Birding Washington County, Oregon

Bald Eagle Diary: 2003

Dennis Manzer posted the following messages concerning Bald Eagles nesting at Jackson Bottom Wetlands, Hillsboro, to the on-line discussion group, Oregon Birder's On-Line (OBOL).

Sunday, February 2, 2003

Today's events prompted me to take time for reflection, gratitude & greater appreciation while in the field. Setting aside the horrific news, I made my way out Woods Ave, 0.5 mi W of Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve's N view stand.
Upon parking my truck I could hear the cacophony of huge numbers of assorted waterfowl species just out of view S of me in the flooded cornfield bottomlands just beneath me. I kept a sneaking & stalking low profile for a couple of hundred yards & avoided rising until I got behind brush at the edge of the benchland overlooking the dramatic scene of ~600 TUNDRA SWAN, 2k CANADA GEESE (I saw no collars or oddities but at least 3 subspecies), & 100's each of NORTHERN PINTAIL, MALLARD, 10's GREEN-WINGED TEAL. After soaking all of this up I returned E on Woods Ave & stopped at the gravel & rock stockpile.
As I stopped there were 8 WESTERN MEADOWLARK on the utility wires. When I approached the stockpile 20 MOURNING DOVE arose with a clatter. A week ago I had 5 sparrow species in the brush at this spot but only a solo SONG SPARROW today.
I continued on to the N view stand @ JB & upon arrival discovered the M BALD EAGLE consuming a fresh catch of unidentified prey. In a very few minutes the F materialized from thin air & made a stately flyover of the area before taking her perch. It wasn't long before she sailed out & returned with a fresh waterfowl (Northern Pintail I believe).
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve is located ~0.5 mi S of downtown Hillsboro on S 1st St (OR Hwy 219). See DeLorme p66, D1.
Yours for better birding!
Dennis E. Manzer
Beaverton, OR

Monday, March 10, 2003

Monday, 03/10/03, 1625 - 1750 hrs I observed incubation behavior at this location for the first time this season. When I made rounds in a.m. on 03/09 they were still just thinking about it.
Today the F was on the nest when I arrived & the M was perched atop the highest bare snag SE of the nest. After about 10 min he collected a stick & delivered it to the nest. The F arose after a couple of minutes & moved to a perch about 1.5m above the nest. After the M finished working in the stick he perched alongside her. The nest was bare for about 12 min before he settled back in.
Meanwhile the F flew to extreme NW & captured a fish which she took to the bare tree near the Weeping Willow. After she finished it she either caught another or retrieved remains of a prior catch & delivered it to the nest. The M remained in incubating position & the F resumed her perch above the nest.
They made another nest exchange at 1740 accompanied by the typical egg-turning behavior. Based on today's observations we should expect a hatch about 04/12.
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve is located 0.5 mi S of downtown Hillsboro, OR, on OR Hwy 219 (S 1st St).
Happily Eagling! (:>}
Dennis Manzer

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Hillsboro's Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve's N view stand is surrounded with a number of flowering bushes & shrubs which have attracted the attention of a pair of RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS. While in & of themselves they are not unusual, I've not had them with any regularity in this location before. I'm hoping they'll nest nearby.
This location also produced a pair of SPOTTED TOWHEE, (male singing & female furtively entering & exiting heavy brush). 2 LESSER GOLDFINCH, 1 BAND-TAILED PIGEON, 11 DUNLIN, 7 WESTERN SANDPIPER (first seen on 04/07), 2 pair BARN SWALLOW (my first of season at this location), 11 LESSER SCAUP, nesting MARSH WREN, 2 pair COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (nesting?), V-G SWALLOWS & TREE SWALLOWS investigating & claiming nest boxes, 1 COOPER'S HAWK, BELTED KINGFISHER, LINCOLN'S SPARROW, GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, SONG SPARROW (nesting?), & my first of season at this location SAVANNAH SPARROW all provided excellent entertainment & viewing opportunities in addition to the other regularly seen species.
Fernhill Wetlands just out of Forest Grove yielded a group of 7 TURKEY VULTURES soaring & then joined by a 4.5Y & a 3Y BALD EAGLE which eventually sailed away in different directions. The resident nesting pair of Bald Eagle are brooding a healthy looking pair of 3.5 week old eaglets. AMERICAN KESTREL are nesting. First of the season for me at this location was SAVANNAH SPARROW. 7 RED-TAILED HAWK were in the vicinity.
Pacific University continues to host ACORN WOODPECKERS for superior close-up views. I found an unusual owl pellet containing Crayfish remains unless there is another crustacean with pincers of an orangish color. I have located 7 occupied Red-tailed Hawk nests enroute to Cedar Canyon Marsh from Forest Grove. A pair at one of the sites was just beginning construction with each bird alternately adding sticks. Note on the MARSH WRENS making a lot of racket which seems to be on the verge of annoying: move 15 - 20 paces away. They are very defensively territorial of their nesting spaces & they're sending the message that they don't like our trespassing in their living rooms.
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

The eagles are making strong suggestions that a hatch has occurred. On 04/14 between 1630 & 1730 hrs the F was in the nest & very fidgety. She made 7 position changes as the M made 7 deliveries of soft small nest material.
On 04/15 between 1900 & 2000 hrs I observed 2 likely feeding sessions each a duration of 5 to 7 minutes approximately 40 minutes apart. Eaglets may be scope visible in a week, binocular visible in 2 weeks. Meanwhile the adults' behavior will be very interesting to watch. The staff at Jackson Bottom hosts their Lunch With the Birds program free of charge every Wednesday from noon 'til 1:00 with education specialists, field guides, & optics available.
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve's N viewing stand is located approx 0.5 mi S of downtown Hillsboro on the E side of OR Hwy 219 (S 1st St).
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Monday, April 21, 2003

Two Bald Eagle chicks are now scope visible poking their heads up during feeding sessions. Sessions last from 4 - 7 min about 40 min apart. Keep an aye out for signs of the presence of a third chick. Suspected hatch dates are 04/14 & 16.
On Easter afternoon a visiting eagle was escorted out of the area. It made no obvious threats before being escorted away by the F while the M sat on the nest & fed chicks.
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS are now visiting the N viewsite area as well. The N viewsite of Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve is located approx 0.5 mi from downtown Hillsboro on OR Hwy 219 ( S 1st St) on the E side of the road.
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Friday, May 9, 2003

Nothing too unusual because the Yellow-rumped Audubon's & Myrtles have been regular for a couple of weeks, the Common Yellowthroats are nesting & still divying up territory, but my first-ever at this location YELLOW WARBLER appeared today. The American Goldfinches rounded the yellow phase of the spectrum. Still waiting on Wilson's & Townsend's.
My first of the season at this location GREEN HERON appeared Tues 05/06, about a month or more late vs. prior 3 years.
Bald eaglet twins are 3.5 weeks old & thriving. Parents are keeping the larder stocked.
Spotted Sandpipers are pairing off & investigating possible nest sites, Killdeer & Canada Geese continue to incubate & are due to hatch any day. The N viewing stand of Jackson Bottom Wetlands preserve is located approx 0.5 mi S of downtown Hillsboro on OR Hwy 219 (S 1st St).
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

The BALD EAGLE nestlings are about to become fledglings at any daylight moment. They're doing lots of limbing & getting as much as 6' of daylight beneath themselves as they vigorously exercise.
On 06/30 & 07/01 there were ~12 WESTERN SANDPIPER making an appearance around 1830. GREEN HERON are getting very reliable with as many as six occasionally verifiable. So far they all appear to be adults. The SPOTTED SANDPIPER is also very reliable. A pair of GADWALL continues to meander about. The STARLINGS have begun to flock at about 250 birds. CEDAR WAXWINGS, HOUSE FINCHES, & AMERICAN GOLDFINCH are also frequent. DOWNY WOODPECKER is visiting also.
All observations were made from the N viewing stand adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant on OR Hwy 219 (S 1st St) approximately 0.5 mi S of downtown Hilsboro, OR.
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Thursday, July 3, 2003

Jim Hill & I saw our first GREAT EGRET as well as our first flock of about 15 BUSHTIT this season late afternoon/early evening.
The BALD EAGLE nestlings are still working up their courage toward their first flight. They also are begining to rearrange the interior of their nest by grabbing sticks & talonsful of soft material, tossing it about. They are taking advantage of the late afternoon breezes for lengthy aerial exercises above their nest as the adults each give demo flights nearby. The youngsters are using their wings as they take their branch perches as much as 3m away from the nest.
I saw only 3 WESTERN SANDPIPERS today. The GREEN HERONS & GREAT BLUE HERONS put on great shows in close.
Observations were from 1700 - 1930 at the N viewing stand on OR Hwy 219 (S 1st St) approx 0.5 mi S of downtown Hillsboro, OR.
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Sunday, July 6, 2003

One of the 2 BALD EAGLE chicks escaped the confines of its nest today between 1700 & 1800 hrs. It managed to pull this off unseen by all of several distracted observers. As its absence was detected neither adult was readily in view either. Speculation is that it went from the nest to our blind side.
The only eagle visible was the remaining chick, gaping widely (presumably calling), until 2107 when one adult returned from the S & soon followed by its mate from the same direction at 2112. I used the scope to track each adult to their perches & thought I did see an extra flutter of wings in between their chosen roosts. The fluttering was seen poorly under dimming light & through the thick foliage. I continued to observe fruitlessly until 2137 when it was just too dark to see well.
All observations were made from 0530 - 2137 at the N viewing stand of Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve located adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant approx 0.5 mi S of downtown Hillsboro, OR on OR Hwy 219 (S 1st St).
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Monday, July 7, 2003

The nest is officially empty as of 0708 hrs on 07/06/03. The beta chick swallowed really hard several times before taking its first leap of faith & then to land in a piledriving heap in dense foliage after only a very short cruise.
We learned that it is also a master of concealment & able to hide very well from almost any vantage point no matter where it eventually moved to. Its second landing point must have been very satisfactory as it stayed put for over 7 hours using the little available shade to its best possible advantage.
By the close of business at 2140 it had made 3 short flights about the nest grove. The warmups for each flight were really lengthy & extremely tentative just before takeoff. We were all surprised that it never attempted to return to the nest where one of the parents had hauled in about 8 pounds of fresh carp. Beta chick will be screaming for breakfast at sunrise having not fed today!
The alpha chick was Johnny-on-the-spot to get in on the sushi. It fed for 40 min on its first session. It made two more lenghty untimed feeding sesions over the course of the day. On its fourth entry into their aerie it looked about in the bowl of the nest & didn't feed. I think the buffet was gone. Each adult had visited the nest once for food as well & only fed quickly.
The capture of the fish was especially dramatic. The M adult nabbed the ~12 lb carp from a steep stoop above 1m deep water. The fish was too heavy to fly away with so the eagle firmly clenched the talons of one foot on the fish & hop-paddled & swam the chin deep water about 70m before reaching higher ground under shallow water.
It began feeding & had basically its first fill when it paused & walked away about 1.5m for a drink of water. As it finished drinking a RIVER OTTER approached on a fast swim to try to snatch the mostly remaining fish. The BAEA clutched its hard-won prize with its left talons & lashed out with its right talons kung-fu style while thrashing with its wings. The otter did some thrashing of its own & it looked like the donnybrook was on for sure when it ended almost as quickly with the otter swimming away in a shower of water. Only a few moments passed before the BAEA was defending against another attempt by otter. This event was a cakewalk compared with the first as the otter was very much more tentative. I think that it was just confirming its perception of the eagle's commitment to its earnings.
The eagle finished another round of feasting when it rested a bit before again testing the gross payload weight. Still too heavy to lift from the ground. He gorged some more & tried to reduce the GPW. Test again. Still too heavy. The M gave up & flew to a sunny branch to enjoy a solar dry.
The F BAEA swooped down on the still very large carcass & took several bites before testing the GPW. Still too heavy, so more gorging & testing. After about the 5th test, she tore off a very large piece & flew it to the aerie effortlessly. She very quickly returned to the remains of the very large carcass, where she continued to gorge. She finally took about a 20 min rest to let some of her intake reduce internally. With another couple of tests she finally locked talons to meat & lifted with a couple of mighty heaves. She stayed low to the water with the tail of the fish just barely clearing the water's surface as she labored to gain altitude.
After about 60m of flight the altitude started to gradually build. Just in time to clear the shoreside low shrubs fronting her nest grove. With the first hurdle cleared she proceeded on to fly above the recently mowed grass field & turned 3 wide circles to gain altitude sufficient to enter her aerie. Oops! Bad turn on circle #2 & lost 30% of altitude! Power ON & climb, climb, climb just enough to dump the payload barely over the rim of the nest which alpha chick had graciously cleared to make way!
Just before dark the otter returned to the scene to make sure that there were no overlooked pickings. There weren't any but it came back a second time just to make sure it wasn't an hallucination or error on its own part.
Close of business at 2140 had the alpha chick near the nest, the beta chick well tucked in to dense branches about 80m away from its familiar home & one adult beneath a canopy about 20m above beta. The 2nd adult had flown in & landed on the opposite side of the grove out of view. All in all a very satisfying day of eagle nest monitoring!
A heartfelt thanks to all who've participated & helped me grow in this project since Jan, 2000. These were chicks 4 & 5 to fledge from this site!
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Evening of 07/25/03 an hatch year PEREGRINE FALCON (suspected M) made an appearance beginning with a really unstable landing (caught on tape) atop a spindly sapling snag adjacent to the BALD EAGLES' nest. It reconnoitered the area before strafing numerous waterfowl & raising all kinds of trouble with other birds in the area.
After about 30 min it reappeared & the adult F BAEA jumped into the air with her 2 offspring (suspected F twins). The PEFA turned the tails of all 3 BAEA. The adult lit out for parts unknown as the juvies pulled every aerobatic maneuver they could dish up but the PEFA wasn't duped by their jukes & bedeviled them in turn as was his wish. What a sight! I got about 6 minutes of hot video before it all ended with the BAEA juvies hiding out & the PEFA struck south to the retention pond.
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve is located approx 0.5 mi S of downtown Hillsboro, OR, on OR Hwy 219 (S 1st St).
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Monday, Oct 20, 2003

Autumn is officially here according to the presence of the adult BALD EAGLE pair. Today each pirated a fish from GREAT BLUE HERON & GREAT EGRET. As each made its move about 5K CANADA GOOSE of mixed subspecies exploded into the air. The 200 or so NORTHERN PINTAIL remained fairly calm & hardly moved, but the 70 NORTHERN SHOVELER took to the air as did the 30 MALLARD. The eagles made several dives near the 3 TUNDRA SWAN subadults which stretched their long necks & gaped in protest. The eagles took to their night roost at 1815 & 1820 hrs.
A single RED-SHOULDERED HAWK gave a quick unexpected flyby with a brief hidden perch stop near the top of the Weeping Willow tree before I could accurately age it and then disappearing out of view. BELTED KINGFISHER & AMERICAN KESTREL adorned nearby perch poles.
Friend Jim McBlaine brought his 6 year old grandson, Trevor, out to explore the South end trails. They radioed me that they had a VIRGINIA RAIL sounding off beneath them as they crossed the footbridge adjacent to Kingfisher Marsh. I was sorely tempted to make a dash out there but I had several interesting geese in my field of view at the moment.
One Dusky with a collar appeared for the third straight season. It's kind of neat to run into "old friends". There was also a Cackler with a yellow collar whose number seemed vaguely familiar from either last year or perhaps the year before. I'll have to check my notes. There was also a possible ROSS'S X LESSER CANADA GOOSE. It was the same size as the Cacklers but it had a bold white dirty face with a black eye patch. The bill appeared to be the smaller size & seemed to be pink & black. I couldn't get any color on its back because of its angle to me as it swam closely amidst the flock before they all took to panic flight as one of the eagles changed perch.
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve's North viewing stand is approx 0.5 mi S of downtown Hillsboro on OR Hwy 219 (S 1st St).
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis Manzer

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Today's record early snowfall between 0900 & 1200 hrs kept most of the birds pretty well hidden. Between flurries of flakes ranging from very small to very large & fluffy the birds went about their normal business of _earning a living_ in harsh conditions. My toes got too cold so I headed for home.
I was greeted by a flock of about 50 BUSHTIT gathering fuel like crazy before the impending storm arrived. The various groups of WESTERN SCRUB JAY, HOUSE FINCH, HOUSE SPARROW, LESSSER GOLDFINCH, EUROPEAN STARLING, & RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD all did likewise.
The BALD EAGLES made 3 prey captures (fish) as the 2K NORTHERN PINTAIL exploded in fright while the 32 COMMON MERGANSER mostly ignored the forays of the large predators. The 6 HOODED MERGANSER took fish from 6-10cm. They really cleaned up. Some of the 52 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT fished for catches exceeding 500g & impressively one-gulped them.
The RED-TAILED HAWK duo was relatively quiet with only a couple of perch changes. The hoped-for Red-shouldered Hawk of the previous evening didn't appear. An AMERICAN KESTREL (m) had a look around but didn't reveal a catch.
9 BUFFLEHEAD made a flyby & a group of 20 NORTHERN SHOVELER took to the air also. Approximately 200 GREEN-WINGED TEAL foraged & alternately rested as did the 60 or so MALLARD. The 15 GREAT BLUE HERON were especially fractious toward each other but left the 2 GREAT EGRET alone. I found only a half dozen AMERICAN WIGEON. I checked carefully for Eurasian varieties of waterfowl but found none. Most of the 2K CANADA GOOSE were too far away to accurately check for collars in the billowing snow. There were waterfowl on the wing in the distance the whole time. I saw no Swans.
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Saturday, November 15, 2003

I started my day at Hillsboro's Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve's N view stand at 0810. A mixed flock of ~60 BUSHTIT, 3 BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, & 3 RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET began the day just right. They were soon followed by a group of mixed Sparrows including LINCOLN'S, GOLDEN-CROWNED, SONG, FOX (first this season for me at this location), & HOUSE. 5 TUNDRA SWAN gave a flyby & I eventually located both adult BALD EAGLE. I counted 28 GREAT EGRET, 22 MOURNING DOVE & 1 PIED-BILLED GREBE.
The "odd" buteo which I first reported 10 days ago is still hanging around. I got much better looks today in closer, both dorsal & ventral. I first located it W of the N view stand from Woods Ave. in a bare deciduous tree ~400m S. I mis-described the bird's wings & tail in my first post. What I originally thought were white rectrices were instead the white primaries in folded position.
The wings are white/pied for the outer 1/3 top & bottom on left & right. The tail has NO white rectrices, but instead most closely resembles that of imm Red-tailed Hawk. Total conformation & flight style suggests RTHA as well. It is missing a couple of secondaries on its left side. The head is as previously described, its face & forward 1/3 of head was dark creating an almost "masked" look. The back 2/3 of head was pied predominantly white.
It did eventually share an updraft on this cool, rainy, windy day with a normal adult RTHA. There was no interaction except that the "odd" bird made a hasty break for cover & out of view soon after the normal RTHA started its climb.
The previously reported NORTHERN SHRIKE is still holding forth just off of the NW corner of the retention pond just N of the Kingfisher Marsh kiosk.
I arrived at Fernhill Wetlands just off of OR Hwy 47 near Forest Grove at 1445. The previously reported ROSS' GOOSE was grazing on greens on the W side of Fernhill Rd with about 200 CANADA GOOSE (mixed subspecies). When I left at 1710 it had moved into the brown cover on Eagle Perch "Pond" (forever dry?) Other fun birds included a flock of ~60 DUNLIN, a few WESTERN & LEAST SANDPIPERS, about 30 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, 2 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 1 CANVASBACK, & most of the other usuals. More RUDDY DUCK & BUFFLEHEAD today.
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving to All!
I arrived shortly after 1400 & as I pulled onto the parking lot a BALD EAGLE was in flight. To my naked eye it seemed perfectly normal. I quickly got the bins on it as it landed just meters off of the nest grove to discover a dark subterminal band. A quick scan of the area revealed no other eagles present.
About 20 min later an adult BAEA cruised in from the west over the south end to perch near the SW corner of the retention pond. It remained there for about 10 min before taking a direct flight path toward the perched stray. Just as the resident adult closed on the 4.5y, the mate to the resident adult approached at speed from the east side. The three jousted in mid-air to put on quite a show. Size comparison in flight revealed that the stray was a male. The adults chased it 'round & 'round before it departed toward Meriwether Golf Course & out of view. The adults reclaimed perches in their nest grove.
With things settled down a bit I scanned the goose flock to find close to 30 DUSKY CANADA GEESE, at least 10 of which bore red neck collars & I was lucky enough to get 7 complete numbers & 3 partials. About then Mahesh Ketkar & Prashant Saxena arrived. We were able to pick out 3 RED-TAILED HAWK in the surroundings. I located a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE resting among the Duskies. At first we thought it a mutt-goose but eventually decided imm GWFG. Wrong again. It gradually showed the black belly bars when it went to graze on shoreside grass & Al Snyder had arrived to check things out so we enjoyed nice scope views of it.
While Al was there we tallied 29 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT taking flight after one of the eagles snatched a previously dead NORTHERN PINTAIL drake from the water's edge. A PEREGRINE FALCON surveyed his chances from atop a roadside perch some 600m to the south. It slipped away unseen.
Soon thereafter Greg Gillson joined Al & I. Greg was interested in the recently seen Ross's Goose but it was not present just then. Greg did get to see the GWFG & was pleased that the stop wasn't a bust. Greg left about 1650 & not 5 min later the evening arrival of geese took place. There had to be at least 3K CANADA GEESE (mixed subspecies) resting in the large grass field between the Gene Pool & the eagles' nest grove. As I lifted the bins for a better look in the dimming light I made out a single white goose among the flock. It was too dark & too far to get any detail except that I failed to note any black in the wings as it lit.
As recently as Sat, 11/22, I saw the Ross's Goose out there. Someone else had mentioned an albino Canada in the area & Jim Hill mentioned a partial albino Canada in the general area lat last week.
The N view shelter of Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve is located approx 0.5 mi from downtown Hillsboro on OR Hwy 219 (S 1st St.
Yours for better birding! (:>}
Dennis E. Manzer