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.
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.
Our cold wet April has blossomed into a cold wet May. I shouldn’t complain, since we need whatever moisture we can get, but a few balmy spring days would be nice.
Shorebirds on the northern Oregon coast peaked last week. This Black Oystercatcher was one of four hanging out at the Seaside Cove.
Black Turnstones are common in winter at Seaside Cove, but the few that remain are sporting crisp breeding plumage.
A single Ruddy Turnstone has been at The Cove for a while now.
Songbirds have been moving, too, despite the weather. This Common Yellowthroat was singing at Cooper Mountain Nature Park.
The locally nesting White-crowned Sparrows are on territory and ready for nesting.
Ruby-crowned Kinglets don’t nest around here, but they have been singing like crazy. I cannot seem to get a decent photo of a kinglet, but at least the parts of this bird we can see are clear.
In the “totally creepy and yet fascinating” department: here is a second cycle Western Gull showing the structure of their tongue. I didn’t realize their tongues were that big, let alone such an interesting shape. The more you look, the more you see.
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.
I made a trip out to the coast to scout for my shorebird class. Much of the trip consisted of running from site to site to check on conditions, but I did spend a little time at a few sites where the birds presented some nice close views.
Parking Lot C at Fort Stevens had a lot of young Brown-headed Cowbirds flying around. It always amazes me how cowbirds can be raised by other species but still somehow figure out how to be cowbirds.
This young cowbird had a nice yellowish cast to the underparts.
This Purple Shore Crab was out in the open near the tidal ponds at Parking Lot C.
This Ruddy Turnstone was hanging out with the Black Turnstones at Seaside Cove. Ruddys are harder to find during autumn migration than they are in the spring.
Ruddy and Black Turnstones
Black Turnstones are common at the Cove from autumn through spring.
A few Surfbirds are often mixed in with the turnstone flock.
Late summer and early fall sees a buildup of California Gulls along the coast, often in very worn and tattered plumage. So I was surprised to see this individual still rocking some very intense colors in the eye-ring and gape.
Heermann’s Gulls are always a favorite.
I didn’t find any juvenile Heermann’s on this trip. They experienced nearly complete nesting failures in recent years. Hopefully they had a little more success this year and we will see some young birds as the season wears on.
I taught two shorebird classes and led three shorebird field trips in August. The southbound shorebird migration has been pretty great so far, with unprecedented numbers of Baird’s Sandpipers and a nice smattering of rarities throughout Oregon. My trips missed the really rare stuff, but we had a nice variety of shorebirds.
The addition of a new family member with special needs (an adorable coonhound who was rescued from an animal testing lab) kept me from doing much birding outside of my classes. Leading trips does not usually allow for getting decent photos, but here are a few images from the month.
This Ruddy Turnstone was snoozing with the Black Turnstones at the Seaside Cove.
Surfbirds are another specialty of Seaside Cove
This Wilson’s Snipe gave great scope views at Jackson Bottom.
Not shorebirds, but always nice to see, this flock of American White Pelicans was at Fernhill Wetlands.
I have one more shorebird class at Jackson Bottom on September 24. I’m hoping this strong migration continues throughout the fall. Click on the Classes tab for more information.
Not ready for birding yet, but perhaps someday Bohdi can join his sister Nala and me in the field.
The Weekday Warblers birdathon team made its inaugural trip on May 12. We birded the north coast from Cannon Beach to Fort Stevens, with a stop at the Sunset Rest Stop on the way. We did well with seabirds and shorebirds, but were sorely lacking in upland species. A few tweaks to the route and a longer day would probably get us a bigger list, but we had a great time with great weather and ended the day with 80 species.
This is one of a couple of Common Ravens who were hanging out in the parking lot of the Sunset Rest Area.
One of many Whimbrels seen on the beach
This flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls was flying around the South Jetty at Fort Stevens.
a distant Roosevelt Elk at Fort Stevens
We made two quick stops at The Cove in Seaside. Most of the few birds that were there were quite a ways out, requiring lots of squinting through a scope, but this White-winged Scoter came close to shore for some nice views.
The best find of the day was the large shorebird flock on the beach at Fort Stevens. The Oregon Coast does not usually get huge numbers of migrant shorebirds. Birders joke about he Shorebird Dome that covers the coast, forcing birds to fly directly from northern California to Gray’s Harbor, Washington. But this past week the dome was breached and good numbers and diversity of shorebirds worked the beaches of the north coast. We found these birds mid-afternoon, so the sun was already in the west causing terrible lighting for photos. But this will give you an idea. The photo above shows a Western Sandpiper with two Dunlin.
Ruddy Turnstone with Western Sandpiper
Red Knot, a rare treat along the Oregon coast
a nice combo of Dunlin, Red Knot, Western Sandpiper, and Ruddy Turnstone
I made two trips to the coast this week, once to scout for my Portland Audubon shorebird class, and again for the class itself. It is amazing how much difference a couple of days can make in the make-up of bird life in a given area. On Thursday, I found a total of 11 shorebirds of two species. During the class we found hundreds of individuals of 10 species. I am so glad it was not the other way around. This is the view from the Necanicum River Estuary, looking south. The tiny bump in the middle is Haystack Rock, about 12 miles away.
Whimbrel, Necanicum Estuary Caspian Terns are common and very vocal all along the coast.
Elk, Necanicum Estuary
This Semipalmated Plover was the only shorebird at the tidal ponds at Fort Stevens.
Raccoon, on the mudflats near Parking Lot D, Fort Stevens (with a Caspian Tern and a California Gull)
This is one of two Ruddy Turnstones we found with a flock of Black Turnstones at the Seaside Cove.
White-crowned Sparrow, Necanicum Estuary
California Ground Squirrel, Hammond Boat Basin
Here is a good example of why this time of year may not be the best for learning gull ID. The plumage on this gull is bleached out and very worn. Judging from the size, shape, and pink legs on this bird (next to a normal non-breeding California Gull) I’m guessing this is a Glaucous-winged Gull, perhaps in his second cycle. I hope he grows some new feathers soon, or it will be a very cold autumn and winter.
I made two trips to the northern Oregon Coast for my recent shorebird class. The “autumn” migration is well underway.
The Seaside Cove has a nice gathering of gulls. This California Gull is undergoing a rather extensive molt, I believe from second cycle to third. The severity of feather loss has actually created some interesting patterns.
This adult California Gull is showing a little wear, but nothing like the previous individual.
The Cove is a favorite hang-out for Heerman’s Gulls.
Young Heerman’s Gulls are a rich chocolate brown. I believe this is a second-cycle bird, given the smattering of gray feathers coming in.
This female Harlequin Duck was near the southern end of The Cove both days.
Black Turnstones, which spend the winter here, are back.
The best bird of the day Thursday was this Ruddy Turnstone, an uncommon migrant along the coast. Unfortunately, he did not stick around for my shorebird class field trip on Saturday.
Caspian Terns, seen here with California Gulls, were common on the beaches. Note the young tern in the center of the photo.
More Caspian Terns with Brown Pelicans and a Western Gull
These Elk tracks were on the beach near the south jetty of the Columbia River at Fort Stevens State Park.
At high tide, the Hammond Boat Basin has been hosting large flocks of Marbled Godwits and Whimbrels (and an unidentified dowitcher species in the middle of this image). Similar roosts in Washington attract rare migrants every year. I hope the same is true for the Oregon side of the river.