Shorebirds have been trickling through the Portland area all month. Finding proper habitat can be challenging. As wetlands dry up during the summer, we have to hope that deeper bodies of water recede enough to create mudflats for shorebirds to feed on. This Greater Yellowlegs was at Force Lake in north Portland.
Typically seen wading, Greater Yellowlegs will occasionally swim in groups to catch small fish.
This juvenile Western Sandpiper, showing the characteristic rusty suspenders, was taking advantage of low water levels at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.
The main lake at Fernhill Wetlands has receded enough to create some nice mudflats, here being enjoyed by a Pectoral Sandpiper.
juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher, showing the characteristic solid dark tertials
juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher, showing the characteristic tiger-striped tertials
Spotted Sandpipers nest in the Portland area. Juveniles, like this one, can be recognized by the barring on the wing coverts.
Semipalmated Plovers are surely one of the cutest shorebirds. The scaly pattern on the wings tells us that this is a juvenile.
The rainy season has been slow to arrive this year, so we have had strings of sunny autumn days. While the dry conditions are preventing many of the seasonal wetlands from filling, the clear skies do make for some pleasant birding. Here are a few shots from Fernhill Wetlands.
This Mourning Dove was blending in nicely with the gravel on one of the wastewater filtering beds.
The Killdeer’s pattern provides good camouflage on a rocky background, but doesn’t do as well in dead grass.
The Green-winged Teal are starting to get some nice color.
The Cackling Geese are back in good numbers. There is currently an outbreak of aspergillus, a fungal infection that causes respiratory distress and pneumonia, that has killed dozens of birds at this site.
Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose
American Coot in the sunshine
The only gulls on this visit were these three Bonaparte’s Gulls, swimming with a Northern Pintail and a Green-winged Teal.
Most of the migrant shorebirds are long gone, but there are still some Long-billed Dowitchers around. Note the pattern on the tail showing wider black bars and narrow white bars. This pattern would be reversed on a Short-billed Dowitcher.
Racetrack Lake, located on Sauvie Island, sort of in between the end of Rentenaar Road and the east shore of Sturgeon Lake, has been quite good for shorebirds recently. Good shorebird habitat has been very hard to find in the Willamette Valley this summer, with conditions either too dry or too wet, so this patch of mud has been quite attractive to southbound migrants. Unfortunately, birds were pretty distant so they didn’t present great photo opportunities.
Long-billed Dowitchers were one of the more common shorebirds on this visit.
There were a few Short-billed Dowitchers mixed in, although the distance made identification challenging. Note the whitish belly, the spotted sides of the breast, and the tiger-striped tertials.
Semipalmated Plovers rank near the top of the most adorable shorebird category.
American White Pelicans were considered pretty rare in the Portland area not that long ago. Now you can expect 100 or more around Sauvie Island in the late summer.
Great Egrets are also very common this time of year.
Water levels continue to drop at Racetrack Lake, so there should be some decent mud for a while longer. Happy Summer.
We have had a long stretch of sunny warm weather lately. On one hand, it is lovely to be warm and dry on an outing. On the other hand, water levels continue drop and the harsh lighting makes for lousy photos. Nevertheless, here are some images from a recent trip to Fernhill Wetlands.
The Cackling Geese have returned for the winter.
The Tundra Swan that has spent the entire summer at Fernhill is still around. Hopefully, some more swans will arrive soon to keep him company. It must feel odd to be the only one of your kind. It’s like being a vegan in Kansas (been there). Here is a more traditional view of the Tundra Swan.
A small group of Northern Harriers flew over the wetlands while I was there.
Shorebird migration is quickly winding down, so it was nice to see this Pectoral Sandpiper.
Long-billed Dowitchers in one of the little ponds by the picnic shelter
A Nutria swimming through the duckweed
This is the first turtle I have seen at Fernhill. Unfortunately, I think he is a non-native Slider, a species common in the pet trade and frequently released into areas where they don’t belong.
There isn’t much going on bird-wise in mid-summer besides shorebirds. It is nice to have an opportunity to really focus on a single group of birds. Here are a few images from recent weeks.
This Long-billed Dowitcher, to the right of the Killdeer, really caught my eye since she was still in nearly pristine breeding plumage.
The bright cinnamon color goes all the way down through the undertail coverts. This bird was at Jackson Bottom Wetlands.
more Long-billed Dowitchers at Jackson Bottom. These birds are already fading into their duller winter plumage.
Spotted Sandpiper, still in breeding plumage, perched on a spotted log
From the cuteness department comes this fuzzy baby Killdeer. Seeing a young Killdeer with his single breast band this late in the summer might suggest a Semipalmated Plover. But the fluffy plumage and the long legs (not to mentions the tiny wings) let us know we are looking at a fledgling.
Take the time to look at shorebird specimens whenever you have the chance. The first thing you will notice is just how small these birds are. Since we usually look at shorebirds through powerful optics, we tend to think they are actually larger than they are. (A Least Sandpiper is a little smaller than a House Sparrow.) Here we have a nice comparison of a Greater and a Lesser Yellowlegs. Note the differences in the proportions of the bills.
A trip to the coast provided good numbers of Semipalmated Plovers, seen here with a Western Sandpiper.
Several hundred Marbled Godwits spent a couple of weeks at the beach in Fort Stevens State Park.
Dragonflies provide a nice burst of color in the summer. I believe this a Blue Dasher, but please correct me if I am wrong.
This Black-tailed Deer was behind the visitor center at Jackson Bottom.
Shorebird migration will be the big thing for another few weeks, but it will be gull season before you know it.