Fernhill Wetlands, south of Forest Grove, is a great place to see the onset of autumn. Water levels on the main lake are still very low, but the recent rains will soon change that.
Migrant shorebirds, like these Western Sandpipers, are enjoying the mudflats. Shorebird numbers are starting to thin out.
This Pectoral Sandpiper was checking out the new vegetation on the lake bed.
The first Cackling Geese have arrived. They will soon be joined by a few thousand more.
This Common Merganser was resting on an exposed mud bar. I don’t get to see mergansers out of the water very often.
American White Pelicans, once considered rare in the Willamette Valley, are now an expected species in late summer.
Eurasian Collared-Doves are another species that are increasingly common in the area.
The annual Fernhill Wetlands Birds and Brew Festival will be held on October 12. I will be leading the 8:00 tour for that. Here is a link for more info.
I took advantage of the dry weather to scout Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p. 55) for my Little Brown Birds field trip.
Sandhill Cranes are still present in good numbers.
The Osprey nest along Rentenaar Road is occupied again.
We just had our wettest March on record, so water levels are high. This is the view from the end of Rentenaar Road. The white speck on the lake is an American White Pelican. White Pelicans have become increasing common on Sauvie Island in recent summers, but sightings this early in the year are unusual.
Here is the same bird coming in to land.
I take my LBB class to Sauvie for the abundance of sparrows. (We ended up with ten species of sparrow on our trip.) Here is a White-throated Sparrow, one of the rarer species in our area.
This Fox Sparrow was bathing in a puddle.
Smith and Bybee Wetlands in NW Portland, (Birding Oregon p. 65) is a great spot for waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds in the late summer and autumn. Paved trails lead to observation platforms overlooking both lakes, and primitive paths are available to the more adventurous.
Great Egret, here with a couple of Great Blue Herons and numerous waterfowl on Bybee Lake, are common this time of year. Other waders that have occurred here include Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron.
These Bonaparte’s Gulls were feeding with a flock of Northern Shovelers, picking up little food items stirred up by the ducks.
Many trees in this area have fencing around them to protect them from Beavers. Flood conditions last winter enabled the Beavers to float above the level of the fencing and nibble away.
Three American White Pelicans swim with Double-crested Cormorants on Smith Lake. Ten years ago, pelicans were considered rare in Portland, but large flocks are now expected every summer and fall.
more American White Pelicans on Smith Lake
An arctic air mass brought cold temperatures and ice to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), but there was no shortage of birds. Here are some grainy gray photos from a lap around the ponds.
Tundra Swans and California Gull
Taverner’s Cackling Goose and Northern Shovelers
Cackling Geese and Northern Pintails
Snow Goose and Cackling Geese
immature Bald Eagles
This American White Pelican, a very late straggler, was circling high overhead, trying to find a thermal on this cold cloudy morning.
Cackling Cackling Geese
Great Blue Heron standing on a Beaver dam. Note the frost on the bird’s back.
In late summer, American White Pelicans become increasingly common in the Willamette Valley. These are post-breeding or non-breeding birds that have left their nesting areas in eastern Oregon and other sites throughout the interior West.
Sturgeon Lake, on Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p. 55), is a popular lounging area for these birds.
This small flock at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61) has surrounded a school of fish and herded it toward the shoreline. Unlike the Brown Pelicans at the coast, American White Pelicans do not dive. These larger birds swim along and dip their bills in the water to capture fish.
While certainly not one of the more scenic sites in Oregon, Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61) always attracts some noteworthy birds.
Least Sandpiper (left) and Western Sandpiper (right) are two of the more common shorebirds that use the mudflats at Fernhill. Both birds are juveniles (brightly colored fresh plumage, scapulars are small and rounded). The Least has a small, finely-pointed bill, yellowish legs, breast streaks, and feeds while squatting low to the mud. The Western has a longer drooping bill, dark legs (hidden in the mud), is grayer overall, and looks “front heavy,” like he might tip forward.
Two American White Pelicans have been at Fernhill lately. This species doesn’t nest in the Willamette Valley, but small flocks are often present in late summer/early autumn.
A Great Blue Heron with a species of bullhead. Catfish have sharp spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins, so the heron has to position the fish carefully before swallowing.
I walked around much of William L. Finley NWR, one of the three in the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Of the three, Finley has the greatest diversity of habitats, as it lies right at the edge of the Coast Range.
At the heart of the refuge is Cabell Marsh, home to waterfowl, herons, and a small flock of American White Pelicans. Notable flyovers that day included White-tailed Kite and Red-shouldered Hawk.
Black-capped Chickadees were everywhere, in the woods where you would expect them, and in the cattails which seemed a little odd.
Lazuli Buntings inhabit brushy areas in the oak savannahs.
A family of Bewick’s Wrens were in a brush pile near the top of Pigeon Butte.
On the way home I stopped by Baskett Slough NWR, another refuge in the Willamette Valley complex. Most of the wetlands here were dry. South Slough Pond was actually being plowed. Cottonwood Pond still held water and was hosting these three American White Pelicans.
This Black-tailed Deer was panting as she walked across the dry grassland and crossed the road.