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.
Here are a few more images from my trip to central Oregon. The main purpose of the trip was to get the dogs away from the fireworks in Portland, but I always enjoy a trip to the dry side of the Cascades. It was indeed dry, and very hot. Bodhi cooled off a little in the Deschutes River.
I found a small flock of Turkey Vultures roosting along the river one morning.
Even in the early morning the sun was pretty intense.
This young Spotted Sandpiper was perched on a rock in the river.
The Mule Deer were usually found along the river, which provided the only green vegetation in the area.
Since birding was pretty slow, I spent a lot of time with Western Fence Lizards. This individual was basking on a big piece of obsidian. Since it was so hot, these lizards usually basked in the shade except during the early morning.
This individual was hanging out under the deck where we were staying. I had to use a flash in this dark environment. I normally don’t like the results of flash photography, but the flash really brought out the pattern on this lizard.
an adorable little dragon
I had a chance to visit Crooked River Wetlands near Prineville. Like Fernhill Wetlands, this site was constructed as part of a wastewater treatment system. But Crooked River Wetlands was designed from the beginning to accommodate both birds and birders. The parking lot has a covered picnic area (the only shade on the property) and a restroom. Paved and gravel paths provide easy viewing of the wetlands.
There are 15 bodies of water in the complex, which is right next to the Crooked River. Water levels vary with the seasons, so there is a variety of water depths which attract different species.
Shorebird migration is getting underway. Here are some Western Sandpipers.
One of the deeper ponds held this pair of Ruddy Ducks.
Eared Grebe with baby
Between the river, the ponds, and the adjacent wastewater plant, this site attracts swarms of swallows. Tree Swallows use the many nest boxes.
This is one of the easiest places I know to see Bank Swallows.
Brewer’s Blackbird was one of five blackbird species I saw on this visit.
Tricolored Blackbirds can be hard to find in Oregon, but this site is pretty reliable.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds are common here. The males tended to hide in the reeds, but this female and youngster posed nicely.
This is one of two Say’s Phoebes that were working the fence line at the edge of the property.
Crooked River Wetlands is one of the best birding sites in central Oregon, providing access to a great variety of wetland species in a very dry part of the state. It provides a nice pocket of avian diversity at a time of year when birding can be pretty slow.
Spring migration has come and gone, and many birders agree that it was a dud. Numbers and diversity seemed quite low in the Portland area this spring. So now we concentrate on the summer residents, like this Black-headed Grosbeak.
Most Golden-crowned Sparrows are gone by late May, so this bird found on June 2 was noteworthy.
At Tualatin River NWR, this Lazuli Bunting was singing in the same patch of Nootka Rose that has hosted them in previous years.
Tualatin River NWR is hosting at least two pairs of Blue-winged Teal this summer.
Purple Martins at Fernhill Wetlands
Bewick’s Wren are usually working heavy cover, so it was a treat to find this one dust bathing in the middle of a gravel road.
Hooded Merganser preening at Fernhill Wetlands
This Gadwall is already starting to molt into his dull summer alternate plumage. I often refer to late summer as Ugly Duck Season. It seems a little early for ducks to be losing their sharp breeding colors.
Now is the time to seek out local nesters. It will only be about four weeks before southbound shorebird migration starts up. I hope the autumn migration is a little more eventful than this spring was.
I made a quick trip to Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom to look for shorebirds. My first bird of the morning was this Killdeer standing on the sidewalk. I guess that counts.
There is a frustrating lack of mudflats in area wetlands this year. Areas are either dry with lots of vegetation or are full of water. I did manage to find this Wilson’s Snipe (front) feeding with a juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher.
Young Spotted Sandpiper on a log
Lots of American White Pelicans are in the Willamette Valley right now.
The wetland rehabilitation at Fernhill Wetlands has resulted in much less exposed mud, but the thick emergent vegetation is hog heaven to rails, like this Virginia Rail.
In the “invasive but adorable” category are this Nutria with her baby.
Brush Rabbits rule the “native AND adorable” category.
These two Black-tailed Deer were at Jackson Bottom. I found it interesting that the little spike buck in front still had his antlers completely encased in velvet while the fork buck in back has already shed his velvet to reveal polished antler.
There is still about a month of shorebird migration left. I hope we get some good mudflats to bring them in. Happy Summer.
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.
I made a quick visit to Jackson Bottom in Hillsboro. This is a very busy spot in the summer. The Savannah Sparrows are still in full song.
Pintail Pond has been drained to accommodate some restoration work on the site, so it has dried out about two months earlier than normal. This is normally one of the better shorebird sites in the Portland area during the summer, so we will have to find other spot this year. There is only about three weeks between the end of northbound shorebird migration and the beginning of southbound migration. Western and Least Sandpipers have arrived in good numbers, and were feeding in the little puddle that remains of Pintail Pond.
Western (l) and Least (r) Sandpipers
Spotted Sandpipers are common nesters in the area.
Spotted Sandpiper chick
Four Greater Yellowlegs made a brief appearance.
Tree Swallows are everywhere at Jackson Bottom, thanks in part to the many nesting boxes that have been installed here.
The first broods are grown up now, and it looks like second broods will be arriving shortly.
I made a quick trek around Washington County’s two prominent wetlands. There was nothing unusual to report, but there is plenty of bird activity at these sites this time of year.
Green Heron, lurking
Great Blue Heron, not lurking
Juvenile California Gulls are very common lately.
I didn’t find many migrant shorebirds this trip, but the resident Spotted Sandpipers posed nicely.
Fifteen years ago, White Pelicans in the Portland area were a pretty big deal, but now they are expected in the larger wetlands in summer.
Belted Kingfishers like the perches that have been installed at Fernhill.
Osprey over the lake at Fernhill
Clouds of swallows are hanging out at Jackson Bottom. This Tree Swallow spent a long time just sitting in the opening of her nest box.
They have installed a water feature near the visitor center at Jackson Bottom. This soggy Black-capped Chickadee was enjoying a dip.
Lesser Goldfinch on the fountain
As nesting season wraps up and water levels drop, I can soon start obsessing on migrant shorebirds.
I brief walk around Commonwealth Lake in Beaverton revealed lots of recently fledged Barn Swallows. They were perching on branches above the water, waiting for their parents to fly in with food.
note the bulging crop on the adult
This park has produced a bumper crop of Green Herons this year, great to see in such a busy suburban setting.
There were several new broods of Mallards on the lake. It seems late to see such small ducklings.
the ubiquitous American Bullfrog
The highlight of this visit was watching this Spotted Sandpiper hunting flies in the lawn. He would crouch low to approach his prey, then reach out and grab it, hitting the mark more often than not.
This little urban duck pond is surprisingly birdy, and warrants more frequent visits.
I scouted Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro for my shorebird class this week. Much of the area is dry, but Pintail Pond still has enough water to create mudflats and easy fishing for the Great Egrets.
One Ring-billed Gull was hanging out with several California Gulls.
This Northern Harrier repeatedly strafed the mudflats, sending all the shorebirds into a panic. Jerk.
Most of the shorebirds were beyond decent photo range, but this Spotted Sandpiper came fairly close.
The Common Garter Snakes at this site have great coloring. We saw several chasing fish in the shallow water.
This young Downy Woodpecker was checking out a swallow house. He didn’t go in, but explored all around the outside.