eagle flying over the river; a nice start. Our main target was American Dipper, and the footbridge over the Salmon River is a pretty reliable spot.
One of two American Dippers we spotted in the early morning gloom
We next tried to bird around Timberline Lodge for high-elevation species, but the rain and wind made birding impossible. So we headed down to Little Crater Lake.
Birding in the forests this time of year can be deadly slow, but we did encounter two groups of Canada Jays. Even when you don’t have food, these birds will come in close to check you out.
On the way back from Little Crater Lake, we came across a group of six Sooty Grouse. This was a lifer for my client, and the largest “flock” that I have seen.
After a second trip up to Timberline proved equally unbirdable, we decided to head back toward Portland to look for sparrows and other grassland species at Powell Butte Nature Park. We found a few sparrows, but the highlight of this spot was the group of three Black-tailed Deer feeding on fallen apples.
One reason songbirds may have been so hard to come by at this site was the pair a American Kestrels (female shown here) that were actively hunting. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was also lurking about, so the sparrows may have been keeping a low profile.
Some nice birds and excellent company made for a good day, despite the dreary conditions.
Fernhill Wetlands is the place to be in autumn. Even after the extensive wetland renovations that have taken place, resulting in less open water, the Cackling Geese still congregate here by the thousands.
This Great Egret was catching the sunshine on the top of a tree.
Northern Pintail. I don’t often see them hanging out on dry ground.
Killdeer and Green-winged Teal
Greater White-fronted Geese migrate over the Willamette Valley in large numbers, but not many touch down, so it is always nice to see some on the ground.
Fernhill Lake is about half of its original size, but it is still big enough to attract divers, like this Horned Grebe.
male American Kestrel
Waterfowl diversity continues to increase, and winter sparrow flocks should pick us soon. I’m looking forward to watching the show, assuming the Bundys don’t move in.
I hadn’t been to Powell Butte Nature Park in east Portland since they finished renovations. They had been working on one of the water system reservoirs and have added more parking, a visitor center, and new trail markers and maps. The targets of this visit were several Mountain Bluebirds that had been hanging out for a while.
I found a male and two three females, all of whom kept their distance.
There was a big wave of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the park. All that I got a good look at were Audubon’s race, and most were male.
Another regional rarity that has been hanging out at Powell Butte is this Say’s Phoebe. This bird was active and vocal, but also kept his distance.
The open meadows are attractive to Northern Harriers (not photogenic) and American Kestrels (slightly more cooperative). The raptors can make it harder to study the grassland songbirds, but this site is still very productive. There was one singing Savannah Sparrow while I was there. In a few weeks, that bird will be joined by more Savannahs and Lazuli Buntings.
Here are a few photos from recent ramblings.
After delivering some books to Tualatin River NWR, I took a quick walk on the path that leads through some newly planted oaks and along the river. This male American Kestrel had just captured a shrew.
These Western Canada Geese (and the Common Merganser on the log in the foreground) were napping at the Sandy River Delta.
The Beavers are really enjoying the young trees at Sandy River Delta.
This old American Robin nest was tucked into a crevice of a tree.
Pileated Woodpeckers are fairly easy to find at Sandy River Delta. This one was perfectly hidden behind a branch.
Peregrine Falcon, Sandy River Delta
This Hermit Thrush was chasing another outside my bedroom window early in the morning.
I led a tour of Fernhill Wetlands for the Birds and Brew Festival. Since there were about 50 people in the group, including many who didn’t have optics, we concentrated on the “charismatic mega-fauna,” like these American White Pelicans.
A Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron were looking all artsy with their reflections.
This distant American Kestrel was showing off his colors.
After the group dispersed, I took another lap around the lake so I could check out the smaller birds. Along with five species of sparrow, there were lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers moving around.
I walked around Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon, p. 61) in the mid afternoon. Most of the waterfowl that roost here on winter evenings were still off feeding in the area fields, but there is always something to see.
A flock of Brewer’s Blackbirds were hanging out in a tree by the parking lot.
This American Kestrel was in the same tree as the blackbirds, but the two didn’t seem to pay any attention to each other.
A pair of Bald Eagles is usually visible in the grove of large cottonwoods on the southeast corner of the property.
The eagles have started a new nest this year.
This observation platform was destroyed by arsonists. Fernhill Wetlands is not a park, but is owned by the area waste water department. As a result, there are few resources for facilities or habitat management.
Tundra Swans were flying in to roost. They tend to stay in the more distant parts of Mitigation Marsh.
Great Blue Herons are nesting in the trees to the east of the wetlands. This individual was resting on a snag in Cattail Marsh.
The deeper water of Fernhill Lake attracts divers like this Horned Grebe.
The oasis at Fields (Birding Oregon p. 19) is a tiny site, but one of the better known hotspots in Oregon. This little clump of willows around a spring is surrounded by miles of sage steppe, so it is very attractive to species normally found in woodland habitats.
A pair of Great Horned Owls can usually be seen here.
This adult was sitting on a fallen tree right over the water.
They were keeping track of this little guy.
A pair of American Kestrels were also nesting at the oasis. Here is the male with a rodent.
The big attraction for birders is the possibility of vagrants from the east. On this day a Northern Parula was the highlight. Other eastern warblers had been found the week before, and still others appeared later. One never knows what will show up on a given day.