Posted by: atowhee | August 1, 2014


Who knows? Who cares as long as gas as money keep flowing?

Here is press release out today from the University of Wisconsin:

MADISON, Wis. – As production of shale gas soars, the industry’s effects on nature and wildlife remain largely unexplored, according to a study by a group of conservation biologists published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on Aug. 1.

The report emphasizes the need to determine the environmental impact of chemical contamination from spills, well-casing failure, and other accidents.

“We know very little about how shale gas production is affecting plants and wildlife,” says author Sara Souther, a conservation fellow in the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “And in particular, there is a lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and the chemistry of fracturing fluids. Of the 24 U.S. states with active shale gas reservoirs, only five maintain public records of spills and accidents.”

The 800 percent increase in U.S. shale gas production between 2007 and 2012 is largely due to the use of hydraulic fracturing. Also called fracking, the process uses high-pressure injection of water, laden with sand and a variety of chemicals, to open cracks in the gas reservoir so natural gas can flow to the well. A similar technique is used for extracting oil from “tight” geologic formations.

The chemical makeup of fracturing fluid and wastewater, which can include carcinogens and radioactive substances, is often unknown. The authors reviewed chemical disclosure statements for 150 wells in three top gas-producing states and found that, on average, two out of three wells were fractured with at least one undisclosed chemical.

Pressured by growing concern about pollution to groundwater and surface water, government and the industry have made some steps toward openness, Souther acknowledges, but she says more progress is needed.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s website is one of the nation’s best sources of publicly available information on spills of fracking fluid, wastewater, and other contaminants. Even so, gas companies failed to report over one third of spills in the last year,” she says. “How many more unreported spills occurred, but were not detected during well inspections? We need accurate data on the release of fracturing chemicals into the environment before we can understand impacts to plants and animals.”

One of the greatest threats to animal and plant life identified in the study is the cumulative impact of rapid, widespread shale development, with each individual well contributing collectively to air, water, noise and light pollution.

“The past has taught us that environmental impacts of large-scale development and resource extraction, whether coal plants, large dams or biofuel monocultures, are more than the sum of their parts,” notes Morgan Tingley, a researcher from University of Connecticut. “We can’t let shale development outpace our understanding of its environmental impacts.”

“If you look down on a heavily fracked landscape,” Souther says, “you see a web of well pads, access roads, and pipelines creating islands out of what was, in some cases, continuous habitat. What are the combined effects of numerous wells and their supporting infrastructure on wide-ranging or sensitive species, like the pronghorn antelope or the hellbender salamander?

“I am from West Virginia, which is underlain by one of the largest shale gas reservoirs in the U.S. However, this industry doesn’t just impact gas-producing states. Here in Wisconsin, shale development is affecting areas that supply sand for use in hydraulic fracturing.”

The study looked broadly at what is known — and what is not — about the conservation impacts of fracking. “Some of the wells in the chemical disclosure registry were fractured with fluid containing 20 or more undisclosed chemicals,” says co-author Kimberly Terrell, a researcher at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. “This is an arbitrary and inconsistent standard of chemical disclosure.”

With shale gas production projected to increase exponentially over the next 30 years, the authors hope the study will guide the application of limited scientific resources to the most important questions, and enhance cooperation among scientists, industry and policymakers to minimize damage to the natural world.

The authors are all David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellows, a project established by the Cedar Tree Foundation and the Society for Conservation Biology. Souther has been a research fellow at UW-Madison for three years. In September, she will begin a professorship at West Virginia Wesleyan College in West Virginia

Posted by: atowhee | July 30, 2014


By Denise Levertov
Come into animal presence.
No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn’t
quicken his trotting
across the track into the palm brush.

What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.

In my garden before a rainstorm:garter look

garter ribbon
This two-foot garter snake was among my strawberries though it would have no interest in the berries themselves. I do hope he takes an occasional mouse.

GARTR HED1 (1280x960)

Of course, the single best snake poem in English is this one from Miss Emily herself. Note the traditional folkish fear of the snake in the grass, “zero at the bone.” In those days of yore there was precious little appreciation of how important snakes were in keeping some semblance of balance in the population of yet smaller creatures. All snakes are predators, born to kill for their living.

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him—did you not
His notice sudden is,
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your feet,
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn,
But when a boy and barefoot,
I more than once at noon
Have passed, I thought, a whip lash,
Unbraiding in the sun,
When stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled and was gone.

Several of nature’s people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality.
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

Posted by: atowhee | July 30, 2014


For the second straight day we’ve had a thunderous storm come across the Siskiyous to the south and blow through Ashland. The dark gray clouds form a background for the jagged white lightning. Each flash followed by the world’s loudest kettle drums as thunder shakes the house and the trees around it. The strong gusts of wind blow tiny twigs, dead branches and weak limbs onto roofs and gardens. Before each storm front the birds grow quiet. Both before and after the rain the Red-breasted Nuthatch is assiduous in attending to our suet logs. rbn-J1


Today I watched as the storm rumbled northward toward our house. Just on the leading edge, driven along by the weather’s bellows came a quartet of Vaux’s Swifts, driven down from the treetops at a higher elevation. Can’t catch insect in a driving rain after all.

The Jays are the first into the garden as the rain stops. Followed rapidly by Junco, Spotted Towhee, Anna’s Hummingbird. The hummers are mimosa addicts but also spend a respectful amount of time at the blooming buddleia (butterfly bush).

This is at least the fourth major thunderstorm of the summer here, strangely Midwestern weather for this part of the country. After this second storm in as many days Ashland Creek was running at high spring levels, and the water was dark. It reminded me of the St.Croix River where the water is clear and black at once, stained by the tamarack bogs. Ashland Creek must get its summer storm color from the many millions of particles of rotted leaf scoured out of thousands of roof gutters across the town. Not sure if these storms continue it will alleviate our drought but it allows me to turn off the irrigation which is a costly luxury in dry times.

Posted by: atowhee | July 29, 2014


TREES OF WESTERN NORTH AMERICA. By Richard Spellenberg, Christopher Earle, Gil Nelson. Princeton University Press. 560 pages. $29.95.tree bk covr This book was just published.
If you live anywhere in the western U.S. this book has any tree you might see. Whether you’re on the pacific Crest Trail, hiking Glacier National Park staring at some odd tree across the street from your nearest parking lot, the trees you see you’ll see in this book.
All the natives are here, of course. So are all the exotics whether from South Carolina or South Africa.
Good illustrations and range maps. Color depictions of leaves, bark and flowers.
And without all those trees, where would our birds be?P2090066 (1280x960)P2090078 (1280x960)
This field guide is small enough to fit into a large coat pocket or any backpack. About the size of the regional National Geographic bird guides. Has the same plasticized jacket so it will withstand your leaking water bottle or a bit of rain.
Here’s a sample of the entries on specific tree species:
tree book page
The book includes not just towering trees but many woody shrubs such as sagebrush.

P2090081 (1280x960) This last photo is a madrone going through its annual bark and leaf shedding in late summer. Did you know there are other species of madrone native to the U.S.? I had no idea until I got this book. They are the Texas and Arizona madrones and have tiny ranges compared to “my” Pacific madrone which is found from Big Sur north to British Columbia but never far from the ocean.

Posted by: atowhee | July 28, 2014


Enough with those cutesy owls already. How about some birds of daytime action?RBSAP ON BIRCHRed-breasted Sapsucker that’s been drilling away on my neighbor’s birch tree.

weta in tree1 Western Tanager down from the hills to feed around Ashland Pond.
beag up (1280x960) Young Bald Eagle over Emigrant Lake. Below, Eurasian Collared-Dove. Now so common I hardly ever take a photo.

ecd at pond (1280x960)

Juvenile Bluebirds, Western, still showing spotted chest.

This is one of the most common wildlife sights across America now that we have so many golf courses, and so many geese to trim them.




in-flite (1280x960)squawk and fly

KILLDEERLET1 (1280x960)Strapling Killdeer, running fast but maybe not yet able to fly.

kngbrd-xWestern Kingbird.

lkesa looksLeast Sandpiper showing yellow legs.

A flying Osprey can be an elegant, graceful thing.


P2080826 (1280x960)
These last pictures all taken at Emigrant Lake.

Posted by: atowhee | July 28, 2014


I’m beginning believe there may be more Screech-Owls in Ashland than there are deer. A tip from another birder today led me to a pair of owlets near the upper duck pond in Lithia Park, that’s in addition to the four owlets further downstream and the adult still using the roost box on Granite. The pair that was news to me is in a tree that actually leans out over busy Winburn Street. SEVEN–I just hope the local supply of moths and mice holds out.boxxAdult owl in usual roost box.

canopy owl The newly discovered (for this birder) owlets along Winburn.

Here below are the owlets previously over-blogged right here. Today there were three in the nest cavity and one in nearby laurel. Yesterday only one was visible in the cavity.

four eyes-1




six eyes-1
In the end a human below is pretty uninteresting. Yawn.
six eyes-2

Posted by: atowhee | July 27, 2014


Not even the staid New York Times can always resist the attraction of birds and birding. First they run an interview with actress Jane Alexander. What she wants to talk about is birding.

Then the travel section also has a feature piece on travel in Newfoundland. Of course, they can’t write about Newfoundland without putting Puffins into even the headline. Read that one by clicking here.

We’ll know the “NYT” has finally grown up and gotten serious about the planet when they devout at least half as much space to birds and wildlife as they do millionaires competing in professional sports.

Posted by: atowhee | July 26, 2014


I believe today’s Screech-Owl score in Lithia Park is: Adult 1, Owlets 3. Here is how it looked today:P2080950 (1280x960)
One owlet in the hollow maple, the nest tree.
P2080974 (1280x960)

Two owlets in a nearby conifer they’ve been using as a roost tree irregularly for over a week.


Then this owl is in the roost box that is most frequently used year-round and judging from the glare and the full-sized tufts I take this to be one of the adult owls.P2090020 (1280x960)
So the score seems to be: three owlets roosting near where they were born, one adult using a roost box about 100 yards away. Not necessarily one of the parents of the owlets. But four different Screech-Owls in same vicinity in Lithia Park. There was one photographer in the afternoon when I was about. These owls have quite a following.

Posted by: atowhee | July 26, 2014



Harry Fuller will be your guide for a birding trip to Mt. Ashland and Klamath Basin over Memorial Day Weekend. Arrive Friday, May 22 in time for dinner in Ashland, Oregon. It is about 340 miles from the Carquinez Strait Bridge.
On Saturday, Harry will drive the group to the Siskiyous to see Sandhill Crane, nesting Osprey, possible Great Gray Owls,2010-06-16-_R1Z7099 Mountain Bluebird, Hermit and MacGillivray’s Warblers Vesper Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, among many others. You will enjoy lunch at Greensprings Mountain Resort. More birding on the way back to Ashland that night.
Sunday morning will include birding in the Ashland parks and around Mt. Ashland. You can expect to see Western Screech-Owl, Vaux’s Swift, Calliope Hummingbird, White-headed Woodpecker, Dusky and Hammond’s Flycatcher, Casin’s Vireo, Townsend Solitaires, Yellow-breasted Chat and Lincoln Sparrow, among others. Return to dinner in Ashland.
On Monday, May 25 (Memorial Day), you will rise at 6 am and head to the Klamath Basin looking for White-faced Ibis, Black Terns, nesting Bald and Golden Eagles, Swainson’s and Ferruginous Hawks, Yellow-headed Blackbirds and more. This will be a long day so we may eat dinner in Klamath Falls before returning to Ashland.
Other birds we hope to see or hear include Mountain Quail, Mountain Chickadee, nesting Osprey, Clark’s Grebe, Common Merganser, White Pelican, Band-tailed Pigeon, Rufous Hummingbird, Red-breasted and Williamson’s Sapsucker, Gray Jay, dipper barelegsAmerican Dipper.
Harry knows the area well and is a resident of Ashland.

COST: $285 per person. The trip includes transportation once you are in Ashland, dinner on Friday and lunch on Saturday and guide services. The trip does NOT include lodging, transportation to Ashland or meals (except otherwise noted.)

Contact Pat Kirkpatrick at or Alexis Hummel at for more information.
General information: Ashland is at 1800’ elevation. Much of our birding time will be spent above 4000’ elevation. There will be some walking at that elevation though not on any steep terrain. By late May there will be some high elevation wildflowers and some butterflies evident. Some of our birding will near or along the Pacific Crest Trail in both the Siskiyous and Cascades. If it’s a warm spring there may be some mosquitoes around the Klamath Basin.

DAY 1: FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2015
Plan to arrive in Ashland in time for a 630pm dinner. Meal included in trip fee. We will eat at the Black Sheep Pub on the Ashland Plaza. Its address is 51 North Main Street.
We will preview the weekend’s plans and answer any questions about logistics, target species, etc.
DAY 2: SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2015 We will plan to leave early in the morning. Check with your accommodation to see how early they supply breakfast. This day will focus on the Cascades Mountains east of Ashland. There are meadows where Sandhill Cranes, Vesper Sparrow and Mountain Bluebird nest. There are regenerating clear-cuts where Chipping Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting and Mountain Chickadee may be found. In regrowth of a burned area we may find White-headed Woodpecker. The forests around Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake hold Pileated Woodpecker, Red-breasted and Williamson’s Sapsuckers, Tree Swallows, Hermit Warbler, Northern Pygmy-Owl and the elusive Great Gray Owl. GGO MOM5 Osprey and Bald Eagle fish the lakes and nest along the shoreline. Most of this day is spent between 4500’ and 5500’ elevation.
Lunch will be at Greensprings Inn, meal included in the trip fee.

DAY 3: SUNDAY, MAY 24, 2015 We will again try to leave by 7AM at the latest. Today we will climb as high as 6800’ elevation. Today we bird more open areas as well as the dryer forests of the Siskiyous. We will expect to find MacGillivray’s Warbler, Dusky and Hammond’s Flycatcher, possibly Olive-sided as well, Townsend’s Solitaire, Rufous Hummingbird. This area can sometimes have Cassin’s Finch and Red Crossbill as well.
Before we leave Ashland and its environs we will look for Vaux’s Swift, Dipper, Nashville Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat and Calliope Hummingbird, North America’s smallest bird.2009-06-14-_R1Z3109


2009-06-14-_R1Z3167 Male Calliope Hummingbird streaches

Calliope Hummingbird
This afternoon we can encounter strong updrafts and a jacket may be needed. We will need to carry sack lunch this day and plenty of water as there are no facilities on Mt. Ashland besides toilets and picnic tables.

DAY 4: MONDAY, MAY 25, 2015 We will leave at 6AM this morning because we have more miles to cover. We will go east from Ashland on Dead Indian Memorial Road and down into the Klamath Basin. We will bird from Rocky Point on the northwest corner of the lake south to Klamath Falls and then further souht into the Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge. We have President Teddy Roosevelt to thank for its preservation over a century ago. The refuge straddles the stateline so some of our birding will be in Oregon, some in California.
Klamath Lake is home to breeding populations of Redhead, Eared, Clark’s and Western Grebe, Black and Forster’s Tern, White Pelican. Along the shoreline we may find Bald Eagle, Osprey, woodpeckers, flycatchers, Bullock’s Oriole, Yellow Warbler. In the marshes and fields of the wildlife refuge we will hope for Swainson’s and Ferruginous Hawk, Golden and Bald Eagle, Harrier, White-faced Ibis, Short-eared Owl, Black-billed Magpie, Horned Lark, Yellow-headed and Tricolored Blackbirds. In dry sagebrush country we will look for some Chukar. There’s a possibility of pronghorn this day near Dorris, California.
Plan to carry a sack lunch. There will be some chance to pick up water or other consumables along the way. We will likely choose to eat dinner in Klamath Falls before we return back over the Cascades to Ashland.
OTHER BIRDS TO EXPECT: Without looking too hard we should run across California Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Downy, Hairy and Acorn Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Anna’s Hummingbird, Band-tailed Pigeon, Western Kingbird, Western Wood-Pewee, Steller’s Jay, Raven, several species of swallow (Bank unlikely), nesting Juncos, Spotted Towhee, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch (Pygmy found only in Klamath Basin), Black-capped Chickadee, Oat Titmouse, Bushtit, Wrentit, Western Bluebird, Western Meadowlark, Lark and Song Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Lesser and American Goldfinch, Purple Finch.


Check out the Klamath Basin Birding Trail

Birding along I-5 around Ashland and north of the Bay Area
Birding around Ashland in May
Birding up Dead Indian Memorial Road

If you don’t have a copy of FREEWAY BIRDING [available as ebook from Amazon], I will happily provide info on places to bird en route to Ashland from the south. There is a breeding colony of Lewis’s Woodpeckers at the south end of the Collier Rest Stop on the Klamath River north of Yreka. We will not encounter them in our birding around Ashland or in the Klamath Basin.

Posted by: atowhee | July 25, 2014


Around 5:15PM I checked the old nest hole and there was a young owlet, and one sibling was at the same roost tree nearby. That accounts for half of the four owlets born in lower Lithia Park this summer.


To see picture of the first owlet, click here.

Not far off, other children…this time, mule deerlets. I am fawned of taking their photos almost as much as the owlets.

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