Posted by: atowhee | February 16, 2015

And the Robin Sang

The dogs and I arrived at Ashland Pond about 10AM. It was still cold from the sub-freezing pre-dawn temperatures. There was a steady, light breeze but it was as sharp as broken glass. The smaller birds were just beginning to move about. Most were still in the thickets. Even Scrub-Jays were lying low.

As it warmed up over the next hour, the sun rising to the south of us, the Robins began sputtering and whinnying in the trees. Then a flock of them attacked the German ivy for its fruit. A pair of Wood Ducks were excited by the spring hormones, chasing along Ashland Pond whistling as they went.

At the west edge of the pond the same male Anna’s Hummingbird sat on the tame tiny limb, sentinel and guard of his realm. No creature dared trespass without his knowledge and permission.

“Be aware, my sabre and my speed are not to be denied.”

I have seen male hummers chase Raven and Red-tail until they are well away from the tiny tyke’s sacred ground. A few days ago a male near the pond was doing his territorial flight: straight up for fifty yards then a thrilling dive straight down with a last minute arc to avoid crashing into the bushes.

A small flock of Ring-necked Ducks circled and dove. Occasionally the lone Pied-billed Grebe would bob up in their midst. Mallards lazed about as Mallards do so well and so often.

The Kingfisher rattled about the pond. “Look at me, but don’t try to take my picture.”

At the west end of the pond the dogs and I entered a bramble-lined alley. Two small brown figures wove their way through the thicket right beside us. The big mammals were not of concern. It was the resident pair of Wrentits. They made no sound and actually maneuvered through the thorns and limbs faster than we walked. The Wrentits stayed at waist level, not venturing far from their Mother Earth. Not adventurers, these mated birds will spend their whole life on a tiny fraction of an acre of brush and pond edge. They will never fly across pond, never perch beside a finch or Robin in a treetop, never hop about on a high branch near a kinglet or chickadee. None of their kind will suddenly appear in a suburb of Chicago or migrate east of the Sierra. The Wrentit is the embodiment of home body. Stay low and stay home.

Meadowlarks were singing in a meadow bordering the pond thicket. Then I suddenly heard the quartet of slurred doublets that is the spring song of the Robin. I didn’t bother to tell him this is still winter. They can see. Blue sky with only white wisps left from contrails. Willows in bud. Bright sun slightly higher in the sky each day. Creeks running at spring levels. Carpe diem.

In a couple more minutes another spring song broke through the traffic noise from the freeway, the thumping of some construction tool. It was the staccato tat-tat-tat of a Flicker. My first Flicker song of the year, not their winter-long “clear’ call. Later at home, there was another Flicker repeatedly warning off any possible intruders. His territory will once again include our garden. The chimney with metal flashing he loved to drum has been taken down by the neighbors. Where will he go to work on his percussive communication this year?

When we first arrived the temperature was only 40.  As we left the sun had warmed the day up to 51 already.  That took only an hour.  The yellow of the sun was matched by the chest of a Lesser Goldfinch wearing his jet black beret and ready for breeding to begin.  There was even a little spring in my step.
acwo color

acwo crown

P2320981 (1280x960)

rnd group

rnd grp2
Ashland Pond, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 16, 2015 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM. 27 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) X
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) 4
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 7
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) 8
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) 2
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) 1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 1
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) 1
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 2
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) 1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) 2
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 4
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) 3
Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata) 3
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 30
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) 4
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 1
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) 1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) 25
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 10
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) X
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus) 10
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) 3
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) X


20% of the slots are filled for the Mountain Bird Festival here in Ashland at the end of May.  Click here to check out the field trips and schedule.  All the money goes to support on-going bird population research by Klamath Bird Observatory in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of OR-CA.



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