Posted by: atowhee | September 6, 2014


There is something in air rtoday besides the smoke from a big forest fire south along the Klamath River in northern California. There were small pale gnats flying about. And that brought out the flycatcher in several birds: Acorn Woodpeckers, Cedar Waxwings, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers. And Western Bluebirds who are flycatchers mush of the time anyway.HAWO HANGZ
Hairy Woodpecker on out suet log.
LESGOS2 (1280x960)Lesser Goldfinches chowing down.

P2130813 (1280x960)Band-tailed Pigeon in the garden.

WSO-BIG EARS Western Screech-Owl juvenile in the old nest cavity in Lithia Park. An adult bird was also roosting in the hollow today.

Out at Emigrant Lake this week there’s been a flock of Savannah Sparrows in the weeds above the mud line.SAV SPR FACE Just along the edge of dried mud there was a lone American Pipit today. First I’ve seen this season.

Ashland Pond, Jackson, US-OR
Sep 6, 2014 2:00 PM – 2:45 PM. 11 species

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) 2
Green Heron (Butorides virescens) 2
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) 6
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) 1
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus) 1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 8
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) 12
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia) 1
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) 6
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 2
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 12

Emigrant Lake, Jackson, US-OR
Sep 6, 2014 2:45 PM – 3:45 PM. 24 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) X
Gadwall (Anas strepera) X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) X
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) X
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) 4
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) 4
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 3
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 6
American Coot (Fulica americana) 2
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) 12
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) 1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) 3
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) X
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) X
Common Raven (Corvus corax) X
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) X
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) X
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) X
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 1
American Pipit
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) 8
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia) 12
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) 5
Black-throated Gray Warbler (Setophaga nigrescens) 1
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) 15

Posted by: atowhee | September 5, 2014


Birder Janet Kelly took these two pictures of an immature Great Horned Owl along Runnels Lane, Rocky Point along the northwest shoreline of Klamath Lake. Wow!2


Posted by: atowhee | September 4, 2014


A busy octet of Caspian Terns were the show this morning at Emigrant Lake. There were a few intrepid human fishermen around the lake, but the real pros were the terns. All were molting so their black skull caps were a little motley-looking.CASP BACKCASP CU

CASP ON BAR1 (1280x960) The shorebirds are Greater Yellowlegs.CASP WINGS OPN

casp-dux (1280x960)I believe there was a trio of Shovelers.of Cinnamon Teal on the lake, two seen speeding past here. In flight they had the pale blue wing windows and were much smaller than a nearby Mallard. I don’t often see this species in Jackson County though it is a common breeder east of the Cascades. I tried to track them down for a better and closer look but they disappeared to some part of the lake where I couldn’t relocate them.


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When they’re loafing on the sandbar the terns are quiet, but once aloft and fishing their raucous “kwee-ooo” can be heard all over the shriveled lake.THREE ALOFT

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Here are two of the yellowlegs on the lake shore, the only shorebirds I could find. Not a single Killdeer!


Savannah Sparrows are abundant right now in the dense weeds that fringe the upper portion of the lakebed where the water was gone before spring passed


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sav takeoff (1280x960)sav flite (1280x960)
Red-breasted Sapsucker in the oaks near the pioneer cemetery. There was a single Black-throated Gray Warbler there as well.
rbs hed

rbs on oak-lim

rbs tall

Turkey Vulture having a fish snack on the baked lake bed.
Emigrant Lake, Jackson, US-OR
Sep 4, 2014 10:05 AM – 11:05 AM. 21 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 50
Gadwall (Anas strepera) 1
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 1
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)Shoveler 3
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) 1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 3
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 3
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) 1
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) 3
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) 8
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) 1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 5
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 2
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1
Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus) 1
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 1
Black-throated Gray Warbler (Setophaga nigrescens) 1
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) 30
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) 20

Posted by: atowhee | September 3, 2014


The Wilderness Act is 50 years old today. No way it would get through the U.S. Congress in this decade. Click here for a very thoughtful appraisal of “wilderness” on today’s “On Point” radio show.
At that time ecologists had the simplistic theory that nature would reach a point of stasis, stability, a climax forest for example. Now we know better. Heraclitus was right, all is flux.

From the website: ” 54 areas (9.1 million acres) in 13 states were designated as wilderness. This law established these areas as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Since 1964, the NWPS has grown almost every year and now includes 758 areas (109,511,038.000 acres) in 44 states and Puerto Rico. In 1980, the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) added over 56 million acres of wilderness to the system, the largest addition in a single year. 1984 marks the year when the most new wilderness areas were added”.

To read more about the U.S. wilderness program, click here.

Posted by: atowhee | September 2, 2014


I’ve now had time to check the phenology chart for Barn Swallows on the “Birds of North America Online” species account…it shows some small number of past nesting records this late in the season with all nestlings fledging by around September 10th at the latest. So these young are right on the cusp of as-late-as-possible for Barn Swallows who must then migrate much further south.


These images are of active nest in a barn just south of Ashland at about 2200′ elevation. The days are warm and the horse manure supplies plenty of flying insects. But this seems very late. The adult birds are rearing four young Barn Swallows. The Handbook of Oregon Birds says the species is in migration from mid-August through October. These nestlings have a lot of growing and maturing to do if they’re going to begin to fly hundreds of miles within the next eight weeks. I wish them well.

Posted by: atowhee | September 1, 2014


At the blunt point of the quill where this feather once hung from the turkey’s chest, there is but a quarter-inch of bare shaft. Then the barbs and barbules begin. This is the after-feather section which contains silky, flexible plumes. Where each plume is attached to the main shaft there is only a miniscule, thin, hairless mini-shaft, like the thinnest thread. Each plume is flexible but springs back into position. Beyond the connecting shaftlet each plume becomes expansive, fuzzy and almost like fur. This is insulation, waterproofing, comfortable down next to sensitive skin. The color is a matte medium brown. This afterfeather extends 2.75 inches along the shaft, almost exactly half of this feather’s whole 5.5-inch length.


Toward what was once the outer end from the plumes the coloring gets complex and fascinating. The next inch of so along the shaft the barbs and barbules are two-tone giving rise to arced, wavy lines of yellowish brown on a dark brown background.
The last 1.25 inches of this feather are both more subtle and more complex. An iridescence dominates. The background brown remains but in sunlight at some angles there is a blue-green sheen on the surface. A slight change of light of angle and a pale golden-green light appears. Even in dull indoor light you can see there are two soft-edged stripes running across the feather…just before you get to the grand finale.
For the ultimate 3-8ths of an inch on this feather there are only pale golden brown fingers made up of individual plumes not stuck together. Each ends in a tiny, wavering end, spaced apart for its neighbors by the tiniest margin.

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At one time this feather formed part of the contour on a Wild Turkey’s chest. It is curved slightly to fit the breast form and also to match its fellow feathers.
Above: turkey in our garden. Below: the Ghost of Turkey Passed.
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Here are two illustrations from the great feather-brained work, BIRD FEATHERS by Scott and McFarland. Stackpole Books.
feather structure

feather structure2

Posted by: atowhee | August 31, 2014


This fall marks the centennial of the death of America’s last Passenger Pigeon. It is one of many species driven into extinction by human action. It seems our ancestors have been killing off other animals far before the Dodo, way back to the era of the Wooly mammoth. But now we seem prepared to mark the next century as our biggest kill ever, hundreds, maybe thousands, of species hang in the balance as we humans add ever more heat and energy to the earth’s environment.
Click here to read piece in today’s “New York Times” by the head of the Cornell Ornithology Lab.passpig-wilson This drawing of the Passenger Pigeon is by pioneer bird artists, Alexander Wilson, who once estaimed more than a billion of the birds flew over his head along the banks of the Ohio River. Just over a hundred years later the bird was gone forever.

Posted by: atowhee | August 30, 2014



These two pictures were taken by a homeowner who lives south of Ashland at about 3100′. This Great Gray Owl was perched on her porch. The owl stayed around for some photo ops then flew back into the forest. Needless to say, this was a unique experience for her ten years of living there.

There are small grassy meadows near her house. The forest is mixed black and white oak and conifers. These are cedar, Doug-fir and ponderosa. There are some small springs on the slopes that keep the grasses and forbs green even in this droughty summer. That should mean food for the GGO. The owl’s hostess has declared this the “Year of the Vole.”

Posted by: atowhee | August 30, 2014


Yesterday’s ho-hum is today’s bulletin. We will be seeing and feeling more of this radical shift in perspective as climate change continues to change more than climate.
We’ve heard about the steep decline in monarch butterflies. This year marks the low point in the population for as far back as record go. Click here for the sad story.
When I was a kid in the Missouri Ozarks back those many decades ago, monarchs were around my parents’ farm all summer long. “Weed sprays” were still a rarely used weapon against plants that were not domestic. So milkweed flourished on roadsides and along fences. No more.
So this month I have seen two living monarchs (both butterflies, neither of royal blood) on their annual migration. One was near Emigrant Lake, the other came through our garden and sampled our buddleia. The later plant is now an “invasive” and no longer legally sold in Oregon. One man’s pest is another bug’s delight, you might say.
So the good news: there are still monarchs. That means we humans have time to intervene on their behalf now that we humans have done so much to destroy them. It means we have to kick our addiction to poisons and that means saying “no” to some powerful cultural and corporate forces. Too bad the monarchs themselves can’t rule. Give them a seat on the Monsanto board of directors? I thought not.

Posted by: atowhee | August 28, 2014



like woodpecker

Today forester Marty Main hung the first two Great Gray Owl nest platforms on a private ranch near Grizzly Peak. The platforms were the first constructed by Peter Thiemann using funds donated to Rogue Valley Audubon’s newly inaugurated GGO Platform fund. RVAS is the only Audubon chapter in the nation to be running such a program. Very few are lucky enough to be in habitat where Great Gray Owls nest.
Here are some more pictures of today’s action where nest platforms are now within 200 yards of a nest site used this summer by GGOs who fledged an owlet there.

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Now getting down to applause is the fun part:P2130025 (1280x960)
Peter, his wife and Marty check out platform #2 prior to lift-off:
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Here’s reporter Mark Freeman and ranch co-owner, Suzanne, watching the first platform going up.
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Here’s my full description of this platform program:

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.

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