Portland Audubon & Tualatin River NWR

The lush forest at the Audubon Society of Portland
We spent Saturday afternoon of our recent visit to Portland (Oregon) to do some local birding.

The Audubon Society of Portland has a wonderful visitor center, with back porch feeders attracting Anna's Hummingbirds and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, new to our Life List. Black-headed Grosbeaks, Fox Sparrows and appropriately, "Oregon" Juncos also fed there.

Anna's Hummingbird
Injured American Kestrels at the Wildlife Care Center

A pair of Kestrels greeted us at the entrance to the Wildlife Care Center.

Then we sampled the Center's trail system and thoroughly enjoyed a peaceful walk on the soft pine-covered forest floor under the canopy of magnificent Douglas Firs.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Black-headed Grosbeak

Nearby Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge was our next stop, although we were too late for the migratory waders as the ponds were mostly dry.

We did enjoy seeing Black-headed Grosbeaks in a natural setting. On the way out, we saw a beaver and a coypu (aka nutria or river rat) in a culvert.

Our evening ended watching a fantastic movie -- "The King's Speech" -- with Mike's family, followed by board games and billiards.

Coypu (aka Nutria or River Rat) 

Oregon Coast Mini Trip

View from Cape Meares on the Oregon coast
It was our first full day in Portland, Oregon on a short visit to see Mike's family. I love to go to the beach under virtually any weather conditions, so was thrilled that Glenn and Marta, Mike's brother and sis-in-law, would plan a day trip to the coast on what was forecast to be a sunny day in Oregon.

Our first stop was the Tillamook Cheese Factory, where we all enjoyed a leg stretch, sampled their cheeses (garlic cheddar was the unanimous winner) and then got ice cream. Their pumpkin ice cream in fresh waffle cones is the best!

Susan getting Tillamook ice cream!

Next we drove up to Cape Meares where we saw two new birds, the Pelagic Cormorant and Brandt's Cormorant, from a high lookout point where volunteers shared spotting scopes. After walking some of the trails and visiting the Cape Meares Lighthouse, we headed off to Cannon Beach. Our cheese and ice cream lunch wasn't holding us over, so we were glad when Marta broke out her delicious Waldorf Salad, made with green apples, dried cranberries and walnuts tossed with plain yogurt instead of mayo - yum yum!

Cormorants nesting near Cape Meares

Gulls nesting on Haystack Rock, near Cannon Beach

By the time we reached Cannon Beach, we were losing our sunshine and the wind was picking up, so Mom and Glenn stayed back, while Marta, Mike & I walked out toward Haystack Rock and got our feet in the sand. Harlequin Ducks were napping at the base of the Rock, but were hard to make out, with their heads tucked around into their back feathers. We got to see a Bald Eagle buzzing gull nests on the Rock and we also got to see our first Black Oystercatcher in the wild (we'd seen them at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska in 2009, before we became interested in birding).

Bald Eagle buzzing gulls on Haystack Rock
We stopped for dinner at Camp 18, a former logging camp turned restaurant known best for having lumberjack sized portions. After a great dinner, we checked out massive old logging gear on the grounds.
Entrance to Camp 18

Great Horned Owl Update

We are happy to report that the Great Horned Owl nest near Boulder which we first mentioned April, has produced two active, thriving branchers!

Great Horned Owl owlet "brancher"

We've been watching them whenever we are in the area, or if necessary, make an excuse to go to the area to check in on them. (-:

Great Horned Owl brancher

On our last visit in mid-May, Mama Owl fended off a raccoon. The raccoon was actually no where near the branchers, but clearly she did not want him anywhere remotely near her babies.

After she landed again in another nearby tree, a grackle started harassing her for no apparent reason -- maybe a nearby nest?

Raccoon scurrying away after being buzzed by Mama Owl
Mama Owl getting buzzed by a grackle
Mama Owl in a calmer moment

Pawnee National Grassland

The main attraction for us in visiting Pawnee National Grassland was to see Burrowing Owls, but the best owling was on our way home at a site somewhat east of Pawnee, near the town of Nunn, Colorado.

Burrowing Owl

The grasslands are criss-crossed with dirt roads, and the advice to not go without a map is well advised. On the way in, we did a double-take at the odd looking Guinea Fowl, foraging around someone's farm.

Pawnee National Grassland roads

Guinea Fowl

Flocks of Lark Buntings were a treat to follow, as was the striking Western Kingbird. We also picked up a new bird for our Life List, the McCown's Longspur. We'd never seen Sand Lilies before, but since then we've noticed them blooming on Little Prospect Mountain in Estes Park.

Lark Bunting (Colorado state bird)
Western Kingbird
Sand Lily

McGown's Longspur
We also enjoyed watching the graceful Pronghorn Antelope bounding across the grassland.

Pronghorn Antelope

Burrowing Owls at their burrow near Nunn, CO

Fossil Creek Reservoir Birding

Western Grebe
One of the fun things about birding is that it can be done even with relatively short blocks of time.

So, when Susan had an appointment in Fort Collins, she dropped me off at Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space, a National Audubon Society "Important Bird Area."
Clark's Grebe

Fossil Creek is nice for many reasons, but on this windy day the viewing blinds gave shelter from the sun and wind and provided a place to sit.

One thing I was hoping to see here was the Western Grebes doing their courtship dance. I did see many Western Grebes interacting, but didn't see any dancing going on.

I enjoyed watching a Forster's Tern actively fishing. I also saw both a Great Egret and Snow Egret, plus Great Blue Herons and many other birds.

Susan joined me after her appointment and we got to see the Clark's Grebe, a lifer for us.

Forster's Tern
Great Blue Heron

Bird Alert!

May 9, 9:30AM. The phone rings. It's a bird alert! One of our local birding friends has spotted a Sora near Lake Estes.

We finish our breakfast, get dressed and rush over in time to see this unusual little rail foraging around some reeds. He is unmistakable coming or going, with his black mask above a bright yellow bill on one end, and a stubby tail, often upturned revealing white underparts at the other.

Another birding friend received the Alert and joins us. She notices some smaller birds that otherwise might have eluded our attention. Perhaps it is a Palm Warbler, quite uncommon here. Curiosity piqued, we follow her as she approaches the bushes where the bird has landed.

Palm Warbler
What a pretty little bird the Palm Warbler is, with his red cap and yellow trim! We notice yet another warbler, too, flitting around the bushes in what we are learning is the typical warbler style. The Orange-crowned Warbler looks much more plain and his crown is very hard to see.

Orange-crested Warbler
It was a good morning of birding, and we added three new birds to our life list!

City Park Rookery and Stearns Lake

Rookery at Denver City Park
Visiting the Denver City Park Rookery is a bit like going to the zoo.  Walk in and see birds, guaranteed.

Probably 100+ nests are on a small island close to the shore. No binoculars are needed, but with their help we were occasionally able to see pretty blue eggs in some of the nests.

Two hours flew by while we observed and photographed Double-crested Cormorants, plus two new birds for our life list: Snowy Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons.

Black-crowned Night Heron
The funky little Night Herons often flew directly over our heads, repeatedly gathering nesting materials. We had to laugh at their considerable determination in biting off tree branches, while awkwardly straining to keep their balance. No doubt they were motivated by the possibility of mating should the female accept his twig. The only juvenile in sight reminded me of another bird we've yet to see: the American Bittern.

Somewhat less active, the Snowy Egrets were fun to watch in their flowing plumage and unique "golden slippers."

A crazy number of images later, we dragged ourselves away from the show, stopping at Stearn's Lake to check out a report of a Black-necked Stilt sighting. Just before reaching the lake I noticed a farmer's pond and, there among other migratory waders was our Stilt! Not to be confused with the endangered Black Stilt we saw in New Zealand, the Black-necked Stilt is classified as a Species of Least Concern. We watched it foraging among the other waders then walked over to nearby Stearns Lake.

Black-necked Stilts (right)

Western Grebes at Stearns Lake
Many Western Grebes were out in the middle of the lake, a Great Blue Heron moved in and out of the reeds, and a couple of white dots on the distant shore proved to be egrets. When we got around to the other side, we discovered not only one Great Egret and two Snowy Egrets, but also a Black-crowned Night Heron.

May Day

Say's Phobe catching an insect

We saw our first Say's Phoebe at Lake Estes on May 1 this year and what fun to watch him up close, hovering above the ground and water then dropping down quickly to catch a tasty insect morsel.

The lone Pied-billed Grebe is still at the Lake and we wonder if he will move along or stay with us for the summer. I love the way he sinks when threatened!

The Pied-bill Grebe can rapidly adjust buoyancy to sink out of sight
We also enjoyed seeing both varieties of the cute Yellow-rumped Warbler, the "Myrtle" and the "Audubon" (pictured below).

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon)