Steigerwald and Warblers!

A week ago, my boyfriend Tomas joined me on one of my best birding trips yet.

I was hesitant to try out Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge before the seasonal trails open (May-Nov), but it was totally worth going. The park is a picturesque 1,049 acre setting of pastures, woodlands, and wetlands along the Columbia River with plenty to see and explore without the seasonal spur.

Upon entering the trail system, we got a great look at a Northern Harrier. Who can resist that charming flat owl-like face?

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Following the trail, we came across a flash of feathers near the water’s edge. I investigated further to find an American Bittern!

American Bittern

Moving slowly and steadily, the bittern was on the prowl for a tasty bite of breakfast.

American Bittern

Not long after this, I saw my first migratory warbler! A Common Yellowthroat!

Common Yellowthroat

And after that, I saw a bunch more!

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

So dang cute. They were up, down, flying all around, singing, and “warbling” adorably. It took patience to get photos, but I even managed a single shot of a female.

Common Yellowthroat female

Later, a passerby alerted me to this handsome fella dabbling in the pond.

Cinnamon Teal

A Cinnamon Teal, what a treat!

Cinnamon Teal

Stigerwald turned up plentiful wildlife for us to see.

One of my favorite pictures of the day is of this Ring-necked Pheasant. He has a beautiful sunset-colored chest. A much better view than my first encounter on Sauvie Island. This bird was cackling loudly and making a fuss.

Ring-necked Pheasant

Perhaps he was displaying for his nearby lady friend.

Ring-necked Pheasant

We left Steigerwald grateful for such a fulfilling visit. Even so, on the drive home I yelled for Tomas to pull over so we could get a look at Osprey nesting aside Highway 14, because why not?

Osprey

Later, this same day, my dad emailed me a picture of an Osprey he saw in his hometown of Largo, Florida. While seen only in summer in Oregon, these fierce beauties frequent his neighborhood ponds year-round. What a charismatic shot!

Osprey

April birding is off to a great start!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Birding by Bike

As I sit listening to the thunder, rain, and hail outside, I’m thankful it was sunny-ish last weekend because I went birding by bike!

There are fewer joys greater than pedaling around Portland on a spring day.

Bike

It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to hop on the saddle to go birding, but this day I was determined to find new species by bike and opted to try my luck looping around the airport.

Starting at Alderwood Trail, I locked up and walked along the calm, quiet trail. I noticed how few waterbirds there were since mid-winter. Merely one Ring-necked Duck and a couple of Mallards hanging in the slough. YAWN. Just kidding, they’re cool birds, but I was looking for something more this day.

A couple of other common birds cooperated for a picture.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

American Robin

American Robin

I’m making a strong effort to figure out how to work my new camera. Normally, there are three settings on my cameras: Frustrated, Angry, and Happy. I usually have it set to Frustrated, but lately, I’ve found a couple of Happy settings. I’m counting down the days until my camera class next month (17)!

Alder Trail felt like a bust, so I moved on towards the Marine Drive Bike Path, and found a Savannah Sparrow along the way!

Savannah Sparrow

I recently took the Little Brown Birds class with Portland Audubon and feeling only slightly more confident about identifying them I focused my attention on the field marks. I also learned to ask: Why are you not a Song Sparrow? Because, most often it is, so the Song Sparrow makes a good “reference species.” The bird pictured above has a short, forked tail, and yellow lores making it a Savannah Sparrow.

I continued biking along the Columbia River, until I spotted two active birds flying around and calling out in high pitched notes.

American Pipit

American Pipit

American Pipit

American Pipit

What the heck is it I wondered. These are little brown birds that weren’t in my little brown birds class…uh oh…I turned to the field marks: buffy chest with light streaking, long slender pointed bills, pale lores…it still didn’t connect until I flipped through the different species in Sibley and came across the Wagtails and Pipits. Ground-dwelling open country song birds that wag their tails up and down – this bird wagged its tail! The little brown bird’s identity was uncovered: American Pipit!

Following this excitement, I was further spoiled by two more newbies in the Columbia! A Horned Grebe and a Common Loon (my 100th!).

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

Common Loon

Common Loon

Looking up these birds on the Cornell website makes me want to take a trip to Alaska or Canada to see them in their breeding plumages in the summer. At the very least I want to some day hear the Common Loon’s haunting, wolf-like calls in person. It’s on my birding-bucket list.

Here are some other birds I saw along my bike ride.

 

Soft bird on a sharp fence - Mourning Dove

Soft bird on a sharp fence – Mourning Dove

A great ride and seeing beautiful birds makes for a satisfying and happy day.

Speaking of beautiful birds, please help Audubon stop the Cormorants from being killed along the Columbia River. More information and how to help HERE.

Thank you.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

West Hayden Island

Since it was sunny and mid-50s this afternoon in Portland, I decided to stop by West Hayden Island, a noted birding spot. But when I got there it was more like foggy island.

IMG_4367

West Hayden Island is part of a channel bar on the Columbia River manipulated over years by diking and dredge disposal. There are grassy hills, river beaches, and stands of deciduous forest. It is currently owned by the Port of Portland and considered “industrial reserve.” The opposite end, Jantzen Beach “SuperCenter” is highly urbanized with shopping centers, industrial ports, RV parks, and even yacht clubs. The Port of Portland’s original vision for West Hayden Island similarly was parking lots and marine industrial terminals. Thankfully the controversial fate of the western portion was saved last year due to strong opposition from the community (hooray!).

This 826 acre wildlife habitat area is a valuable resource for birds, fish, amphibians, and humans alike. Apparently, it’s also a popular place to take dogs on the beach. I think I arrived about 30 minutes too late as just ahead of me there were people with dogs running in and out of the water. Good for the dogs, not so great for the birds…who drifted farther and farther away from the shore. There is a leashed-pets only sign but no one seemed to heed this rule.

Not every trip will be a bright birding success; some will be foggy dog days.

Despite the imperfect conditions, I spotted Song Sparrow, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Gulls, Anna’s Hummingbird, Canada Geese, and a Bald Eagle. I’ve read Bald Eagles nest here and I did see a very large nest, but no parents nearby that I saw.

I’m happy to report I can add two new species to my list: Western Grebe and Killdeer. I have a soft spot for Killdeer since it was the first bird I correctly identified on my own when I took an ornithology class about hundred years ago. I was curious when I’d see one again and this was the trip!

The park could use some TLC, there was graffiti and trash along they way, but hopefully the natural future of this island remains bright. I’ll surely make a point to visit again soon.

IMG_4393

The fog lifts as I head out

Save West Hayden Island

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey