Broughton Beach Horned Larks

hornedBroughton Beach, along the Columbia River, has been a favorite spot in Portland to check for shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl, depending on the season. On my recent visit I enjoyed watching a family of Horned Larks working the beach. There are many subspecies of Horned Lark, and I don’t have a reference that provides a good description of the possible subspecies in this area. These birds had much more yellow on their faces than did the birds I saw recently on Mount Hood.

horned juvenileThis juvenile showed more muted colors and lacked the distinctive facial pattern of the adults.

horned juvI’m not sure if this bird is a juvenile or an adult female.

horned lark femaleadult female, I think

horned lark 3adult male, I think

horned lark 2adult male

brewer'sNot a Horned Lark, but Brewer’s Blackbirds are among my favorites. This is a female.

killdeer chickAnd we end with a ball of fluffy cuteness. I was surprised to find such a young Killdeer so late in the summer.

 

Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom

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 heronGreen Heron, lurking

gb heronGreat Blue Heron, not lurking

californiaJuvenile California Gulls are very common lately.

spotty 2I didn’t find many migrant shorebirds this trip, but the resident Spotted Sandpipers posed nicely.

killdeerKilldeer

pelicansFifteen years ago, White Pelicans in the Portland area were a pretty big deal, but now they are expected in the larger wetlands in summer.

kingfisherBelted Kingfishers like the perches that have been installed at Fernhill.

ospreyOsprey over the lake at Fernhill

treeClouds of swallows are hanging out at Jackson Bottom. This Tree Swallow spent a long time just sitting in the opening of her nest box.

chickadeeThey have installed a water feature near the visitor center at Jackson Bottom. This soggy Black-capped Chickadee was enjoying a dip.

lesser goldLesser Goldfinch on the fountain

As nesting season wraps up and water levels drop, I can soon start obsessing on migrant shorebirds.

Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom

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.

am. goldfinchSome of the flowers have gone to seed, providing forage for both American (above) and Lesser (below) Goldfinches.

lesser goldfinch
great blueThe refurbished wetlands at Fernhill have lots of tree trunks installed vertically to provide perches for birds like this Great Blue Heron.

green heronGreen Heron

downyThis Downy Woodpecker was checking out some of the new plantings around the water garden at Fernhill.

killdeera young Killdeer, at that awkward teenager stage

spotted sandpiper leftSpotted Sandpipers are the other shorebird that nests at Fernhill and Jackson.

spotted sandpiper upChecking the sky for falcons

garterThis 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.

tree swallowmale Tree Swallow, being all sparkly

Tualatin River NWR

eagle nest Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is still a fairly new addition to the Willamette Valley refuge complex, but it offers a nice variety of habitats very close to Portland. I don’t know if the resident Bald Eagles had a successful nesting this year, but this individual was hanging out by the nest during my recent visit.

cinnamon teal 1Cinnamon Teal were conspicuous, but Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal were also present.

killdeer 1Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers are both common nesters on the refuge.

n. rough-winged 1The air above the wetlands is filled with various species of swallows. This Northern Rough-winged Swallow was the only one that sat for a distant photo.

willow flycatcher 1This Willow Flycatcher was giving his distinctive “FITZ-bew” call.

w. wood-pewee 1Western Wood-Pewees were calling from the edges of the woods.

savannah sparrow 1The grassy areas are home to Savannah Sparrows.

white-crowned 1This White-crowned Sparrow was singing from the roof of the refuge office.

Wetland Birds

While spring migration has not really ramped up yet, locally nesting birds at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottoms are starting to pair up, and the winter flocks are breaking up.

least sandpiperA few Least Sandpipers have arrived at Fernhill.

killdeer quartetThese Killdeer were vying for position. I think this species would be more highly regarded if their voices weren’t so grating. Their plumage and red eye ring are rather stunning, but they just don’t shut up.

bushtitI found a pair of Bushtits weaving a nest. The normally gray birds were stained bright yellow with pollen.

cinnamon tealCinnamon Teal, looking all dapper

golden-crowned frontGolden-crowned Sparrow

white cheeked golden-crownedThis Golden-crowned Sparrow had odd white patches on the cheeks, and a few white feathers on the nape.

tree swallowTree Swallows are everywhere, pairing up and claiming nest boxes.

song sparrow 3Song Sparrow, not unusual, but unusually cooperative

red-winged blackbirdRed-winged Blackbird. Females and immature males have much more interesting plumage than that of the adult males.

house finch 1House Finch, just because

Seasonal Mix

IMG_1929I 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.

IMG_1937On 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.

baby killdeerAlso at Fernhill was a pair of Killdeer with three fuzzy babies. Too cute.

Goose Lake State Park

About 14 miles south of Lakeview, Goose Lake State Park is always worth a quick stop for riparian birds and waterfowl. Goose Lake is large (8 miles wide, 20 miles long) and shallow (average 4 ft.), making it ideal for Western and Clark’s Grebes, dabbling ducks such as Gadwalls and Cinnamon Teal, and marsh species along the shores. Most of the lake lies in California, but a few miles of it extend into Oregon. During migration, large numbers of migrant waterfowl can be seen here, although I think it would be more pleasant to avoid waterfowl hunting season.

I think this Killdeer must have had a nest in this patch of gravel, because she stood her ground as I walked by. While their abundance, along with their persistently loud obnoxious calling, makes it easy to not appreciate Killdeer, they really are stunning shorebirds.

The brushy riparian habitat in the state park attracts a nice variety of birds. The site gained notoriety a few years ago when it hosted a White-eyed Vireo. I didn’t find any great rarities during my recent visit, but I always enjoy seeing Black-billed Magpies.

It is hard to believe that ten years ago, Eurasian Collared Doves were very rare in Oregon. They are now well established throughout much of the state.

In the large lawn near the picnic area, the resident ground squirrels have created a web of rodent runways through the grass.

Fernhill Dog Days

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.


Greater Yellowlegs


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.

Urban Otters (and birds)

Two Northern River Otters have been hanging out at Koll Center Wetlands in Beaverton, so I went out this morning to see them. Otters are always a treat, but it is especially nice to see them thriving in such an urban setting.


Here is one of the two otters munching on a fish. Check out those teeth.


After breakfast, it is time to wrestle,

and then wrestle some more.


Then they were off to find something else to do.


Good numbers of birds use this little wetland, as well. Here is a Northern Shoveler. How do they hold those massive bills up?


Two Killdeer feed within a flock of Long-billed Dowitchers. This flock flew off when a Cooper’s Hawk flew by.

Fernhill Wetlands

I visited three of the Washington County wetlands today, but spent most of my time at Fernhill (Birding Oregon p.61). Nesting species were present in abundance, but overall species diversity was pretty low.


The duck at the top of this picture is a Gadwall, a rare breeder in western Oregon, with her newly hatched brood. The duck at the bottom is a Mallard with her larger duckling. We are quickly entering the “ugly brown duck” season, when all the waterfowl are molting and looking increasingly similar.


Great Blue Heron


Cedar Waxwing


Killdeer were the only shorebirds present today. Migrant shorebirds should start appearing in about two weeks.