Category: Oregon Level IV 1f

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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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.

Late June In The Coast Range

Covering:

Level IV: (1d) Coast Range Volcanics
Level IV: (1f) Willapa Hills

Early August trip up the Columbia River

Headed out kind of late and worked my way out to the coast.  Instead of my usual stops in Scappoose at the Water Works, and St. Helens at Scappoose Bay i drove straight to Carr Slough.

From there it was a bee line to Astoria.  The Sewage Ponds and associated inlet first and Fort Stevens for the high tide and ending at the Hammond Boat Basin.

Note to self: Trestle Bay is best 3-4 hours before high tide!  High tide is too late and the birds have moved on.  So i got there about 4 hours before high tide and the birds were way too far out for observation except for the bigger and boldly patterned birds.

I figured a trip back into Astoria and St. George for a quick lunch was in order and i’d come back at high tide.

By the time the tide is fully in all of the best mud flats are completely covered.  Disappointed, i went to the ponds behind the jetty.

The Hammond Boat Basin was the last stop for the day to check out the roost rocks on the arms of the harbor’s break water.

Ecoregions:

Level IV: (1f) Willapa Hills

Level IV: (1a) Coastal Lowlands

eBird Reports:

Carr Slough

Astoria Sewage Ponds

Fort Stevens

Hammond Boat Basin