Spring Migration at Sauvie Island

While we were in CA last week, Mark’s cousin posted on Facebook that she’d been out to Sauvie Island for the migration where she saw numerous Bald Eagles and Sandhill Cranes among other, more common migrants like Canadian and Snow Geese (no doubt waiting for the Olympics to close so they could return to their usual nesting grounds) and Tundra Swans. It gave me something to look forward to in the final days of our vacation.

Today, with unseasonably warm temperatures and clear skies, we packed up the dog and spotting scope and headed to the Island to enjoy the wonderful call of the Sandhills and the drama of thousands of geese taking to the skies every time an Eagle swooped toward their massive flocks.

Not far into the journey we spotted a tree with three Bald Eagles, a male, a female and a juvenile sitting and preening after a morning of hunting.

A closer view of the adult male. I wish I’d rented a larger lens!

At the viewing platform, we saw a few Sandhill cranes but mostly just ducks and coots. We usually see a number of swans and snow geese here but none today. A little farther down the road we found a large flock of cranes feeding near a lake and were lucky enough to catch a few mating dances. This always makes me feel like I’m watching a National Geographic documentary.

On the other side of the levy, numerous Tundra Swans were feeding and preening. They’re so large that when they dive to feed, their backsides sticking strait up look like a floating wedding cakes.Unfortunately, no pics. Like I said…I needed the larger lens.

We took a break to give Mac a good workout at the river.

He was enjoying working with his favorite duck.

On our way back we finally found a large flock of snow geese. They were a ways from the road but with the scope we were able to get some pretty good views and saw more Sandhill Cranes feeding among them.

It was then that we noticed that the colony of nests high in the trees were all occupied.

With the sun behind them it was hard to make out what birds were nesting there but again…the scope came in handy and we were surprised to find that each nest contained a Great Blue Heron. Admittedly, we’re novice birders and just assumed the Herons nested on the ground. After all…we only see them in wetlands and usually alone. To find they were nesting in a colony, 60 feet up in the trees, was a revelation. We couldn’t wait to get home and research this. After all…we were looking at more Herons in one view of the scope than we usually see in a whole season. It was a fascinating experience.

Click on the pic and you’ll see virtually every nest is occupied.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see nearly as many Kestrels as Nancy saw last weekend but then, with so many Bald Eagles around we weren’t tuned in to the smaller raptors. All in all a good day for us and for Mac!

Isn’t he handsome?!!

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9 responses to “Spring Migration at Sauvie Island

  1. What awesome pics of Mac – what a great time he was having.

    Is that Mt. St Helens in the background in one of the pictures?

  2. I was thrilled to see you posting!

    We are most likely going to get a dog – our first.
    I may be calling for help!

  3. Paul – Thanks Paul and Yep…Mt. St. Helens. Sauvie Island (originally Wapato Island) is at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, just West of Portland with views of 4 volcanoes.

    Spo – Always happy to answer dog questions. I highly recommend you check out The Monks of New Skete who raise German Shepherds and have books on raising a puppy, and dog training.

  4. lazybythelake

    what a beautiful place. i really do have this visual idea that you guys live in a paradise, and now it includes the amazing tree roosting blue herons! kinda like an alice story where you go through a forest of blue herons before you meet the cheshire…. CHOCOLATE LAB!

    and speaking of dogs….i read a book by those monks of new skete you recommend to Spo, maybe ‘how to raise a puppy’ or something like that, when i got Maisey girl. it was fantastic. so fantastic in fact that when M and i went to dog school together she was top of her class! 5 stars to the monks of new skete!

  5. he is sooo handsome he reminds me of my old Chessie…

  6. Mac!! Such a cutie! I hope to get to see him when I’m in Portland in June (broad hint dropped….)

  7. Oh Doug…you know you’re always welcome!

    Of course I’ll need a little advance notice so I can be sure to stock up on wine. 😉

  8. I never knew great blue herons nested in colonies either. Coolness.

  9. Yay Mac! Gorgeous shots! I still suspect Batman may have some Chessie. Not just from the look of his fur, but some temperament things as well. Mac is a great looking boy.

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