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 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.
Barn Swallows (pictured here) and Cliff Swallows build nests almost entirely out of mud. Historically, these structures were built on cliffs or near the mouth of caves, but are now most often found on man-made structures.
The disadvantage of building nests in buildings is that sometimes the mud does not stick well to the smooth wood. Sometimes people remove the nests in an attempt to prevent a build-up of droppings. At this location, someone decided to give the birds a hand.
A cardboard berry carton was tied to a rafter, and the Barn Swallow has used it as a foundation for her nest. You can see the mud, plant fibers, and feathers sticking out over the top of the carton. Notice how the rafter is nearly covered with mud from previous nests or nesting attempts.
Here is a beautifully formed Cliff Swallow nest. The overhanging metal serves as the top of the structure, reducing the amount of mud needed. Notice how the mud at the bottom of the nest is a different color and includes plant fibers, suggesting that this nest was built on the foundation of an old Barn Swallow nest.
Marsha and I visited the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in the Painted Hills (Birding Oregon p. 34). This site offers a great combination of beautiful scenery, a museum with excellent fossil specimens, and, of course, a few birds of the sage steppe and rimrock habitats.
This skull replica graces the courtyard in front of the museum. Just above, several Cliff Swallows were building their mud nests.
The sage around the center held several Western Meadowlarks and Western Kingbirds
A pair of Say’s Phoebes had a nest in a shed by the monument headquarters, just down the road from the museum.
These birds would perch on a set of Mule Deer antlers mounted above the door before entering the shed to attend the nest. The fact that this bird is carrying food indicates that the eggs have hatched.