Posted by: atowhee | September 23, 2016


Returning west from Malheur earlier this week, we stopped for lunch overlooking Buck Creek, west of metro Silver Lake.  I have seen Clark’s Nutcrackers before in that area of arid ponderosa/juniper forest.  This time one flew out of the creekside aspen into a dead snag, in bright sunlight.  His scream alerted us to his presence.buck-crk buck cn-back cn-face  cn-launch cn-launch2 cn-launch3cn-flizBesides his big voice, unique accent, snazzy exterior and large beak this bird is altogether striking.  Yet he is high on the list of species that ornithologists expect to suffer from climate change.  The nutcracker–sweet to view–will sour on forests that don’t retain a lot of his favorite pines and other conifers and he is mostly found in areas already arid.  Those places could easily tip over into non-forested desert.  This is not a bird we could expect to survive in sagebrush or saguaro.

Also at Buck Creek:buck-wax buck-wax2 buck-wax3Away from the creek, in the dry brush: many White-crowned Sparrows.

Buck Creek Wildlife Area, Lake, Oregon, US
Sep 20, 2016 12:15 PM – 12:50 PM.  6 species

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  X
Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana)  2
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)  X
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  40, Yellow-rumped Warbler
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  X

Posted by: atowhee | September 23, 2016


If you owlish friends in Europe, they can now get the great Thiemann-Fuller owl book, click here for that link.  It’s on Amazon UK.


Posted by: atowhee | September 23, 2016


Here are Frank Sobotka’s images of places and people from our KBO trip to Malheur from Ashland.

Here are Frank’s shots of the birds we saw. A chipmunk and a dragonfly sneaked in as well.

Some of the highlights include great shot of flying Sharp-shinned Hawk from below, Black-billed Magpie in bright sun, Long-eared Owl, and a jumping Canyon Wren at Diamond Craters which is wonderful to behold–toes spread, legs parallel and stiff. The sapsucker near end of photos is a Red-naped near Benson Pond.

Posted by: atowhee | September 23, 2016


“The sky floats gray feathers on the far ridge, and an end-of-the-day rain plays gentle arpeggios on my rain jacket. I crest a hillside somber with spruce, serious trees humorless as winter.  The wind swims through their branches and they responds with lugubrious sighings, not the sibilant tissue-paper whispers of aspen.

“From this height the crowns of the aspen in the valley below thread it with tawny topaz traceries.  These leaves a quick week ago were a rich, raffish yellow, distilled sunshine pressed and concentrated into a small leaf, multiplied by a million to a glory…”

Aspen by Ann Zwinger

fullsizerender_6Here on Steens Mountain the colors of rock, tree and bush create a rich autumn mural.  All the milder tones of this place on earth seem to be a background for the effulgence and brilliance of the aspen before its leaves fall in fall. fullsizerender_8 fullsizerender_23 fullsizerender_24fullsizerender_31 fullsizerender_25 fullsizerender_26One part of the palette displayed by nature on a September mountain embarrasses our verbal spectrum in English: golden, yellow, sunny, blonde, fulvid, aurulent, citrine, chrysal, flavous.  Not one of those words captures the calm intensity, the bright coolness, the variety within the unity of an aspen trees’ leaves shining under a blue sky or glowing in the rapidly dimming light on a clouded September evening.

Nature spreads her beauty whether there is human to notice…or not.  You must imagine that Ravens circling high over a glacial gorge are noting and fullsizerender_30feeling possessive of such views every fall.fullsizerender_29 fullsizerender_27 fullsizerender_28

Only a profound human artist can come close to what nature profligately tosses about every year, day to day, eon after eon.  Here: Paul Klee.

kleeAll the aspen and mountain images from Kirk Gooding on our recent Klamath Bird Observatory trip to the Steens Mountain and Malheur area.

For more on aspen, read Ann Zwinger:

“Every time the breeze catches the dry aspen leaves it sounds like rain, but none comes.”

“Striders are still active late int he fall, maneuvering among the yellow aspen leaves that clot the surface of the pool.”

“I count the spring year well begun when the aspens dangle their three-inch catkins, fuzzy earrings which dust the cabin deck with pollen… The amount of pollen is prodigious. When I cut a bouquet of spring branches, the table on which they sit is deep in pale sulphur-yellow pollen the next day.”

“The sound of aspen leaves is distinctive: a soft permeating gossiping of the goings-on of breeze and bird.  Any whisper of air sets them sibilating, telling all they know over the back fences of the pine ridges.”

Posted by: atowhee | September 22, 2016


For a look at some great photos by Chad Sobotka of Ashland, click here.

Chad brought his Dad along on this trip and they were both active photographers. There are some priceless images on Chad’s flickr pages, check ’em out.  This was Malheur’s annual trip to Malheur NWR, the first one we’ve done in the end of season migratory period.

Those White Pelicans are at Rocky Point on Klamath Lake.  The great mountain scenes are from our day on Steens Mountain.

Posted by: atowhee | September 22, 2016


gho-dawn1Great Horned Owls at dawn.gho-dawnPair in residence at Malheur Field Station: gho-dawn2 ghos-at-mfsOwl in willow along Central Patrol Road:p2780099-1280x960Sage Thrashers were abundant around the Malheur Field Station

thsr-in-sage thsr-in-shadeCanyon Wren at Diamond Craters:can-wren-1280x960 Nuttall’s rabbit. nutt-rabbrcr-in-bark4-1280x960Above: Brown Creeper on tree at Collier State Lake.  Below: Chickahominy Lake west of Riley.  It was loaded with ducks, couple of Greater Yellowlegs.  Water in the dry steppe. Very near US 20. chick-res-1280x960 chick2 copa-pair-1280x960Raven pair above.  Raven kettle: cora-kettle2-1280x960 coras-kettle-1280x960 d-fly-cu-1280x960Dragonfly. d-fly-hangz-1280x960Old barn north of Klamath Lake:old-barn-4-mile-1280x960Large numbers of Barn Swallow on migration:bars-on-wire-1280x960trai-lzrd-1280x960

Posted by: atowhee | September 22, 2016


Sometimes bad ideas produce good results.  Because of the strength of Big Ag lobbying and anti-government politics in America much of our public land outside national parks is regularly used for extraction of profit and resources, from oil drilling and water bottling to burger production. Fremont National Forest covers large swaths of forest and sagebrush steppe in Oregon east of the Cascades. Most of this land is arid, much of it ponderosa, lodgepole or juniper forest.  We passed through a section of this forest east of Klamath Marsh NWR as we drove from Ashland to Malheur on our recent field trip for donors to Klamath Bird Observatory.

At a spot called Antelope Flat [no antelope, not even a pronghorn] the”pastures” are fenced in for cattle grazing.  The feds lease out this land to private ranchers.  It is not really pasture this time of year, more like hundreds of acres of parched brillo pad.  There is no running or standing water so a well has been dug to pump water from the aquifer and thus supply whatever walking burgers are put upon this land.  In some tortured [why do some political positions enjoy torture so much?] political resentment the large cement water tank at Antelope Flat is a target for gunners.  It belongs to the federal government–and even though the government, again, is subsidizing private burger ranchers–it is therefore a political target worthy of subversion so it is riddled with bullet holes in its lower third where the most water will leak out.  The tank has been repeatedly repaired using dark roofing tar and bolts or wooden plugs.  Not all of these repairs have survived the desert and winter conditions.  Thus there is this manmade fountain in the dry land.  It is a short flight to the nearby ponderosa forest so a mix of species results:tank1-1280x960 tank2-1280x960 xbill-clr-1280x960 xbill-on-post-1280x960 xbill-on-wire-1280x960 xbill-on-wire2-1280x960 xbill-puddl xbill-tank1-1280x960 xbill-tank2-1280x960 xbill-tank3-1280x960 Yes, Crossbills in the dried grassland, two minutes flight from their beloved pines.  Both times we stopped here there were also Mountain Bluebirds as well.  One time: migrant White-crowned Sparrows, next time a resident Savannah Sparrow.  Our bonus  bird for the site: a fly-over Ferruginous Hawk.  These photos were taken by birder Kirk Gooding:ferru-krk1 ferru-krk2 ferru-krk3Turns out we did not see another Ferruginous Hawk during the whole trip.  Some of Kirk’s crossbill images at the oasis: fullsizerender_12 fullsizerender_13 fullsizerender_14Streaky characters are first-year birds. fullsizerender_15Antelope Flat is on Silver Lake Highway just across the county line from Klamath County.   It is between Malheur NWR and Silver Lake town.  This tank is obvious on the south side of the road, near western border with forest.  The tank is the only erect thing on the whole flat that is taller than a fence post.

Here are two images Kirk caught on our re-visit as we drove back toward Ashland:crossbill-homeboundSavannah Sparrowvesp-homebound

Antelope Flat, Lake, Oregon, US
Sep 16, 2016 1:30 PM – 1:50 PM.  5 species

Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis)  1
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)  4
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  X
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  X
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)  8

Antelope Flat, Lake, Oregon, US
Sep 20, 2016 12:30 PM – 12:45 PM.  3 species

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)  3
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  1
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)  2

Posted by: atowhee | September 20, 2016


We just completed our three days in the Malheur Basin, a birding trip sponsored by Klamath Bird Observatory.  Our most-wanted list was topped by Long-eared Owl. With advice from local birder Tim Blount and Duncan Evered of the Malheur Filed Station, we scored.  It only took 48 birder-hours to locate this one Long-eared Owl huddled down in the willows along Central Patrol Road at Malheur NWR.  That’s about half-way between Krumbo Road and Benson Pond (this season a dry salt flat).

We looked one sunny, hot afternoon: nada.  On our final day we were back.

Here is our owl pal, found by Donna Gould in the #4 car in our creeping four-car caravan at a location we had been by on an earlier day and missed that afternoon by the previous three vehicles.  The viewing slot through the willow thicket that disclosed the owl was about 14 inches at most.leo1 leo2 leo3This bird was a lifer for most of our group.  Veteran birder Bill Oliver was part of our gang and had seen his first LEO back in 1946.  Now north of 75 years old, Bill has a list of LEO encounters, four to be exact.  This was my second LEO sighting, the first on the Pacific Coast where I have done most of my birding.  For most birders this is a toughie–elusive, unpredictable, shy and nocturnal.  His beauty was appreciated by all viewers. He stared us down, we shot our pictures and moved on.  An hour later he was still on his limb back in the willow thicket.

Posted by: atowhee | September 14, 2016


The deciduous trees are decidedly preparing for winter in their usual fashion: leaving their leaves to leave the limbs. In slow moving streams now there are leaf jams behind every stick or rock that stands in the reduced currents of this dry season.leaf-jam-1280x960 lv-jam1 lv-jam2 lv-jam3

The North Yamhill River flowed over its banks and covered much of Wennerberg Park last winter.  Now it is a lethargic creek with dried cutbanks fifteen feet higher than the water itself.  Those banks include vertical bare earthen faces, dense patches of reedgrass and thistles, small copses of willow thicket.n-yam-rvr

At Yamhill Sewer Ponds earlier this week I almost got a picture of a Lesser Goldfinch on the

The finch was not far from the Willow Flycatcher. The camera insisted on focusing on the background.wil-flyAs this summer passes away so do many leaves, insects and focks of migrating birds. Here are bigleaf maple leaves moldering already into the flecks and moleculea that will once agakn be soilmapl-lvAsh leaves and seeds not yet fallen. ash-lvOne of late suymmer’s toughest little plants, the bindweed, which seems to relish drought and heat.bindweed bindwd colorThe nest boxes at Yamhill Sewer are empty and silent now, awaiting the spring return of the swallows. empty-box-1280x960 gbh-in-field-1280x960

This afternoon at Grenfell Park on Baker Creek Road a Red-breasted Sapsucker was too fast for my camera.

Baker Creek Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 14, 2016 4:00 PM. 8 species

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)  1     Ed Grenfell Park
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  4
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X

Posted by: atowhee | September 14, 2016


Here’s today’s email from Mel the Owl Man in Jackson County.  Two hunting owls in the Cascades east of Ashland.

“I had a good owl search today [Tuesday]. I headed up the hill a little earlier than usual. I arrived at Mile Post 19 about three minutes before the car behind me. The MP 19 GGO was on the south fence line. I was able to snap a couple of “documentary” shots before the car behind raced by spooking the owl into the tree line. A few minutes later the GGO made a grounding in the meadow (I don’t believe it was successful) then a truck whizzing by spooking the owl passed the southern tree line.

I headed along the usual circuit and happened to come upon a second GGO in a meadow. The GGO was sleeping when I first spotted it but came to life about 20 minutes later. For the next four hours, I observed and photographed as the GGO moved from listening post to listening post. The GGO did eight groundings during the four hours and was successful on the third grounding. (She may had been successful on another grounding, but I could not tell for sure because of the grass). After about 3 1/2 hours, she flew to a listening post within 45 feet of me (and finally in sunlight). She stayed there for only a few minutes then flew back into the shadows.
Within a few minutes the owl flew across the road (no higher than 18 inches above the road pavement and landed on the east side fence line near the springs. I took a few photos of the GGO on the fence line. It was a couple from Corvallis hoping to see a GGO. I waved them up and they were able to see the GGO before it went into the timber. They were pretty excited about their “life bird” sighting.
This owl was a bit unusual as to the length of time it spent before moving to a new listening post. My past experience is about every five to fifteen minutes seeing them change posts. This GGO would spent upwards of a half an hour before moving. Only once did I catch the GGO sneaking a short nap. The owl stayed active looking around and as it in has been the past, the owl wasn’t interested in looking at the photographer.
A wonderful Tuesday!
Here are Mel Clements’ pictures from yesterday:091316-037_edited-1 091316-054_edited-1 091316-059_edited-1
Friday I head with a group of birders from Ash;and birders to Malheur.  We will stay away from the gunmen who still haunt the county and threaten workers at the wildlife refuge.  The situation is tense during the current trail of the occupiers.


Medford, OR.  September 20th.  I will give a talk about the Great Gray Owl and sign books.
6PM.  Wild Birds Unlimited, 961 Medford Court in the Medford Center off Biddle Road.

McMinnville, OR.   October 6th.  I will talk about birding hotspots along Interstate 5 in Oregon and places to look for the Great Gray Owl.  I will sign copies of both FREEWAY BIRDING and GREAT GRAY OWL books.  6:30 PM, Third Street Books, 320 NE Third Street, McMinnville.

McMinnville, OR.  October 20 and 27.  Birding upper Willamette Valley in winter.  A class sponsored by McMinnville Park & Rec Department.  Lectures on Thursday night, 630pm.  Field trips on Saturdays, October 22 and 29.

Register on line or at community center:

Salem, OR.  November 8.  The Great Gray Owl, a talk at Salem Audubon Birders’ Night. Birder’s Night: a presentation on various aspects of birding, followed by an informal sharing of bird observations and questions. Meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month, September through May, at the Carrier Room of the First United Methodist Church, 600 State Street in downtown Salem.


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