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

Long-billed Curlew, Seaside, OR

IMG_3016I guided a group of birders to the north coast this week. We saw a lot of good birds, but the rainy weather forced me to keep my camera in the car most of the time. The best surprise of the day was this bird, hanging out in the middle of the high school soccer field in Seaside. As we drove by, I thought we had a Marbled Godwit, but when got out to take a better look, we discovered he was a Long-billed Curlew. This is a common nesting species in southeastern Oregon, but is uncommon along the coast in migration.

IMG_3020This is a young bird, with fresh plumage and a bill that isn’t all that long for a Long-billed Curlew.

IMG_3022Here he is showing the cinnamon buff color under the wings, typical for this species.

IMG_3028I don’t know what he was finding to eat in the soccer field, but he seemed to be content there.

Winchuck River Mouth

winchuck river
Less than a mile from the California border, the Winchuck River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Along with a lovely beach area, the site has a nice visitor center (bathroom!) with information about the surrounding National Forest.

brown pelicans
Brown Pelicans were feeding just offshore.

long-billed curlew
Two Long-billed Curlews were feeding near the river mouth, probing their long bills into the sand. The crisp pattern on the wing coverts (dark stripes with no cross bars) identifies this individual as a juvenile.

double-crested cormorant
This Double-crested Cormorant  fished  in the river while other fished offshore.

eurasian collared dove
Eurasian Collared-Doves can be expected just about anywhere in Oregon after a massive range expansion over the past few years.

western fence lizard 1
Western Fence Lizards were basking on the abundant driftwood. This one has recently shed, evidenced by the little patch of dead skin left on the tail. The one below has a less dramatic pattern, but with little blue flecks.

western fence lizard 2

Logan Valley

On a recent trip to Grant County, I visited one of my favorite sites in Oregon. Located 17 miles west of Seneca, Logan Valley (Birding Oregon p.32) is a vast meadow. The area attracts the typical grassland species; Savannah Sparrow, Brewer’s and Red-winged Blackbirds, California Quail, and Western Meadowlarks.

Sandhill Cranes and Long-billed Curlews are two of the more dramatic birds found in the valley. This site used to host Upland Sandpipers, one of the rarest breeding birds in Oregon, but that species has not been reported from Logan Valley in recent years. One can always hope.

Aside from the birds, the main attraction of Logan Valley is watching the herds of grazing animals. Pronghorn, Mule Deer, and Elk can often been seen simultaneously.