The weather has gone from winter rain to spring rain, still rather gloomy but definitely more pleasant overall. Spring migration is slowly picking up with new species gradually accumulating in my 5-Mile Radius.
Most of the new sites that I have explored in my 5MR have been very underwhelming, but I was recently introduced to Cedar Mill Wetlands in Beaverton. This little site has produced 45 species in two short visits, as well as this encounter with a Coyote.
Sharp-shinned Hawk at Cedar Mill Wetlands
Great Egret, sporting their nuptial plumes
The little wetland associated with Commonwealth Lake Park continues to be a favorite site with local birders. The flock of Wilson’s Snipes has thinned out a bit.
This Greater Yellowlegs was a nice surprise at Commonwealth. Hopefully the habitat will attract other shorebirds as the spring progresses.
Commonwealth is the only reliable spot in my 5MR for House Sparrow.
Bufflehead, Commonwealth Lake
Koll Center Wetlands in Beaverton is not the most pleasant place to bird. You are basically peering into the wetlands from various parking lots. But there are a few species here that are hard to find elsewhere. This Black-crowned Night-Heron was barely visible through the brush.
A small flock of Band-tailed Pigeons is reliable at Koll.
Yellow-rumped Warblers have been common all year at Koll, but some are just now molting into breeding plumage.
I have only birded outside my 5MR twice so far this year, both times while teaching Little Brown Bird Classes. This Rufous Hummingbird was at Jackson Bottom Wetlands in Hillsboro. I have yet to find this species in my 5MR, but it is one of many that I expect to see in the coming weeks.
I led my waterfowl class on a field trip to Sauvie Island and Dawson Creek. We had a few big misses (Gadwall and Wood Duck) but the diversity was pretty good.
At Wapato Access Greenway we found some Dusky Canada Geese along with the American Wigeons and Northern Pintails.
This Coyote was munching on a vole.
Tundra Swan was one of the most common species of the day.
This Lincoln’s Sparrow was very cooperative, posing out in the open for great scope views. But even then he blended in amazingly well with his surroundings.
You don’t get to see American Coots in flight very often, as they tend to walk or swim wherever they go. They have even been reported to migrate on foot.
Canvasback, looking very regal
Same bird, looking not quite so regal
American Wigeon pair, Dawson Creek
Bufflehead, preparing to dive
Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose
We are in that late winter season when birding seems to slow. I don’t know whether there are actually fewer birds around this time of year or we have just already seen the local winter residents so they don’t hold our attention. In any case, the best birding is usually found in and around wetlands. Here are some recent shots from area wetlands from the past couple of weeks.
Great Blue Herons are always around, and have started hanging out in their nesting colonies.
This Dusky Canada Goose was enjoying the sunshine at Ankeny NWR.
Coyote, Vanport Wetlands
Another Coyote, at Ankeny NWR
This Nutia at Fernhill Wetlands seemed unconcerned with the group of birders walking by.
Here is a Red-winged Blackbird sharing a nyjer feeder with a Lesser Goldfinch at Jackson Bottom. I don’t recall seeing blackbirds eating nyjer before.
Spotted Towhee, Jackson Bottom
I made two trips to the coast for my shorebird class last week. Migration is picking up, and the sun is actually making occasional appearances.
Three Arch Rocks, viewed from Cape Meares (Birding Oregon p. 129) This is the site of large seabird nesting colonies, but the rocks are too far out to see much. The small rock on the far left is a favorite haul out site for Steller’s Sea Lions, which you can see with a decent scope.
Two Coyotes were hunting in a meadow along Tillamook Bay. There is no shoulder along much of Bayocean Road, so I had to make a brief stop in the middle of the road to snap a couple of photos. I was struck by how dark these animals were, compared to Coyotes I see inland.
Keeping an eye on me. Coyotes are right to be nervous whenever a vehicle slows down nearby. Luckily, this human was only pointing a camera.
Black Oystercatcher on Barview Jetty (Birding Oregon p. 125) This jetty was recently rebuilt. As a result, the surface is smooth and easy to walk on, allowing you to go out much farther than before. But please don’t get the impression that it is EVER safe to walk out on a jetty. Even though you don’t have to hop from rock to rock, sneaker waves can still knock you onto the rocks or into the ocean. The jetty might have to age a bit before it attracts as many birds as before, since newer rocks don’t have as much sea life encrusted onto them.
Black Turnstones and Surfbirds at The Cove in Seaside (Birding Oregon p. 121) These birds put on a great show for my shorebird class.
A recent trip around the Auto Tour Route at Ridgefield NWR in Washington provided a great opportunity to watch a Coyote hunting in a meadow. Ridgefield is one of those few places where Coyotes can go about their business without having to worry about idiots with rifles.
Here we can see the rufous ears, a key field mark for this species. The prey of the day was small rodents, I assume some species of vole, and hunting was good. The technique is illustrated in the four images below.
4. Enjoy. Bon appetit!
Located on the east side of Portland, Powell Butte Nature Park (Birding Oregon p. 66) offers a variety of birds and some nice views of the nearby mountains.
The butte is tall enough to produce its own rain shadow, so the western slope is forested with a dense understory.
The top of the butte is drier and dominated by grassland and small scattered trees. Mount Hood looms in the distance.
Fox Sparrows are among the birds found in the brushy patches.
The open habitat is very attractive to raptors, like this American Kestrel. Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks are also frequently seen.
I love to see these guys. Urban and suburban Coyotes are a songbird’s best friend. Studies have repeatedly shown that the presence of Coyotes coincides with larger populations of songbirds, since Coyotes reduce the number of free-roaming domestic cats. For more information on the effects of domestic cats on wildlife, check out the American Bird Conservancy site.
Some lovely weather at last. I walked along Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island today. Many of the geese have moved on, but there were still a few good flocks of Cackling Geese and Sandhill Cranes.
A pair of Ospreys are working on a nest. There is a platform built for them just a few yards from this spot, but these birds prefer to build on the power lines.
This individual was eating a fish while the other tended the nest.
Two Coyotes were sniffing around in a pasture. I never get tired of watching these guys.