Grasshopper Sparrows are rare everywhere in Oregon, so Portland area birders got quite excited when several of these birds were found at a small prairie restoration site just south of Fernhill Wetlands. Penstemon Prairie is a not an established park, but it is open to the public, and the agency responsible for the site mowed a path around the perimeter to make walking and birding this site easy.
The morning of my visit, it didn’t take long to find a couple Grasshopper Sparrows. They always positioned themselves to be backlit, and I didn’t want to trample the habitat to get a better position, so I wasn’t able to get any decent photos.
A blurry, backlit Grasshopper Sparrow, singing the songs of their people
Lazuli Buntings were more cooperative in the lighting department.
Lazuli Bunting in morning light. Check out the wear on her tail feathers, probably from nesting.
A distant male Lazuli Bunting
Common Yellowthroats are common in this habitat, but they seldom pose out in the open.
Savannah Sparrow, whose song can be quite similar to that of Grasshopper Sparrow
Another Savannah Sparrow. This early morning light is known as Golden Hour. A lot of photographers seek out this lighting, as it is softer than what you find later in the day, but I don’t like the yellow cast it puts on everything.
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.
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.
Spring 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.
Most Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.
At Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years.
Tualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.
Purple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands
Bewick’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.
Hooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands
This 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.
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.
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.
A spate of cloudy damp days has not allowed many photo opportunities the past couple of weeks, but here are a few random images.
Lazuli Bunting, Cooper Mountain Nature Park, Beaverton. This is a great natural area that I really need to visit more often.
I 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.
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.
Today 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.
I 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.
fledgling White-crowned Sparrow
The resident pair of Eastern Kingbirds was hanging out on the power lines.
American Goldfinches were common in the grassy areas.
Belted Kingfisher on a side channel of the Sandy River.
The stars of this site are the Lazuli Buntings. This male was keeping a close watch on his lady. The female Lazuli Bunting was a little more shy.
I 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. This 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.
Lazuli Buntings are back in force and singing on territory.
Savannah Sparrow, in harsh sunlight. One of these days I will learn how to photograph in such conditions.
We often associate Pileated Woodpeckers with dense forest, but this species is often found on isolated cottonwood trees along the Columbia River.