Sandy River Delta

I’ve made several trips to the Sandy River Delta this spring. It is one of the few places where I can bird and the puppy can run around. The wide open spaces often mean that the birds are distant, but it is still a great spot.

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While Himalayan Blackberry is a terrible invasive in the Pacific Northwest, the patches of blackberry at Sandy River host a lot of birds, like this Song Sparrow.
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Rufous Hummingbird is another species that uses the blackberry brambles.
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Eulachon, a species of smelt, run up the Columbia River in early spring to spawn, much to the delight of gulls, eagles, and puppies.
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Common Yellowthroat, making a very brief appearance out in the open.
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One of the main birding targets at Sandy River is Yellow-breasted Chat. This is one of the few reliable sites for this species in the Portland area. They, too, are usually found in the blackberry brambles.
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This Yellow-breasted Chat came out of the brambles to sing on one of the power line towers.
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This is Kai, future birding dog but current pain in the tuchus. One day, his puppy energy will subside and I will be able to stand in one spot for more than five seconds to photograph a bird. At least that is my hope.

Happy Spring

Scout Camp Loop Trail

canyonThe Scout Camp Loop Trail is a lovely 2.2 mile hike northwest of Terrebonne. It is not particularly birdy. I logged 11 species on my trip, and the top eBird list for this site is only 17. (eBird calls this site Scott Camp Loop Trail, a typo that I hope will be corrected soon.) Despite the low diversity, it was well worth it to spend a few hours along this stretch of the Deschutes River.

The first .4 mile is through some juniper/sage steppe, which actually held the greatest bird diversity of the hike. The trail then descends into the canyon.

rock wrenThis Rock Wren was singing up a storm, but insisted on doing so from a high backlit perch.

bl starWith the recent high temperatures and lack of rain, most of the vegetation on the slopes was dried to a crisp. But the Blazing Stars were in full bloom, in defiance of the harsh conditions.

riparianDown at the river’s edge was a lush ribbon of greenery.

mule deerSeveral Mule Deer were taking advantage of the lush growth.

chat smallAside from the Violet-green Swallows flying over the water, the most common bird along the river was Yellow-breasted Chat. There were at least six individuals working the riparian corridor.

two-tailed swallowtailI don’t study butterflies much, but this Two-tailed Swallowtail was a new one for me.

common side-blotched lizard pairWhenever I visit eastern Oregon I am especially on the lookout for herps. This pair of Common Side-blotched Lizards was the only herp sighting of this hike, but the species was new to me.

side-blotched 1Here is the female, whose colors are more muted.

side-blotched 3The male was really colorful, with blue spots on the back and orange underneath.

side-blotched portraitAnother look at the male. The two didn’t seem to mind my presence. I think they were more interested in each other.

Happy Summer

Birdathon

Our team for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Birdathon made a 360-mile loop through the Willamette Valley, across the Cascades, and east to the high desert. We tallied 110 species for the day. Here are a few.

Acorn Woodpeckers are reliable near Ankeny NWR. This one was hanging out in a nest hole.

Also at Ankeny, this Yellow-breasted Chat posed and sang for us.

This Pygmy Nuthatch was nesting at Black Butte Ranch, just east of Sisters.

Calliope Crossing, north of Sisters, came through with several examples of its namesake hummingbird. The feeder, placed by one of my teammates on a scouting trip, made watching these little guys easier.

Mountain Chickadees were nesting in a hollow stump just inches from the ground.

Calliope Crossing is also famous for hosting a great variety of woodpeckers. This is a hybrid Red-naped X Red-breasted Sapsucker.

At Smith Rock, we watched this Golden Eagle nest with one downy chick.

Bald Eagles were also nesting at Smith Rock.

Ogden Wayside hosted a colony of ground Squirrels. I believe these are Merriam’s Ground Squirrels, although I have trouble distinguishing Merriam’s from¬†Belding’s Ground Squirrel. I need to do some rodent research.

It was a fun, albeit exhausting, day. There is still time to contribute to Portland Audubon’s fundraiser. Click here for more information.

 

 

Sandy River Delta

chat singingI took Nala to the Sandy River Delta this week. One of the target birds for this area is Yellow-breasted Chat, a species hard to find elsewhere in the Portland area.
chat turnedThis was the only individual I found that day, but new migrants are arriving daily. Willow Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds, two other specialties of this site, were largely absent during my visit, but were reported a few days later.

IMG_4762Lazuli Buntings are back in force and singing on territory.

common yellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat

IMG_4757Savannah Sparrow, in harsh sunlight. One of these days I will learn how to photograph in such conditions.

pileatedWe often associate Pileated Woodpeckers with dense forest, but this species is often found on isolated cottonwood trees along the Columbia River.

Sandy River Delta 7/20/12

While late July is normally pretty slow birding in the Willamette Valley, the Sandy River Delta continues to be active. The regular nesting species that are local specialties at this site (Yellow-breasted Chat, Lazuli Bunting, Willow Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, etc.) are still easy to find. A very vocal Indigo Bunting has been a rare treat the past week or so, and an even rarer Yellow-billed Cuckoo has been reported. On my recent visit, I enjoyed brief views of the bunting, but the cuckoo has not been relocated.

This Yellow-breasted Chat was singing away in the blackberry thickets. He stayed out of sight most of the time, but popped up briefly for a distant photo.

American Goldfinches were common in both the grassy and brushy habitats.

An Eastern Kingbird was using this pipeline marker as a hunting perch in the middle of a large grassy area.

Western Tiger Swallowtail at the mud near the edge of Nala’s favorite swimming pond

Water levels are dropping, so Nala’s pond will soon be too shallow for swimming. But the the Sandy River has dropped enough to be accessible now, and the water in the river is a lot cleaner than the brown pond water.