Posted by: atowhee | February 18, 2015


We have had little of true winter here in southern Oregon and northern California. Below 7000’ there’s no snowpack. While we are above average for precipitation this season, yet much of it has departed via streams and rivers.  The long sunny days and intermittent storms have brought spring in February. There is little snow left to feed streams into the late summer. Our temperatures have been running well above average for the time of year. Most days the high is over 50 degrees. As a result hardy plants and animals are well ahead of the usual schedule.

I’ve already seen mushrooms sprouting at 6500’. Meadows at 5000’ elevation are green with grass and mullein. Daffodils, crocus and Dutch iris are blooming in valley gardens. Today I saw finches and Golden-crowned Sparrows feeding on willow catkins. Plum trees are in full bloom. I found a shaded hillside prettied by the blooms of grass widows, a wildflower we expect here in late March. Manzanita have been blooming at 4800’. Along Ashland Creek the scouring rushes are three feet high while poison hemlock has grown into a miniature forest eighteen inches high around Ashland Pond. We have been picking fresh parsley from our garden all winter long.  I need to get out and mow my tiny patch of lawn.

All “winter” there’ve been insects in the air, swarms of aphids, moths at night. I found a heaving hill of ants last week. Scrub-Jays, Crows and other resident birds are early with nesting behavior. Flicker, Red-winged Blackbird, Purple Finch and Lesser Goldfinch can be heard with their spring songs. Some Robins already are singing as well. These Robins will not nest here but eventually migrate north to be replaced by “our” Robins returning from a southern sojourn. Not all the avian spring signals can be found. Bushtits are still in flocks, not broken into couples…and I’ve yet to hear a single Golden-crowned Sparrow song though the birds are ubiquitous and in breeding plumage with bright skull caps glowing.

If this is the new normal it will be fine for flexible resident birds, able to move their schedule with the shifting climate. For returning migrants they may find they have arrived too late, with plants and insects much further along the seasonal arc than the pattern that has shaped evolution.  Those migrant birds down in the tropics have no idea was happening up here.  Barn Swallows will not leave Chile a month early. What if the Calliope Hummer returns and finds the manzanita done with its blooming? What if berries and fruits are all early—will that doom migrating waxwings and Varied Thrush next fall? The shift in weather patterns will not only mean worse drought, worse storms, worse forest fires, it will bring these time-shifts that will stress-test every species in the region.

SPRING GALLERY IN FEBRUARYcatkin eater (1280x960) catkin eater2 (1280x960)Purple Finch and G-C Sparrow feed on catkins. caw (1280x960)CRO NST1Grows were calling back and forth, one in the nest they intend to use.  Eventually they sat near one another before flying off.  Tjheir real estate deal onthe nest is now in esCROW.  Love that pun. cro (1280x960) cro cupl cro face (1280x960)  G-C-S (1280x960)Golden-crown in spring finery.  rbs-aftrFirst there was the act, and we;re not talkin’ Shakespeare here.  Then there is the after-act. rbs-aftr2I am seeing some little Red-breasted Sapsucker eggs in the next act… rbs-lmbRBS SIDE (1280x960)The male bird, of course, hurried off to catch a bite to eat.

Ashland Pond, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 18, 2015 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Comments:     two visits, one in the afternoon
35 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  9
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  3
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  3
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  2     fly over
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  2
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  2
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  3
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)  2
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  7
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  20
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  3     FOY at pond
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus)  2
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  15
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  30
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  3
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  25
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  8
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X     singing
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  X     singing
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)  3
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)  X
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  X
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X



Posted by: atowhee | February 17, 2015


Western Meadowlark singing from the top of a tall cottonwood.  A male in the throes of spring fever. Testosterone has him by the throat.  He will be heard!

Today many Robins in song.  Have not yet heard from the Golden-crowned Sparrows.  Pair of titmice (titmouses?).  Pair of White-breasted Nuthatches.  Pair of Hoodies.  Togetherness seems to be catching on.

Talked to a man today who got sunburned in his Ashland backyard yesterday. He put a thermometer on the table in the sun, says it hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit. P2330233 (1280x960)A pair of White-breasted Nuthatches worked together on some large oaks. P2330232 (1280x960) P2330230 (1280x960) P2330227 (1280x960)   P2330149Perfect light on a perfect pair. P2330148 P2330147 P2330133 P2330112 P2330104Hark, the lark.  Below, part of a Bewick’s Wren in his den.B-W (1280x806)

BIG GALLERY OF A LITTLE BIRD:B-T WINGS (1280x960) B-T OPENS (1280x960) B-T LEAPS (1280x960) B-T FLITE (1280x960) B-T FLAPS2 (1280x960) B-T FACES (1280x960) B-T DROPZ (1280x960)P2330215 (1280x960) P2330189 (1280x960)B-T (1280x960) P2330180 (1280x960) P2330179 (1280x960) P2330178 (1280x960)


Ashland Pond, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 17, 2015 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Comments:     afternoon visit as well.  31 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  30
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  2
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  9
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  20     flyover only
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  2
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  2
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  7
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  30
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus)  2     pair together
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  10
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  2     pair together
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  3
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  50
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  4
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  25
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  12
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  1
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)  2
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)  3
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  8
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | February 17, 2015


These from our raptorial correspondent, Dick Ashford:

Northern Pygmy-owl

Don’t let its small size fool you

Cute, but ferocious.


Northern Harrier

Distant bird, hunting for voles

Is it the Gray Ghost?


Merlin makes magic

As it streaks toward its prey

Small birds disappear

Posted by: atowhee | February 16, 2015


grass widowThese bright flowers were blooming beneath the oaks on the west side of Emigrant Lake today.  Field guide says they bloom in late March…not this year.  I’d love to see list of species that respond to light and warmth and rain, then other species more attuned to length of daylight.  I think that latter might include dandelion, otherwise it’s not like that sturdy invader to miss a chance to bloom for several additional weeks.gbh in airI believe this GBh was working on its nest and was flying back toward the lake. gbh stanzBelow: woodrat structure, house? Nest? Mound?  Stick pile? woodrat hows (1280x960)

Posted by: atowhee | February 16, 2015


Bird that doesn’t fly–
just a dried leaf
caught on a branch.    –Carol Brockfield
[published in today’s “Ashland Daily Tidings”]

A couple from Ashland Pond:

Great Blue Heron stands
reflected in pond’s calm wash,
dreams tomorrow’s frog.

Acorn Woodpecker
studies dead tree trunk up close,
many holes needed.

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.


Posted by: atowhee | February 15, 2015


“One good tern deserves…”

“Eagle eyes”

“Heron today and gone…”

Birder humor.  And down here in Shakespeare country, some of us are prone to say after an evening chasing the Great Gray, “Owl’s well that ends…”

Well, here’s a bit of birder humor, bumpersticker style: pish

My only decent bird pic of the day: P2320943 (1280x960)Siskin up top.

Posted by: atowhee | February 15, 2015


Click here to watch baby hummers in their nest.

This is in an L.A. suburb and so there’s plenty of background noise.  I believe this is a female Anna’s.  They can nest any month of the year depending on food supply.

Posted by: atowhee | February 14, 2015


GHO MALE UPThe purpose of today’s field trip fort a group of Klamath Bird Observatory supporters was the elusive Great Gray Owl.  We made leisurely start as the evening was going to be the crucial period for the day.  But on our way up into the Cascades we stopped at the local Great HORNED Owl nest along the road.  Mon is on the eggs and barely visible over the edge of the nest.  But one of our group earned his lunch-time glass of wine by finding the male.  Mr. GHO was in tree right by the road, and irritated at our interest. GHO MLASE UP2 PF0This Prairie Falcon surprised us all by his presence.  Atop a large snag in an oak-ponderosa forest at 4000′ elevation along Shale City Road.  Dining on Robin.  Pirate of the Plains?  Sagebrush swashbuckler?  Grenadier of the grassland?  Overlord of the oaks, perhaps.  PF1 PF2 PF4 PF5 PF6 Western Meadowlark, one of several serenading the winter sun and celebrating the plum blossoms, gnat swirls and early arrival of Tree Swallows. Frogs were calling from bogs in the sunny mid-day.  One other sign of the early spring: manzanita blooming at 4600′.  What will the Calliope Hummingbird find when he returns in two months.  I’ve always thought of manzanita blooms as Calliope’s main course when he first returns.WEME ON POLEWestern Meadowlarks were singing and we saw one pair in a courtship flight.  Valentine’s Day, you know.CORA UPPRaven watching us watch birds at Greensprings Inn where we had a great lunch after chasing a Pileated Woodpecker through the woods.  He won the race.

Hyatt Lake, Little Hyatt Lake and Keene Reservoir were ducky: Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye, Lesser Scaup, Common and Hooded Merganser, Ruddy, Buffle, and those ever present Canada Geese.  Two pairs of Bald Eagles.  We invited Mountain Quail to a join us at a public appearance …alas, they refused.

In two locations we heard Pygmy-Owls calling, neither was seen, of course.  Toots from the woods.  And before the trip began I heard one of our local Screech-Owls calling outside our home well before dawn.  It’s been weeks since one had been seen or heard nearby.

Oh yes, the Great Gray who caused this whole day-long expedition…at one meadow a Great Gray lifted softly up from the grass as our first car arrived.  A few limber flaps of five-foot wings and the owl vanished into the bordering forest.  A soggy trek across one finger of the meadow and into the woods yielded…more trees.  About half our group had gotten a glimpse of the ghost those we spent 90 minutes touring the meadows most likely to yield a clear, lingering view.  Chalk up one more mysterious. here-and-gone act for the Great Gray.  Great HORNEDS are so much more accesible.


Here’s email comment I got from fellow birder, Dick Musser: “It is very unusual to see a prairie in a woods—-but it is perched out in the open, and I’ve seen this before. If this bird is eating a robin (I can’t quite tell)—it’s a male prairie—a female would appear larger when compared to the quarry. It is about the correct time of year to see the male prairie falcons follow the migrants north. In my experience, when the RWBBs and horned larks start returning, they are shadowed by male prairie falcons. The female prairie falcons, who have been doing all of their own hunting thru the winter, are awaiting the arrival of their male counterparts—-who will select a partner, feed, and protect her. With the males’ arrival, also comes a big food supply of smaller birds, but the female isn’t nearly as successful capturing these smaller, more agile quarry, as is the little male. An example is the differential ability in hunting sparrows—-females have a very difficult time (because they can’t turn as well), while the males are very good at this. It was at this time of year when I saw a prairie falcon in an incorrect context, but I attribute this to the transitional period. “

Posted by: atowhee | February 13, 2015


Bad news:  “GRANTS PASS — The bald eagle that died just over a week after it was found grounded outside Ashland last December died from lead poisoning, Wildlife Images officials confirmed.   Executive Director Dave Siddon said pathology tests performed in Madison, Wis., confirmed the long-suspected diagnosis this week. The bird, named Kringle in honor of the holiday season, was also screened for avian flu and West Nile virus, diagnoses which present similar symptoms.”

That from today’s “Ashland Tidings.”

You don’t need lead shot to kill things.  Copper, steel, plastic–all could be as deadly without the toxic aftermath.  And if you are really hunting for food why would you want your family to eat lead-poisoned meat?  So why can’t we get the lead out?

Good news: Heading back to Ashland after handing our tenth Great Gray Owl nest box in the on-going campaign, Carol Mockridge spotted a pair of very large birds in a tree on the ridge above the road.   GLDN PAIR1 GLDN PAIR2 GLDN PAIR3GLDN PAIRI would say left hand eagle’s move to get closer was not the smoothest move Ive seen, but it seemed effective as the two adult birds remained close as they surveyed the grassy hillside from which they will bring food for the impending nestlings if all goes as nature intends.  I wish them plenty of good fortune…and no lead in their jackrabbits or ground squirrels.

By late May these two should have young in the nest.  If you want a chance to see the adult birds hunting you might visit our Mountain Bird Festival, click here for registration information.MTBF COLOR LOGO

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