After checking into our airport hotel it was time to explore. We had a few hours to spend before our rendezvous with a chimney, so we headed off for the Smith and Bybee wetlands wildlife area in Portland. We only had a short while there but the site looked good if neglected. Like all wildlife sites it seems that it suffered from a lack of management, a fact confirmed when we reached a lookout, too far back to be of any use and with the obligatory damn great tree growing in front of it.
Ignoring protocol, I walked out onto the wet area from where I could at least see stuff. There were lots of birds out there but at some distance. The further back the birds were, the less the odds on identifying them, even with a good scope. I was mainly looking for shorebirds but kept scanning the tree tops hoping for a short cut to a tick. Most of the birds on the low lakes were ducks and Cackling Geese. There may have been some Canada Geese too but I realised that I’d not noted them when I did my eBird submission.
Where we live in Quebec, I see 1-4 Cackling Geese as the Canada Geese come back from breeding, and again when the go north after the big freeze. Around Smith and Bybee there were tons of them, just tons. I didn’t see a single shorebird but while scanning I saw a small gull drift in, dark, partially hooded. Only one of the small gulls has a partial hood as an immature, Franklin’s. The bird settled in and was seen alongside of the few California Gulls on the lake. An unexpected year tick.
Here are a few local geese.
As time pressed we got onto the south-bound I-5 and joined the argumentative traffic as it crawled along. Our destination was the Chapman Elementary School and it was time to try for our last ABA tick. We were a bit early but there was plenty of parking right next to the school. In season, the place would be hopping with people watching Vaux’s Swifts come in to roost.
See it on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhNqso6VElE
Visit the web site here: http://audubonportland.org/local-birding/swiftwatch
Anywhere else in the world, men walking around the outside of a school with binoculars and cameras would be frowned upon, especially when teenage girls are having tennis lessons between you and the chimney. At the Chapman School they are used to it, and the tennis coach even chatted to me about the birds, as did several passers-by.
The swifts came in late, probably too late for photos but that sort of technicality has never bothered me. The shots are useless I know, the 40+ birds were very high. Just out of interest I’ve included a montage of Chimney Swifts from Quebec for direct comparison. Unfortunately the Chimney Swifts were all shedding their feathers so structural differences are hard to discern.
That just about closed out our trip to Oregon and a good trip it was too. The weather was a bit too nice, you don’t really expect a sun tan in October, and the smaller birds were subsequently harder to find. We know we barely scratched the surface and that there is another world inland, with a different range of species to see. We finished with 150 species for the trip, five life birds plus another four ABA ticks.
I’d like to round off the posts by thanking all those Oregon birders who took the time to respond to my request for information and who generously gave their advice. Oregon is friendly place based on what we saw, sure there are a few issues, such as the hunters getting a disproportionate use of the wildlife management areas, there really should be days when they are rested and open for birding just like everywhere else. Birders we met in the field were a delight, places we stopped or ate at were all, without exception, fine. We now have an Oregon list started and that usually means wanting to add to it at some time in the future. It would be nice to think we will be able to sometime.