February is generally regarded as one of the slowest months for birding in the Portland area, at least in regard to finding rarities. But there are a lot of birds around to brighten up this dreary month. This Ring-necked Duck was making quite a wake in a pond at Dawson Creek Park.
Tundra Swans are common on Sauvie Island.
Black-crowned Night-Heron lurking in the brush at Koll Center Wetlands
Red-winged Blackbirds are ubiquitous around any wetland in the area, but they are a striking bird.
Another species that tends to be overlooked is American Coot.
The Acorn Woodpeckers at Dawson Creek tend to be perched high and backlit, but this individual came down low for some cracked corn that someone had put out.
Check out the tongue holding the corn kernel.
Despite the recent winter weather, migration should be kicking in at any moment.
While spring migration has wound down, there is still a lot of bird activity at Fernhill Wetlands. This Anna’s Hummingbird was stretching his wings.
These dapper male Ruddy Ducks were staying in the middle of the main lake, so no good photo for me.
Cinnamon Teal taking a morning nap
Purple Martins are nesting here again.
This Tundra Swan is missing part of her left wing, so is unable to migrate. She has been reported at this site since last year, so she is apparently doing alright despite her injury.
Lesser Goldfinch in a chain link fence. A lot of people don’t like photos of wildlife on man-made structures. But given the extent that humans have altered the world (Fernhill Wetlands is a man-made wetland.), a lot of species have no choice but to live among human infrastructure. While we can argue about the aesthetics, this is actually “natural” for a lot of animals.
Rentenaar Road on Sauvie Island remains one of the better sites in the Portland area to find a nice diversity of winter sparrows, along with other songbirds and waterfowl. While this trip did not produce any rarities, there were plenty of birds and sunshine to make the trip worthwhile. White-crowned Sparrows, pictured above, are among the more common species.
Golden-crowned Sparrows are usually the most common sparrow in the winter flocks.
This Fox Sparrow kept close to the heavy cover.
Once considered a rarity in this area, White-throated Sparrows are now reliable winter residents.
Another Red-winged Blackbird, showing off her colors
This Red-shouldered Hawk was the most unusual find of the day.
Several birds were bathing in puddles in the road. Here a male Purple Finch cavorts with a female House Finch.
Waterfowl numbers were a little low on this trip. Ducks and geese face pretty heavy hunting pressure on Sauvie Island. Numbers should increase in the next month as hunting seasons expire and some birds start moving north. This flock of Tundra Swans kept their distance from the road.
As the weather was clear on this day, there were nice views of Mount St. Helens, here with a lenticular cloud.
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.
Nesting season continues to progress. While some songbirds have already fledged a batch of babies, other species are just getting under way. This Pied-billed Grebe was sitting on a nest at Commonwealth Lake.
Blue-winged Teal can be hard to find in the Willamette Valley at any time, so it was nice to see a pair at Fernhill Wetlands.
female Blue-winged Teal
Eurasian Collared-Doves continue to expand their range and numbers in Oregon. It wasn’t all that long ago that these birds were first found in the state, or maybe I am just old. This bird was singing at Fernhill.
Song Sparrow at Fernhill, living up to his name
A few Purple Martins have returned to the nest boxes at Fernhill. They are still a treat to see here.
While most of the Tundra Swans that winter in Oregon left for the breeding grounds long ago, this individual continues to hang out at Fernhill. A few observers have reported this bird as a Trumpeter Swan, but the straight feathering across the forehead (as opposed to the widow’s peak on a Trumpeter) is consistent with Tundra.
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.
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.
I walked around Fernhill Wetlands (Birding Oregon, p. 61) in the mid afternoon. Most of the waterfowl that roost here on winter evenings were still off feeding in the area fields, but there is always something to see.
A flock of Brewer’s Blackbirds were hanging out in a tree by the parking lot.
This American Kestrel was in the same tree as the blackbirds, but the two didn’t seem to pay any attention to each other.
A pair of Bald Eagles is usually visible in the grove of large cottonwoods on the southeast corner of the property.
The eagles have started a new nest this year.
This observation platform was destroyed by arsonists. Fernhill Wetlands is not a park, but is owned by the area waste water department. As a result, there are few resources for facilities or habitat management.
Tundra Swans were flying in to roost. They tend to stay in the more distant parts of Mitigation Marsh.
Great Blue Herons are nesting in the trees to the east of the wetlands. This individual was resting on a snag in Cattail Marsh.
The deeper water of Fernhill Lake attracts divers like this Horned Grebe.