Sundial Beach Loop Hike

I had super-fun at a former Superfund clean-up site a couple of weeks ago! A place now called the “Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park” that just so happens to include the Sundial Beach Loop Hike. It’s not much of a hike since most of the trail is a paved levee road that is part of Portland’s 40-mile loop.

The trailhead is next to the Troutdale airport and a sewage treatment plant. Along the trail, huge powerlines loom overhead, and a giant substation sits on one side. Paradoxically, lush riparian forests, wide fields, and vibrant wetlands, including Company Lake, make up the rest of the park.

Power view

I also just noticed on OregonHikers.org: “A note of caution should be added: the wooded areas are sometimes the camping places of transients and some may not feel safe straying from the paved trail, especially when alone.” So, yeah. There’s that. I saw camps on the sandbar at the “beach” (poor access through thickets, not much of a shoreline), but didn’t run into anyone besides dog-walkers and hikers along the trail.

What the heck was I doing here, you ask? Well, I was here for the birds of course! This area includes a confluence of the Sandy River and the Columbia River and is buzzing with wildlife and birds. To be completely honest, I’d seen several Rufous Hummingbird sightings reported on E-bird here and I had to take a look.

I’m glad I did.

Rufous Hummingbird

I love this bird.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Giddy, after watching the Rufous Hummingbird for a bit, I got turned around and ran into these charming birds:

Greater Yellowlegs

Solitary Sandpiper

I had to do a bit of research (gah- shorebirds!), and I came up with the top as a Greater Yellowlegs (extensive dark bars on the flanks), and the bottom as a Solitary Sandpiper (white “spectacles,” short bill, dark breast). For the Solitary ID I triple checked, since most of the maps show this is uncommon or rare even for this region, however, as someone pointed out, “they’re unusual but far from unheard of in that part of the state.” E-bird also had some sightings in the area, so, Solitary Sandpiper it is!

Additional shorebirds, difficult to see, determined to be Least Sandpipers (yellow legs, dark brown on top, and droopy bills).

Least Sandpipers

There were several birds at this park: Wood Duck, Canada Geese (with goslings!), Kingfisher, Orange-crowned Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Goldfinch, Savannah Sparrow, Western Scrub-Jay, Spotted Towhee, Killdeer, and Swallows. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

Spotted Towhee

Western Scrub-Jay

Another bird I happened upon this day was a Great Horned Owl. Some people “chase the dragon,” I chase “cat ears” in the woods. I’m hooked on scanning tree-tops for those telltale “horns.”

Great Horned Owl

And this one had a little owlet.

Great Horned Owl & Owlet

I watched the “owl muppet show” for a while. My boyfriend is convinced they’re muppets because of the way they move their heads in circular motions, even though I know they’ve really got “binocular vision,” and are judging objects shapes and distances, but, yeah muppets are fun. It was this owl enocounter in particular, along with a post on Facebook by Scott Carpenter, that inspired me to join the Put an Owl on It team for Birdathon. Because owls.

And that’s not all! After I’d exhausted myself hiking around the industrial park/bird paradise, I hopped on my bike to ride home and included a bit of birding-by-bike along the way. Here’s a small sample of what I found.

Osprey

Bunny

Savannah Sparrow

An Osprey, a tatter-eared bunny, and my favorite picture so far, of a Savannah Sparrow!

Super-fun!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Smith and Bybee with Angela

A few weeks ago, my cousin, Angela, from Seattle expressed an interest in birding together. I was tickled. She is currently earning her Master of Arts degree in Museology from University of Washington, and is also a talented science illustrator focusing on “microhabitats” such as slime molds, mosses, and ferns. She’s pretty kick-ass.

We met at Smith and Bybee wetlands to see what we could find.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle eating a catfish

Juvenile Bald Eagle eating a catfish

Tree Swallows

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Cooperative Tree Swallow

Eurasian-collared Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian-collared Dove..."koo-KOO-kook"

Eurasian Collared-Dove…”koo-KOO-kook”

 

From Bald Eagles to Eurasian Collared-Doves, Smith and Bybee did not disappoint. Overall, we saw (and/or heard) 23 bird species. Angela’s favorite sighting was this Anna’s Hummingbird flittering from flower to flower in the Red-flowering Currant.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Angela also pointed out a Bombus melanopygus, the Western bumblebee on the currant I hadn’t noticed (and failed to get a picture of).

My favorite point of the trip was when she rolled over a log on the forest floor, uncovering a Long-toed Salamander.

Long-toed Salamander

Long-toed Salamander

Long-toed Salamander

Long-toed Salamander

 

It was fun birding with Angela. She’s a naturalist at heart who takes interest in learning about the world around her. Just earlier in the month she’d been on a nature walk with an entire class of biologists, graduate students, and nature-nerds identifying the full spectrum of flora and fauna of the woods. This was a fun way to explore Smith and Bybee too.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Beginning Birding I

I recently completed Audubon’s Beginning Birding class taught by the kind and patient Laura Whittemore. She is the author of Laura Goes Birding blog, and a longtime experienced teacher and birder. The course includes one classroom session and two guided field trips and is excellent for beginners looking to learn basic birding skills such as identifying subtle differences between seemingly identical little brown birds.

After these sessions, I’m still a beginner, but now I’m a beginner who knows to judge size and shape of the birds, decipher what it’s doing, recognize habitat, listen closely to songs, and pay attention to what type of bird it is – raptor? finch? sparrow? plover? I’ve learned to pay attention to field marks and other identification clues. These are skills that Laura makes look easy but for me will take practice and hopefully some day become second nature.

It was especially fun to meet other new birders to share the experience with. The classroom was held at Audubon’s satellite East-side Branch at Leach Botanical Garden and the field trips took us to Smith and Bybee Lakes and Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge. Overall we saw (and/or heard) 32 species at Smith and Bybee and 33 species at Tualatin NWR including 4 new-to-me spices: Ruddy Duck, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Tree Swallow, and Green-winged Teal.

Some highlights:

I felt the class was beneficial enough that I’ve signed up for another in the series: Waterfowl I.D. for Beginners. It starts next week and I look forward to it!

Tweets, chirps, and quacks,

Audrey

Find more pictures from the Smith and Bybee trip here, and Tualatin NWR here.