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 long hiking trail at Tualatin River NWR is open, and this refuge always offers some good birding in the spring and early summer. A pair of Blue-winged Teal was in the southwest pond.
As is typical for this species, this Hutton’s Vireo stayed back in heavy cover.
It is really hard to shoot a Brewer’s Blackbird against the sky without ending up with just a silhouette, but I keep trying.
Long-billed Dowitcher was the most common shorebird on this visit. It is nice to see them in full breeding plumage.
The best bird of the trip was this Pectoral Sandpiper. Pectorals are regular autumn migrants in this area, but are very rare in spring.
Late summer is a challenging time to bird. The local nesters have finished raising their families and have grown quiet and harder to see. Most southbound migrants have not arrived yet. The weather is hot and many parks are crowded. The biggest return on your birding investment this time of year is shorebirds. Southbound migrants are showing up in good numbers and species diversity is increasing. Here are few shorebirds from the past week.
Baird’s Sandpiper, Gearhart. Most individuals of this species migrate through the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, but Oregon always gets a few juveniles that head a little too far west.
Semipalmated Plover, Fort Stevens SP. While these adorable little plovers can be found anywhere in migration, a great many are found working the coastal beaches.
Black Turnstone, Seaside. A quick stop at the Seaside Cove will usually turn up a lot of Black Turnstones.
Surfbird, Seaside. Surfbirds are also regular at the Cove, still sporting a little of their breeding plumage.
Ruddy Turnstone, Seaside. Scanning the flocks of Black Turnstones will often produce one or two Ruddy Turnstones.
Killdeer, Fernhill Wetlands. Not a migrant, but Killdeer still counts on a shorebird list.
Pectoral Sandpiper, Fernhill Wetlands. I have seen several Pectoral Sandpipers lately. It seems a little early for them, as they are often found well into October.
Shorebird numbers should continue to build for the next couple of weeks, and by then we should start seeing some other migrants as well.
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.
Smith Lake, the larger body of water at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in NW Portland, currently has a lot of mudflat habitat, attracting good numbers of shorebirds and gulls.
Greater Yellowlegs at sunrise
Long-billed Dowitchers and Pectoral Sandpipers
While the shorebirds and gulls kept their distance on the mudflats, thus no good photos, American Pipits were working the shoreline at close range.
Fernhill Wetlands, south of Forest Grove, is a great place to see the onset of autumn. Water levels on the main lake are still very low, but the recent rains will soon change that.
Migrant shorebirds, like these Western Sandpipers, are enjoying the mudflats. Shorebird numbers are starting to thin out.
This Pectoral Sandpiper was checking out the new vegetation on the lake bed.
The first Cackling Geese have arrived. They will soon be joined by a few thousand more.
This Common Merganser was resting on an exposed mud bar. I don’t get to see mergansers out of the water very often.
American White Pelicans, once considered rare in the Willamette Valley, are now an expected species in late summer.
Eurasian Collared-Doves are another species that are increasingly common in the area.
The annual Fernhill Wetlands Birds and Brew Festival will be held on October 12. I will be leading the 8:00 tour for that. Here is a link for more info.
I took my shorebird class to the north coast. We ended the day with 14 species of shorebirds, plus one that got away unidentified. Our first stop was The Cove in Seaside. The tide was very low so the birds were far away, but we still found a nice selection of rockpipers. Here is a large flock of Black Turnstones with a couple of Surfbirds.
Stanley Lake hosted two Pectoral Sandpipers.
Semipalmated Plover, also at Stanley Lake
We visited the Hammond Boat Basin, hoping for Whimbels and Marbled Godwits. Instead, we had to “settle” for several hundred Heerman’s Gulls (above), along with Brown Pelicans and Elegant Terns. It was a lovely sunny day at the coast.
Another quick trip to Fernhill Wetlands this afternoon produced a couple of species that were not present a few days ago.
A Long-billed Dowitcher (left) and a Pectoral Sandpiper. Both birds are in juvenal plumage, indicated by the pale edges on the scapulars and wing coverts which create a scaly pattern. The Pectoral has a clump of mud on the base of his bill.
Another view of the Pectoral Sandpiper with two Long-billed Dowitchers. The crouching posture suggests that the bird is on alert and ready to flush. That is a good clue for the birder to back off.
A Lesser Yellowlegs.
Greater Yellowlegs on the left, Lesser Yellowlegs on the right