I made a quick visit to Jackson Bottom in Hillsboro. This is a very busy spot in the summer. The Savannah Sparrows are still in full song.
Pintail Pond has been drained to accommodate some restoration work on the site, so it has dried out about two months earlier than normal. This is normally one of the better shorebird sites in the Portland area during the summer, so we will have to find other spot this year. There is only about three weeks between the end of northbound shorebird migration and the beginning of southbound migration. Western and Least Sandpipers have arrived in good numbers, and were feeding in the little puddle that remains of Pintail Pond.
Western (l) and Least (r) Sandpipers
Spotted Sandpipers are common nesters in the area.
Spotted Sandpiper chick
Four Greater Yellowlegs made a brief appearance.
Tree Swallows are everywhere at Jackson Bottom, thanks in part to the many nesting boxes that have been installed here.
The first broods are grown up now, and it looks like second broods will be arriving shortly.
I went to Sauvie Island to scout areas for my Little Brown Birds class next week. The huge flocks of waterfowl that spend the winter there have dwindled, but there are still a lot of birds around. This White-crowned Sparrow was enjoying a dust bath on the first dry sunny day we have had in a long time.
Golden-crowned Sparrows are still the most common species in the sparrow patches.
Song Sparrows are not as numerous, but are very vocal right now.
Raptors are still thick out at Sauvie. This Cooper’s Hawk did not make it any easier to find sparrows.
One of many Bald Eagles seen that day.
Red-tailed Hawk, scoping out the surrounding fields for rodents
A distant Greater Yellowlegs. It is a little early for shorebirds, but their migration should be picking up in the next few weeks.
There were Raccoon tracks all along Rentenaar Road.
Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, and Cackling Geese are still present in good numbers, but spring migration should bring big changes soon.
Smith Lake, the larger body of water at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in NW Portland, currently has a lot of mudflat habitat, attracting good numbers of shorebirds and gulls.
Greater Yellowlegs at sunrise
Long-billed Dowitchers and Pectoral Sandpipers
While the shorebirds and gulls kept their distance on the mudflats, thus no good photos, American Pipits were working the shoreline at close range.
I did the Tillamook Death March this week, walking the six miles around Bayocean Spit (Birding Oregon p. 128). After two weeks of warm sunny weather, we have returned to a more normal gloomy, rainy pattern, so I only took out the camera for this Red-necked Grebe in nice breeding attire. There is currently an interesting mix of winter, migrant, and breeding species around. Tillamook Bay still held Common and Pacific Loons along with this grebe. All should be moving north very soon.
On the way home I stopped at Fernhill Wetlands and found this Greater Yellowlegs. Most migrant shorebirds have passed through already, but a few linger on.
Also at Fernhill was a pair of Killdeer with three fuzzy babies. Too cute.
Things are hopping at Fernhill Wetlands, with rising water levels, an influx of several thousand geese and other waterfowl, and a few other goodies.
Cackling Geese have been arriving for weeks now, and the skies and fields around Fernhill are covered with these little guys.
A small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese were hanging out with the Mallards in Dabblers Marsh.
This interesting beast is a hybrid, a product of one of the local Canada Geese and a domestic Greylag Goose.
Here are some of the many Northern Shovelers feeding in their typical manner, swimming along with their faces in the water, as if their enormous bills are too heavy to hold up.
Two American White Pelicans have been hanging out at Fernhill for a couple of months now.
Shorebird numbers and diversity have dwindled. Here are a few Long-billed Dowitchers.
The resident Bald Eagles were sitting around looking majestic. I watched one carrying a stick to add to their nest.
Several Northern Shrikes have been reported around the Portland area in recent days. This one is snacking on a large insect.
I saw three Common Garter Snakes on this trip, including one very young newborn about the width of a linguine. The colorful individual in this photo was about 20 inches long. Note the large laceration on his neck, presumably from a predator. Despite the severity of the wound, the snake was not bleeding and he crawled away after this photo was taken, so I am hopeful he will recover.
Exciting changes continue at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61). This photo is from the drying lake bed of Fernhill Lake. Low water levels this summer have created some great shorebird habitat. Notice the clump of cottonwood trees that have sprung up already. The construction (note the equipment in the background) will create rocky waterfalls that will cool and aerate the water that flows into the lake. I will be leading a free tour of the site on Saturday, October 6, at 10:00 AM as part of the Birds and Beer at Fernhill Wetlands event. Click on the Classes page for more details.
In addition to creating shorebird flats this summer, the low water levels are also helping to purge the lake of carp, which compete with birds for aquatic prey and muddy the waters with their feeding habits.
Greater Yellowlegs, sinking into the soft mud
In the Mitigation Marsh, two Wilson’s Snipe were feeding out in the open, which is rather uncharacteristic of this species.
On this visit, a flock of Lesser Goldfinches was working the weedy patches. It is always a treat to get close looks at these birds.
The coming weeks should see increases in sparrows, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors.
I scouted Fernhill Wetlands for the Willamette Valley portion of my shorebird class. After a cool summer, we have finally gotten some triple-digit temperatures, making birding a little challenging. But there is a lot of mud and the shorebirds are moving in, joining the typical and not-so-typical summer residents.
Greater Yellowlegs are common right now, taking advantage of the shallow water in most of the area’s wetlands.
I don’t think he caught anything on that dive.
Spotted Sandpipers are often found along the rocky shoreline of Fernhill Lake.
This is a young Spotted Sandpiper, distinguished by the barring on the wing coverts (and the lack of spots).
Cackling Geese, which winter here in the tens of thousands, are a rare sight in summer. The exposed white rumps on these birds are an indication that the birds are molting their primaries, so they have obviously spent the summer here.
These three Greater White-fronted Geese are also several months too early.
Great Blue Heron and Great Egret
August is the time for baby Bullheads. Several schools were visible in the murky water.
Eight-spotted Skimmer, one of the few dragonflies that I can identify
In preparation for my shorebirds class for Portland Audubon, I have made several trips to Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61) in recent weeks. As expected in the Willamette Valley in late summer, species diversity is fairly low, but there is always something to see.
Green Herons are common at this site, flushing from the shores of the main lake or hunting in Dabblers Marsh.
High water levels this year have left little mud for the shorebirds. This Killdeer has found some higher ground.
The shorebird class found at least six Stilt Sandpipers on their field trip. This species is a rare migrant in Oregon. I had only seen one individual in Oregon prior to this trip, also at Fernhill.
Two Stilt Sandpipers
Late summer is the ugly duck season, with most birds in their summer alternate, or “eclipse” plumage. I think I know what this little duck is, but I would be interested in your opinions. Leave a comment.
This is a school of young bullheads, I assume Black Bullheads. The young school together while the adult male stays close by to protect them. There were many broods of these little fish in Cattail Marsh.
I haven’t learned to ID the local dragonflies, so if you know who this is, leave a comment.
My shorebird class had its field trip last Saturday. One of the more unusual sightings of the day was this Lesser Yellowlegs perching beside a Rock Pigeon on a metal roof.
Perhaps the high perch provided a safe place from which to keep an eye on our group.
This Greater Yellowlegs was using more typical habitat.