Here are some random birds from recent weeks. This Great Blue Heron was wading deep at Commonwealth Lake. The white face and yellow eye really popped, giving her a creepy look.
A Black-capped Chickadee was excavating a cavity in a dead tree at Commonwealth Lake. It is a little early for nesting, but birds will be pairing up soon.
This is a lousy photo, but it documents the Yellow-billed Loon that hung out at Hagg Lake for a few days in early January. Lifers are few and very far between for me, so it is great when one shows up relatively close to home.
This Black Turnstone was taking shelter from the high tides on the little lawn at the Seaside Cove.
Western Gull at the Seaside Cove
The marbled pattern on the bill and the bit of dark smudging on the tail suggests this is a third cycle Western Gull.
Varied Thrush at Summer Lake Park in Tigard
Black-crowned Night-Herons have been regular at Koll Center Wetlands for several years now. They used to be a little more accommodating, but lately they have remained in dense cover most of the time.
This Bushtit was hanging out in the back yard for quite a while. I hope the extreme puffiness of this bird was due to it being cold and was not an indication of illness.
I think February is the most challenging month to live in the Portland area, as it is typically wet and dreary. This past month had three times the normal rainfall, so the brief sun breaks were especially appreciated. A quick trip to Broughton Beach provided looks at a large flotilla of Great Scaup (with some Lessers mixed in).
This Great Blue Heron was staring at the ground at the airport, waiting for a vole or some other rodent to appear. The dark mud at the end of his bill suggest previous attempts at napping some land-based prey.
American Crow, calling from the top of the dike
A few Horned Grebes were on the Columbia River. They are just starting to show some color on their necks.
The first real harbinger of spring was this Say’s Phoebe. Several of these birds have been reported in the Portland area in recent weeks. It has been too cold for many insects to be out, so I imagine it has been tough for these flycatchers to find enough to eat. Hopefully March will be a little more pleasant for all of us.
I made a quick trek around Washington County’s two prominent wetlands. There was nothing unusual to report, but there is plenty of bird activity at these sites this time of year.
Green Heron, lurking
Great Blue Heron, not lurking
Juvenile California Gulls are very common lately.
I didn’t find many migrant shorebirds this trip, but the resident Spotted Sandpipers posed nicely.
Fifteen years ago, White Pelicans in the Portland area were a pretty big deal, but now they are expected in the larger wetlands in summer.
Belted Kingfishers like the perches that have been installed at Fernhill.
Osprey over the lake at Fernhill
Clouds of swallows are hanging out at Jackson Bottom. This Tree Swallow spent a long time just sitting in the opening of her nest box.
They have installed a water feature near the visitor center at Jackson Bottom. This soggy Black-capped Chickadee was enjoying a dip.
Lesser Goldfinch on the fountain
As nesting season wraps up and water levels drop, I can soon start obsessing on migrant shorebirds.
Not much going on bird-wise for me this past week. The shorebird cornucopia from the previous week has dried up, as have many of the region’s mudflats. But, as I frequently remind myself, there is always something to see.
This is a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds at Fernhill Wetlands during the Birds and Brew Festival on August 22. East winds had brought in smoke from the many wildfires burning in eastern Oregon and Washington. The sky and white and you couldn’t see any of the hills that surround this site.
Fernhill produced a nice crop of young Green Herons this year.
On a clearer day, Nala and I found this Osprey at Kelly Point Park along the Columbia River.
Great Blue Heron, also at Kelly Point.
Banded Killifish in the Columbia River. They are about an inch and a half long.
Obsessive Marine Mammal, Columbia River
We are two weeks into a nasty heat wave in the Portland area. Sunrise is the only time of day when you can bird in any comfort and hope to find any birds active and singing. So I got up early and did a bird survey at Fernhill, then made a quick stop at Jackson Bottom on the way home.
Some of the flowers have gone to seed, providing forage for both American (above) and Lesser (below) Goldfinches.
The refurbished wetlands at Fernhill have lots of tree trunks installed vertically to provide perches for birds like this Great Blue Heron.
This Downy Woodpecker was checking out some of the new plantings around the water garden at Fernhill.
a young Killdeer, at that awkward teenager stage
Spotted Sandpipers are the other shorebird that nests at Fernhill and Jackson.
Checking the sky for falcons
This Common Garter Snake was very thick in the middle. I assume she is gravid. Garters give birth starting in late July. Broods are typically around a dozen, but broods of over 80 young have been reported.
male Tree Swallow, being all sparkly
Nesting season is in full swing at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in northwest Portland. There is a small colony of Cliff Swallows nesting under the highway overpass.
Here is the tail end of a Cedar Waxwing sitting on a nest. This seems like an awfully large nest for such a small bird.
Several Cedar Waxwings were raiding nesting material from this Bushtit nest. I hope the Bushtits were done with it.
Cedar Waxwing with fruit
This Sparrow was carrying a mouthful of bugs, indicating that she had a nest of babies nearby.
Marsh Wrens were actively singing in several locations.
Great Blue Heron on Smith Lake
The warm sun brought the reptiles out in good numbers. Smith and Bybee is a stronghold for the threatened Western Painted Turtle.
Northwestern Garter Snakes were also enjoying the sun. Northwestern Garters are distinguished from Common Garters by their smaller head and gentler disposition.
Nala and I spent the morning at the Sandy River Delta east of Portland. Bird activity is definitely picking up, although many of the summer residents haven’t arrived yet.
White-crowned Sparrows were singing
as were Savannah Sparrows.
Rufous Hummingbirds were zipping around everywhere. All the birds I could get a look at were males.
scratching an itch
Here is a typical view of a Common Yellowthroat.
The recently reopened channel hosted a lot of birds, including this pair of Wood Ducks and a sleepy Mallard.
Spotted Sandpiper, not yet spotted
Great Blue Heron in a tree
Common Merganser, proving once again that I have no idea how to control the white balance on my camera.
Of course, Nala will tell you the main reason to visit this site is to go swimming. Here she is in the Sandy River, while the mastiff on shore waits to try to steal her ball.
Westmoreland Park, in southeast Portland, has long been the local go-to spot for wintering gulls and waterfowl. This cement-lined urban duck pond attracted a great variety of diving ducks, large flocks of Cackling and other geese, and at least 8 species of gulls. Last autumn, efforts began to create a more natural creek channel and wetland. Work is still being done, but the park has reopened, revealing a very different habitat.
The pond is gone, and the creek winds through the property along a huge new boardwalk. Low areas along the creek will flood in the wet season, creating standing water for waterfowl.
The creek runs clear, with nice patches of aquatic plants attractive to fish and crayfish.
There are a lot of fish in the creek. These were close enough to the surface to photograph.
This Great Blue Heron was enjoying the new digs.
We will have to wait to see what birds use this site in the winter. The park still has lots of lawn, lots of new picnic tables, and plenty of water, so I am optimistic that this will continue to be the go-to site for Thayer’s Gulls and Eurasian Wigeons in Portland.
I led a tour of Fernhill Wetlands for the Birds and Brew Festival. Since there were about 50 people in the group, including many who didn’t have optics, we concentrated on the “charismatic mega-fauna,” like these American White Pelicans.
A Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron were looking all artsy with their reflections.
This distant American Kestrel was showing off his colors.
After the group dispersed, I took another lap around the lake so I could check out the smaller birds. Along with five species of sparrow, there were lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers moving around.
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