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.
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.
I spent a little time watching an active Bullock’s Oriole nest at Fernhill Wetlands. Notice how the birds have incorporated strands from a blue plastic tarp into the nest. Using plastic debris in nest construction is not unusual. In Kansas I saw a Baltimore Oriole nest made entirely from fishing line. The plastic makes a sturdy nest, but the material can be deadly if a bird gets a foot entangled in it. These orioles, including the baby shown here, seem to be doing alright.
Here is the female feeding the babies. She was not very photogenic.
Here’s Dad, feeding the babies from above.
After feeding the kids, the male stopped to pose in all his orangey deliciousness. Summer is the time to slow down and study the local nesting species. Checklists can be pretty short this time of year, but the slower pace gives you a chance to really get to know the locals.
I went out to Smith and Bybee Wetlands and Vanport Wetlands to check for migrants. The Smith and Bybee area was pretty slow. Water levels were high so some of the trails were inaccessible. Vanport had some really interesting birds, including several Redheads and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, both hard to find in the Portland area.
The small colony of Cliff Swallows at Smith and Bybee was active with nest building.
This House Sparrow had moved into an old Cliff Swallow nest.
American Bullfrogs were enjoying the spring weather.
Brush Rabbit scratching an itch
At Vanport, most birds were pretty far away, like this Yellow-headed Blackbird. His song was easily heard, even from across the lake.
This Ruddy Duck was doing his motorboat impression to impress the ladies.
This Cooper’s Hawk was atop a tall tree overlooking the racetrack. The loud engines did not seem to bother him. I can’t say the same for me.
A few birds, like this Cedar Waxwing, were down in the small trees along the near shore of the lake.
Bullock’s Orioles are often obscured by foliage in the treetops. This individual was low enough for a brief glimpse among the blossoms.
Migration is winding down and the summer residents are back in force at the Sandy River Delta. Specialty species such as Eastern Kingbird and Yellow-breasted Chat put in appearances, but were not photogenic.
Lazuli Buntings can be found singing from virtually every blackberry thicket.
This male Brown-headed Cowbird was wooing a female. Cowbirds don’t really form pairs. The males display, sometimes in groups, to attract a female. After mating, the two go their separate ways. Since the female deposits her eggs in the nests of other species, there is no need for the male to stick around to help.
I never tire of seeing Bullock’s Orioles, especially when they pose in the open sunshine.
River levels are still very high, so some of the trails at the north end of the site are flooded. Nala, the all-weather, all-terrain, all-the-time puppy, does not mind at all.
This male Bullock’s Oriole was bringing a caterpillar to his nestlings on the Oak Island Unit of Sauvie Island. This is one of the more reliable spots to find this species in the Portland area. That hanging nest is a fantastic piece of architecture.