Posted by: atowhee | August 19, 2014

SHOREBIRDS FIND PLENTY OF SHORE

With this summer’s drought the migrating shorebirds are finding more shore than usual around area reservoirs. In fact Agate Lake’s surface area now is less than one-third of what it would be if the reservoir were at capacity.

KILL LEANZ
Killdeer, like American Robin, so common we ignore its subtle beauty.
KILLL1

OSP-UPP

PEEPS 2GETHER
Spotted Sandpiper on right, Western on left.
PEEPS PAIRD

SEMIP-AGATE1
The lone Semipalmated Plover I could find at the water’s edge.
SEMIP-AGATE2

SEMMIP-FACIN
BLU IN BERRIES
The Western Bluebirds and House Finches were dining on fresh blackberries. Meanwhile goldfinches of both varieties were feeding on thistle and weed seeds.
BLU-BERRIES1

BLU-BERRIES2

Agate Lake, Jackson, US-OR
Aug 19, 2014 9:30 AM – 10:30 AM. 27 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 120
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) X
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) 1
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) 7
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 3
Great Egret (Ardea alba) 2
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 3
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 1
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) 1
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) 14
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) 2
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) 130
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) 80
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) 8
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 2
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) 1
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) X
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) X
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) X
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) 10
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 4
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) 10
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) 2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 4

Posted by: atowhee | August 15, 2014

CASCADE EVENING

I was guiding a trio of visiting birders this evening. They all wanted to see one of our local Great Gray Owls. We tried several likely spots–no luck. But the night ended with smiles all around because we had driven along a…ruff road: in the sooty twilight:

RUFF ROAD
This RuffedSooty Grouse had been lazily feeding along Shale City Road.
RUFF ROAD2

RUFF ROAD3
When a fellow birder pointed out the bird’s yellowish eyebrows and then I re-examined the photos you can also see the broad pale bar at the tip of the tail…Sooty, not Ruffed, Grouse.
RUFF RUN (1280x960)
Other interesting sightings: a flock of Western Tanagers, clearly mustering for migration. A Wilson’s Warbler and a Hermit Warbler. Brown Creeper. Two Common Nighthawks over Keno Access Road. Sandhill Cranes at Howard Prairie. Two flocks of Mountain Bluebirds there.
At Howard Prairie we watched a pair of Kestrels kiting over the grassland.
Along fence lines there were a rich variety of seedeaters: Vesper, Lark and Chipping Sparrow and a juvenile Lazuli Bunting.
KEST REST1 (1280x960)

KEST-KITE1 (1280x960)

kest-kite2

KEST-KITE4
Here’s a Vesper Sparrow photo taken by Dianne Fristom at Howard Prairie:
Vesper sp
Yesterday on Shale City Road I saw a California Towhee, somewhere over 3000′ elevation. Not where I would expect that species.P2110117 (1280x960)

Shale City Road, Jackson, US-OR
Aug 15, 2014 4:30 PM – 5:10 PM
Protocol: Traveling
10.0 mile(s)
5 species

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) 1

Sooty Grouse
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) 1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 15
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) 1

Willow Witt Ranch, Jackson, US-OR
Aug 15, 2014 4:50 PM – 6:10 PM
Protocol: Traveling
5.0 mile(s)
9 species

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 2
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) 1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 1
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) 1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 4
Hermit Warbler (Setophaga occidentalis) 1
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla) 1
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) 6

Howard Prairie Lake, Jackson, US-OR
Aug 15, 2014 7:10 PM – 7:35 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
12 species

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 1
Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) 2
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) 2
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 2
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) 15
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) 12
Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) 1
Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) 1
Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena) 1

Keno Access Road, Jackson, US-OR
Aug 15, 2014 7:30 PM – 7:50 PM
Protocol: Traveling
7.0 mile(s)
5 species

Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 1
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) 2
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) X

Posted by: atowhee | August 15, 2014

SIGNS OF CHANGING SEASON

The birds know the season is changing. Tanagers and Black-headed Grosbeaks are now forming into flocks. Today I saw for the first time since spring small flocks of Cedar Waxwings in town…and a mixed flock that included a Warbling Vireo (again not seen in the park since spring)…and Western Wood-Pewee’s flycatching where they haven’t been seen in weeks. I was showing some visiting birders from the Bay Area around Ashland birding spots.

Ashland Pond, Jackson, US-OR
Aug 15, 2014 9:10 AM – 10:10 AM. 21 species

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) 4 (including two six-inch long ducklings)
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) 1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 3
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) 1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 3
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 2
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) 4
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 1
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus) 2
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) 1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 5
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) X
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 3
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 6
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) 15
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) 1
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) 4
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) 6 (no adult males seen)
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) 2
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) X
+++++++++++++++
North Mountain Park, Jackson, US-OR
Aug 15, 2014 10:30 AM – 11:40 AM. 15 species

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 7
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 1
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 2
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus) 2
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus) 1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 4
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 8
Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata) 1 heard singing
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) X
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) 4
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) 8
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) 3
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) 2
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) 1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) X

Posted by: atowhee | August 14, 2014

WHERE’S BABY?

Peter Thiemann and I went to check on our favorite Great Gray Owlet tonight and failed to find the kiddo. We could see dad, alright. He was perched in dense trees not far from the old nest site. He changed perch five times, flutter a wing once, fluffed some feathers. Mostly dad kept his guard up. Ignored the humans but swiveled his head, training that sight and sound sensory system in all directions. Sometimes slowly pivoting, other times making jerks to change direction. The owlet is now about 3 months old at least so it can fly well and hide in the tops of the trees…somewhere up in the conifers’ canopy above forty feet.GGO FACE1

GGO TAOERD

GGO-LOOKS-UP

GGO-SIDE

Sitting around, even with your ears on alert, can get boring. There were some owl yawns, a bit of fast scratching of the chin with the right foot, some feather fluffs, lone wing stretch. We found the adult owl because the ranch dogs came along with us and the owl gave a short series of warning hoots as the dogs got close to its first perch. One hoot, pause, a triplet, pause, then a pair of hoots. Then silence.

IF YOU WANT TO HELP OUR LOCAL JACKSON COUNTY GGOs FIND NEST SITES, CLICK HERE.

Posted by: atowhee | August 14, 2014

FREAK BEAK

I don’t know what’s happened to my Red-breasted Nuthatch. I say “mine” because he seems to live on my suet feeders…and seeing how deformed his beak appears, I can see why.
[SEE BELOW FOR LIKELY EXPLANATION]
How could this poor guy possible pry bugs out of bark crevices when his upper mandible is a half-inch longer than the lower. Any ideas about what’s happened here? Birth defect? Lower mandible appears normal size, while upper toooooo long.BEAK-ODD1` (1280x960)

BEAK-ODD2 (1280x960)

BEAK-ODD3 (1280x960)

BEAK-ODD5 (1280x960)
Help me solve the Case of Mismatched Mandibles.
Ornithologist Pepper Trail works at the U.S. Wildlife Forensic Laboratory here in Ashland (the only such lab in the whole world!). He has pointed me to what seems to be the explanation. Click for link to info on Cornell’s great website on birds.

Posted by: atowhee | August 14, 2014

BIRDING THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Awake around 3 AM two nights ago: the Screech-Owl tooting right outside our window.
In the garden a not-so-black-capped Chickadee. This must be a new generation of white-flecked chickadee as I first noticed one in our garden three years ago.
chick cap (1280x960)

chick cap2 (1280x960)

chick cap3 (1280x960)

chick cap4 (1280x960)
This might reptile was found in a rotting limb on the trail above Ashland. Size compared to the pointer finger of my grown son:P2100772 (1280x960)
243 Granite Street, Ashland, Jackson, US-OR
Aug 13, 2014 2:45 AM. 21 species

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) 2
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 1
Mourning Dove 2
Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii) 1–CALLING BEFORE DAWN
Anna’s Hummingbird
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 2
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) 1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) 10
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 2
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 1
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 1
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla) 1
NOTE: THIS WARBLER IS THE ONLY ONE I HAVE EVER RECORDED IN MY GARDEN BETWEEN THE END OF MAY AND THE START OF SEPTEMBER. NO WARBLERS NEST NEAR MY HOUSE AND SO THEY ARE SEEN DURING MIGRATION SEASON AND YELLOW-RUMPS SOME IN THE WINTER. I HAVE NO WARBLER RECORDS FOR JUNE OR JULY AND THIS IS THE ONLY ONE IN AUGUST AFTER SEVEN YEARS OF FAIRLY ATTENTIVE BIRDING. IT WAS EITHER AN IMMATURE OR FEMALE BIRD WITH A FAINTLY VISIBLE DARK CROWN.*
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) 2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 2
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) 2
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) 1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 1

* I now have a total of 96 species on my eBird life list for our home next to Lithia Park, elevation 2000′, in Ashland. It is largely forested habitat interspersed with garden and park landscaping. Nearest creek is fifty yards away so Green and Blue Heron and Kingfisher and fly-bys. Except for the resident turkeys most large birds are fly-overs: crane, geese, raptors. An occasional accipiter will stop by for a look at the Juncos. Screech-Owl and Red-shouldered Hawk are our only resident birds of prey in the neighborhood. I have recorded zero shorebirds and never expect one. No nightjars, no gulls, no eagles. Small gleaning species are a year-round fixture: two nuthatches, kinglets in winter, Bushtits, up to 3 chickadee species in winter, Downys.

Posted by: atowhee | August 14, 2014

A PLATFORM YOU CAN BELIEVE IN

We all suspect political platforms prove to be worth less than the paper on which they can be printed. But now Rogue Valley Audubon Society is backing a much sturdier platform. In fact, several platforms…for nesting Great Gray Owls.
Click here to go to RVAS website for info on how you cancdonate.
GGO nest This is one the nest platforms being prepared by Peter Thiemann who’s volunteered to head the labor end of this project.
Here is the text I submitted to explain the nest platform program and why it is needed:

RVAS is helping place nest platforms for Great Gray Owls. Jackson County has 300-500 GGOs, mostly in the Cascades. A few are in the uplands along the Applegate River. That estimate’s from Steve Godwin, BLM’s chief biologist in the county. For about two decades BLM field biologists in southwestern Oregon have searched for Great Gray Owls during an annual spring survey. Great Grays are in eastern Josephine County and Klamath County. The only confirmed GGO population in northern California is a small one north of Alturas in Modoc County. There’s an isolated population around Yosemite.
Godwin assured me the recent forest fire east of Greensprings did NOT hit known GGO nesting habitat. That fire mostly burned commercial timber land, not the right habitat for the species.
Platforms are being made by volunteer and nature photographer, Peter Thiemann. Each needs to be carefully placed in dense, mature forest near meadows good for Great Gray hunting. A platform is put 35 feet above the ground by an experienced forestry worker. Donations go for materials and pay the person equipped to hang the platform.
One limitation to Great Grays’ population is lack of nesting places. Owls don’t build nests. They use cliffs, cavities, old nests for other species, manmade structures. GGOs do not use buildings, bridges, cavities or cliffs. Left to their own devices GGOs need a large tree trunk broken off at the right height or a nest built by Raven or Red-tail. Many of these natural nest sites are short-lived. A pair we monitored this spring on a private ranch near Grizzly Peak used a fast disintegrating Ravens’ nest. That area is where the first two platforms will be placed this fall.
There is good evidence of Great Gray Owls using nest platforms over many years. Here in the southern part of their range owls will pair and nest almost every season because food supplies—small rodents—are generally available. Further north lemming populations may crash leading to a dormant season where nests are fewer or non-existent. Platforms are now used for GGOs in Scandanavia, Canada and in their scattered nesting areas in the western U.S. One platform on private land near Howard Prairie Lake has been used both in 2013 and 2014.
If you can donate to the Great Gray Owl nest platform fund, please send check to RVAS, P.O. Box 8597, Medford OR 97501. Your donations are tax deductible.

Posted by: atowhee | August 10, 2014

GGO OWLET: GOOD NEWS!

For those owlers (and you know who you are) who follow my blog you will recall that a nest of Great Grays near Grizzly Peak began with a pair of nestlings in early July. One disappeared, the second one fledged and was seen near the mother owl the next day. Then the screen went blank in mid-July.
This nest was on private land and a ranch worker alerted me a couple days ago the youngster and the adult male (most likely) had been seen together. Owlman Peter Thiemann wen to the area last night and found both adult and youngster, now looking very much like his old man:Grizz 1
The first three images are of the rapidly maturing owlet. Still being fed by his father and they two will remain near one another until the owlet can feed himself in the autumn.
Grizz 2

Grizz 3
Thew adult owl on guard:
Guard
And this is Mountain Quail season, for viewing. If you are in Jackson County, now is the time to get out and slowly drive the mountain roads above 4000′. Mountain Quail are about in their late summer coveys. They are skittish and quick so Peter shot these two images through his admittedly dirty windshield. Elevation about 4500′. They prefer forest and brushy areas, not open meadows or talus slopes.
MQ 3
Note the male has his head feathers in a peace sign, a long-armed V.
Mtn
Both the quail and owl are resident birds that do not migrate away in winter.

The photographer on this blog is building nest platforms Great Gray Owls in Jackson County’s GGO habitat. Money for the project is coming from donations to Rogue Valley Audubon. The first two platforms will go into the area where Peter got these photos. The GGOs there nested in a ratty and disintegrating old Raven nest this past summer and they deserve a better chance. GGOs are often quick to use platforms placed in the right nesting habitat of tall forest near meadows good for hunting.

Owls do not nest build, or even nest repair. They use existing structures or cavities or cliff faces. The GGO specifically needs broken off, hollowed out tree trunks, big ones…or abandoned nests of very large birds…or manmade platforms. They do not nest on cliffs or in buildings or under bridges like some large owls (Great Horned, Barn).
If you can donate to the Great Gray Owl nest platform fund, please send check to RVAS, P.O. Box 8597, Medford OR 97501. Your donations are tax deductible.

Posted by: atowhee | August 10, 2014

FORMING THE FLOCK

Here is my one good picture of the day: Green Heron on a log at Ashland Pond, close enough for clear shot:
GH-ONLOG1 (1280x960)

Flocking is the avian trend of the moment around here. Bushtits are no longer in breeding pairs or adults with a few fledglings. They are now back in their usual, comfortable gangs of twenty or more, flitting from bush to tree to thickets. Their behavior makes you think they never fly more than thirty feet at a time. And they don’t migrate so…has anybody ever tracked a Bushtit to see how far they really do fly under their own volition?
And down at Ashland Pond this morning there were loose flocks of Black-headed Grosbeaks (no adult male to be seen) and Western Tanager. As always the resident Acorn Woodpeckers were moving about in a small group, laughing as they went.sunf with bcc1
Black-capped sunflower eater (Chickadee) at work.
sunflwr-bcch fliz (1280x960)sunf with bcc2

WETA SKULK1
One of the skulking tanagers deep in the shade.
WETA SKULK2

bhg x 2This pair of Grosbeaks happened to be in my garden but there were several feeding around Ashland Pond.

DCC ONE-LEG

GBH ONA LOG

LAZY MORNINLazy morning: preening heron, sleeping Mallards, loafing cormorant.
Then there are those species that eschew others of their own, usually predators: lone Kingfisher, lone Black Phoebe, lone Brown Creeper. The latter a bird I rarely see around Ashland, more common in the mountains or along the Rogue River.

Near my house, a small flock of Turkeys were feeding: four trks
Ashland Pond, Jackson, US-OR
Aug 10, 2014 9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
Protocol: Traveling; 0.4 mile(s). 27 species

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) 3
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 3
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) 1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 1
Green Heron (Butorides virescens) 2
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 2
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) 2
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 1
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 3
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) 1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) 6
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 1
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) 1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 4
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 1
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 3
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 2
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) 20
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) 1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 6
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) 1
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) 3
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) 8

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) X

Posted by: atowhee | August 8, 2014

GREAT GRAY OWL UPDATE

The lone youngster that successfully fledged from a nest on a private ranch near Grizzly Peak has just been seen, along with an attending adult. So this owl has been out of the nest for a month now. Here’s a picture taken right after the owlet fledged, the young one now looks very much like the adults, having lost all its white fluffy feathers.
2014 07 09_Willow-Witt Ranch, Ashland OR_8092_edited-1
Further good news for Jackson County Great Gray Owls. Peter Thiemann is building two nest platforms using money donated to Rogue Valley Audubon. These first two platforms to come out of this newly-started program will be placed on the ranch where this young owl fledged. He was born in a stick nest that is disintegrating. It was probably originally built by Ravens. It will not survive for another nesting season.
Owls do not nest build, or even nest repair. They use existing structures or cavities or cliff faces. The GGO specifically needs broken off, hollowed out tree trunks, big ones…or abandoned nests of very large birds…or manmade platforms. They do not nest on cliffs or in buildings or under bridges like some large owls (Great Horned, Barn).
If you can donate to the Great Gray Owl nest platform fund, please send check to RVAS, P.O. Box 8597, Medford OR 97501. Your donations are tax deductible.

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