We are two weeks into a nasty heat wave in the Portland area. Sunrise is the only time of day when you can bird in any comfort and hope to find any birds active and singing. So I got up early and did a bird survey at Fernhill, then made a quick stop at Jackson Bottom on the way home.
Some of the flowers have gone to seed, providing forage for both American (above) and Lesser (below) Goldfinches.
The refurbished wetlands at Fernhill have lots of tree trunks installed vertically to provide perches for birds like this Great Blue Heron.
This Downy Woodpecker was checking out some of the new plantings around the water garden at Fernhill.
a young Killdeer, at that awkward teenager stage
Spotted Sandpipers are the other shorebird that nests at Fernhill and Jackson.
Checking the sky for falcons
This Common Garter Snake was very thick in the middle. I assume she is gravid. Garters give birth starting in late July. Broods are typically around a dozen, but broods of over 80 young have been reported.
male Tree Swallow, being all sparkly
While spring migration has not really ramped up yet, locally nesting birds at Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottoms are starting to pair up, and the winter flocks are breaking up.
A few Least Sandpipers have arrived at Fernhill.
These Killdeer were vying for position. I think this species would be more highly regarded if their voices weren’t so grating. Their plumage and red eye ring are rather stunning, but they just don’t shut up.
I found a pair of Bushtits weaving a nest. The normally gray birds were stained bright yellow with pollen.
Cinnamon Teal, looking all dapper
This Golden-crowned Sparrow had odd white patches on the cheeks, and a few white feathers on the nape.
Tree Swallows are everywhere, pairing up and claiming nest boxes.
Song Sparrow, not unusual, but unusually cooperative
Red-winged Blackbird. Females and immature males have much more interesting plumage than that of the adult males.
House Finch, just because
There are big changes underway at Fernhill Wetlands. The main lake has been drained, and the two impoundments to the south are completely gone. This is all to make way for large emergent wetlands that will replace the ponds. This should greatly increase the bird diversity at the site when work is completed.
There weren’t any shorebirds on these newly exposed flats, but I would imagine this area would be pretty appealing to a passing plover or Baird’s Sandpiper.
This American Goldfinch was enjoying the water.
Eurasian Collared Dove
At Jackson Bottom, swallows were everywhere, with young birds out of the nest and waiting around for parents to feed them. Tree and Barn were the two species I noticed.
Baby Barn Swallows
There were lots of Least Sandpipers about. These are birds that either didn’t make it all the way to the Arctic, or had failed nesting attempts and headed back south. Shorebird migration will really pick up in about two weeks.
This male Wilson’s Phalarope was reported with three downy chicks earlier in the week, but I did not see any young when I was there. Hopefully the little ones were off hiding somewhere.
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.
I visited several sites in Washington County to check for migrant shorebirds, inspired by the recent appearance of a Spotted Redshank at Fern Ridge Reservoir (Birding Oregon p 89) . I didn’t find anything so rare, but a few birds are moving through and there is promising mudflat habitat available.
A lot of work is being done at Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon p. 61), resulting in the closure of a small section of the trail around Fernhill Lake.
The big news at Fernhill is the low water level of Fernhill Lake, creating mudflats along the shore for the first time in many years. Several species of shorebirds were feeding there today.
Water levels in Mitigation Marsh are quite high, so there wasn’t much mud. These Long-billed Dowitchers were hanging out with a Mallard.
This Great Blue Heron caught a Bullhead (I can’t tell if it is a Yellow or Black Bullhead). He caught the fish near the middle of the lake, then flew to the shore to eat it.
There was some mudflat habitat at Jackson Bottom Wetland (Birding Oregon p. 60), but not a lot of shorebirds yet. The Hardhack is in bloom, adding a splash of color to the marsh.
One of these days I may have to break down and buy a field guide to dragonflies. Or maybe I will just learn to appreciate beautiful creatures without putting a name to them.
Tree Swallows are thick at Jackson Bottom. Notice the dusky wash across the upper breast. Young Tree Swallows can show extensive dark coloring here, leading some birders to confuse them with Bank Swallows.
I took a client to Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve in Hillsboro (Birding Oregon p. 60). Continuing restoration efforts at that site are creating some nice habitat, and the birds are responding.
Cinnamon Teal were actively courting.
There was lots of head bobbing and chasing of rival males.
taking a break
Jackson Bottom is swarming with swallows. Tree Swallows claim most of the many nest boxes.
Restoration work has created shallow ponds and open mud, which is attractive to migrant shorebirds like these Western Sandpipers.
Three Dunlins in various states of molt. The front bird is least advanced, while the bird in back is in full breeding plumage.
Two Dunlins on the left, Western Sandpipers on the right.
Western Sandpiper, with Dunlin in the background
This Solitary Sandpiper was a nice surprise. They are an uncommon spring migrant.
The resident Canada Geese have already hatched their broods.
Tree Swallows are common summer residents throughout Oregon, wherever there are open spaces, water, and cavities for nesting. They are the first of the swallows to arrive in spring, usually in February in the Willamette Valley. They are also the only swallow to include fruit and seeds in their diet, a strategy which enhances their ability to survive wintry weather when insects are hard to find.
Nesting occurs in cavities, natural or man-made. This pair is using one of the many nest boxes at Fernhill Wetlands.
This female is using an old woodpecker cavity for nesting. When nest boxes are not available, Tree Swallow nesting success is directly tied to the availability of woodpecker cavities.
Migration has wound down by now, and the summer breeders are out in force. Here are a few birds I found on Sauvie Island this morning.
Savannah Sparrows can be heard at the edges of all the pastures.
This Bald Eagle hovered over me, scolding the whole time. That behavior is more typical of Red-winged Blackbirds. I thought the eagles would be done nesting by now, but apparently they still have young in the nest.
Blue-winged Teal, uncommon in the Willamette Valley
Cinnamon Teal, common, but always a delight
hungry Barn Swallow chicks