During the current pandemic, it is not always easy to visit favorite birding sites. I have found that if I go very early, I can get some good birding in at Fernhill Wetlands without encountering too many folks. (Of course, this is my goal even without a pandemic.) This Marsh Wren put on a nice show.
Greater Yellowlegs is the only species of migrant shorebird I have seen so far this spring. We are still about two weeks away from the peak.
Green Heron, completely failing at camouflage. The auto-focus on my camera insists on focusing on the vegetation behind birds, rather than on the bird. (Yes, I am blaming the equipment.)
White-throated Sparrows have been regular at Fernhill lately.
This Northern Flicker was hanging out on the gravel dike in the wetland, perfect woodpecker habitat.
This Pacific Chorus Frog was hanging out under a log on a cold morning.
Long-toed Salamander is a lifer amphibian for me this year. As is typical when I see a new species of whatever, I now see them all the time.
More Long-toed Salamanders
This Muskrat would like to remind you to eat your greens.
Still waiting for spring migration to kick in.
Nesting season is in full swing at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in northwest Portland. There is a small colony of Cliff Swallows nesting under the highway overpass.
Here is the tail end of a Cedar Waxwing sitting on a nest. This seems like an awfully large nest for such a small bird.
Several Cedar Waxwings were raiding nesting material from this Bushtit nest. I hope the Bushtits were done with it.
Cedar Waxwing with fruit
This Sparrow was carrying a mouthful of bugs, indicating that she had a nest of babies nearby.
Marsh Wrens were actively singing in several locations.
Great Blue Heron on Smith Lake
The warm sun brought the reptiles out in good numbers. Smith and Bybee is a stronghold for the threatened Western Painted Turtle.
Northwestern Garter Snakes were also enjoying the sun. Northwestern Garters are distinguished from Common Garters by their smaller head and gentler disposition.
I took a quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands this week. Great changes are planned for this site. The main lake will be made smaller, and the other two impoundments will be replaced with emergent wetlands. I am looking forward seeing how things progress. Here are some birds and other critters from the trip.
Many Yellow-rumped Warblers were passing through, mostly the Myrtle race, with only one Audubon’s.
Flocks of Taverner’s Cackling Geese were feeding in the fields north of the main lake.
baby Garter Snake. I’m not sure if this is a Common or Northwestern Garter.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Muskrat climbing a tree before. This one was gnawing off a branch to get to the leaves.
Tree Swallows are swarming around Fernhill Wetlands, no doubt encouraged by the many nesting boxes that have been installed at the site.
Northern Shovelers were the most common duck species on the lake.
Several schools of Common Carp were active at the surface. I don’t know if they were feeding on aquatic insects or involved in spawning.
Marsh Wrens are starting to sing.
A few Red-winged Blackbirds were displaying. There aren’t very many Red-wings at Fernhill since most of the cattails died off several years ago.
The morning at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in northwest Portland started out foggy. At the Smith Lake canoe launch, 12 Greater White-fronted Geese were among the many waterfowl. It is getting late for White-fronts in the Willamette Valley.
There were a lot of Cedar Waxwings flycatching and feeding on various fruiting trees. This is a young bird, given the overall scruffy appearance and the lack of red tips on the tertials.
This Pileated Woodpecker was very vocal and perched out in the open on a distant utility pole.
This Red-shouldered Hawk was among the many Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers present on the property.
The current low water levels allow you to hike quite a ways out into the wetlands. Marsh Wrens are common in the shrubs and reed canary grass.
Song Sparrows are also common in the tall grasses. The best bird of the day was a Swamp Sparrow, but he eluded the camera.
Pacific Chorus Frogs were singing everywhere, but this is the only individual I could see.
Vanport Wetlands, in north Portland, is an unassuming little site next to an off-leash dog park. A chain-link fence surrounds the property, so most views of birds are distant. Despite the small size and limited access, Vanport almost always hosts some interesting birds.
The Ruddy Ducks are sporting their breeding plumage.
Vanport is the only reliable site in Portland that I am aware of that hosts Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
Nala, the Swamp Thing. The water currently extends beyond the fence, providing a place for dogs to play without disturbing the birds swimming nearby.
I’ve recently made two trips to Grays Harbor in Washington, once to scout and the other to lead my shorebird class. This estuary is a major staging area for migrating shorebirds in spring.
Marbled Godwit, Dunlin, and Short-billed Dowitcher feeding at Damon Point, near the mouth of the harbor
Don’t neglect to look at all the little brown ducks! This is a King Eider, a rare visitor from Alaska. It is distinguished from Common Eider by the slender bill and the scalloped markings on the sides.
Bowerman Basin is an inlet on the north shore of the harbor. It is the last area to fill during high tides, so shorebirds often congregate here. This is a view from the boardwalk.
Peregrine Falcons are attracted by the large numbers of shorebirds in the harbor.
This is a view of the boardwalk on a Thursday morning.
This is the boardwalk on a Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, birders outnumbered birds by about five to one on this afternoon.
Greater White-fronted Geese
Marsh Wrens are common along the marshy edges of Bowerman Basin.
The willow thickets and woods along the boardwalk attract migrants like this Golden-crowned Sparrow.
This series of photos shows a Marsh Wren dust-bathing. This species normally hides in cattails and other tall vegetation, so it was quite a treat to see this bird out in the open for so long. Wrens will often bathe in water and then dust. It is thought that sifting dust through the plumage helps to control parasites.