Category: eBird Data

Site Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

Site Guide to Birding Columbia County (Oregon)

This is the twelfth installment of the “Site Guide”. It covers the area between Trojan Park and Laurel Beach County Park.

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)
St. Helens WTP and Knob Hill Park (5/30/14 post)
Gray Cliffs Waterfront Park and Dalton Lake (6/1/14 post)
Dalton Lake Trail, Columbia City, Dyno Nobel, Nicolai Wetlands, Gobel Marina (6/17/14 post)
Trojan Park, Carr Slough, Prescott Beach, Laurel Beach CP (6/22/14 post)

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

Columbia River Birding Areas

15) Trojan Park (OBT):
Location/Directions: (46.03591, -122.89386) Entrance to the park is 1.5 miles north of Gobel off of Hwy 30 (old Trojan Nuclear Plant site).

Habitat and Birds: There are a few ponds and a cottonwood gallery forest with walking trails for woodland birds. Ponds hold ducks and the occasional Horned Grebe. Bald Eagles nest in the area. You can also walk north along a paved trail that will take you to a blind and over look of the Carr Slough wetlands.

Trojan Park: (PL) – 38 species, 5 (5/14/14)

Greater White-fronted Goose Snow Goose Cackling Goose
Canada Goose Wood Duck Gadwall
American Wigeon Mallard Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck Bufflehead Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser Pied-billed Grebe Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron Osprey Bald Eagle
American Coot Killdeer Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker Steller’s Jay Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow Common Raven Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee Pacific Wren Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin Varied Thrush European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler Yellow-rumped Warbler Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco Red-winged Blackbird

 

16) Carr Slough – Graham Rd (OBT).
Location/Directions: (46.04791, -122.89784) 0.9 miles north of Trojan Park turn east onto Graham Rd. There is a small parking area just as you start on Graham Rd. on the south side. Graham Rd. is 0.4 miles long to the RR tracks.

Habitat and Birds: This is excellent duck habitat in the winter. It is a major wintering ground for Tundra Swan – Trumpeters can be mixed in as well. Scan tree tops for the local Bald Eagles. Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons can be thick at times, congregations of Hooded Merganser can get north of 50 birds, the roadside kack is productive year round for passerines swallows are numerous in the spring and Purple Martins have been recorded here.

Carr Slough (Graham Rd) (eHS) – 105 species, (5/14/14)

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 Ring-necked Duck Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup Bufflehead Common Goldeneye
Barrow’s Goldeneye Hooded Merganser Common Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe Horned Grebe Western Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant American White Pelican Great Blue Heron
Great Egret Turkey Vulture Osprey
Bald Eagle Red-shouldered Hawk Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot Sandhill Crane Killdeer
Greater Yellowlegs Long-billed Dowitcher Wilson’s Snipe
Ring-billed Gull California Gull Herring Gull
Thayer’s Gull Glaucous-winged Gull Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove Vaux’s Swift Anna’s Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher Red-breasted Sapsucker Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker Northern Flicker American Kestrel
Western Wood-Pewee Willow Flycatcher 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 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
Wilson’s Warbler Spotted Towhee Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow Lincoln’s Sparrow White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow Dark-eyed Junco Western Tanager
Red-winged Blackbird Brewer’s Blackbird House Finch
Purple Finch Pine Siskin American Goldfinch

 

17) Prescott Beach County Park (OBT):
Location/Directions: (46.05076, -122.88797) On Graham Rd. 0.6 miles from Hwy 30 is the entrance to the park. Day use fee is required.

Habitat and Birds: The river view can have all manner of river birds, loons, grebes, gulls and ducks in season. There is decent passerine habitat in pockets. No patch list has been generated.

18) Laurel Beach County Park:
Location/Directions: (46.07097, -122.899504) – This park is poorly mapped on Google Maps. Access is from Laurel Wood Rd. Turn north onto Laurel Wood Rd. stay left at the fork and go about 0.1 miles to the park entrance road – there is a sign for the park. Follow the gravel road down to the parking area.

Habitat and Birds: Rafts of ducks can be found in winter as there is a bit of a sheltered cove. Both Scaup and Common Goldeneye are regular. Some woodland birds can be found in the parking area. This is the easiest place for Goldeneye in the county with Barrow’s possible as a report of one comes from this vantage point.

Laurel Beach County Park (PL) – 27 species, 6 (5/14/14)

Canada Goose Greater Scaup Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye Common Merganser Western Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant Herring Gull Downy Woodpecker
Steller’s Jay American Crow Black-capped Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee Bushtit Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pacific Wren Golden-crowned Kinglet Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin Varied Thrush European Starling
Spotted Towhee Song Sparrow Dark-eyed Junco
Pine Siskin
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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]

——————————————————————————————

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.

Mining eBird Data – Comparing Specie Count Records

Back in January we looked at the specie counts by county from available eBird records.  How does that data compare to other available records?

I’m not sure there is an “official” data set for this information but the best i could come up with comes from the East Cascades Audubon Society (ECAS).  Drilling into their Birding Sites page one will find access to County Checklists.  It is from these checklists that a data set was created.  Thankfully there are only 36 counties in Oregon because stripping data from a .pdf is notoriously difficult. (note to editors: a .csv file would make this data more accessible to data junkies.  Heck, even a .xls(x) file would be preferable.)

The official record keeper for Oregon is the Oregon Field Ornithologists, now Oregon Birding Association.  They do not keep records at the County level that i am aware of, and none of their data is accessible in any meaningful way for our purposes, again, all .pdf files.

The comparison between ECAS records and eBird records (as of January 2013) is presented below.  There are three choropleths; one for ECAS records, one for eBird records and one for the difference between the two,  and one bar graph with all three metrics.  The choropleths use a purple – blue – green scale, low to high, from a scale of 180 (eBird min.) to 410 (ECAS high).  The choropleths were generated using ggplot2 in  ‘R’ and the color scheme is from Color Brewer.  I threw in a fourth map with the County names.

Summary Statistics:

ECAS Records:

  • Min = 249
  • Mean = 318
  • Max = 410

eBird Records

  • Min = 182
  • Mean = 254
  • Max = 349

ECAS – eBird (delta)

  • Min = 17
  • Mean = 64
  • Max = 105

Of course this leads one to speculate on the causes for the discrepancies.

The most obvious is the time frame embedded in the two data sets.  I assume the ECAS records are based on historical records.  Although i don’t see California Condor listed in any of the County records so i’m not sure how far back they go, and no attributing reference is made to the source of the data set that i could find.  eBird is a relatively new data set.  Some effort has been made to enter historic records into eBird but im not sure if Oregon has been part of that effort.  Some existing eBird users have entered their data from the past, but i’m pretty sure that is not universal among users with Oregon data, i know that i haven’t done it.  So there’s that.

The other thing to ponder is the variation in the delta statistic.  I suspect some of the same factors considered back in January are in play:

    1. Number of eBirders in the County
    2. eBirder interest in specific locations within a County
    3. Accessibility of the County
    4. Proximity of the County to large population centers
    5. Interest within a County by “hyper-active” eBirders
    6. Amount of eBird recorded observation time spent vs ECAS
    7. others?

So here’s the data representations:

Mining eBird Data – Checklists by County

Using eBird data from 2010 through 2012 — 1) which County in Oregon has submitted the most checklists?

2) Given the unequal distribution of the state’s population — which County in Oregon has submitted the most checklists per capita?

What variables are in play that would determine these metrics?  Can we assume that birder density per capita is relatively constant from county to county?  Can we assume the use of eBird will be a constant within the birding community once growth flattens out?

Possible set of variables that contribute to the number of checklists submitted in each County:

  1. Number of eBirders in the County
  2. eBirder interest in specific locations within a County
  3. Accessibility of the County
  4. Proximity of the County to large population centers
  5. Interest within a County by “hyper-active” eBirders
  6. others?

Well the answer to the first question is Benton County with 9,878 checklists submitted over the three years — averaging 63 checklists a week.  Benton county?  It has a population of 85 thousand.  The Portland Metro Tri-county Area by contrast has 735 thousand in Multnomah, 530 thousand in Washington and 376 thousand in Clackamas counties.  That’s 8.6, 6.2, and 4.4 times as many people respectively than Benton County.

OK, the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge is in Benton County – the crown jewel in the Willamette Valley’s system of NWR’s.  There’s almost certainly more going on here than Finley – variable number 5.  The single top contributor from each of the three years in Benton County submitted 50% of those 9,878 lists.  In this case it happens to be the same individual.   In contrast, the top five contributors combined only make up 37% of the lists submitted in Multnomah County.  Eight different individuals had one of the fifteen available top 5 slots over the three years.

The answer to the second question is, unsurprisingly, Harney with  338 lists submitted per 1000 residents – variable number 2.  Harney County has more than twice the lists per capita than any other county.  However, somewhat surprising was the second highest county with 166 lists per capita — Sherman.  Here another factor may be at work.  There are only 1700 residents in Sherman County.  It doesn’t take many checklists to bump this number up quite quickly.  Obviously the lists per capita is not a very meaningful metric.

What’s this all mean — i have no idea, other than we can plot the relative density of eBird usage by county.  Anyway —

I was loathe to subject anyone to another set of awful “heat maps” showing checklist data by county so i found a work around in ‘R’.  A free statistical software package; the ggplot2 library in particular.  Roughly one month later the following set of choropleths (yeah, not heat maps, who knew?) have been generated.  And just for reference, one with the county names layered over total specie count.  I’ll probably update the earlier choropleths with these cleaner ones.

Mining eBird Data – Checklists per Week Update

The 25 January post was about the growth in eBird reporting in Oregon.

I periodically update the database with current data and was astonished at what happened in the third reporting week in February!

A little digging and i found out that Cornell jointly runs the Great Backyard Bird Count project.  It seems the GBBC used the eBird platform for reporting this year.  All of that data is now showing up in the database.

I’ve only submitted data to the GBBC a couple of times.  But i noticed the reporting output is now eBird based which is quite different than the GBBC output i remember.  No big deal to me but i wonder how annual participants feel about it.

Mining eBird Data – continued.

Having compiled the weekly observation data to plot the growth of eBird usage in previous posts, we will now look at the composite weekly and monthly time series.

I took the median number of observations submitted to eBird for each week from 2007 through 2012.  I chose the median over the average to dampen the effect growth has on the distribution of this small sample size (n=6).

Below are four graphs; two for the weekly data and two for the monthly data.  The first in each set is a time series plot and the second is a ranking plot in descending order. (left click to enlarge)

I’m not sure what real conclusions can be made but speculations come easy.  I’ll leave those to you and only note, that while May was no surprise, September would not have been my guess for having the lowest number of records submitted.

Tom Auer has been looking at the same data for Rhode Island over on his blog – here.

He makes, what I think, is an important point:

One of the goals of eBird is consistent sampling effort. This is why all checklists matter as long as they’re complete, including the five minute backyard counts in urban areas. If the only checklists that were ever submitted were from birding hotspots at the peak of migration when birders were chasing vagrants, we’d have a very skewed view of the bird world. Ideally, the number of checklists submitted by week would be the same throughout the year.”

So – get out there in September and October.

Also while you’re at it, see if you can’t make it over to Wheeler, Gilliam or Baker Counties, they have the least number of records submitted – I’m pretty sure there are birds there.  In keeping with eBird’s call to “bird the road less traveled” we’ll dive a little deeper into the county data in a future post.

 

Mining Oregon eBird Data – IV

Back on Tuesday the 22nd, we put forth the hypothesis “More people are using eBird”.

I have not been able to find data points for the actual number of observers when that number goes over a hundred.  Some counties have less than 100 observers per year but many don’t so it is not possible with the data i have to determine the actual number of eBird recorders in Oregon.  But what is possible is to tally the number of checklists submitted.

For all of Oregon it looks like this:

 Year  Lists
2009        7,774
2010      16,612
2011      25,730
2012      39,745

Plotted by week is shown below (Left Click to Enlarge):

Number of Cchecklists Submitted to eBird by Week.

Number of Checklists Submitted to eBird by Week.

Extrapolating from existing 2013 data would yield a approximate 2013 total of  63,750

Growth in the number of checklists submitted in Oregon is shown in the table below:

 Year  Lists  Growth
2009       7,777
2010      16,612 114%
2011      25,730 55%
2012      39,745 54%
2013      63,682 60%

At the County level, using only 2010 to 2012 data, eBird reporting from 2010 to 2012 is shown in the (large) table below:

County 2010 2011 2012  Total % Growth (’10 to ’12)
MORROW         11         23       262       296 2281.8%
COLUMBIA         66       256       478       800 624.2%
UNION         39         89       238       366 510.3%
LINN       107       374       625     1,106 484.1%
YAMHILL         91       153       432       676 374.7%
DOUGLAS       152       401       693     1,246 355.9%
POLK       263       485     1,143     1,891 334.6%
UMATILLA         58       106       246       410 324.1%
HARNEY       438       545     1,529     2,512 249.1%
BENTON     1,331     3,921     4,626     9,878 247.6%
LINCOLN       758     1,412     2,564     4,734 238.3%
LANE       954     1,466     3,112     5,532 226.2%
SHERMAN         43       115       135       293 214.0%
TILLAMOOK       394       638     1,219     2,251 209.4%
GRANT         39         36       116       191 197.4%
WASCO       151       168       438       757 190.1%
KLAMATH       669     1,050     1,916     3,635 186.4%
MALHEUR         59         61       164       284 178.0%
GILLIAM         20         33         51       104 155.0%
MULTNOMAH     1,833     3,081     4,606     9,520 151.3%
CLATSOP       248       414       606     1,268 144.4%
COOS       373       395       891     1,659 138.9%
WASHINGTON     1,521     2,155     3,439     7,115 126.1%
MARION       584       886     1,307     2,777 123.8%
CLACKAMAS       635     1,028     1,360     3,023 114.2%
WALLOWA         50         57       102       209 104.0%
JOSEPHINE       145       172       262       579 80.7%
HOOD RIVER       112       147       186       445 66.1%
JACKSON     1,757     2,084     2,788     6,629 58.7%
WHEELER         26       100         41       167 57.7%
DESCHUTES     1,325     1,487     1,849     4,661 39.5%
BAKER         30         32         40       102 33.3%
LAKE       310       328       385     1,023 24.2%
JEFFERSON       292       315       307       914 5.1%
CROOK       844     1,105       810     2,759 -4.0%
CURRY       884       612       779     2,275 -11.9%

.. with the data points representing the number of checklists submitted to eBird per year.

The same data representation for all of Oregon:

2010 2011 2012  Total % Growth (’10 to ’12)
 Oregon Total   16,612   25,730   39,745   82,087 139%

I think that’s rather impressive.  Not only in the expanded use but in the shear volume of the reports.  (we’re going to need more Oregon eBird Reviewers at this pace)

With eBird’s stated purpose: “With thousands of birdwatchers across the continent helping to construct it [the eBird database] by contributing their sightings, eBird will soon become a vast source of bird and environmental information useful not only to bird watchers but to scientists and conservationists the world over.”  I’d say Oregon eBirders are doing their part.