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

Sandy River Delta

Migration is winding down and the summer residents are back in force at the Sandy River Delta. Specialty species such as Eastern Kingbird and Yellow-breasted Chat put in appearances, but were not photogenic.


Lazuli Buntings can be found singing from virtually every blackberry thicket.


This male Brown-headed Cowbird was wooing a female. Cowbirds don’t really form pairs. The males display, sometimes in groups, to attract a female. After mating, the two go their separate ways. Since the female deposits her eggs in the nests of other species, there is no need for the male to stick around to help.


I never tire of seeing Bullock’s Orioles, especially when they pose in the open sunshine.


River levels are still very high, so some of the trails at the north end of the site are flooded. Nala, the all-weather, all-terrain, all-the-time puppy, does not mind at all.

Sandy River Delta


The Sandy River Delta (Birding Oregon p. 63) lies at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge. Habitats include large areas of grassland and riparian forest.


Within the grassy areas are little islands of Himalayan Blackberry. This is an alien invasive which can overwhelm native plant communities, but Common Yellowthroats (above), Willow Flycatchers, and Lazuli Buntings (below) will take advantage of the cover and perches offered by the thorny vegetation.


The groves of cottonwoods are home to many of the common woodland species found in the Willamette Valley. Bushtits (above), Black-headed Grosbeaks, Bullock’s Orioles, Swainson’s Thrushes, Red-eyed Vireo, and Yellow-breasted Chat can all be found here.


The Sandy River Delta is also known as the 1000 Acre Dog Park. Dogs are allowed off-leash except in the parking lot and on one trail. Despite the many trash cans available, some people do not pick up after their dogs, so watch your step. Here is a photo of Nala, The Birding Dog, showing off her retriever moves.

Finley NWR

I walked around much of William L. Finley NWR, one of the three in the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Of the three, Finley has the greatest diversity of habitats, as it lies right at the edge of the Coast Range.


At the heart of the refuge is Cabell Marsh, home to waterfowl, herons, and a small flock of American White Pelicans. Notable flyovers that day included White-tailed Kite and Red-shouldered Hawk.


Black-capped Chickadees were everywhere, in the woods where you would expect them, and in the cattails which seemed a little odd.


Lazuli Buntings inhabit brushy areas in the oak savannahs.


A family of Bewick’s Wrens were in a brush pile near the top of Pigeon Butte.


On the way home I stopped by Baskett Slough NWR, another refuge in the Willamette Valley complex. Most of the wetlands here were dry. South Slough Pond was actually being plowed. Cottonwood Pond still held water and was hosting these three American White Pelicans.


This Black-tailed Deer was panting as she walked across the dry grassland and crossed the road.