Posted by: atowhee | April 1, 2017

APRIL FIRST: BASKETT SLOUGH, NO FOOLIN’

Today was our first field trip for the spring birding class sponsored  by the McMinnville Park & Rec Dept.  We headed south on 99W to Amity Pond, then Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge.

There were a few ducks at Amity Pond and singing Red-winged Blackbirds.

Even before we go to Baskett Slough there were skeins of geese passing over the highway. All the time we were there at least one flock of geese were aloft at any one time.  Twice we saw thousands lift off at the same time, cacklers’ cacophony ensued.  We saw at least three pairs of Canada Geese already incubating eggs.

HOVERCRAFT SUPREMEo1As we watched an Osprey flew in to hover over a pond, check for fish, then swoop out of his invisible high hanging hook against the  blue and vanish off to yet another pond, yet another possible meal.

We have here in Oregon other birds who hover well: kestrel, bluebirds, chickadees, kinglets, warblers, White-tailed Kites, Red-tailed Hawks if the wind is good, gulls along the coast.  There are even those mini-copters, the hummingbirds.  Their flash and color are brilliant, their hovering however is more mechanical marvel than a thing of beauty.  A hummer’s beauty is in his being, not his doing.  The Osprey–there is a fine  beauty both in its form and its function.
And the Osprey, of all our hovering birds, has the longest, most flexible wings.  The stiff-limbed Red-tail has a four foot wingspan, the sharp tips of a kestrel’s wings are less than two feet apart. Our elegant kite has a wingspan just over three feet. The Osprey has more than five feet of wing-span and wings that seem hinged at every inch of that length.  Those black and white extensions can bend, fold, stretch, arc, stiffen and row across the sky as needed.  Hover. Dive. Swoop. Climb. Accelerate. Sharp turn. Reach up from the water to seek the surface.  The Osprey has athletic skills most other birds cannot imagine. He is an Olympic diver, swimmer, hoverer and a kinetic sculpture Alexander Calder would bow to.

o2o3o4

 I am bound to insert here a portion of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “The Windhover.”  He wrote it to honor his god and the English Common Kestrel but it could not be more apt for our pagan fish hunter, the glorious and intensely alive Osprey:

“…High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
    As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!…”

o5o6

There are still thousands of coots and ducks around, mostly dabblers.  Western Meadowlarks were singing about the territories they’d claimed.  There were mosquitoes in the air, but also the antidote, feeding swallows of three species.

We found two Bald Eagles—one adult, one first-year bird.   Two Turkey Vultures passed.  We saw only one Harrier, and that a male. Near the parking lot with the toilet building we saw one Peregrine lift off from the nearby field and then disappear over the hill.

Surprise bird of the day was a singing Yellow-headed Blackbird, male.  Then two more.  One flew into a tree next to us, perhaps to shut down the male Red-wing who’d arrived earlier. One other very bright bird today was a male Savanna Sparrow with a very yellow face.  Timing was perfect: all the Baskett Slough trails closed for winter re-open April 1 so we were able to hike into the marsh, no foolin’.yhb c uThis male was singing so one of our birders looked around for the source of that grating, irritating sound…behold the “singer.” Operatic tenor he is not.  Rusty gate hinge, perhaps.yhb callsyhb singI call this our swalline: white bellies=tree; rusty belllies=barn.  There was one Cliff spotted far out over the marsh. No violet-green seen.swalineThe young eagle, loafing.ye-bskt5

Only wild mammal was a single nutria.

Amity Pond, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 1, 2017 9:00 AM – 9:10 AM. 9 species

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  3
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  3
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  X
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Apr 1, 2017 9:20 AM – 12:20 PM.  38 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  X
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Gadwall (Anas strepera)  4
American Wigeon (Anas americana)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  X
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  1
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  X
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  X
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  X
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  X
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  2
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  2
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  X
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  2
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)  1
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  2
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
American Coot (Fulica americana)  X
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  X
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  100
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  10
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  1
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  3
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X     singing males
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  X     singing males
Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)  3     singing males
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X

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