Here are some non-waterfowl that I’ve seen in various wetlands recently.
I often struggle with photographing white birds, but this Great Egret came out OK.
Most of the shorebirds have moved on, but a few Least Sandpipers are still around.
The winter sparrow flocks are building up. This Golden-crowned Sparrow was still sporting their breeding plumage.
Golden-crowned Sparrow taking a bath
I remember when it was hard to find Lesser Goldfinches in the Portland area, but they usually outnumber American Goldfinches now.
Lesser Goldfinch taking a bath
Belted Kingfisher sharing a perch with a European Starling
Red-winged Blackbird striking a pose
The numbers of Nutria in the Willamette Valley have exploded in recent years. The are indeed non-native and invasive, but the babies are so cute.
I spent a foggy morning at Jackson Bottom Wetland Reserve. This Great Egret was blending in with the foggy background at Pintail Pond.
Belted Kingfishers are almost always distant subjects for my photos. They are quite skittish.
The Coyote Hill Trail is a nice loop around a weedy field that can be good for upland species, like this American Kestrel.
Northern Pintail was the most abundant species of waterfowl on this day.
The north end of the reserve hosted a flock of 20 Tundra Swans, always a nice find.
There weren’t any great rarities on this trip. But there were a lot of good birds and a nice four-mile hike without any rain – a great trip for December.
Racetrack Lake, located on Sauvie Island, sort of in between the end of Rentenaar Road and the east shore of Sturgeon Lake, has been quite good for shorebirds recently. Good shorebird habitat has been very hard to find in the Willamette Valley this summer, with conditions either too dry or too wet, so this patch of mud has been quite attractive to southbound migrants. Unfortunately, birds were pretty distant so they didn’t present great photo opportunities.
Long-billed Dowitchers were one of the more common shorebirds on this visit.
There were a few Short-billed Dowitchers mixed in, although the distance made identification challenging. Note the whitish belly, the spotted sides of the breast, and the tiger-striped tertials.
Semipalmated Plovers rank near the top of the most adorable shorebird category.
American White Pelicans were considered pretty rare in the Portland area not that long ago. Now you can expect 100 or more around Sauvie Island in the late summer.
Great Egrets are also very common this time of year.
Water levels continue to drop at Racetrack Lake, so there should be some decent mud for a while longer. Happy Summer.
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.
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.
On rare occasions, I cross the Columbia River to visit Washington. When the weather is less than stellar, the auto tour at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge offers a nice way to get close to wildlife without getting too wet.
A lot of Tundra Swans are wintering at Ridgefield this year. There are Trumpeter Swans, too, but I did not get any close looks at them.
Tundra Swan bathing
Northern Harriers are common throughout the refuge. This one was having a good stretch.
A family of Nutria put on a nice show. Invasive, but adorable.
Columbian White-tailed Deer, a threatened subspecies, have been introduced to the refuge in recent years. This fawn was born last spring, so at least some of the deer are making themselves at home. Unfortunately, I believe many of the Coyotes that used to be so visible on the refuge have been “removed” to make conditions safer for the rare deer.
This lone Snow Goose was hanging out with the numerous Canada and Cackling Geese.
Sandhill Cranes were feeding in the grassy fields.
The last time I visited Ridgefield was during my mom’s final visit to Portland. Her mobility was not great, so the auto tour provided a great way for us to get out to do some birding together. During that visit, the highlight was a cooperative American Bittern. I didn’t find any Bitterns on this trip, but this Great Egret did his best to fill the void.
Now that the snow has melted, the weather has turned to freezing temps and a howling east wind. Bleah. Despite the lousy conditions, I bundled up and took a walk around Commonwealth Lake. The park was hosting a large flock of Cackling Geese and a similar sized flock of American Wigeon. Other species were present in much smaller numbers.
This Great Egret was getting a lot of attention from the dog walkers and joggers in the park, with people stopping to take cell phone photos. I try not to be a birding snob, realizing that the big flashy species are what get people’s attention. Great Egrets are gorgeous birds, and always worth a look. But most of these folks were oblivious to the smaller creatures flitting around this bird’s feet…
like this guy. This Green Heron was fluffed up against the cold and was staying in the thick brush along the water’s edge.
Duck Butts! A pair of Gadwall were doing the dabbling thing.
After a successful nesting season at this site, Pied-billed Grebes are still present in good numbers.
This Ring-billed Gull was struggling to remain perched on a post in the high winds. Note the red orbital ring and gape, suggesting that breeding season may not be all that far off. If we can just get through February…
Fernhill Wetlands is the place to be in autumn. Even after the extensive wetland renovations that have taken place, resulting in less open water, the Cackling Geese still congregate here by the thousands.
This Great Egret was catching the sunshine on the top of a tree.
Northern Pintail. I don’t often see them hanging out on dry ground.
Killdeer and Green-winged Teal
Greater White-fronted Geese migrate over the Willamette Valley in large numbers, but not many touch down, so it is always nice to see some on the ground.
Fernhill Lake is about half of its original size, but it is still big enough to attract divers, like this Horned Grebe.
male American Kestrel
Waterfowl diversity continues to increase, and winter sparrow flocks should pick us soon. I’m looking forward to watching the show, assuming the Bundys don’t move in.
I scouted Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro for my shorebird class this week. Much of the area is dry, but Pintail Pond still has enough water to create mudflats and easy fishing for the Great Egrets.
One Ring-billed Gull was hanging out with several California Gulls.
This Northern Harrier repeatedly strafed the mudflats, sending all the shorebirds into a panic. Jerk.
Most of the shorebirds were beyond decent photo range, but this Spotted Sandpiper came fairly close.
The Common Garter Snakes at this site have great coloring. We saw several chasing fish in the shallow water.
This young Downy Woodpecker was checking out a swallow house. He didn’t go in, but explored all around the outside.
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.
Nala, the large aquatic mammal.