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

Sauvie Island

I made a couple of trips out to Sauvie Island for my Little Brown Birds class. The weather was freakishly nice for late March, although the mild winter has not been conducive to large sparrow flocks.

quail (3)One highlight of the trip on Saturday was a large flock of California Quail. This species has become more difficult to find in recent years.
quail pair Wapato Access Greenway State Park is a great place for herps on Sauvie Island.
garter 2This is a large Common Garter Snake. The subspecies found in this area is Red-spotted Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis concinnus)
garter 1

pacific chorus frogPacific Chorus Frogs (also known as Pacific Tree Frogs) were common in the grassy areas. Their call is surprisingly loud for such a small frog.

Sauvie Island in Summer

Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p.55) is best known for wintering waterfowl and raptors. While the summer birding seems quiet compared to the multiple thousands of geese and Sandhill Cranes seen on winter visits,  there is always something to see.

osprey nest
Ospreys nest on platforms provided for them, as well as on utility poles and dead trees.

ca quail
This California Quail was surveying his domain from a fence.

bh grosbeak 3
It seemed odd to see this Black-headed Grosbeak feeding in weeds along the roadside, a considerable distance from the nearest tree.

Sauvie Island

I did a point count at Oak Island on Sauvie Island today, then birded several other areas. Migration is starting to pick up with large numbers of Purple Martins and several warblers and shorebirds on the move. I also saw four Sanhill Cranes, which seemed a bit early.


Western Wood-Pewees are everywhere, and still very vocal.


This California Quail spent some time on top of a corral fence, before disappearing into the blackberry brambles.


Here is a very distant shot of two Red-necked Phalaropes in front of a Cinnamon Teal. Notice the big blue patch on the extended wing of the teal.


A Brush Rabbit, not a bird, nor uncommon, but still cute.


Pacific Treefrog. It is amazing how such a tiny animal (about 1 inch from snout to vent) can have such a loud call.

What a difference a day makes

Last Friday I went to Sauvie Island to scout out locations for my class field trip on Saturday. The birding was great, not only for sparrows (which was the topic of the class) but for other birds as well. Along Rentenaar Road I found large flocks of White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, several Lincoln’s Sparrows and a Fox Sparrow. More unusual were three Common Ravens, a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk, and a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers flying over the farm fields. California Quail were calling from the blackberry thickets along the road.

The following morning, with my class in tow, I walked the same stretch of road. The White-crowned flock was much smaller. We saw only one distant Lincoln’s. The ravens, Rough-legged, and Pileateds were nowhere to be seen, and the California Quail called from way back in the fields. But we did find a White-throated Sparrow, a Peregrine Falcon, and a Red-breasted Sapsucker, which I hadn’t seen the day before.

This brings up an obvious, but often forgotten tenet of birding: Those who find the greatest diversity of species and the most rarities are those that spend the most time in the field. If it seems like other birders are finding a lot more birds than you are, take a look at how often you actually go birding. Successful birding is not entirely dependent on skill and experience. Sometimes it is just a matter of getting out to where the birds are.

ca-quail.jpg
California Quail