On Monday, the 6th of May, i was privileged to accompany the children of Emerson School in Portland on their field trip to Smith-Bybee Lakes. Below is a brief recap and photo essay of the day.
The kids chose to study birds for the current section of their school year — how COOL is that! Earlier in the month they graciously hosted me for an hour at the school to put up a slide show of local birds, and hand out a list of local yard birds that was put together by local expert, Greg Gillson. (Pacific NW Birder. Use by permission fide personal communication). Yesterday they took to the field.
I was impressed by their retention of bird facts and enthusiasm for field craft. It was truly a pleasure to be in their company. They have another trip planned for later in the month to Oaks Bottoms. Unfortunately, i will be at Malheur NWR at that time so kids, if you’re reading this; remember that the most important asset out in the field is — your EARS!
Of note; i was impressed that a number of parents were in attendance as chaperones. It was very encouraging to see their involvement with the children’s education. Mega respect and kudos and to them!
Thanks Olivia, Tiffany, Ariel and Maureen! It was a blast and i am deeply honored to have been given the opportunity to share my time with the children of Emerson.
First some pictures followed by a list of birds for the day: (click on any image for a slide show presentation)
List of birds seen and/or heard:
|Great Blue Heron|
Also seen, plants in flower:
Bedstraw – that was a blast!
Yellow Flag (Water Iris — unfortunately an invasive specie)
Odonata (Dragonflys an Damselflys):
On the last day before access becomes restricted on Sauvie Island i headed, slowly, to the Wash. Travelling through Multnomah Co. to Columbia Co. along the channel and out to a viewpoint of Sturgeon Lake.
The duck number were up, but they are mostly still in eclipse plumage and i just don’t have the patience to pick through them — too much else to do. Cackling Geese have arrived in force, the cranes continuously called overhead, a couple of Red-shouldered Hawks were cavorting in the Ash swales, lots of pelicans, a number of shorebirds were still on the flats but way out in the middle of the lake, high numbers of American Pipits were scattered along the trip, and even a Western Bluebird was seen. However, no pictures of any birds were obtained worth processing.
The last remnants of wildflowers were easier to photograph.
Level IV (3a) Vancouver/Portland Basin
The North American Migration Count (NAMC) for Multnomah Co. was held on the 16th of September. I covered the Columbia River from Kelley Point Park to Chinook Landing. Vanport Wetlands was fenced off due to some Halloween preparations.
The biggest surprise was the closure of Smith Lake due to avian botulism. Also called “limberneck,” the birds are unable to lift their neck and many drown. And indeed on Bybee Lake i found a minimum of 75 dead and dying ducks. It was a very sad sight to see. More about this outbreak and unfolding tragedy is now being updated on the Metro website here.
The number of migrants to be found was slim. Other than a decent showing of shorebirds at Bybee, only one Gold-crowned Sparrow and a few rafts of Green-winged Teal were found. Other locations covered by teams of observers had varying success.
A nice sighting were the three Sanderlings found along Broughton Beach where American Pipits and Streaked Horned Larks were also in attendance.
The local Portland chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon organized a trip to the Sandy River delta on Sunday. We walked the fields and along the dike out to the power lines and made our way down to the river bank. We slogged through the willows and mud shore line and trekked back past the duck ponds and back to the parking area.
The fields are mainly filled with invasive species with a few natives tucked in here and there. But once down to the shore line where the river scours the delta mainly native plants are found and only a few invasive grasses can be found. Large patches of Wapato, Douglas’ Water Hemlock, Jewelweed, Sneezeweed, Pacific Silverleaf, Yellowcress, and others.
The Chorus Frogs were numerous with quite a few Red-legged Frogs to be found as well. With my attention mainly on the ground most birds were only heard, but it was very quiet. I thought we might come across some shore birds out on the delta but only Killdeers were seen.
Jumping ahead a few trips. I took to the north end of the Island on the west side. Unfortunately it seemed like everybody else and their dog had the same idea. It was a sketchy day and i missed most of the prime shorebird habitat just due to overpopulation and my dog’s unpredictable surly nature around other dogs. Oh well.
Crazy lost birds — a pair of Chukar, one with a leg band i couldn’t read were found on the roadside. A few juvenile Bank Swallows were on the wires with the Barn and Violet-green. Almost all of the wild flowers are gone except the invasive species. One exception was the large population of Sneezeweed in the mud of the receding water.
I delayed in going after this bird. During the summer in Illinois these birds are on every telephone wire and fence line along open fields. But i finally succumbed to the twitch and headed to the Sandy River Delta where the bird had been reliably seen for a couple of weeks. Hard little bugger to get a good photograph during the mid-day trip i had available.
The Darners escaped my camera – again – but i got a few good shots of the Skimmer.
Sauvie Island lies in Level III Ecoregion 3 – The Willamette Valley.
Level IV 3a – Portland/Vancouver Basin.
I will be adding Level III and Level IV pages in the future unless they get unwieldy. In which case i will come up with an alternative.
I drove Reeder Rd. out to the end and hiked a portion of the the gallery cottonwood forest at the end. Stops along the way at Coon Point, Willow Bar, the Observation Platform, and Rentenaar Rd. I guess all of the Great Blue Heron chicks have fledged because i couldn’t see any in the rookery. Nor did i see any Bald Eagle chicks in the few nest sites located earlier in the spring.
One very prominent feature of the day was the large number of Great Egrets. As many as 18 at the Observation Platform and 24 over the dike at the end of Rentenaar Rd. Quite a few were also seen on the wing along the route. I counted a total of 51 Egrets!
Purple Martins have taken up residence in the multiple gourd structures dotted around the Island.