Fernhill Wetlands

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Spring migration hasn’t really kicked in, yet, but the birds that are here are getting more active. Here are some recent images from Fernhill Wetlands. This Brewer’s Blackbird was looking good in the sunshine.

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Black Phoebes are now expected at Fernhill Wetlands. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I found Washington County’s first Black Phoebe there.

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This was my first Rufous Hummingbird of the year. He refused to perch in decent light.

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A large flock of Taverner’s Cackling Geese were hanging out on Fernhill Lake. The Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese were either off feeding somewhere or have moved on.

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Brush Rabbit, always adorable

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California Ground Squirrel, soaking up the sun

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Spotted Towhee

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Downy Woodpecker

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Bright sunlight makes it hard for me to get a decent of photo of an American Coot, but this bird’s yoga pose was too good not to share.

Happy Spring!

Jackson Bottom

Despite air temperatures in the 40s, the sunshine brought out some signs of spring on a recent visit to Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro.

tree swallowTree Swallows are usually the first swallow species to arrive in spring. When the weather is still cold, they hunt for insects close to the water’s surface.

tree swallo perchedSome Tree Swallows were already laying claim to the many nest boxes at this site.

ca ground squirrel smallThis California Ground Squirrel was singing (screaming) from a log perch.

Northwestern Garters instaThe sunshine brought out a good number of snakes, despite the cold temperature. These are Northwestern Garters.

Common Garter instaThis is a typical Common (Red-spotted) Garter.

pale Common Garter left instaThis Common Garter is lacking the red pigment shown by most members of this subspecies.

Long-toed SalamanderThis Long-toed Salamander was hanging out under a big piece of bark.

Happy last days of winter.

Random Non-birds

Here are a few images of various animals I have seen lately. When the birds refuse to pose for photos, it is nice to find other creatures that are more cooperative. As I have said, there is always something to see.

brush rabbit smallBrush Rabbit, Fernhill Wetlands

bullfrog smallBullfrog female smallThe top image shows a massive male American Bullfrog found at Dober Reservoir. Note the injury around his right eye. The bottom image is of a newly emerged female. At this stage, she was about the size of the males head, but females typically grow larger than males of this species.

butterfly smallOrange Sulphur, found at Jackson Bottom. Unfortunately, this species perches with their wings closed, so you can’t see the vibrant colors on the top.

Mylitta Crescent smallThis Mylitta Crescent at Fernhill Wetlands was much more cooperative.

striped meadowhawk smallI don’t know the dragonflies, but I am told this individual from Fernhill Wetlands is a Striped Meadowhawk.

ground squirrel smallCalifornia Ground Squirrels, one of my favorite rodents, have become more common at Fernhill Wetlands since the reconstruction a few years ago.

Black-tailed Deer and fawnThis Black-tailed Deer and her fawn were enjoying the lush vegetation at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.
Black-tailed fawn

Back to birds next time.

Happy Autumn

Spring at Fernhill

t swallowA quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands showed bird activity picking up, with the appearance of newly arrived migrants and nest building by the local breeders. This Tree Swallow was staking out a cavity.

geeseThere are still some Cackling Geese around, although they should be heading north any day now. Here is a nice side-by-side view of a Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose and a Taverner’s Cackling Goose.

brewersThe male Brewer’s Blackbird was showing his colors in the bright sunlight. I caught him in the middle of a blink, so his eye looks weird.

wilson's snipeWilson’s Snipe

quailCalifornia Quail have become slightly more common at Fernhill in recent years.

carpThe Common Carp are spawning in Fernhill Lake.

MuskratI was pleased to find this Muskrat. The non-native Nutria have become so common at this site I worry they might crowd out the native Muskrats and Beavers.

ca ground squirrelCalifornia Ground Squirrels have been taking advantage of the large rocks used in the landscaping at this site.

rabbitThis Brush Rabbit was looking very regal in his thicket.

Happy Spring

Late Winter Ramblings

towhee

Birding has been rather slow lately, as many of the winter residents have moved on and the spring migrants haven’t arrived yet. The local nesters, like this Spotted Towhee are becoming more active and vocal.

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A remnant of last autumn’s rut, this “buck rub,” where the local Black-tailed Deer used these small trees to polish their antlers, is in Cooper Mountain Nature Park.

skink

Also at Cooper Mountain was this Western Skink basking in the sun. This was a lifer herp for me.

Here’s another Western Skink that emerged from a burrow in a rocky hillside.

ca ground
Also enjoying the morning sunshine was this California Ground Squirrel at Fernhill Wetlands.

IMG_5030-SharpenAI-sharpen
Long-toed Salamanders are the only species of salamander I have seen so far this year, but they are everywhere.

pacific treefrog
This Pacific Treefrog was hiding under a small board. It might be from the bright sunlight, but this frog’s golden eyes were intriguing.

Warmer weather is coming soon, so I am anxious to see what creatures arrive with it.

Happy Spring

Fernhill Wetlands

Summer is settling in at Fernhill Wetlands. The birds that are here now are probably nesting. Always a treat this far west is this handsome Blue-winged Teal. I hope he has a mate sitting on eggs somewhere.

Just as lovely, and more expected here, is this Cinnamon Teal. A friend refers to them as “spicy.”

All the migrant shorebirds are gone, so we can stop to enjoy the resident Killdeer.

I have been spending more time around the back side of Dabblers Marsh at Fernhill. The wooded habitat attracts more songbirds, like this Cedar Waxwing.

Purple Martins have reclaimed their nest boxes by the lake.

This Great Egret was hanging out close to the main trail. They are often farther out in the marsh.

I have seen California Ground Squirrels here in the past, but this is the first I have seen since the major renovations. I am glad to see this species is still using the site.

This Long-toed Salamander was my only herp of the day. If you look at the back feet, you can see the extra long fourth toe that gives this species its name.

Happy Spring/Summer

Birds vs. Birding

We spent close to a week in northern Wasco County, OR, to get our dogs away from the barrage of illegal fireworks that plague the Portland area every July. While the property where we stayed provided some nice hiking opportunities, there is little public land in the northern part of Wasco County. I drove a few country roads looking for birds, but there were no public areas to really explore on foot. We were too ambitious with our hiking the first couple of days and ended up pushing Nala (who turns 10 next month) too far. She couldn’t walk on her own for two days, so we didn’t get out at all on those days.

Looking back on the trip, I got a total of one bird photo for the week, and never really got good views of any birds. It is tempting to say that the birding was bad, but thinking back, I really did see a lot of birds. Most were flybys, or birds seen without optics, but the diversity was actually pretty good. There were Ash-throated Flycatchers, Western Kingbirds, and Say’s Phoebes. Western Bluebirds, Western Meadowlarks, and Lewis’s Woodpeckers were common. The hummingbird feeder at the house where we stayed was visited by Rufous and Black-chinned Hummingbirds. A Wild Turkey crossed the road in front of me one morning. There were a lot of birds that I don’t get to see in the Portland area. Granted, views were often fleeting, but one of the advantages of being an experienced birder is the ability to recognize many species with less-than-stellar views. So given the fact that I didn’t actually do a lot of birding, the birding wasn’t too bad after all. We are always birding. Sometimes the views and species diversity are better than others, but there is always something to see.

Horned Lark, perched on a barbed wire fence, the only bird photo from the week

California Ground Squirrels were EVERYWHERE.

Not quite as common as the ground squirrels, Black-tailed Deer were seen on every outing.

These two fawns were “hiding” in the tall grass.

Here Bodhi contemplates his first cow. Nala cares not for such beasts.

Looking west toward Mt. Hood

In a pasture of mostly browns and pale olives, a few Blanket Flowers provided some intense color.

Happy Summer

North Coast

sceneI made two trips to the coast this week, once to scout for my Portland Audubon shorebird class, and again for the class itself. It is amazing how much difference a couple of days can make in the make-up of bird life in a given area. On Thursday, I found a total of 11 shorebirds of two species. During the class we found hundreds of individuals of 10 species. I am so glad it was not the other way around. This is the view from the Necanicum River Estuary, looking south. The tiny bump in the middle is Haystack Rock, about 12 miles away.

whimbrel leftWhimbrel, Necanicum Estuary
whimbrel right
caspian ternCaspian Terns are common and very vocal all along the coast.

elkElk, Necanicum Estuary

semipalmated ploverThis Semipalmated Plover was the only shorebird at the tidal ponds at Fort Stevens.

raccoonRaccoon, on the mudflats near Parking Lot D, Fort Stevens (with a Caspian Tern and a California Gull)

ruddy turnstoneThis is one of two Ruddy Turnstones we found with a flock of Black Turnstones at the Seaside Cove.

white-crowned sparrowWhite-crowned Sparrow, Necanicum Estuary

california ground squirrelCalifornia Ground Squirrel, Hammond Boat Basin

faded gullHere is a good example of why this time of year may not be the best for learning gull ID. The plumage on this gull is bleached out and very worn. Judging from the size, shape, and pink legs on this bird (next to a normal non-breeding California Gull) I’m guessing this is a Glaucous-winged Gull, perhaps in his second cycle. I hope he grows some new feathers soon, or it will be a very cold autumn and winter.

Weekend at the Coast

I led trips for the Birding and Blues Festival in Pacific City, OR, last weekend. The weather was cool with scattered showers, so photo ops were not abundant.

california ground squirrelThe Three Capes Tour on Friday was actually very good for mammals, with charismatic mega-fauna such as Gray Whale, Steller’s Sea Lion and Roosevelt Elk. Only slightly less charismatic was this California Ground Squirrel.

peregrine falconThis Peregrine Falcon posed nicely on the cliff at Cape Meares. The rich colors of the rocks and plants, compared the overexposed image of the falcon show that I have obviously still not mastered my new camera.

eurasian collared doveThere is a large flock of Eurasian Collared Doves in Pacific City. Ten years ago, this species would have been a huge deal, but they are very well established now. Despite their abundance, this flock was very shy.

aleutian cackling geeseThe avian stars of Pacific City are these Aleutian Cackling Geese. This particular population breeds on the Semidi Islands and winters at Pacific City, spending the nights on Haystack Rock offshore and days in this cow pasture at the north end of town.

California Ground Squirrel

Ranging throughout the western third of Oregon, California Ground Squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) are much larger and bushier-tailed than other ground squirrels. They are found in open grasslands (including large lawns) and on rocky outcrops. Unlike other ground squirrels, they will also climb trees to obtain food.  A colloquial name for this  species is Gray Digger.


This individual was on Barview Jetty on the north shore of Tillamook Bay (Birding Oregon p.125). Rocky coastlines are an unusual habitat for ground squirrels.  Note the white dapples on the back.


This individual also shows the white speckles on the back. Note the bushy tail edged in white, similar to that of a Eastern Gray Squirrel.


This female with her two young had a burrow at the base of a large tree at the Portland Rose Garden. Notice that when the fur is ruffed up, as on this individual, the white spots are much harder to see, making it harder to differentiate this species from one of the tree squirrels. California Grounds Squirrels can be solitary or live in loose colonies. When living in a colony, each individual has their own private burrow entrance.


Here is the same female eating a leaf. California Ground Squirrels eat a wide variety of plant matter to build fat reserves for their winter  hibernation.