Posted by: atowhee | November 14, 2015


Here’s the story: rare bird discovered and killed for science.  Discuss.

Surely in this age of DNA and mist-netting it is not necessary to kill a rare bird to learn what we want to know.  Besides there is much to learn from watching a living bird as opposed to simply dissecting a corpse and analyzing its biochemistry.  Let’s hope the next Moustanched Kingfisher is seen by a birder, not a biologist.

Posted by: atowhee | November 14, 2015


The Pine Siskins are now here in force, and theyt are forceful.  Aggressive little birds with more fight per ounce than the other seed-eaters.  They will confront large birds like Junco and Spotted Towhee, then they will turn on one another though as many as eight will fit onto our platform feeders at one time.  The adult siskins have bright yellow feathers in their wings; the first year birds are all brown and white, streaky but without any yellow.

Though the siskin count is climbing and now is at least at a dozen, they are still out-numbered by Juncos who arrived during late summer and seem to also keep adding to their numbers.  Gone are the waxwings of yesteryear.  The local fruit trees have all been stripped.

The siskins and juncos seem jumpy so I shot these pics thru a window, thus not very sharp.  The Red-breasted Nuthatch, one of the ones that has been around since we moved here last summer…he’s pretty cocksure and will come to a feeder even if I am only a few feet away.  “Oh, that’s just that slow-moving biped, no threat.”  I once made the mistake of playing Red-breasted Nuthatch calls when I was near a nest hole (which I quickly learned) and the male came out from the tree and attacked me.  Banged onto my hat three times before I got the message.FULL SISKN (1280x960) SIK ON GRND (1280x960) SQRL-A (1280x960) SQRL-B (1280x960) SQRL-C (1280x960)

Posted by: atowhee | November 13, 2015


It was mostly rainy while I was at Yamhill city sewer ponds in late morning.  But as soon as it stopped briefly the bird action picked.  A first year Glaucous-winged Gull headed over, going south.  Then I found a mixed flock of small gleaners, including one Mountain Chickadee.  The flock was silent except for the little honks from a lone White-breasted Nuthatch working the oaks and ash.  They were feeding above Yamhill Creek which flows south and joins the North Fork of the Yamhill River.  “Flows” may be too strong a word, seeps through logs and leaves is closer to the present condition along the stream in its nearly flat floodplain.

There were a few croaks from unseen frogs, a couple along the creek.  Others were on the margins of the vernal pools that have appeared with the last few weeks of rain.  Queen Anne’s lace persists with its blooms.

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Nov 13, 2015 11:00 AM – 11:40 AM.  13 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  5
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  120
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  30
California Quail (Callipepla californica)  20
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  1
Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)  1     fly over
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  4
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  3
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  3
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)  1     in with Black-capped
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1

RC Kinglet 1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  15
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  1

The gull AND Mtn. Chickadee were new county birds for me, giving me a 115 total on my Yamhill lifelist, all since we moved here four months ago.  Still need that scoter down at Sheridan.

Posted by: atowhee | November 9, 2015


A visit to the Sacramento National  Wildlife Refuge in late autumn or winter always pulls at the edges of any definition of the word “many.”  There were “many” ducks and geese in temporary residence.  There were a few raptors and a singular Loggerhead Shrike during my visit on Sunday in drizzle and fog.DUX TAKE OFF P2560984 (1280x960) Mallards, Pintail, Wigeon, from left to right.  Below: Shoveler, Coot, Gadwall pair, Pintail female seen from the rear. W-FOWL W-FOWL2Coots, Shoveler, Gadwall. below: Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard among the White-fronted Geese on a berm. W-FOWL3 W-FOWL4 WHIT-FRNTPheasant next to the road.PHEAS-ALet sleeping Cinnamon teal lie.cinte sleepz CORAS CPLRaven pair together, lone Eared Grebe. EG GADWGadwall male above. Gaggle of grebe below grebs (1280x960) GWFG

Back row: Herring and Rng-billed Gulls, middle a few White-fronted Geese, lone male Shoveler obvious in front poolGWFG2Loggerhead Shrike. LOSH-SACTOOne of three Peregrines I saw there. P2570096 (1280x960) PERIE1 PERIE2 PHEAS (1280x960)Red-tail giving me “the look.” RTH-THE LOOKCongress of Gadwall. SCADS OF GADSPintails, Cinnamon Teal tucked in. sleepersYokung Bald Eagle on his lonely hillock, surrounded at a safe distance by thousands of potential meals. YNG-BALD1 (1280x960) YNG-BALD3 (1280x960)

Sacramento NWR, Glenn, California, US
Nov 8, 2015 12:30 PM – 1:45 PM.  40 species

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)  10000
Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens)  100 [the winter’s usual suply of white geese have not yet arrived]
Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii)  500
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  120
Gadwall (Anas strepera)  12000
American Wigeon (Anas americana)  20000
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  2000
Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera)  4
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  15000
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  30000
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  500
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  300
Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)  8
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)  20
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  4
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  8
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)  1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  2
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  3
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  4
American Coot (Fulica americana)  10000
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)  20
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)  6
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  15
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  30
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  6
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  3
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)  1
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  2
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)  3
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  200
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  3
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  300
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  15
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  200

Posted by: atowhee | November 7, 2015


While at Tule Lake on Friday we watched some lingering Western Grebes and among them were adult-juvenile duos. The juvenile grebes were almost full size but still dependent on dad for a meal, so the young were squawking as they followed the adult grebe. The the adult would dive down and the young would fall silent until the grown-up resurfaced. then I got a sequence where the adult comes up with small fish and pond-weed in its beak, passes the fish to the youngster, and then gags to get the pond weed out of its own throat. Enjoy:

GREBESHere the juvie follows the adult, then he squeals for food, then the parent dives after fish.

GREBES2GREBE DIVES (1280x717) When the adult surfaces it has fish and pond weed in its beak. Burt soon the male is served.





Posted by: atowhee | November 7, 2015


buck2This buck stops in the shade.  Ferruginous Hawk on crossbar, note the wide mouth.FERRU STARESferr SHADOW2 (1280x960)Ferrugy backe dup by Starlings, on pivot, then departing. FERRU FRNT 2 (1280x914)  FERRU TAKEOFF (1280x1079) FERRU TAKEOFF2Frost at dawn, Howard Prairie. FRST FIELD (1280x730)Called this bird my “Pale Tail,”  a pale Red-tailed Hawk Ferruginous, Butte Valley.   Looking closely you can see the broad gape.RtH ALOFTPALE TAILPale tail in the air. PALE TAIL2Quail bush at Tule Lake NWR. QUAIL BUSH (1280x960)Critters from left to right: Angus, Kestrel, 3-year old Golden Eagle (with golden head but still white on its upper tail), pair of Red-tails.  Note smaller male on right hand is a very dark morph.  Butte Valley. RAPTOR GRP RLH ABOVEYoung Bald Eagle lifts off from carcass n woods at Howard Prairie.CARCSS (1280x959)Magpie on jackrabbit carcass along highway in Butte valley.  This carcass attracted a score of Ravens, several other magpies, a Golden and a Bald Eagle. CARCSS2 (1280x1141)Tule Lake Canvasback male. CNVSBACK BEST (1280x960)  That distant bird in that distant juniper before an even more distant Mt. Shasta is a young Golden Eagle. shst egl (960x1280)

PINTL BEACHAbove: some of the many thousands of Pintails at Tule Lake.  Then a few of the thousands of Snow Geese, youngster are the “dirty” ones.  Small bird in foreground left is Eared Grebe.  In background are Lesser Scaup, Coots, Shoveler, Ruddy Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks.   Most of these birds will NOT winter at Tule Lake. white goose

Some Oct 20 census numbers from entire Klamath NWR: 3900 Snow Geese; 109K Coots; 25K Mallards; 28K Gadwall; 44K Wigeon; 42K Green-winged Teal; 93K Shoveler; 71K Pintail; 32K Canvasback; 39K Ring-necked Duck; 114K Ruddy Duck.  This number change over the winter with more and more swans arriving, though we saw only a handful in two locations.RUDURuddy above, pelican below. WPEL

Below: Oregon’s southernmost volcano, McLaughlin.LOUGH VOLC (1280x959)

Posted by: atowhee | November 7, 2015


Watching a Turkey Vulture.

It was the day of our Klamath BIurd Observatory field trip, and we were going around the usual places in Ashland: North Mountain, Ashland Pond, then up to Newbry Park in Talent for the ducks.   While most of us were staring out at the ducks there, Shannon Rio said,  “Hey, Turkey Vulture.”
Sure enough there the bird was heading north, then circling back south.  Wasn’t he supposed to have left town last month?


Two other stragglers had been seen this week not far away in Jackson County.

Other birds of local interest: two Lesser Scaup females, a Western Grebe and Harrier at Emigrant Pond (not big enough now to be a lake)…Pacific Wren at North Mountain Park and White-throated Sparrow at Ashland Pond.


Looking at this guy you can see why a female Brewer’s Blackbird might take a shine to such a handsome male._MG_4257 _MG_4264Here is our Pacific Wren at North Mountain: _MG_4290 _MG_4297 _MG_4307 _MG_4309Scrub-Jay: _MG_4324Flicker: _MG_4329Acorn, uppatree. _MG_4332Maler Hooded Merganser…there was a lone female far away at Emigrant Lake.  This male was alone on Ashland Pond.  With only Pied-billed Grebes and Coot for company. _MG_4354 _MG_4357 _MG_4358Note white throat on Whigte-throated Sparrow, A-Pond. _MG_4387 _MG_4404American Wigeon, Newbry Park. _MG_4407Female Shovelere, Newbry. _MG_4408Harrier at Wigrant Lake, scared the dickens out of the four Killdeer on the desertscape there. _MG_4491 _MG_4504 _MG_4509

Posted by: atowhee | November 6, 2015


Four of us birded the Klamath Basin, Shasta Valley in California and Tule Lake in California.  The skies were full of raptors; the waters abounded with waterfowl.

Most duck species present could be counted by the thousands: Canvasbacks, Pintails, Ruddy Ducks, Green-winged Teal, Wigeon.  Then there were the water surfaces alive with Coots.  In fields where rodents dwell and in the skies above: over 8o Red-tailed Hawks, 22 Ferruginous Hawks, 22 Harriers counted (not a single male), 12 Rough-legged Hawks, 3 Prairie Falcon, 5 Kestrel, 4 Golden Eagles and 5 Bald.  In addition there were the raptor auxiliary: dozens of Ravens and about 30 Black-billed Magpies.

But first, in this age of snark, I must ask, “Is it still allowed to write “majestic” and mean it?”  Judge California’s tallest volcano (Shasta) for yourself:SHST MAJESTY SHSTA VOLC (1280x704)Here, Ferruginous Hawk, holding ground.FERR-ARough-legged Hawk looking a little uneasy that high up in a tree, about thirty feet taller than any plant he finds in his breeding tundralands. RLH IN TREE RLH IN TREE2 RLH LV TREEYoung Golden Eagle who’d been shring a jackrabbit carcass with a Bald Eagle, Ravens and Magpies in Butte Valley. YNG GE1 YNG GE2 YNG GE3

This should be one of Aesop’s Fables, “The Golden Eagle and the Raven.” GE-RVN GE-RVN2We first noticed this pair of adult Bald Eagles on a crossbar, side by side.  The male flew our across the field, the female held her post on the post.BE AFIELD (1280x960) BE ALOFT (1280x960) BE CRISSBAR3 BE CROSSBAR2

There were over a hundred of these gulls still feeding over Tule Lake.  Other lingering “summer” birds included some White Pelicans and adult Western Grebes feeding full-grown but still-begging young.  I have a photo sequence of that to post tomorrow.

One of the small groups of Eared Grebes at Tule Lake:3EAREDSOne of the hundreds of American Pipits now in Shasta Valley.PIP-FACEMore photos from today on the morrow. Read More…

Posted by: atowhee | November 5, 2015


Waiting for me in Ashland was this Screech-Owl in a grape arbor next to Kirk Gooding’s home.  He took these pictures.  The local Scrub-Jay had complained loudly but the owl simply ignored him._MG_4227 _MG_4241 _MG_4247GY-AGY-BGY-TREEOWhen I was a kid in the Ozarks we had many wasps that built mud nests under overhangs.  My mother disparagingly called them “mud-daubers.”  I would say these small dabblers are the true mud daubers.  There were hundreds of Green-winged Teal at Ankeny today.  I could not find a single Common Teal among ’em.mudders


Mallards, Long-billed Dowitchers, a Pintail–going after that pond scum.  At Ankeny.

eat n sleep eat n sleep2

Posted by: atowhee | November 5, 2015


I was driving south from McMinnville for a birding class tonight at Klamath Bird Observatory in Ashland.  That FREEWAY BIRDING  book recommends Ankeny NWR as the one refuge closest to I-5 in Oregon.  While birding along Buena Vista Road I noticed a brownish bird hanging out with the flock of Greater Yellowlegs in a marshy meadow.  Then they flew.  I call is a white chevron on the bird’s tail.  Sibley who claims to be an expert says “white U on uppertail coverts unique.”  In short the telltale tail told the tale. RUFF-BESTHere he is next to three larger yellowlegs in his adopted flock.  He had flown into view along with several of the paler yellowlegs, a common shorebird at Ankney this time of year. Sibley must know something, he goes on to say “found mainly in shallow water along grassy edges of muddy ponds.”  Witness:RUFF1Hdere we see him walk into frame from left and join trio of yellowlegs. RUFF2RUFF3 RUFF4The Ruff was moving through the grass, foraging.RUFF LEFT3 RUFF-LEFTYellowlegs in foreground seems to say, “See, my tail is pure white, not like the stranger’s.” RUFF-LEFT2

DIRECTIONS:  When I saw this Ruff it was among the yellowlegs (obviously) as they were moving about among several small, shallow pools in a grassy meadow east of Buena Vista Road, southwest of Wigeon Marsh and north of the railroad crossing.  These birds were just inside the land owned by the refuge next to the last pullout on east side of road as you drive southwest on Buena Vista.P2560117 (1280x960)

Ankeny NWR, Marion, Oregon, US
Nov 5, 2015 9:00 AM – 9:45 AM.  28 species
Here are photos of some of the other birds I saw today.

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  40
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  500
American Wigeon (Anas americana)  4
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  500
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  6
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  75
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  600
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  2
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)  25
Ruff (Calidris pugnax)  1     along Buena Vista Road near railroad crossing, among yellowlegs
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)  50
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)  75
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  7     one tree had three, and it was a tree less than 20 feet high
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  3
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  2
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  50
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  500
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  12
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  6
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  5
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  300
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)  7
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  20

Author of this blog is also co-author of the only book ever written about the Great Gray Owls of Oregon and the Pacific Slope, click here. Also he is author of Freeway Birding, a book about the I-5 corridor between Seattle and San Francisco.  Fuller will be talking about GGOs at the Portland birders night on Dec. 8 and will be selling both books at Wild Wings on November 21 in Portland.

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