Posted by: atowhee | April 19, 2017


There’s a new book out exploring the theories on how beauty of appearance, or birdsong, is linked to the evolution of species.  elk in fogSure the elk’s antlers are a weapon, but they are also elegant.  And a male Pintail?  He’s nothing more than flying eye-candy, right?pint packPintail on far left, the less flashy Mallards on the right.

Posted by: atowhee | April 19, 2017


Not many would select the word “collegial” to describe the voracious Great Horned Owl, feared by most, beloved only by those too large for the bird’s appetite.  But today the Linfield College bird walk group happened on this fellow sleeping off a long night of hunting. Melanie Byers Jones sent me this shot from her cell phone:LINFLD OWLThese owls are early breeders and are already fledging young.  Sadly my wife and I found the corpse of a young GHO on a road in the foothills west of McMinnville recently.  Obviously the young bird had been hit by a vehicle.

Posted by: atowhee | April 18, 2017


6:10 PM Pacific Time  The brooding female owl begins series of high-pitched “whoop” calls with interval of half minute between each one.  RB nuthatch honking in distance.  Raven croaked past.  Wind is making the trees sway.   6:15 PM Robin whinnies repeatedly.  Owl facing toward camera, looking out of nest cavity. 6:18 OM Flicker begins a series of “sharp” calls.  Far off another flicker makes rattle call.  GGO still saying “whoop” while Raven croaks nearby and human sounds heard out by the meadow.  6:23 PM  The whoops continue.  6:30 PM Female owls does some tail feather preening. Then some on her belly, baring one of the eggs.  6:32 Still preening, now on her right side. 6:34 Now a series of low-pitched “hoo-hoo-hoo.”  She has been wide-eyes since I first tuned in to her camera.   Hunger?

Posted by: atowhee | April 18, 2017


All is flux, especially this time  of year.  This morning I saw my first Vaux’s Swifts of the year, then around the corner a first lilac beginning to bloom, while ours remain days away.  In the afternoon the dog and I went to Yamhill Sewer Ponds–fourteen snipe lifted up from the marsh there.  And on the ponds the largest flock of Bufflehead I’ve ever seen there…mustering before migration.  Most ducks now are paired off.  In the distant pond were three male Wood Ducks, their outerwear at its supremely colorful peak.  The females must now be confined to nesting duties.  Certainly no duck that dapper would deign to help around the nest or the dirty little ducklings when they arrive.  Appearances must be kept up.

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 18, 2017. 15 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  4
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  3
American Wigeon (Anas americana)  5
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  60
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  100
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  2
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata)  14
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  30     one checking out nest box
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  6

Meadowlake Rd., Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 18, 2017. 11 species

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  2 in a vineyard pond
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  3
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  1
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | April 18, 2017


I saw my first Vaux’s Swifts of the season today.  A pair high up over the houses in our neighborhood. Circling, gliding, changing direction with a wing flip, soaring after a rapid set of wing-beats (seems like three to five each time). They are marvels of flight efficiency, tiny bodies, long wings, feet that are slightly better than ornament hooks, little tail, streamlined for low wind resistance, smooth for little friction.  They have two modes, hanging on a wall or inside a tree trunk…or flying. No perching, no hopping, no walking–like bats and nighthawks their evolution has designed them for the air.

As far as I know McMinnville does not have any central gathering chimney for this species.  Each pair finds its nesting nook.  Oregon does have a string of swift chimneys from Portland to Eugene to Roseburg.

Michelbook & 13th Street, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 18, 2017.  11 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  2
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  X
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  1
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X



Posted by: atowhee | April 17, 2017


My first snake of the year was a new species for me in Oregon, Charina bottae.  That’s a rubber boa, constrictor of moderate size but death to mice and vole alike.  That Latin binomial seems to say it was discovered by Dr. Paolo Botta, he was the Italian naturalist on a French expedition to the Pacific Coast of North America in the 1820s.  He made many discoveries for science…his namesake pocket gopher and the Anna’s Hummingbird for two.

The boa was on a small ranch south of Gaston here in Yamhill County.

Posted by: atowhee | April 17, 2017


My birding friend, Dr. Tom Kuhn, lives in the outer Richmond District in San Francisco.  Nearby is Sutro Heights Park, full of House Finches and other small birds. In Tom’s back garden here is a frequent visitor, young Cooper’s Hawk:tom's cooptom's coop2Tom took these pics.  We do not know who banded this bird, or where.  Some Coops do breed in San Francisco so he could be local…or a migrant.

Posted by: atowhee | April 17, 2017


A tropical iguana is eating its way across southern Florida. This iguana is imported as a  pet and is now thriving in the wild. It eats only plant matter but its burrowing undermines buildings, streets, walls and pipes. Right now this seems like a real problem.

But with global warming most of the southern part of Florida is destined to be a saltwater marsh or ocean floor and this iguana doesn’t fancy seaweed. In terms of geological time this iguana has only a walk-on part in nature’s on-going comedy.  Unless he can make it to Georgia…

Speaking of GW, a former river has dried up almost completely after a shrinking glacier started pouring its meltwater into another drainage system. This in the Arctic.

Loser: Slims River.  Winner: Alsek River.  Day of the switch over: May 26.

Posted by: atowhee | April 15, 2017


Today was our third field trip for the McMinnville Parks’ birding class. Our destination was Grand Island.  The busiest single stop was at the antique Keiser Farms red-and-white barn where a colony of Cliff Swallows were already at work on nest.  A pair of Barn and a pair of Violet-green couldn’t resist the furor and came to land on the nearby wires in full sun.BRN BRITCLS LINECliffies on the line above; Cliffies circling one side of their nesting barn, below.CLSW HOVERCLIFF SWALLOW CONSTRUCTION PROJECTSIMG_2921IMG_2922IMG_2945

Violet-green with the keen sheen…VGS IN SUNWe also interrupted Mrs. Flicker busy on her nest…eggs presumably already laid:FLKR NESTflkr nest2flkr nest3One set of big birds could also be seen on nests, but none of the Osprey were yet sitting on eggs…each of the four guarding a precious platform.  Friends in Ashland have sent me images from Emigrant Lake where Great Horned Owls have claimed a platform that Osprey used for several years…until this spring. Today we saw four occupied Osprey platforms, no owls. Here an on-guard Osprey:OS-NESTT


It appeared from my lowly position twenty feet below that this female was still working on the nest.  This was in McMinnville yesterday:ROB-NESTROB-NEST2ROB-NEST3ROB-NEST-FACEROB-NEST-FACE2

Maud Williamson State Recreation Area.
Apr 15, 2017. 9 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  2
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  20
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  X
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)  X     singing

SE Grand Island Loop, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 15, 2017.  Comments:     South loop road closed between the two gates but there was no flooding
31 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  3
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)  5     saw four occupied nest platforms
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1     first year bird
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  2
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  3
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  X
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  2
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  2
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  100     nesting on antique Keiser Farms wooden barn
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  3
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  1
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)  1
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  X     singing
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  30
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (Setophaga coronata coronata)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  15
White-crowned Sparrow (Gambel’s) (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii)  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  X
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)  X     singing
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  1

Posted by: atowhee | April 14, 2017



April 14: 1215pm a series of low-pitched hoots, high wind, some rain earlier;  then irritated RB Nuthatch tooting loudly from nearby; strong wind gusts swaying both the next tree and the camera’s tree.

12:33PM Short chuck call from robin. 12:38PM Another short series of deep-throated hoots from female, winds continues unabated.  Off and on the nuthatch is heard from. 1:24 PM Ms GGO preens her chest feathers, rain is falling once again, the wind still whooshing past. 1:26 PM She beaks around the eggs, then settles back down, racing camera right. 1:28 PM Another short series of hoots.  1:36 PM  More rain now, moderately big drops.  Ms GGO huddled down, eyes closed. 1:46 PM She is facing the back of the next cavity now but issues a fifteen second long series of hoots. Still raining lightly. 1:55 PM Raven passes by, croaking loudly. More “here I am” than “I dislike that.”

2:51 PM Nuthatch comes down the trunk of the nest spar on the left side, checks out the nest quickly then proceeds down the trunk, honking all the way.  The owl ignores the little tyke.  2:56 PM The mother owl hoots several times, facing the back of the nest cavity.  She has now been in that position for 75 minutes (I reviewed the video). Nearby the nuthatch is still honking. Did I mention that the wind is still blowing?

3:18 PM  Another short series of owl hoots. She is still facing the back of the snag, away from the camera.  A dog is barking off to the left where the meadow must be.   3:43 PM After almost exactly two hours in the same position the mother owl hoots about four times, then stands up, straightens some feathers, lifts her wings, turns around to face the camera and then settles back down on the eggs. Rain and wind are over.    4:03 PM More raven croaks; nuthatch honking; wind gusty. Owl seems to be napping.  Her eyes occasionally open for a quick glimpse, then drop back to slits, her lids too heavy to hold up, it seems.  Owl-napping despite that annoying little nuthatch playing his tin horn in her ear. 4:08 PM Family of primates making happy, after-school shouts off to the left. Owl unperturbed, head bowed, eyes shut. ZZZZZZZZZ


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: