Columbia Basin

Our team for the Portland Audubon Birdathon visited several sites in the Columbia Basin. It is always a treat to visit the eastern half of Oregon. This Bullock’s Oriole was at Cottonwood Canyon State Park.

Lazuli Buntings were common at Cottonwood Canyon. Males were conspicuous, but the females kept in the deeper cover.

Cliff Swallow nest on the cliff along the Deschutes River in Cottonwood Canyon

Fledgling Canyon Wren

Eastern Kingbird at Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge

Umatilla NWR has a lot of agricultural fields. This one was hosting about a dozen Long-billed Curlews.

The spot with the greatest diversity was the wastewater plant at Boardman. Redheads, hard to find on the west side, were common there.

Black-necked Stilt

The most unexpected bird of the day was this Ruddy Turnstone at the Boardman wastewater ponds. Ruddy Turnstones are uncommon migrants along the coast, but much less likely this far inland.

It was a long day, but full of great birds and great company, and we raised money for a wonderful organization.

Happy Spring

Random Summer Birds

black-headed grosbeakSpring migration has come and gone, and many birders agree that it was a dud. Numbers and diversity seemed quite low in the Portland area this spring. So now we concentrate on the summer residents, like this Black-headed Grosbeak.

Golden-crowned SparrowMost Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.

lazuli small singingAt Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years. lazuli small

Blue-winged Teal pairTualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.

purple martinsPurple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands

bewick's smallBewick’s Wren are usually working heavy cover, so it was a treat to find this one dust bathing in the middle of a gravel road.

hoodieHooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands

Spotted Sandpiper 1Spotted Sandpiper

gadwall smallThis Gadwall is already starting to molt into his dull summer alternate plumage. I often refer to late summer as Ugly Duck Season. It seems a little early for ducks to be losing their sharp breeding colors.

Now is the time to seek out local nesters. It will only be about four weeks before southbound shorebird migration starts up. I hope the autumn migration is a little more eventful than this spring was.

Happy Summer

Troutdale

I spent some time exploring the area just west of the Sandy River Delta in Troutdale, OR. A section of the 40-Mile Loop Trail starts just north of I-84 and runs north along the Sandy River, then west past Company Lake along the Columbia River. This baby Great Horned Owl was hanging out near the mouth of the Sandy.

The area is home to large FedEx and Amazon facilities, but there are still some weedy fields that attract open country birds like Savannah Sparrow and this Lazuli Bunting. Note the swallow photo bomb.

The highlight of this trip was the PAIR of Ash-throated Flycatchers that were hanging out near the Troutdale wastewater facility. Ash-throated Flycatchers are quite rare west of the Cascades, so it is pretty special to have a pair hanging out in Multnomah County.
A flash of rust on the tail, typical of this genus

There were a lot of dogs running around this area, but it was not nearly as crowded as the Sandy River Delta just across the river. A surprising number of vagrants have been found in this area is recent years, so it definitely warrants more visits.

Happy Spring.

Tualatin River NWR

The pandemic birding continues. While the visitor center and parking lot are closed, you can still walk the trails at Tualatin River NWR.

Social distancing, birder style

The big news at the refuge this spring has been this pair of American Avocets, a rare species on Oregon’s west side.

It’s always a treat to see these guys, especially this year when the shorebird migration has been rather lackluster.

This Bonaparte’s Gull was hanging out with the Avocets for a while.

This distant pair of Long-billed Dowitchers was the only other evidence of shorebird migration on the refuge this morning.

This Purple Finch was keeping with the “birds at a distance theme” that prevailed this trip.

Lazuli Bunting, not quite as distant

Probably the most unusual bird of the trip was this intergrade Northern Flicker. He shows the normal red mustache of the Red-shafted form and the red nape of the Yellow-shafted form.

Happy Spring

Tualatin River NWR

I visited Tualatin River NWR last week. The weather has been very hot and dry, so I started early in the morning. There was a surprisingly large diversity of species for mid-summer. I ended the trip with 55 species. I didn’t pay too much attention to waterfowl, so there may have been more. This Savannah Sparrow was backlit by rising sun.

Here is one reason I don’t pay too much attention to waterfowl this time of year. There are a lot of young birds and molting adults around in Ugly Duck Season. Some birders love the challenge of studying these birds, but since ducks are not migrating during their summer molt, the likelihood of finding anything other than the local breeders is slim to none. I’m calling this an immature Wood Duck, but I could be wrong.

Willow Flycatchers were still singing from prominent perches.

This Lazuli Bunting was singing from a little thicket.

There is not a lot of shorebird habitat at the refuge right now, but Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, and Western Sandpipers were present in small numbers along with hundreds of Killdeer. As water levels drop, shorebird numbers should increase.

Happy Summer!

Random Images

A spate of cloudy damp days has not allowed many photo opportunities the past couple of weeks, but here are a few random images.

lazuliLazuli Bunting, Cooper Mountain Nature Park, Beaverton. This is a great natural area that I really need to visit more often.

junco 1I made two trips to the clearcut near Milepost 8 on Larch Mountain. It is very birdy this year, with a lot of nesting activity going on. Here is a rather wind-blown Dark-eyed Junco.

sapsuckerRed-breasted Sapsucker

macMacGillivray’s Warbler

willowWillow Flycatcher

A trip to the north coast brought all the expected species. One of the highlights were these two Heermann’s Gulls among the Westerns. Heermann’s are common in mid to late summer, but are just starting to arrive on the Oregon Coast now. This is the first time I have seen them in breeding plumage. In a few weeks they will lose the white plumage on their heads and replace it with mottled gray.

gullsToday is the summer solstice. Pretty soon the nesting season will wrap up and the southbound shorebird migration will begin. Always something to look forward to.

Sandy River Delta

IMG_7181Nala and I spent several hours hiking (and swimming) at the Sandy River Delta. Local nesters, like this Common Yellowthroat, were busy gather food for nestlings.

IMG_7198Male Lazuli Buntings were very vocal, and seemed to be vying for the attention of the females (below).
IMG_7208

IMG_7204

IMG_7175Osprey flying along the Columbia River

IMG_7163This Western Canada Goose had an unusual head pattern, with white reaching across the forehead and around the nape.

IMG_7215Rufous Hummingbirds were defending their blackberry patches.

Summer at Sandy River

willow flycatcherI made an early morning trip to the Sandy River Delta. This late in the summer, with the weather being so hot, most bird song is limited to the hour or so around dawn. This Willow Flycatcher was singing right at sunrise.

white-crowned fledgling White-crowned Sparrow

kingbirdThe resident pair of Eastern Kingbirds was hanging out on the power lines.

american goldfinchAmerican Goldfinches were common in the grassy areas.

kingfisherBelted Kingfisher on a side channel of the Sandy River.

lazuli bunting on railThe stars of this site are the Lazuli Buntings. This male was keeping a close watch on his lady.
lazuli bunting front lazuli bunting leftlazuli femaleThe female Lazuli Bunting was a little more shy.

Sandy River Delta

chat singingI took Nala to the Sandy River Delta this week. One of the target birds for this area is Yellow-breasted Chat, a species hard to find elsewhere in the Portland area.
chat turnedThis was the only individual I found that day, but new migrants are arriving daily. Willow Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds, two other specialties of this site, were largely absent during my visit, but were reported a few days later.

IMG_4762Lazuli Buntings are back in force and singing on territory.

common yellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat

IMG_4757Savannah Sparrow, in harsh sunlight. One of these days I will learn how to photograph in such conditions.

pileatedWe often associate Pileated Woodpeckers with dense forest, but this species is often found on isolated cottonwood trees along the Columbia River.

Sandy River Delta, 5 June 2013

I took Nala on a hiking/swimming tour of the Sandy River Delta. We were there at midday, so we missed the dawn chorus, but the common species were still active and vocal.

american goldfinchAmerican Goldfinch

lazuli buntingIn the open brushy habitats, you can’t turn around without seeing a Lazuli Bunting.

lazuli bunting maleLazuli Bunting

red-legged frog 4It was nice to find a couple of native Red-legged Frogs. This species often succumbs to introduced American Bullfrogs.
red-legged frog 3

Nala’s main interest in the trip was swimming. She swam in a vernal pool, the Sandy River, and the Columbia River.

mud puppyDuring the long hot walk back toward the car, she needed to cool off in this convenient mud hole.

nala drinking