Columbia Basin

Our team for the Portland Audubon Birdathon visited several sites in the Columbia Basin. It is always a treat to visit the eastern half of Oregon. This Bullock’s Oriole was at Cottonwood Canyon State Park.

Lazuli Buntings were common at Cottonwood Canyon. Males were conspicuous, but the females kept in the deeper cover.

Cliff Swallow nest on the cliff along the Deschutes River in Cottonwood Canyon

Fledgling Canyon Wren

Eastern Kingbird at Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge

Umatilla NWR has a lot of agricultural fields. This one was hosting about a dozen Long-billed Curlews.

The spot with the greatest diversity was the wastewater plant at Boardman. Redheads, hard to find on the west side, were common there.

Black-necked Stilt

The most unexpected bird of the day was this Ruddy Turnstone at the Boardman wastewater ponds. Ruddy Turnstones are uncommon migrants along the coast, but much less likely this far inland.

It was a long day, but full of great birds and great company, and we raised money for a wonderful organization.

Happy Spring

Into the Woods

We left Portland for ten days to escape the fireworks which terrify our dogs. We stayed on a farm in the Coast Range in Benton County. The birds where we stayed were typical Coast Range birds which stayed high in the dark trees, so no great photos there.

I think this pile of feathers is the result of someone munching on a Sooty Grouse.

Bodhi and I flushed four Black-tailed Deer on the far side of a clear-cut.

This very old scat consisted of just fur and bone. From the size, I am assuming it is from a Mountain Lion.

The pond at the farm where we were staying was full of Rough-skinned Newts. I assume they were congregating to lay eggs.

To bee, or not to bee? This newt actually did take a swipe at the honeybee, but I don’t think she was able to get it down.
We didn’t get in the car very often on this trip, but when we did we usually saw Wild Turkeys along the road. Here is a crappy cell-phone-through-the-dirty-windshield shot.

I have never had a reaction to Poison Oak, but I take great care to avoid direct contact.

One morning a drove down to Fern Ridge Wildlife Area in Lane County. There wasn’t as much shorebird habitat as I had hoped for, but the Black-necked Stilts were well represented. Here is a juvenile Black-necked Stilt passing in front of a Killdeer. The juveniles are recognized by their scaly backs and dull legs.

Like most birds, they bring their leg over their wing when they need to scratch their head.

Here’s a lovely adult Black-necked Stilt, with solid black upperparts and bright pink legs.

Black-necked Stilts are fairly common breeders east of the Cascades, but harder to find on the west side. Fern Ridge, at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, is a consistent breeding site for this species. Southbound shorebird migration is starting to rev up.

Happy Summer

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.

Malheur NWR

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most popular birding destinations in Oregon, not just for the abundant expected species, but also for the eastern vagrants that turn up there every year. Our Birdathon team from the Audubon Society of Portland visited the area June 7-9.


The trees and shrubs around the refuge headquarters are very attractive to birds.


Pine Siskins


Yellow-headed Blackbird


Western Tanagers were abundant in the trees and in the sagebrush.


The lawn at headquarters hosts a large colony of Merriam’s Ground Squirrels.


The view from Buena Vista, with Steens Mountain in the background


In warmer weather, this part of the state is great for herps, like this Western Fence Lizard.


Eastern Kingbird


Black-necked Stilt


Common Nighthawk


Northern Flicker, nesting in the town of Frenchglen, near the southern end of the refuge