Photos from personal trips AND trips with
Birds of Oregon and General Science, (BOGS) in association with Eugene's Celeste Campbell Center
BOGS EWEB Wetlands, Sept 11, 2014
Birding Trip Report
Summer weather continued into September, though mornings started out cooler, even if only until 10am or so. There might even have been some morning clouds the day we went to EWEB Wetlands, but if there were, they were quickly gone by the time we began walking.
For our first official BOGS bird walk of fall term, we had a large turnout of about 26 people.
Since we were walking on a 6 foot wide trail, we necessarily got stretched out over quite a distance. I sometimes worked my way to the front of the group and sometimes allowed myself to drift towards the back, in order to find out what different people were seeing.
The EWEB Wetlands Trail
While doing a pre-trip check a week prior to our birdwalk, Steve discovered that a new trail had just been completed at this site, which is an EWEB building at Roosevelt and Fergus Roads. This is about 1/2 mile east of beltline and less than a mile north of West 11th. The new trail goes west along a canal and north of the large ponds on the west side of the building. It then turns south and skirts the west edge of the large pond. After also passing the building itself, the trail turns east again, going behind the EWEB building, where it runs parallel to railroad tracks, and alongside an undeveloped area of fields and a few small stands of trees.
On the east side of the EWEB building there are two more ponds, though dry right now, at the end of a hot dry Summer. Rather than going around these dry ponds, when we reached that area towards the end of our walk, we walked along the fence nearer to the buidling to return to the parking lot.
Besides the ponds which the trail winds around, this entire block of land is bordered by almost completely undeveloped (and unfortunately for birders, pretty inaccessible) wetlands with large ponds on both the east and west sides. These areas each extend at least 1/4 mile if not more both east and west. Because of this, the EWEB Wetlands will benefit from this proximity to fine habitat on both east and west sides.
In terms of the north-south direction, however, the wetlands in this area are very narrow, bounded by an east-west running band of industrial buildings and streets just south of the railroad tracks, and bounded on the north by Roosevelt. Still, at least we do have this almost continuous strip (or checkerboard pattern, really), of wetlands extending west from about Seneca all the way to Greenhill Rd. Beyond Greenhill is private residential land but the homes there are on very large plots of mostly undeveloped land, much of which is very hilly. That kind of land extends the next few miles all the way to Fern Ridge Reservoir.
Although there was not much water in the ponds on the west nor east sides of the buidling, the trail passes through promising habitat on every side of the building, and I can't wait to bird this trail again in a month or two after we get some rain!
A few comments about bird sightings in this area
Western Kingbirds were seen at EWEB wetlands on two occasions this year, in April and May. Since BOGS often goes to Delta Ponds I will add that there was also a single report (by Dave Irons) of a Western Kingbird at Delta Ponds just this past April, and that is one of only two records (in eBird) of Western Kingbirds being seen at Delta Ponds. That is a little further east than the places they are most frequently seen in our area.
There are spotty records of Western Kingbirds being seen only once, or once every so many years, at places further east into the city; such as at Skinner Butte Park. BOGS member Scott McNeeley had two of them (together) at his place a year ago (in 2013), on West D Street in Springfield, very near Island Park. All of these were very likely migrating birds. (They arrive in our area in late April).
These locations are a little closer to development than the places where they are seen more often, and known to breed, such as K.R. Nielson Rd (south of W 11th near Fern Ridge), and on Royal Ave at Fern Ridge.
I saw a family of them on Hilair Rd this Summer, which means they were breeding there. Hillair Rd is about 1/4 mile west of Greenhill, off of Royal.
For the most part though, Western Kingbirds aren't regularly found (or breeding) further east than the EWEB wetlands area; until one gets far enough east to find open fields again, such as at Mt Pisgah, where this species of Kingbird is an annual Summer resident. (Look for them in the south meadow and especially on the Pleasant Hill side of Mt Pisgah).
There was also a Mountain Bluebird which had been seen in the EWEB Wetlands for several days, this past May. (Found and reported to eBird and OBOL by Vjera Thompson). The Mountain Bluebird is generally only found East of the Cascade mountains, so quite a few birders went out to the EWEB wetlands to see this bird. The Bluebird had been in the field between the large parking lot (north of the lot) and (south of) Roosevelt Blvd.
I also know for a fact that there are Yellow-Breasted Chats in the field immediately east of the EWEB property because I've heard them there on more than one occasion early this Summer and there is no mistaking a Chat's unique call.
On our birdwalk, we began with a Turkey Vulture and an American Kestrel, though I guess neither Don nor I photographed the Vulture.
At the northwest corner of the trail system, we encountered a flock or two of small brown birds, some of which turned out to be House Sparrows.
Without waterbirds and shorebirds to keep us occupied, we instead got a good sampling of the passerines which inhabit the area. We had a nice flock of Lesser Goldfinches when we got to the southwest corner of the trail loop, where another canal comes up from the south and bends west to run under beltline. I saw a small mammal for a moment, swimming in the canal but couldn't tell what it was.
Goldfinches, whether Lesser or American, I find challenging to sort out from each other at Summer's end when they are in basic plumage. Females are especially difficult. Doris listed both Lesser and American Goldfinces, so apparently someone was able to ID both species successfully.
Immediately following the Goldfinch "frenzy", there was a sizeable flock of Cedar Waxwings feeding on berries in the stand of trees behind the building. This is the time of year that juvenile Cedar Waxwings can be enjoyed and we were able to get quite close to them. I photographed some last year in September at Delta Ponds along the river,
and I learned at that time that they have an incomplete black eye-mask. The eye-mask of the adult narrows to a point behind the eyes, but on the juvenile bird it barely extends behind the eye at all. Also, the juveniles have light streaking on their breasts while the adults do not. Finally, immature waxwings do not have a fully developed crest yet. Don Laufer got several nice photos of the juvenile Waxwings for us with his camera.
We had a Mourning Dove on a fence behind the EWEB building, and a Savannah Sparrow somewhere along the way too.
As I mentioned earlier, the several ponds on the east side of the building were all dried up. The thick, cracked Sun-dried clay had an interesting visual texture.
Having some time remaining after completing the trail around the EWEB building, we drove a short distance to West 5th Ave, which is at the north end of the large tract of land by Stewart Pond. We walked around this area for about 20 minutes. I was engaged in conversation and not very attentive so I hope the Catholic School nuns aren't reading this. I notice that Don didn't have any photographs from this area either, so maybe I didn't miss much.
For a moment I had a wild fantasy that I was seeing a Coyote, or maybe a Black Bear, but after photographing it and looking at the image, it was only a couple stumps of wood.
Bird list for walk at EWEB building off Roosevelt Ave. in Northwest Eugene,
Thursday, September 11, 2014, 9:30 to 11:15. The weather was very warm and sunny.
--- compiled by Doris Wimber
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