Category: columbia, or

Site Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

Site Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

This is the eighth installment of the “Site Guide”. It covers the first of five sites in the environs of St. Helens – Scappoose Bay Marina.

This guide will be published in a series of installments:
Overview of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Habitats of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Birds of Columbia County – Overview (5/9/14 post)
Birding Sites of Columbia County – Individual installments, and associated Bird Lists of the Sites in Columbia County:
Introduction (5/12/14 post)

Columbia River Sites – South to North
Sauvie Island (5/12/14 post)
Scappoose WTP and Kessi Pond (5/14/14 post)
Crown Zellerbach Trail – East End (5/15/14 post)
Scappoose Bottoms (5/19/14 post)
Scappoose Bay (5/29/14 post)

(A link to a downloadable copy of this guide is found in the first installment of this series)

Columbia River Birding Areas

6) Scappoose Bay Marina (OBT):

Location/Directions: (45.82869, -122.8384) South of St. Helens, turn east onto Bennett St. and take Old Portland Rd North to the Scappoose Bay Marina. There is a day use fee required. Next to the rest rooms are a set of parking places that allow free 10 minute parking. I confess to stretching this to a half an hour.

Habitat and Birds: There is a small paved trail through a Cottonwood gallery woods. There are views of Scappoose Bay which can have all manner of river birds, loons, grebes, gulls and ducks. A Red-necked Grebe has been seen here. Piliated Woodpeckers are regular and for some reason Stellar’s Jays love this place and to find a dozen or so is common in winter. The Cottonwoods hold White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and the usual migrant and breeding passerines.

6) Scappoose Bay Marina (PL) – 82 species, 16 (5/25/14)

Greater White-fronted Goose Cackling Goose Canada Goose
Tundra Swan Wood Duck Gadwall
American Wigeon Mallard Northern Pintail
Hooded Merganser Common Merganser Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe Double-crested Cormorant Great Blue Heron
Great Egret Osprey Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk Rough-legged Hawk Sandhill Crane
Greater Yellowlegs Ring-billed Gull Western Gull
California Gull Glaucous-winged Gull Band-tailed Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove Mourning Dove Vaux’s Swift
Anna’s Hummingbird Rufous Hummingbird Belted Kingfisher
Red-breasted Sapsucker Downy Woodpecker Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker American Kestrel Western Wood-Pewee
Pacific-slope Flycatcher Steller’s Jay Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow Common Raven Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow Violet-green Swallow Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee Bushtit White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper Pacific Wren Bewick’s Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet Ruby-crowned Kinglet Swainson’s Thrush
Hermit Thrush American Robin Varied Thrush
European Starling Cedar Waxwing Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat Yellow-rumped Warbler Townsend’s Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler Spotted Towhee Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow Golden-crowned Sparrow Dark-eyed Junco
Western Tanager Black-headed Grosbeak Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer’s Blackbird Brown-headed Cowbird Bullock’s Oriole
House Finch Purple Finch American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Field Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

Field Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

This is the seventh installment of the “Field Guide”.  It is an account of one of the three sites found in proximity to the town of Scappoose – the Scappoose Bottoms.

This guide will be published in a series of installments:
Overview of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Habitats of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Birds of Columbia County – Overview (5/9/14 post)
Birding Sites of Columbia County – Individual installments, and associated Bird Lists of the Sites in Columbia County:
Introduction (5/12/14 post)

Columbia River Sites – South to North
Sauvie Island (5/12/14 post)
Scappoose WTP and Kessi Pond (5/14/14 post)
Crown Zellerbach Trail – East End (5/15/14 post)
Scappoose Bottoms. (5/19/14 post)

(A link to a downloadable copy of this guide is found in the first installment of this series)

Columbia River Birding Areas

4) Scappoose Bottoms – Honeyman Rd (OBT):

Location/Directions: The loop starts at the Dike Rd intersection right next to the Crown Z trail, 1.7 miles from Hwy 30 where it is Columbia Avenue. Here is a map of the area with suggested stops.

Habitat and Birds: Honeyman is 7.5 miles long from Dike Rd (zero your odometer) to when it intersects with W Lane Rd. It is mainly agricultural land managed for cattle. The last 1.4 miles is up out of the bottoms and into a rural residential area. There are numerous places to pull off the road and all are worth the stop to scan the fields and scrub plantations for raptors, herons, egrets and ducks. Sparrows can be thick and a special stop should be made 1.4 – 1.5 miles past Dike Rd. There is a small pullout on the west side of the road just past the line of tall Cottonwoods. These trees and the field to the east can be very productive. Especially in winter for sparrows where you can easily pick up all regular wintering sparrows including White-throated. Scan all of the visible tree tops for raptors, eagles, and falcons. Continuing on the road north there are all manner of opportunities to pull over and search the road sides for sparrows, scan for raptors and ducks in the flooded fields and sloughs. Traffic is typically light so stopping on the road is usually safe. At 3.6 miles past Dike road there is another place to pull over on the west, just past the Ellis’ ponded slough. There are usually ducks on the pond in winter and the willow thickets to the south are productive in migration. The fields should be scanned for geese, ducks and waders. At 3.9 miles at the 90 degree property line curve is a great place to pull out. Scanning the fence posts and trees in this area usually produces a Rough-legged Hawk in the winter. Short eared owls have been reported here as well and Northern Shrikes have turned up now and then in winter. The Ellis’ manure sprinkler draws large concentrations of gulls, but it is usually pretty far from the road but not always. A Glaucous Gull was reported from this area. The rest of the road is about the same; ponds, sloughs, and road side kack. At mile 4.9 there is another little pull off on the north and across the road is a stand of Garry Oaks. Who knows what can turn up here? I keep hoping for Acorn Woodpeckers. Note needs to be made of the Cal Portland Wildlife Preserve which is just another 1000 ft up the road. I personally do not know what this place holds as permission is required to enter and the office is always closed on the weekends. Maybe one could call ahead of time. Rarities include: Ross’ Goose, White-tailed Kite, Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Franklin’s Gull, Glaucous Gull, Short-eared Owl, and Black Phoebe.

Scappoose Bottoms (eHS) – 136 species (5/12/14)

Greater White-fronted Goose Snow Goose Ross’s Goose
Cackling Goose Canada Goose Trumpeter Swan
Tundra Swan Wood Duck Gadwall
Eurasian Wigeon American Wigeon Mallard
Cinnamon Teal Northern Shoveler Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal Canvasback Redhead
Ring-necked Duck Greater Scaup Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead Common Goldeneye Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser California Quail Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe Double-crested Cormorant American Bittern
Great Blue Heron Great Egret Green Heron
Turkey Vulture Osprey White-tailed Kite
Golden Eagle Northern Harrier Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk Northern Goshawk Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk Rough-legged Hawk Virginia Rail
Sora American Coot Sandhill Crane
Killdeer Greater Yellowlegs Dunlin
Least Sandpiper Long-billed Dowitcher Wilson’s Snipe
Franklin’s Gull Mew Gull Ring-billed Gull
Western Gull California Gull Herring Gull
Thayer’s Gull Glaucous-winged Gull Glaucous Gull
Rock Pigeon Band-tailed Pigeon Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove Great Horned Owl Short-eared Owl
Vaux’s Swift Anna’s Hummingbird Rufous Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher Red-breasted Sapsucker Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker Pileated Woodpecker American Kestrel
Merlin Peregrine Falcon Western Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher Black Phoebe Say’s Phoebe
Northern Shrike Steller’s Jay Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow Common Raven Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow Violet-green Swallow Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow Black-capped Chickadee Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit Red-breasted Nuthatch White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper Pacific Wren Marsh Wren
Bewick’s Wren Golden-crowned Kinglet Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush American Robin Varied Thrush
European Starling American Pipit Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler Common Yellowthroat Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee Savannah Sparrow Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow Lincoln’s Sparrow White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow Golden-crowned Sparrow Dark-eyed Junco
Black-headed Grosbeak Lazuli Bunting Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark Brewer’s Blackbird Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock’s Oriole House Finch Purple Finch
Pine Siskin Lesser Goldfinch American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

 

Field Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

This is the sixth installment of the “Field Guide”.  It is an account of one of the three sites found in proximity to the town of Scappoose – the Crown Zellerbach Trail.

This guide will be published in a series of installments:
Overview of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Habitats of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Birds of Columbia County – Overview (5/9/14 post)
Birding Sites of Columbia County – Individual installments, and associated Bird Lists of the Sites in Columbia County:
Introduction (5/12/14 post)

Columbia River Sites – South to North
Sauvie Island (5/12/14 post)
Scappoose WTP and Kessi Pond (5/14/14 post)
Crown Zellerbach Trail – East End (5/15/14 post)

(A link to a downloadable copy of this guide is found in the first installment of this series)

Columbia River Birding Areas

3) Crown Zellerbach Trail – East End (OBT):

Location/Directions: (45.75407, -122.85001) A large parking area is another 0.7 miles from the WTP along Columbia Ave.  Parking is on the east side of the road. The trail can also be accessed from the west end off of W. Lane Rd., or in the middle at the end of Miller Rd which is a road off of Columbia.  Here is an interpretive map.

Habitat and Birds: From the Columbia Ave parking area the trail goes both east to the Multnomah Channel and west past some wetlands. The flooded fields and ponds hold Ducks, Geese and Swans; Polygynum bogs host American Bittern, Virginia Rails, and Sora; raptors cruise the fields and use the trees for roosting, Red-shouldered and Rough-legged Hawks in winter, and Northern Harrier, Red-tails, Bald Eagles and nesting Osprey all occur here. There are good Woodpecker habitats along the trail and Piliated are common. At the east end, overlooking the Channel, a Great Blue Heron rookery has been established on Sauvie Island (2012-2014), the Osprey have a platform, and Purple Martins use the old dock pylons as nesting sites. At the far west end around West Lane Rd there is a stand of Douglas Fir that will have a touch of variety for your list. A Brambling was seen along the trail in 2011. Overall this is a very productive couple of miles of trail.  Rarities include: Golden Eagle, Townsend’s Solitaire, Black Phoebe, Whimbrel and American Tree Sparrow.

3) Crown Zellerbach Trail – East End (eHS) – 145 species (5/12/14)

Greater White-fronted Goose Snow Goose Cackling Goose
Canada Goose Tundra Swan Wood Duck
Gadwall Eurasian Wigeon American Wigeon
Mallard Cinnamon Teal Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail Green-winged Teal Canvasback
Ring-necked Duck Lesser Scaup Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye Hooded Merganser Common Merganser
California Quail Ring-necked Pheasant Pied-billed Grebe
Western Grebe Double-crested Cormorant American White Pelican
American Bittern Great Blue Heron Great Egret
Green Heron Turkey Vulture Osprey
Golden Eagle Northern Harrier Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk Bald Eagle Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk Rough-legged Hawk Virginia Rail
Sora American Coot Sandhill Crane
Killdeer Spotted Sandpiper Greater Yellowlegs
Whimbrel Dunlin Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher Wilson’s Snipe Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull Western Gull California Gull
Herring Gull Glaucous-winged Gull Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon Eurasian Collared-Dove Mourning Dove
Barn Owl Western Screech-owl Great Horned
Vaux’s Swift Anna’s Hummingbird Rufous Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher Red-breasted Sapsucker Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker Northern Flicker Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel Merlin Peregrine Falcon
Olive-sided Flycatcher Western Wood-Pewee Willow Flycatcher
Black Phoebe Northern Shrike Warbling Vireo
Steller’s Jay Western Scrub-Jay American Crow
Common Raven Northern Rough-winged Swallow Purple Martin
Tree Swallow Violet-green Swallow Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow Black-capped Chickadee Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit Red-breasted Nuthatch White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper House Wren Pacific Wren
Marsh Wren Bewick’s Wren Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Townsend’s Solitaire Swainson’s Thrush
Hermit Thrush American Robin Varied Thrush
European Starling American Pipit Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler Common Yellowthroat Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler Townsend’s Warbler Wilson’s Warbler
Spotted Towhee American Tree Sparrow Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow Song Sparrow Lincoln’s Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow White-crowned Sparrow Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco Western Tanager Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting Red-winged Blackbird Western Meadowlark
Brewer’s Blackbird Brown-headed Cowbird Bullock’s Oriole
House Finch Purple Finch Pine Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch American Goldfinch Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow

 

Field Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

This is the fifth installment of the “Field Guide”.  It is an account of one of the three sites found in proximity to the town of Scappoose; the area around the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP).

This guide will be published in a series of installments:
Overview of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Habitats of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Birds of Columbia County – Overview (5/9/14 post)
Birding Sites of Columbia County – Individual installments, and associated Bird Lists of the Sites in Columbia County:
Introduction (5/12/14 post)

Columbia River Sites – South to North
Sauvie Island (5/12/14 post)
Scappoose WTP and Kessi Pond (5/14/14 post)

(A link to a downloadable copy of this guide is found in the first installment of this series)

Columbia River Birding Areas

2) Scappoose WTP and Kessi Pond:

Location/Directions: (45.752803, -122.857377) A parking area is located next to a pretty useless observation platform 1.0 miles east of Hwy 30 on Columbia Ave.

Habitat and Birds: The pond to the north is marshier than Kessi pond to the south. It tends to hold a different set of birds. This area is good for Ducks, Geese and Swans in the winter, and Green Herons are regular in the spring. Rarities include Black Pheobe and American Tree Sparrow. The area is pretty good for migrant and breeding passerines in the willows and cottonwoods along the road. The Cottonwoods have hosted all of the local woodpeckers. Kessi pond is getting harder to scan as vegetation grows in along the road. Great Horned Owls have nested in the woods to the north.  Obviously any couple of acres that can produce over a hundred different species is worth the stop.

2) Scappoose WTP and Kessi Pond (eHS) – 108 species ( 5/12/2014)

Cackling Goose Canada Goose Tundra Swan
Wood Duck Gadwall Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon Mallard Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler Northern Pintail Green-winged Teal
Canvasback Ring-necked Duck Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead Hooded Merganser Common Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe Double-crested Cormorant Great Blue Heron
Great Egret Green Heron Turkey Vulture
Osprey Northern Harrier Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk Bald Eagle Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail American Coot Sandhill Crane
Killdeer Spotted Sandpiper Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Dowitcher Wilson’s Snipe Glaucous-winged Gull
Rock Pigeon Band-tailed Pigeon Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove Vaux’s Swift Anna’s Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird Belted Kingfisher Red-breasted Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker Northern Flicker Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel Peregrine Falcon Western Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher Warbling Vireo Steller’s Jay
Western Scrub-Jay American Crow Common Raven
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Tree Swallow Violet-green Swallow
Barn Swallow Cliff Swallow Black-capped Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee Bushtit Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch Brown Creeper Pacific Wren
Marsh Wren Bewick’s Wren Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Swainson’s Thrush Hermit Thrush
American Robin Varied Thrush European Starling
Cedar Waxwing Orange-crowned Warbler Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler Yellow-rumped Warbler Black-throated Gray Warbler
Townsend’s Warbler Wilson’s Warbler Yellow-breasted Chat
Spotted Towhee American Tree Sparrow Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow White-throated Sparrow White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow Dark-eyed Junco Black-headed Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird Brewer’s Blackbird Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock’s Oriole House Finch Red Crossbill
American Goldfinch Evening Grosbeak House Sparrow

Field Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

This is the fourth installment of the “Field Guide”.  It is an listing of the various birding sites on Sauvie Island that lay within Columbia County.

This guide will be published in a series of installments:
Overview of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Habitats of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Birds of Columbia County – Overview (5/9/14 post)
Birding Sites of Columbia County – Individual installments, and associated Bird Lists of the Sites in Columbia County:
Introduction (5/12/14 post)
Columbia River Sites – South to North
Sauvie Island (5/12/14 post)

(A link to a downloadable copy of this guide is found in the first installment of this sereis)

Columbia River Birding Areas

1) Sauvie Island (OBT):

(Map of S.I. Sites Listed) Undoubtedly, Sauvie Island is the crown jewel of Columbia County. Anybody looking to build a substantial County list will want to allocate a large portion of their time birding on Sauvie Island. Only the north end of the Island is within Columbia County, but it is, arguably, the most productive. Most of it is in the ODFW Wildlife Management Area but there are a few parcels of private land. There are three terrestrial access points: Sauvie Island Rd on the west, Oak Island Rd. in the middle, and Reeder Rd on the east. Some, but not all areas require an ODFW Parking Permit. These areas are well marked.   Permits can be purchased at ODFW License Agents (pdf), at ODFW offices that sell licenses and online. Some of the establishments on the Island are ODFW License Agents. Permits are good for any ODFW managed areas in the state, such as Summer Lake in Lake County. Some of the areas on the Island are closed to the general public from Oct 1 through April 30. To access these areas during closure you will need a valid hunting license and a hunting permit. However, you don’t have to have a gun, a retriever and a set of decoys to access these areas.

Note: If you’re a county ticking, ABA rule abiding lister you may want to closely check just where the county line is. I’m not sure that any of the bodies of water that have free flow with Sturgeon Lake in this area are designated as lying in Columbia County. It’s possible they are in Multnomah County and that Columbia County starts at the shoreline. It depends on which map you consult. For the purposes of this guide it is assumed that the County line cuts a straight line across Sturgeon Lake.

Sauvie Island – Steelman Rd

Location/Directions: (45.73494, -122.84218) Starts at the end of Sauvie Island Rd where it turns to gravel. Closed Oct 1st to April 30th

Habitat and Birds: There are little lakes and a view of the Multnomah Channel. This provides varied habitats on the drive out to The Wash: Ash Swales, Gallery Cottonwoods and open fields. Shorebirds can be found on some of the shallow lake edges during migration. The area is good for migrant and breeding passerines and raptors.

 

Sauvie Island – The Wash

Location/Directions: (45.74068, -122.80376) Closed Oct 1st to April 30th Off of Steelman Rd look for the sign to the Wash. Drive this road to the end and park at the Gilbert River public fishing dock. A foot trail heading west out of the parking area leads to the Wash which is where the Gilbert River empties into Sturgeon Lake.

Habitat and Birds: Shorebirds in migration on the exposed mud edges of the lake, Pelicans, ducks, and gulls out on the lake. The Ash swales are good for migrant and breeding passerines. The puddle lake along the access road can be good for shorebirds and waders as well. The ash swales in the area are good for migrant and breeding passerines.

 

Sauvie Island – Oak Island Nature Trail (OBT)

Location/Directions: (45.714076, -122.820780) Closed Oct 1st to April 30th. Parking Permit required. Accessed from the end of Oak Island Rd.  Follow the gravel road after the pavement ends and stay parallel to the dike. There is a parking area at the trail head. Columbia County starts somewhere north of the first Oak grove you pass through.

Habitat and Birds: This is a 3 mile loop trail with views of Sturgeon Lake. There is great migrant and breeding passerine habitat in remnant Oak Savanna. Bullock’s Orioles nest here every year. There are a couple of places where Sturgeon Lake can be scanned. There are nice willow thickets along the edge of Sturgeon Lake. The north section of the trail overlooks a broad expanse of open country. There are also large tracts of wildlife managed grasslands that harbor nesting Savannah Sparrows and possible Vesper Sparrow habitat. There is a large lake, Wagon Wheel Hole, which can have water fowl on it depending on the time of the year. Rarities include Bonapart’s, Franklin’s and Sabine’s Gulls on Sturgeon Lake.

 

Sauvie Island – Willow Bar

Location/Directions: (45.72900, -122.77256) Open year round, Parking Permit required. After just passing the County Line (marked) there is a gravel road that heads east off of Reeder Rd. You can opt to park at the entrance or drive the length of the road to a parking area at the Columbia River’s edge. When open, driving is permitted along a jeep track that heads north up the beach.

Habitat and Birds: Cottonwood gallery woods and a trail along the beach to the north. The woodland trail up off of the beach is the most productive after scanning the river. The river view can have all manner of river birds, loons, grebes, gulls and ducks in season. The area is good for woodpeckers and sparrows. A secluded pond can hold Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks and waders. There are lots of fly-over birds crossing the Columbia to and from Ridgefield NWR – Swans and Snow Geese are regular in winter. The best way to cover the area is to park at the entrance next to Reeder Rd and walk the short road to the river, walk the jeep track to the north scanning the river, then move inland to the woodland trail and walk back to the road. Also, just across the street from the entrance there is a hunter’s path cut through the blackberries that affords a scope view of Gay Lake. Here you can find the same birds as listed below at the Observation Platform.

 

Sauvie Island –Observation Platform

Location/Directions: (45.73253, -122.77386) Open year round, Parking Permit required. The platform is well marked and just a little north of Willow Bar. It has a large parking area on the west side of Reeder Rd. It has a portable restroom facility here as well.

Habitat and Birds: Wetland/seasonal overlook of Gay Lake. This spot is mainly good for Ducks, Geese, and raptors. Winter hunt days can drastically reduce the return in effort here. Up to 5000 Snow Geese can be seen at times. There is a decent chance for Rudy Ducks, Canvasbacks and more rarely, Redheads as well as the regular pantheon including Tundra, and the occasional Trumpeter Swan. Dusky Canada Geese favor this area as well. The occasional American Bittern can be seen moving through the marsh. Soras and Virginia Rails can be heard (rarely seen) as spring approaches. There are lots of raptors in the tree tops with an occasional Peregrine Falcon. Shorebirds can also be found on the lake edges in migration.

 

Sauvie Island – Racetrack Lake

Location/Directions: (45.74485, -122.78428) Closed Oct 1st to April 30th. Walk in access only either from the Stuzer Unit parking area (Parking Permit required) or from the end of Rentenaar Rd.

Habitat and Birds: This area is basically a seasonal wetland sump surrounded by scattered wood lots on the higher ground. Productivity greatly depends on water levels which are affected both by rainfall and sluice gate management. Shore birds in migration are the main attraction here. It can have large concentrations of Great Egrets at times.

 

Sauvie Island – Rentenaar Rd

Location/Directions: (45.75769, -122.77083) Open year round to the top of the dike. The road begins approximately 2.0 miles from County line. Look for the white hunter check station. The road runs west from Reeder Rd.

Habitat and Birds: This road is mostly lined with blackberry kack. There is a new scrape lake. There are a couple of small woodlots and a marsh. This is a Sparrow haven in winter. Near the end of the road there are seasonal lakes that will have large concentrations of water fowl. Winter hunt days can drastically reduce the return in effort here. Wetlands and seasonal lake edges harbor migrant shore birds. It’s always worth the effort to spend some time on the top of the dike to scan the open fields, tree tops, and arms of Sturgeon Lake that lie beyond. Rarities include Bobolink, Clay-colored, Swamp and Harris’s Sparrows, Say’s Pheobe.

 

Sauvie Island – Rentenaar Point

Location/Directions: (45.75144, -122.79789) Closed Oct 1st to April 30th.Walk-in access only on a set of informal foot treads and cow trails.

Habitat and Birds: Views of Sturgeon Lake at the point and associated birds. You’ll find shorebirds in migration on the lake edges. The area is good for migrant and breeding passerines as well in the Ash swales and willow thickets on the walk out to the point.

 

Sauvie Island – Walton Beach

Location/Directions: (45.77227, -122.77338) Open year round, Parking Permit required. Access is about 0.7 miles north of Rentenaar Rd. There are multiple access points with stairs leading up over the dike. There are portable restroom facilities here as well.

Habitat and Birds: Along the north end of the open strand is the only place in the county that I’ve seen Horned Larks. The river view can have all manner of river birds, loons, grebes, gulls and ducks in season… 2014 update: the dike has been brutally cleared of brush and most pockets of habitat have been removed or disturbed by cat tracks.

 

Sauvie Island – Collin’s Beach

Location/Directions: (45.78850, -122.78681) Open year round, Parking Permit required. There are multiple access points with trails leading through the woodlands bordering the beach. Parking areas start just after Reeder road turns to gravel. There are portable restroom facilities here as well.

Habitat and Birds: Cottonwood gallery and willow thickets, open beach with a river view that can have all manner of river birds, loons, grebes, gulls and ducks in season. Great Horned Owls have nested in the Cottonwoods; Bald Eagles use them as perches, and are pretty good for woodpeckers and migrant and breeding passerines.

Sauvie Island – Gilbert Boat Ramp

Location/Directions: (45.79172, -122.79861) Access road is at the north end of the parking area for Collins Beach. Access road heads west. There is a pit toilet facility here as well.

Habitat and Birds: Channel views with Cormorants, Common Mergansers and Pied-billed Grebes, The view of McNary Lake can have ducks, but not many. There is a small system of fishing trails through the Ash swales and are pretty good for migrant and breeding passerines.

Sauvie Island – Warrior Rock Trail

Location/Directions: (45.80878, -122.79778) Open year round, Parking Permit required. Parking area is at the end of Reeder Rd. Trail head starts on the beach. It’s a 3 mile hike to the lighthouse. 2014 Update: there is work being done on the trail and it is a muddy mess. Best tactic is to walk as far down the beach as you can and then climb the bank to access the trail.

Habitat and Birds: Cottonwood gallery, Ash swales and river views. There are a few secluded lakes that can have ducks, shorebirds and waders along the edges. The trail is good for Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatch, and migrant and breeding passerines. The river view can have all manner of river birds, loons, grebes, gulls and ducks in season, rarely a Red-breasted Merganser.

Site Specific Bird Lists:

Where available eBird Hotspot (eHS) data were used to generate these lists. Following the hyper link will take you to that list. Where that data is unavailable I used my own personal patch data (PL). Therefore both data sets should be expected to be an incomplete accounting of the birds possible. Lists are up to date as of 12 May 2014.

1) Sauvie Island (eHS) – 161 species

A note on this Sauvie Island Check List: the list below is from the eBird Hotspot Sauvie Island (Columbia Co.). There are 161 species included. However, there are ten total Hotspots for Sauvie Island in Columbia County and one of them, Rentenaar Rd alone, has 171 species. This is undoubtedly due to the uneven use of eBird by the observers. So, below are links to the other nine eBird Hotspots for Sauvie Island in Columbia County, listed in descending specie count order.

Sauvie Island–Rentenaar Rd.

Sauvie Island–Reeder Rd. Observation Shelter

Sauvie Island–Oak Island (Columbia Co.)

Sauvie Island–Sturgeon Lake (NE side)

Sauvie Island–Willow Bar (Columbia Co.)

Sauvie Island–The Narrows

Sauvie Island–Steelman Lake

Sauvie Island–The Wash

Sauvie Island –Racetrack Lake

Greater White-fronted Goose Snow Goose Cackling Goose
Canada Goose Trumpeter Swan Tundra Swan
Wood Duck Gadwall Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon Mallard Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler Northern Pintail Green-winged Teal
Canvasback Redhead Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup Lesser Scaup Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye Hooded Merganser Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser Ruddy Duck California Quail
Ring-necked Pheasant Wild Turkey Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon Pied-billed Grebe Horned Grebe
Western Grebe Double-crested Cormorant American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron Great Egret Green Heron
Turkey Vulture Osprey Golden Eagle
Northern Harrier Sharp-shinned Hawk Cooper’s Hawk
Bald Eagle Red-shouldered Hawk Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk Virginia Rail Sora
American Coot Sandhill Crane Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer Spotted Sandpiper Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs Dunlin Least Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper Long-billed Dowitcher Wilson’s Snipe
Red-necked Phalarope Bonaparte’s Gull Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull Western Gull California Gull
Herring Gull Thayer’s Gull Glaucous-winged Gull
Rock Pigeon Band-tailed Pigeon Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove Great Horned Owl Vaux’s Swift
Anna’s Hummingbird Rufous Hummingbird Belted Kingfisher
Red-breasted Sapsucker Downy Woodpecker Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker Pileated Woodpecker American Kestrel
Merlin Peregrine Falcon Olive-sided Flycatcher
Western Wood-Pewee Willow Flycatcher Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe Say’s Phoebe Northern Shrike
Warbling Vireo Steller’s Jay Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow Common Raven Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin Tree Swallow Violet-green Swallow
Bank Swallow Barn Swallow Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee Chestnut-backed Chickadee Bushtit
Red-breasted Nuthatch White-breasted Nuthatch Brown Creeper
House Wren Pacific Wren Marsh Wren
Bewick’s Wren Golden-crowned Kinglet Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird Swainson’s Thrush Hermit Thrush
American Robin Varied Thrush European Starling
American Pipit Cedar Waxwing Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat Yellow Warbler Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler Wilson’s Warbler Spotted Towhee
Savannah Sparrow Fox Sparrow Song Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow Swamp Sparrow White-throated Sparrow
Harris’s Sparrow White-crowned Sparrow Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco Western Tanager Black-headed Grosbeak
Bobolink Red-winged Blackbird Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird Brewer’s Blackbird Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock’s Oriole House Finch Purple Finch
Pine Siskin Lesser Goldfinch American Goldfinch
Evening Grosbeak House Sparrow

 

Field Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

This is the third installment of the “Field Guide”.  It is an introduction to the selected birding sites in the County.

This guide will be published in a series of installments:
Overview of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Habitats of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Birds of Columbia County – Overview (5/9/14 post)
Birding Sites of Columbia County – Individual installments, and associated Bird Lists of the Sites in Columbia County:
Introduction (5/12/14 post)

(A link to a downloadable copy of this guide is found in the first installment of this sereis)

Birding Sites for Columbia County:

This section is divided into three parts: 1) sites along the Columbia River; 2) sites in the Coast Range; followed by 3) a Site Specific listing of the birds seen at each site. Where eBird has a “Hotspot” listing for a site I have used that data. Where no “Hotspot” has been designated I have used my own personal patch lists – where available.

The vast majority of these sites are located along the Columbia River and adjacent bottom lands. In the Coast Range access is limited as most land is in private timber lands. Walk in access is widely available but that puts limits on the territory which can be covered. A third site category should be included; urban and suburban residential habitats. This is partly covered in some sites but could use a more thorough accounting.

Some of the sites listed have not been thoroughly explored and no site species listing has been included. They are mentioned because of their perceived potential to harbor decent habitat for a diversity of wildlife. Here is a map of all the locations mentioned in this guide.

Where Oregon Birding Trails has a guide for a particular location I have added (OBT) to the site name to indicate this.

For this on-line version of the Guide i will cover at least one site per future update and add the site species list with each site to keep things together.  There are a number of sites that do not have lists yet.  But i’m working on that.

Field Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

This is the second installment of the “Field Guide”.  It is an overview of the birds that have been recorded in the County.

This guide will be published in a series of installments:
Overview of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Habitats of Columbia County (5/9/14 post)
Birds of Columbia County – Overview (5/9/14 post)
Birding Sites of Columbia County – Individual installments, and associated:
Bird Lists of the Sites in Columbia County

(A link to a downloadable copy of this guide is found in the first installment of this sereis)

Birds of Columbia County (as of 09 May 2014):

According to the East Cascades Audubon Society (ECAS) 324 species of birds have been recorded in Columbia County. Here (.pdf) is a link to the ECAS checklist for the County. Here is a descriptive guide to the county maintained by ECAS. It uses large portions of this guide as a reference.

eBird has 230 recorded species.

Oregon Birding Trails has a Trail and Site Guide (pdf) that covers parts of Columbia County. It is in the Willamette Valley section under the Columbia Loop Guide. The Guide has specie accounts but no count totals as it is not County specific.

 

Included in these lists (combined) are 69 rarities (or just difficult birds to find) for the County which should not be expected to be seen:

Ross’s Goose Emperor Goose Brant
White-winged Scoter Surf Scoter Red-breasted Merganser
Mountain Quail Red-throated Loon Red-necked Grebe
Clark’s Grebe Leach’s Storm-Petrel Brown Pelican
Snowy Egret Cattle Egret White-tailed Kite
Northern Goshawk Swainson’s Hawk Ferruginous Hawk
Golden Eagle Gyrfalcon Common Moorhen
Pacific Golden-Plover Semipalmated Sandpiper Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet Marbled Godwit Sanderling
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Black Turnstone Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Red Phalarope Franklin’s Gull Heerman’s Gull
Sabine’s Gull Black-legged Kittywake Common Tern
White-winged Dove Snowy Owl Spotted Owl
Barred Owl Black Swift Calliope Hummingbird
Acorn Woodpecker Red-naped Sapsucker Black Pheobe
Tropical Kingbird Eastern Kingbird Loggerhead Shrike
Red-eyed Vireo Black-billed Magpie Bank Swallow
Rock Wren Mountain Bluebird Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird Bohemian Waxwing Palm Warbler
American Tree Sparrow Clay-colored Sparrow Brewer’s Sparrow
Lark Sparrow Black-throated Sparrow Swamp Sparrow
Harris’s Sparrow Lapland Longspur Indigo Bunting
Bobolink Yellow-headed Blackbird Brambling

 

County Phenology:

An accounting of the phenology for migrating birds in the County is beyond the scope of this guide. However, it is possible to get a reasonably accurate sense of arrival and departure dates by looking up the County list on eBird. There one will find each of the 230 birds that are recorded for Columbia County in eBird. The occurrence of each species is shown for each week of the year. It is a very intuitive set of charts and a birder interested in birding the County will benefit from this data. This data set should be referenced for the dates specific birds are present before heading out to look for a target bird from a list.

Here is a data based accounting of Northern Willamette Valley Phenology. And here is a narrative based account for spring arrivals for the Willamette Valley in general. And this link will take you to a few calendar based accountings.

Site Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

This guide will be published in a series of installments:
Overview of Columbia County
Habitats of Columbia County
Birds of Columbia County – Overview
Birding Sites of Columbia County – Individual installments, and associated:
Bird Lists of the Sites in Columbia County

This Guide is a work in progress. The current Guide will always be up to date at the download location found below. This web based version may or may not be updated.

A lot of the information for this Guide was collected from around the web.  I have provided attributed  links so the source information can be referenced directly.  Any errors in transcription are those of the author as are any additions that do not match the source material exactly.  If the reader is so inclined; broken links, errors, or general comments can be sent via the Contact page or in the “Comments” of individual posts.

Large portions of this guide are currently being incorporated into the “Birding Oregon” guide to “Birding Sites in Oregon”  maintained by the East Cascades Audubon Society.

 

Site Guide for Birding Columbia County – last edited: 10/13/14

(Here is a link to a downloadable copy of this Field Guide)

Overview:

Columbia County is bordered on the north and east by the Columbia River, on the south by Multnomah County and Washington County, and on the west by Clatsop County. The southern County line is approximately 30 minutes from Portland, the largest metropolitan area in Oregon. The western County line is approximately 30 minutes from the Pacific coast.

The County’s northern and eastern boundaries are outlined by 62 miles of Columbia River shoreline. Columbia County enjoys the longest stretch of the Columbia River in the State of Oregon. The Columbia River is a major route of ocean-going vessels and is a popular fishing ground, as well as a popular boating and windsurfing river.

The County offers the only two marine parks in Oregon: Sand Island on the Columbia River and J.J. Collins Memorial Marine Park on the Multnomah Channel. This is known locally as Coon Island.

(Source: ColumbiaCounty.or.us)

 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 688 square miles (1,781.9 km2), of which 657 square miles (1,701.6 km2) is land and 32 square miles (82.9 km2) (4.59%) is water. The vast majority of this is in managed coast range forest with limited accessibility.

Habitats of Columbia County

There are three EPA Level IV designated ecoregions in the county:

Level IV: (1d) Coast Range Volcanics

The Volcanics ecoregion consists of steeply sloping mountains and capes underlain by fractured basaltic rocks. Elevation generally varies from 600 to 4100 feet (180 to 1250 m), although in some places the volcanic rock extends down to sea level. The region is marked by columnar and pillow basalt outcrops. Its mountains may have been offshore seamounts engulfed by continental sediments about 200 million years ago. High gradient, cascading streams and rivers occur, and the basaltic substrate preserves summer flows that are more consistent than streams on the sedimentary rocks in surrounding ecoregions.

The streams still support runs of spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead. The region’s Douglas-fir plantations are heavily logged. Mature forests consist of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, salal, sword fern, vine maple, Oregon grape, and rhododendron. Wetter slopes and riparian areas may support western red cedar, big leaf maple, red alder, salmonberry, and oxalis. Grassy coastal headlands and mountaintop balds feature Roemer’s fescue, thin bentgrass, California oatgrass, and diverse forbs.

Level IV: (1f) Willapa Hills

The Willapa Hills ecoregion (named for the Willapa Hills) consists of low, rolling hills and low, gently sloping mountains with medium gradient streams and rivers. It rises to an elevation of approximately 1,300 feet (396 m).

This region has a lower drainage density than other upland areas in the Coast Range. Logging is relatively easy and less expensive in this accessible terrain, and industrial timberland has almost completely replaced the historic forests. When disturbed, the silt- and clay-textured soils are easily eroded, thereby degrading stream quality.

The vegetation consists of Douglas-fir and western hemlock forests, with sword fern, vine maple, salal, Oregon grape, and rhododendron shrub layer. Wetter slopes and riparian areas support red alder, western red cedar, big leaf maple, salmonberry, and oxalis. Large herds of Roosevelt elk winter in the region.

 

Level IV: (3a) Portland/Vancouver Basin

The Portland/Vancouver Basin ecoregion (named for the cities of Portland and Vancouver) is a geological depression at the base of the Portland Hills fault-block. The region covers 305 square miles (790 km2) in Washington and 269 square miles (697 km2) in Oregon, including the northern and eastern suburbs of the Portland metropolitan area. It contains the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers and is composed of deltaic sands and gravels deposited by Pleistocene floods, notably the Missoula Floods. Elevation varies from 0 to 300 feet (0 to 90 m), with buttes as high as 650 feet (200 m).

Historically, the basin was characterized by Oregon white oak groves and Douglas-fir forests on the uplands; black cottonwood groves on riverbanks and islands; Oregon ash, red alder, and western red cedar in riparian areas; and prairie openings maintained by Native American burning, with camas, sedges, tufted hairgrass, fescue, and California oatgrass. Numerous wetlands, oxbow lakes, and ponds can still be found, but today the region is dominated by urban and suburban development, pastures, cropland, and tree farms.

The climate is usually marine-influenced, but easterly winds from the Columbia River Gorge periodically bring continental temperature extremes. It contains several National Wildlife Refuges within the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex.[2][3]

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That’s the big picture.  From a birder’s perspective there are basically four major habitats: 1) the Columbia River, 2) lowland basins bordering the river, 3) the hills of the Coast Range and 4) urban and rural residential areas.

The Columbia River is essentially monotypic, but not quite.  There are numerous islands, sheltered coves and inlets that break up the flow, offer some measure of protection and vary the habitat a bit.  It is on the Columbia where the best chances of finding divers and stray gulls will be found.

The lowland basins bordering the Columbia offer the largest diversity of habitat, and on Sauvie Island the only terrestrially accessible area managed for wildlife.  There are three separate basins along the Columbia. The first is the Portland/Vancouver basin which goes as far north as St. Helens and south to the southern border of the County on Sauvie Island.  The second is the Rainier Basin which is an alluvial plain of the Columbia piled up against rapidly ascending Willapa Hills.  And third is the Clatskanie basin including the Marshland Drainage District which is a large pocket of lowland around the Clatskanie River and is flood controlled by a series of dikes.  One could arguably call the Trojan lowlands a fourth.  It is within these lowlands, bordering the Columbia, that the greatest diversity of birds will be found in the County.

The hills of the Coast Range, while not completely monotypic, it’s darn close.  The Nehalem River and it’s tributaries cuts a riparian zone through the hills, there are a few agricultural stretches on suitable land, mostly lying along major creeks like Milton Creek, and a few lakes here and there.  But the vast majority of this land is held privately and is managed for timber.  There are numerous gravel roads throughout and most timber lands allow walk-in access.  It is in the hills where the elevational birds like grouse, Hermit Warblers, and Red Crossbills will be most easily found.

The urban and rural residential areas are not specifically covered in this guide, aside from a few parks. But the towns of Scappoose, St. Helens, Columbia City, Rainier, and Clatskanie all have potential to be additive to a day in the field.

December in the Field

I traveled the Portland Basin (IV3a), Coastal Lowlands (IV1a), and the Columbia Plateau (IV10c&e).

November Roamings In Columbia County

Just kicking around the stomping grounds