Random Ramblings

Most of my recent outings have been while leading trips or in dreary conditions, both of which limit any photo opportunities. So here are some dribs and drabs from recent weeks.

This Black-tailed Deer and her fawn were at Cooper Mountain Nature Park in Beaverton. There was a second fawn present out of frame.

This Long-billed Dowitcher was blending in well with the rocks at Parking Lot C at Fort Stevens State Park. I often find shorebirds, usually Least Sandpipers or Dunlin, in this little patch of rocks.

I saw this Pied-billed Grebe on a cloudy morning at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Crystal Springs is thick with Wood Ducks.

Eastern Gray Squirrel at Crystal Springs

Sandhill Cranes have arrived in good numbers at Sauvie Island.

Crane fight

A young Bald Eagle flying by on Sauvie

This White-crowned Sparrow posed nicely in filtered sunlight along Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island. This is a first winter bird, but he was singing from this perch for a while.

Most shorebird migration is long past, but this mixed flock of Dunlin and Long-billed Dowitchers were hanging out at the small ponds near the parking lot at Fernhill Wetlands.

Long-billed Dowitcher at Fernhill. This intense sunlight is certainly not the norm for mid-November, but the rains will return soon enough.

Happy Autumn

Ridgefield NWR

On rare occasions, I cross the Columbia River to visit Washington. When the weather is less than stellar, the auto tour at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge offers a nice way to get close to wildlife without getting too wet.

A lot of Tundra Swans are wintering at Ridgefield this year. There are Trumpeter Swans, too, but I did not get any close looks at them.
   Tundra Swan bathing

Northern Harriers are common throughout the refuge. This one was having a good stretch.
A family of Nutria put on a nice show. Invasive, but adorable.

Columbian White-tailed Deer, a threatened subspecies, have been introduced to the refuge in recent years. This fawn was born last spring, so at least some of the deer are making themselves at home. Unfortunately, I believe many of the Coyotes that used to be so visible on the refuge have been “removed” to make conditions safer for the rare deer.

This lone Snow Goose was hanging out with the numerous Canada and Cackling Geese.

Northern Pintail

Sandhill Cranes were feeding in the grassy fields.

The last time I visited Ridgefield was during my mom’s final visit to Portland. Her mobility was not great, so the auto tour provided a great way for us to get out to do some birding together. During that visit, the highlight was a cooperative American Bittern. I didn’t find any Bitterns on this trip, but this Great Egret did his best to fill the void.

Sauvie Island

I took my Little Brown Birds class to Sauvie Island. A walk along the length of Rentenaar Road is always good for sparrows.

white-throated sparrow front 3We found at least four White-throated Sparrows. This species was considered quite rare in Oregon ten years ago, but seem to be increasingly common in winter.
white-throated sparrow white stripe formThis individual is an example of the “white striped” form of White-throated Sparrow.

fox sparrowFox Sparrow

song sparrowSong Sparrow

golden-crowned sparrow leftGolden-crowned Sparrow

white-crowned sparrow rightWhite-crowned Sparrow

leucisitic golden-crowned sparrowOne of the more interesting birds of the day was this leucistic Golden-crowned Sparrow. He was a uniform buffy gray with a splash of yellow on the crown.
leucistic golden-crowned sparrow front
red-winged blackbird 1Red-winged Blackbird

snow geeseThere are still large flocks of Snow Geese on the island.

sandhill crane 1Sandhill Cranes are always a treat.
sandhill crane 2

April Teasers

After the wettest March on record, April has  provided a few sunny days to help awaken us from our rain-induced torpor.


I made a quick trip out to Fernhill Wetlands to look for the Swamp Sparrow that has been reported there. Between the sunbreaks, I still had to dodge a few passing squalls.


I missed the Swamp Sparrow, but this Song Sparrow was very cooperative.


Here is the same Song Sparrow in a little more natural setting, if you consider invasive Reed Canary Grass to be natural.


Much of the loop around Fernhill Wetlands has been blocked off, supposedly to reduce disturbance to the new Bald Eagle nest.

A pair of eagles has been hanging out in this little grove of cottonwoods for years, so I would imagine they are used to birders and joggers going by, but better safe than sorry.


The Yellow-rumped Warblers have molted into their flashy breeding plumage. This one is an example of the “myrtle” race.


On Saturday I took some clients out to Sauvie Island for a morning of birding. This view of Mt. St. Helens is from the west end of Rentenaar Road.


Sandhill Cranes, seen here with a flock of Cackling Geese, were common in the morning.  But as the day progressed, many birds circled up on thermals and then headed north. By noon, most of the cranes were gone.


Most of the sparrows seen just a week earlier had moved on. Two White-throated Sparrows were a treat. Singing Orange-crowned Warblers and five species of swallows were other good signs that migration is stepping up. I’m looking forward to the next sunny day.

Sauvie Island 4/5/12

I took advantage of the dry weather to scout Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p. 55) for my Little Brown Birds field trip.


Sandhill Cranes are still present in good numbers.


The Osprey nest along Rentenaar Road is occupied again.


We just had our wettest March on record, so water levels are high. This is the view from the end of Rentenaar Road. The white speck on the lake is an American White Pelican. White Pelicans have become increasing common on Sauvie Island in recent summers, but sightings this early in the year are unusual.


Here is the same bird coming in to land.


I take my LBB class to Sauvie for the abundance of sparrows. (We ended up with ten species of sparrow on our trip.) Here is a White-throated Sparrow, one of the rarer species in our area.


This Fox Sparrow was bathing in a puddle.


still bathing


all clean

Sauvie Island

Here are a few recent shots from Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p. 55).


Sandhill Cranes are still present in good numbers.


Here are some Sandhills with three Dusky Canada Geese (Branta canadensis occidentalis). Note the red plastic collar on the goose on the far left. That is a quick way to identify this subspecies.


While the Sandhill Cranes and Dusky Canada Geese will fly to Alaska to nest, the Great Blue Herons are in full nesting mode now on Sauvie Island. Here is a section of a rookery in a distant tree line. You can see the bulky nests and, if you look closely, several birds perched in the branches.

Autumn Movements

With the autumnal equinox this week, we are seeing migrants returning to the Willamette Valley. The first flocks of Cackling Geese have arrived along with good numbers of Greater White-fronted Geese. The brambles are once again hosting Golden-crowned Sparrows.


Sandhill Cranes are gathering on Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p. 55). These birds were seen along Sturgeon Lake on Oak Island.


Flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers were moving through the woods and brushy areas of Oak Island today. This individual is a female of the Myrtle race. Notice how the white throat is cleanly separated from the gray cheek, with the white starting to wrap around the ear coverts. Audubon’s race does not show this clear demarcation.

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.

Sauvie Island

I spent a gorgeous day at Sauvie Island, northwest of Portland. There are still good numbers of waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes, but the sparrows have started to thin out.

sandhills.jpg
Sandhill Cranes (and Mallards)

dusky-sandhills.jpg
Dusky Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes (and Mallards)

lesser.jpg
I believe the front bird is a Lesser Canada Goose. The bill is long and slopes gently into the forehead, unlike the stubby bills and rounded foreheads seen on Cackling and Taverner’s Cackling Geese.

garter.jpg
I saw at least a dozen Garter Snakes around Wapato Access Greenway. This was one of two that sat still long enough for photos.