Thursday, January 5, 2017

Emma Jones Nature Preserve

The following is a posting I made to OBOL in 2011:

Ok, what that really means is that my Spotted Sandpiper from yesterday was the 100th bird species recorded at Emma Jones since I started visiting the place in August 2009. That's a heck of a lot of birds for such a small place nestled into the suburban neighborhoods on the west side of the Hillsboro Airport.
 
Time has come to give some details about what I learned from my last 50+ visits over the last 1.5+ years. The writeup below can be used as a site guide for Emma Jones.
 
First, where is it? Google "Glencoe Creek Park, Hillsboro, OR" which is located at the NW corner of NE 15th Ave and NE Prahl Pkwy. Parking is available at the lot on the north side of this tiny little park. The park itself is not interesting for birds, but there is a fence at the northern edge of the park which, about 40yds in (west) from NE 15th hosts the gate that gets you into Emma Jones Nature Preserve. There is a sign asking to call a City of Hillsboro number to get access. Well, I did call - on behalf of the birding community - and found out that access is granted. There is no official trail system and nothing is maintained for public access. There also are no facilities of any kind. But access is granted. Note that I was warned of uneven ground, Bald-faced Hornet nests in summer and standing water/mud throughout most of the year. This last fact is why you should bring rubber boots for a visit between October and May.
 
Once you have passed through the gate, follow the two-track west for about 300yds and carefully bird the willows on its north side. This is where most of the migrants will show up in the park. Wilson's, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers are pretty much guaranteed during migration season from end of April to the beginning of June. This particular area is one of the best places in the county for Yellow Warbler in fall (September), with a high count of 6 birds one day. An American Redstart, a first confirmed county record, showed up in the willows in early September '09. A Dusky Flycatcher was found there on April 29, 2010. Lincoln's Sparrow, Warbling Vireo, Western Tanager and Willow Flycatcher are all possible. Thrushes like the willows as well, with Varied, Hermit and Swainson's all occurring in the right season.
 
The track closely borders a 5ft rock wall on the south side which is good for Pacific Wren in winter and some houses have feeders which should be watched. Just north of the willows runs McKay Creek and it's worth peeking through the willows once in the while. An American Bittern spent 4 days along the creek there in fall '10.
 
After about 250yds, the area to the north of the track will open up and a pond will appear on the north side. This pond often holds Hooded Mergansers in winter. Continue on the track until you hit a large Weeping Willow. This is "The Narrows" as there is now also a pond on the south side and you will pass right between them on a little dike. Belted Kingfisher and Green Heron like this area and I've seen Wilson's Snipe there when it is muddy in the winter season. This is where the 2-track ends. Nevertheless, don't stop now, but turn right here and proceed in the general direction of a grove of oaks for another about 200yds. 
 
In about 50yds or so, you will enter a shrubby area and several short conifers that can host a lot of surprises. The feeders at the house to the south are usually harboring a good size flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows in the winter season. This is also the area where a White-throated Sparrow was seen twice in the winter of '10/11. In spring, Purple Finches can sometimes be found singing in this area. American Goldfinches love this area and will be present in the summer. A pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks is usually also around in spring/summer. A mimosa in the yard adjacent to the yard with the feeders usually attracts lots of hummingbirds in late summer. The marshy area just to the north of the brushy area has had Sora. The pond to the northwest is the largest at Emma Jones and can hold a good number of ducks, including a year-round contingent of Cinnamon Teal. Common Teal have occurred here among the Green-wingeds. A well-photographed Eared Grebe spent a day on the big pond in October 2010. Great Egrets like to visit the area occasionally in late fall.
 
As you proceed further along the well-trodden foot trail, carefully check out the access points to the pond's edge. The oak grove now to the north of where you are standing has Western Wood-Pewee in summer and a noisy family of Acorn Woodpeckers year-round. The granary trees can easily be located from across the pond. The snags of the oak grove can host Olive-sided Flycatcher in migration and Merlin in winter. Red-tailed Hawks can often be seen perched up on the tips of the oaks or patrolling the area overhead.
 
Continue another 50 more yards and you are on the west end of the pond to the north; the trail ends here. There is another feeder on the last house to the south which can be good for Pine Siskin and Evening Grosbeak. The taller trees along the creek and the wide mix of bushes provide good habitat of a lot of different species. Nuthatches can sometimes be heard from here and there always seem to be a few sparrows in the brush. The 4 ponds at Emma Jones are very interesting to dragon and damselflies in the warmer months, in particular when the temperature heats up during the day. Being a relative rookie at odonate identification, I was able to confirm 15 species there in 2010. The best spot is probably at the water's edge right here where the trail ends.
 
Once back at the parking lot, cross NE 15th Ave and quickly check the pond. The traffic noise can be bad here. Canvasback can show up here in fall and there typically are 5-7 species of waterfowl present during the winter season. A Black Phoebe set up shop here for almost 3 weeks in September 2010. Swallows are usually easy to watch here, mostly including Barn and Violet-Green, but watch for the occasional Cliff and Northern Rough-winged. Killdeer breed on the Intel gravel lot to the west of the pond.
 
Let me know what you see if you go. Contact Stefan at greenfant@hotmail.com for questions, comments and reports of uncommon birds for the site. The checklist for the park is on eBird.
 
Stefan Schlick
Hillsboro, OR

Monday, July 18, 2016

South Saddle Mountain

Originally by Greg Gillson, updated by Stefan Schlick

General directions: From Banks, 15 miles west on Hwy 6 to mile post 33 at the summit of the Coast Range. From there south 9 miles on gravel roads.

Turn off Hwy 6 on Saddle Mountain Road/Beaver Dam Road. (You now enter Tillamook County). There are mileage markers posted every 0.5 miles. Each intersection is marked with a stake with road names. Some maps call the entrance Beaver Dam, some call it Saddle Mountain. Make an immediate right and then another right at the next T. Follow this well graded road and turn left at the 8.5 mile marker after a right curve. Stay on the main road until you get to an intersection with an island that has some roots in it. If you follow left, you will get to the saddle. You can then walk up the remaining 0.5mi to the tower along the gated access road (west), the overlook towards the Tualitin Valley (east) or walk downhill to explore the clearcuts below (there is excellent birding here!).

Habitats: Douglas-fir and western hemlock forests, turning to a few noble fir at the top of Saddle Mountain (3500 feet elevation).

Season: Late spring and summer. The area needs to be explored in fall for rosy-finches.

Targets: This highest point in Washington County has forest birds similar to other lower forests. Nesting birds include Hermit Warbler, Sooty Grouse, Band-tailed Pigeon, Hammond's Flycatcher, Townsend's Solitaire and Mountain Quail. Other birds possible (including anywhere on the drive in) include Gray Jay, Hairy Woodpecker, Western Bluebird, Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Comments: The walk to the summit is a reliable place for Hammond's Flycatcher; they are common and usually calling into mid July. Mountain Quail has gotten more common in the clearcuts near the top. There is usually a Sooty Grouse territory in the first tall trees on the left hand side on the way up to the tower.

Hazards: Roads can be rough, though usually fine for most low-clearance passenger vehicles. Carry cell phone and maps. Carry water.

This is a popular motorcycle and off-highway vehicle recreation area. Do not come on a holiday. Watch for racing motorcycles. Another nuisance is target shooting. The last half mile of road is usually quiet, as is the walk up the hill.

Facilities: No rest rooms. No food or water. Nearest gasoline 25 miles in Banks, also towards Tillamook about equal distance.

County Big Years and Big Days



Top Washington County Year Lists
Species #ObserverYear
199Greg Gillson2010
199Greg Gillson2012
194Steve Nord2012
191Greg Gillson2004
188John F. Gatchet1984
187Joe Evanich1987
184John F. Gatchet1983
181Joe Evanich1991
181Greg Gillson2007
180Greg Gillson2006
176Joe Blowers2012
174Verda Teale1983
174Donna Lusthoff1987
172Greg Gillson2011
171Verda Teale1984
171Phil Kahler2012
170John F. Gatchet1982
170Greg Gillson2003
170Joe Blowers2010


County Big Day records
SpeciesDateObserver(s)
1275/8/2013Greg Gillson, Joe Blowers
1245/5/2007John Gatchet, Mike & MerryLynn Denny
1234/29/2006Greg Gillson, Tim Shelmerdine, Jay Withgott
1191983 or 84?John Gatchet, Verda Teale
1194/28/2007Greg Gillson
1105/15/1993Greg Gillson

Finding specialty birds in Washington Co

By Stefan Schlick

Ruffed Grouse - Johnson Rd, near Timber

Sooty Grouse - Around Timber (mostly lower elevation), South Saddle Mountain (near top)

Mountain Quail - Johnson Rd, around Timber (mostly lower elevation), South Saddle Mountain (near top), Hayward Rd gated roads

Acorn Woodpecker - Emma Jones WA, snag row on south side of Dawson Creek community park (behind the Hillsboro Library), Pacific University, Rogers Park in Forest Grove

Hairy Woodpecker - South Saddle Mountain, around Timber, Hagg Lake

Hammond's Flycatcher - Near the top of South Saddle Mountain, Reeher's Camp, higher elevations on Round Top

Cassin's Vireo - Lee Rd at Hagg Lake, Tualitin Hills Nature Park, Buxton trailhead of Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail

American Dipper - Creek crossing just west of Reeher's Camp - Timber, Scoggins Valley Picnic Area - Hagg Lake

Common Nighthawk - Timber Rd, Larch Mountain (hike off the end of Storey Burn Rd)

Townsend's Solitaire - High elevation clearcuts near Timber, South Saddle Mountain

Western Bluebird - Iowa Hill, coast range clearcuts including Hagg Lake, Johnson Rd, Timber and South Saddle Mountain

Yellow-breasted Chat - Hagg Lake, Metro Wetland along Fernhill Rd just over a mile from Springhill Rd

Chipping Sparrow - Gales Creek, filbert orchards on Iowa Hill

Bullock's Oriole - Jackson Bottom visitor center, Pacific University campus

Finding specialty birds in Washington Co

By Stefan Schlick

Ruffed Grouse - Johnson Rd, near Timber

Sooty Grouse - Around Timber (mostly lower elevation), South Saddle Mountain (near top)

Mountain Quail - Johnson Rd, around Timber (mostly lower elevation), South Saddle Mountain (near top), Hayward Rd gated roads

Acorn Woodpecker - Emma Jones WA, snag row on south side of Dawson Creek community park (behind the Hillsboro Library), Pacific University, Rogers Park in Forest Grove

Hairy Woodpecker - South Saddle Mountain, around Timber, Hagg Lake

Hammond's Flycatcher - Near the top of South Saddle Mountain, Reeher's Camp, higher elevations on Round Top

Cassin's Vireo - Lee Rd at Hagg Lake, Tualitin Hills Nature Park, Buxton trailhead of Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail

American Dipper - Creek crossing just west of Reeher's Camp - Timber, Scoggins Valley Picnic Area - Hagg Lake

Common Nighthawk - Timber Rd, Larch Mountain (hike off the end of Storey Burn Rd)

Townsend's Solitaire - High elevation clearcuts near Timber, South Saddle Mountain

Western Bluebird - Iowa Hill, coast range clearcuts including Hagg Lake, Johnson Rd, Timber and South Saddle Mountain, easiest probably at Cooper Mountain Nature Park

Yellow-breasted Chat - Hagg Lake, Metro Wetland along Fernhill Rd just over a mile from Springhill Rd

Chipping Sparrow - Gales Creek, filbert orchards on Iowa Hill

Bullock's Oriole - Jackson Bottom visitor center, Pacific University campus

Milne Rd

By Stefan Schlick

Directions: From US26, take the Dersham/Mountaindale Rd exit west of Hillsboro. At the T, turn left, cross the tracks and turn south in about 0.5mi. Halfway down Milne Rd you can turn west onto Harrington Rd. Along Harrington, watch for raptors on the lone snag (a Prairie Falcon was wintering in the area in 2008-2010) and check the oaks for Acorn Woodpecker. The place to position yourself to see Short-eared Owls rise near dusk in winter is the rise about 200yds south of the intersection of Milne & Harrington, Short-eared Owls have been wintering at this site for the last several years (2010-2016). In recent years, Milne, Harrington and Gordon Rds have also been one of the most reliable sites to see Rough-legged Hawk in the county in winter.

Target birds: Rough-legged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Western Meadowlark (all in winter)

Croeni/Jacobson ponds

Originally by Greg Gillson, updated by Stefan Schlick

General directions: From Hwy 26, take Cornelius Pass exit, north 0.7 miles to NW Jacobson Rd, west 0.5 miles to NW Croeni Rd, north 0.3 miles to NW Westmark Dr.

Alternate directions: One pond at the intersection of NW Croeni Rd and NW Westmark Dr.

Another pond just west of the intersection of NW Jacobson Rd and NW Croeni Rd.

Street parking in this low-traffic new industrial area.

Habitats: Two mitigation ponds, variously referred to as Croeni Pond, Jacobson Pond, Westmark Pond.

Season: spring and fall

Comments: The habitat is rarely right for shorebirds, but especially in winter, Greater Yellowlegs can be present. 1-2 pairs of Lazuli Bunting can be north of the Westmark & Croeni. Either ponds often have Virginia Rail and Sora.

Some years, the area can have several wintering raptors including Northern Harrier and Rough-legged Hawk (rare). Horned Larks singing in spring 2002 over industrial fields prior to construction.