In mid to late summer, when conditions are very hot and dry in Oregon, most of the wildlife activity is found near wetlands, at least until they dry up as well. Here are a few images from various wetlands in the Portland area this summer.
While spring migration has wound down, there is still a lot of bird activity at Fernhill Wetlands. This Anna’s Hummingbird was stretching his wings.
These dapper male Ruddy Ducks were staying in the middle of the main lake, so no good photo for me.
Cinnamon Teal taking a morning nap
Purple Martins are nesting here again.
This Tundra Swan is missing part of her left wing, so is unable to migrate. She has been reported at this site since last year, so she is apparently doing alright despite her injury.
Lesser Goldfinch in a chain link fence. A lot of people don’t like photos of wildlife on man-made structures. But given the extent that humans have altered the world (Fernhill Wetlands is a man-made wetland.), a lot of species have no choice but to live among human infrastructure. While we can argue about the aesthetics, this is actually “natural” for a lot of animals.
The rainy season has been slow to arrive this year, so we have had strings of sunny autumn days. While the dry conditions are preventing many of the seasonal wetlands from filling, the clear skies do make for some pleasant birding. Here are a few shots from Fernhill Wetlands.
This Mourning Dove was blending in nicely with the gravel on one of the wastewater filtering beds.
The Killdeer’s pattern provides good camouflage on a rocky background, but doesn’t do as well in dead grass.
The Green-winged Teal are starting to get some nice color.
The Cackling Geese are back in good numbers. There is currently an outbreak of aspergillus, a fungal infection that causes respiratory distress and pneumonia, that has killed dozens of birds at this site.
Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose
American Coot in the sunshine
The only gulls on this visit were these three Bonaparte’s Gulls, swimming with a Northern Pintail and a Green-winged Teal.
Most of the migrant shorebirds are long gone, but there are still some Long-billed Dowitchers around. Note the pattern on the tail showing wider black bars and narrow white bars. This pattern would be reversed on a Short-billed Dowitcher.
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.
With the ongoing renovations taking place at Fernhill Wetlands, each visit throughout the year is a new experience. Most of the breeding species have done their thing, and the resident waterfowl have molted into ugly duck season. Water levels are still a little too high to provide shorebird habitat, but that should change soon enough.
Afternoon temperatures have been getting quite warm, so the brush rabbits come out early in the morning to enjoy the cool. The backlighting on this guy highlights the blood vessels in his ears.
Purple Martins are a new addition to Fernhill this year. A new nesting box installed beside the main lake has attracted at least one pair. If you build it, they will come.
These Cinnamon Teal were plowing through a thick mat of algae. Note the very large bills on these ducks, which help identify them in their summer plumage.
This hatch-year Hooded Merganser was hanging out in the middle of the lake. The unusual habitat choice and the unfamiliar juvenile plumage caused many birders, myself included, to initially call this a bird a Red-breasted Merganser. While a Red-breasted had been documented at this site in May, closer inspection of this bird reveals the solid head shape and the slightly smaller bill of a Hooded. Another reminder to actually look at every bird and don’t rely on others to identify them for you.
Turkey Vulture, experiencing some wing molt
This Red-winged Blackbird was one of a large flock feeding in the cattails.
Some of the local breeders are working on a second clutch. These young Barn Swallows are waiting for someone to come feed them. Soon the power lines will be crowded with young swallows preparing for their first migration.
While we continue to get above-average rainfall in the Portland area, there have been a few dry days of late, so I ran out for a quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands. Most of the wintering geese are gone, and there are signs that spring is slowly making progress.
Yellow-rumped Warblers, both Audubon’s and Myrtle (shown) races, are coming through in large numbers.
Red-winged Blackbirds are in full song and are staking out territories.
Song Sparrows start singing in January, but are increasingly vocal now.
Several pairs of Cinnamon Teal were courting.
A flock of Dunlins was using this log to get out of the mud for a while. They were all still in winter plumage. Dunlins are one of the first species to arrive in spring. Spring shorebird migration peaks in late April/early May. There is still room in my shorebird class with Portland Audubon April 27/29.
This Sora was being typically elusive.
The red currants were is full bloom, attracting both Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds.
I don’t get up to Ridgefield NWR in Washington very often, even though it is a short drive from Portland. But lots of folks had recently seen adorable fuzzy little Virginia Rail babies, so I wanted to try my luck.
By the time I got there, the adorable fuzzy little babies had become rather unattractive adolescents, but it was still fun to see this usually shy species out in the open.
Another adolescent foraging near the rails was this little Nutria. The refuge staff tries to control the population of this introduced species, but they remain plentiful.
Black-tailed Deer, perfectly hidden among the teasel
There is not a lot of water on the refuge right now, so the Great Egrets were gathered on one of the remaining ponds.
We are entering Ugly Duck Season, when adult ducks molt into identical ratty plumages, making them much harder to identify. I am going with Cinnamon Teal on this mama and babies (all-black bill, overall warm brown coloring).
On the way home we stopped at Kelly Point Park along the Columbia River in NW Portland. California Gulls were gathered on the pilings.
This young American Crow (note the pinkish gape) was begging for food.
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is still a fairly new addition to the Willamette Valley refuge complex, but it offers a nice variety of habitats very close to Portland. I don’t know if the resident Bald Eagles had a successful nesting this year, but this individual was hanging out by the nest during my recent visit.
Cinnamon Teal were conspicuous, but Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal were also present.
Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers are both common nesters on the refuge.
The air above the wetlands is filled with various species of swallows. This Northern Rough-winged Swallow was the only one that sat for a distant photo.
This Willow Flycatcher was giving his distinctive “FITZ-bew” call.
Western Wood-Pewees were calling from the edges of the woods.
The grassy areas are home to Savannah Sparrows.
This White-crowned Sparrow was singing from the roof of the refuge office.
While spring migration has not really ramped up yet, locally nesting birds at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottoms are starting to pair up, and the winter flocks are breaking up.
A few Least Sandpipers have arrived at Fernhill.
These Killdeer were vying for position. I think this species would be more highly regarded if their voices weren’t so grating. Their plumage and red eye ring are rather stunning, but they just don’t shut up.
I found a pair of Bushtits weaving a nest. The normally gray birds were stained bright yellow with pollen.
Cinnamon Teal, looking all dapper
This Golden-crowned Sparrow had odd white patches on the cheeks, and a few white feathers on the nape.
Tree Swallows are everywhere, pairing up and claiming nest boxes.
Song Sparrow, not unusual, but unusually cooperative
Red-winged Blackbird. Females and immature males have much more interesting plumage than that of the adult males.
I made a quick visit to Tualatin River NWR in the afternoon heat. One of the main trails is closed off until this young Bald Eagle decides to leave the nest. Despite the flock of European Starlings cheering him on, he didn’t show any sign of leaving.
I saw several pairs of Gadwall, but no ducklings yet. This male was putting on a show for his lady friend.
Mallards have been out with broods for weeks now. Cinnamon Teal siesta
Pied-billed Grebe showing off his black throat
I often find Spotted Sandpipers perched on man-made structures.
Despite the time of day, American Bullfrogs were actively singing and defending territories. This introduced species is so common in the Willamette Valley. I would think they would be a favored prey item (Great Blue Heron, Mink, River Otter, etc.) but I seldom find any evidence of predation. Bullfrogs are unfortunately very good at preying on native frogs and turtles.