Posted by: atowhee | May 18, 2017

ANNUAL SWALLOW FESTIVAL IN FULL WING

I know that human festivals are often said t be in “full swing.”  Yet the Yamhill Sewer Ponds informal spring swallow festival is actually in full WING.  Along the fence surrounded the ponds themselves there are a couple dozen nest boxes.  That is too tempting for Tree and Violet-green Swallows, newly returned and looking for nesting places.  So intent are they in finding the right nest box and getting on with family matters that these birds are remarkably unconcerned with a birder’s presence.  Even the dog does not seem to phase them.TRS PRETTYTRS-TOOTS ON WIRRVGS PLUSVGS PLUS1VGS PLUS2VGS PLUS4VGS PLUS5VGS PLUS7vgs plus8vgs plus9Next two shots show female VG Swallow.VGS-FMLVGS-FML2VGS-MACHO

There were brooding Canada Geese, Canada goslings already feeding with parents, a Mallard with her ducklings on the pond and a female Mallard flown from her nest in the tall grass. If you visit tred carefully in the four-foot high unmown grass where there could be other nests.

GOOSNESTGOSLNGMALL EGGSWhat means spring?  Flowers, uncertain weather, first mosquito bites, young birds…here a starling stunned to see man and dog as he stood out in the grass and wildflowers.  He didn’t flinch as we passed and even posed nicely for the camera:srtl1Note the pale gape that is found on many nestlings and even fledglings like this guy. Like some political types we can see these days, this kid has no clue what reality he is now part of.srtl2

Along Shelton Road south of Carlton there was an adult Bald Eagle circling:EGL UPPP

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 18, 2017 10:10 AM – 10:55 AM.  20 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  20     including several goslings and one female on eggs
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  5
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  15     one female with ducklings; another female sitting on eggs
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)  1     fly over
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  2
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  30
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  4
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  2
Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  X     singing
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  40
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

Posted by: atowhee | May 17, 2017

MEET MY NEIGHBORS

“The birds—are they worth remembering?
Is flight a wonder and one wingtip a
space marvel?
When will man know what birds know?”  –Carl Sandburg

Not far from my house there is an ordinary looking intersection. A narrow side street terminates as it joins a larger thoroughfare.  On one side of the junction is the entrance to the local country club.  But in the facing blocks there are ordinary houses, fifty to sixty years old.  Nothing grand here.  The homes and the folks who live in them could be duplicated in most ways in any other typical neighborhood of our town.  Older cars and trucks parked at street curbs or in driveways. The usual mix of fruit trees, dogwoods, lilacs, rhodedendrons, tulips, iris and other landscaping plants. Yet this is a special place.  How many of the people who live here know that?  The birds certainly do.

On just two square blocks there are over 100 mature white oaks, far taller than the utility pools or roofs.  In and around those trees is a precious preserved bit of Willamette Valley habitat and the birds know that. Some housing developer deliberately, or to save effort, never cut down those original trees but built among them.
Today there were singing Black-headed Grosbeaks, two kinds of warbler, a honking White-breasted Nuthatch, a calling collared-dove.   One home in the area has feeders behind the house, visible from the road.  Two female grosbeaks were feeding there.

BHG-FML-FDMale grosbeak high in an oak.GRBK1GRBK2GRBK3Few birds bother with our feeders these days with blooms and bugs galore, but the starlings will stop by for a much-appreciated bath.STR-BATH1STR-BATH2STR-BATH3

Michelbook & 13th Street, Yamhill County, Oregon, US
May 17, 2017 1:00 PM – 1:20 PM.  12 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  1
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  1
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  3
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | May 17, 2017

MONTANA OWLETS

12:26 PM  Just checked the Great Gray Owl cam.  Mom gone, all four white and fuzzy owlets spastic in the nest.   https://explore.org/live-cams/player/great-gray-owl-nest

 

Posted by: atowhee | May 17, 2017

THE SPRING SING

This morning we had an eventful Wednesday bird walk on the Linfield campus. Almost the first bird of the day was a Swainson’s* Thrush, feeding on open ground at the edge of a lawn area that will soon see the annual commencement ceremony.  Today there was the mundane business of finding grub–robin, Spotted Towhees, a pair of thrushes, even a scrub-jay were feeding on the bare ground beneath conifers.ST ROKSDid I hear somebody mutter, “This bird rocks?”  And it flies:ST FLYWe also saw a Hammond’s Flycatcher hawking bugs among the taller trees.  This bird will end up nesting in a montane conifer forest, either Cast Range or Cascades…just passing through.  Sam can be said of the Black-throated Gray Warbler we heard and probably the pair of Western Tanagers, one male and one female.  The male’s bright yellow and cherry-flavored head-dress brought exclamations of admiration from our group.

Loudest and most persistent singers this morning were Black-headed Grosbeaks, one male even well seen.  Warblers whispered from the trees, Song Sparrows and Spotted Towhees were heard from as well as the starlings.  Near the end of the walk we heard the tanager sing and make his frog-like “crick” calls.  Overhead the swifts were calling to one another. Other birds heard from included scrub-jay and flicker.

“No bird soars too high, if he soars on his own wings.”  –William Blake

The high flying birds this morning, zig-zagging over the treetops, were Vaux’s Swifts, their cycle-shaped wings almost black against gray overcast.  Late in the walk we did see Violet-green Swallows.

KESTREL     Yesterday at Joe Dancer I saw both members of the local kestrel couple.  First the female passed overhead, see sharp-winged against white clouds.  Later the malwe was sitting on top of a utility pole:KEST-AIRKESTSIT3KESTSIT4KESTSIT2KESTSIT

Linfield College campus, Yamhill County, Oregon, US
May 17, 2017 7:50 AM – 9:20 AM. 30 species
Mallard 1, female fly-by;   Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  20
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  X
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  1
Hammond’s Flycatcher (Empidonax hammondii)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  2
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  3
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)  1
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
Swainson’s* Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)  3
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)  X
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  6
Black-throated Gray Warbler (Setophaga nigrescens)  X
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)  2
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  3
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)  2
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  4
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  X

*William Swainson (1789-1855) was a prominent British ornithologist and zoological illustrator who helped J. J.  Audubon sell his very expensive elephant folios of American birds.  Swainson took Audubon to Paris and introduced him to all the leading French naturalists and collectors of the era. Swainson was an expert on European birds but never visited the U.S. He did explore eastern Brazil and in 1851 emigrated to New Zealand where he died.  Many of his illustrations were of new birds from Brazil and Mexico.swainson-toucanThis is Swainson’s rendering of the Doubtful Toucan.

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 16, 2017 10:15 AM – 11:15 AM.  16 species

Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)  1
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  2
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  X
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  2
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  10
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  X
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

Posted by: atowhee | May 15, 2017

BIG LITTLE OWLS

Those baby Great Gray Owls seen via the Montana nestcam are now so big their mom can’t cover them up.  Here’s the link: https://explore.org/live-cams/player/great-gray-owl-nest

there are at least two, still quite fuzzy and white like large wads of cotton.  They often fledge at two weeks of age, long before they can fly…then they must use tooth and nail to climb back up into the safety of the forest.  While the owlets are grounded mom protects them as best she can.

Posted by: atowhee | May 15, 2017

THE DIPPER AND THE “HOLLOWER”

I met a bird today who could look me in the eye and proclaim, “I am hollower than thou.”  He didn’t do that, but I have visual proof his claim would have been true.  These days you must take the rare truth wherever you can find it. Not words but birds are often true and honest. Not so much are people who often seem to lie most to themselves.

The Dipper, of course, needs make no claim.  His life is his legend. His song is the sound of running water and boulder being splashed.  His days are awash in challenge and diving and going against the current.

Both these birds–dipper and hollower–were at Dipper Bridge along Baker Creek west of McMinnville about 5PM this evening. DP2DP3I believe that is a water droplet on the very waterproof crown of this dipper-on-a-rock.DP4Note the worn tail feathers, not a single one seems to have an even tip.  These birds have twice as many feathers as other songbirds their size–necessary for insulation against the cold water.  Their blood blood also carries a heavier load of hemotglobin so they can access more blood oxygen while they are underwater.DP5DP6DP8DP9This is the setting, Baker Creek downstream from the Dippers’ nesting bridge.  Dipper on pyramidal rock in mid-creek, the sapsucker’s dead trunk is the largest one leaning to right on the right bank. The fallen limb where the dipper posed (above) is in lower right hand corner of this frame:DP1This sapsucker was assiduously hollowing out a hole in this dead trunk:RS1RS2RS3RS4RS5RS6RS7RS9RS10Baker Creek Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 15, 2017 4:20 PM – 5:20 PM. 13 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  5
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  2
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  4
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  8
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)  1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  1

Posted by: atowhee | May 15, 2017

THE MORNING SINGERS

Heard in the tree,
But hard to see,
How many grosbeaks
Can there possibly be?

The Black-headed Grosbeaks were in voice this morning.  Didn’t manage to see a single one.  As both males and females sing I can only guess at how many nesting pairs there are along the South Yamhill River in Joe Dancer Park.

As the morning warmed up, Turkey Vultures were circling over the ridge…then a Red-tail joined them in a small kettle and a crow came out of the woods and started diving onto the hawk, ignoring the vultures.

There were men on mowers going over the park’s extgensive playing fields.  A quartet of Barn Swallows were coursing low over the grass, following the mowers. In my experience it is the Barn Swallow that is most likely to hawk insects just above ground level.  All our swallows will do that sometimes, but the Barnies are most often speeding past your ankles when the insects are available.  And they appear to  adore mowing machines. Meanwhile, the Vaux’s Swifts and a Tree Swallow were seen above the treetops along the river.
Barn Swallows, just a blur…

IMG_6307IMG_6329IMG_6330IMG_6333IMG_6336Pewee in terrible light along the river.WWPW-JDEPANHUB1B2A bee is a wonderful thing to behold these days.  Working the thimbleberries.B3

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 15, 2017 9:45 AM – 10:35 AM.  18 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  4
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)  3     fly over
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  2
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  1
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  3     singing
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  1
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  4
Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  21
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  1     singing
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  8–at least that many singing voices heard in different locations
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  X

Posted by: atowhee | May 14, 2017

NOTE TO THE ARROGANT AND IGNORANT: NATURE BATS LAST

Yes, Alaskan towns will sink into the melted permafrost.  MaraLago, Houston, Bengladesh, rebuilt New Orleans, Tonga, Key West, Venice and other sea-level fantasies will indeed have to be expensively protected or simply left to sink beneath the waves.  There will be myriad new Atlantises.  Many arid areas will no longer have water to irrigate crops.  Water-intensive crops like cotton and rice may have to be abandoned in wide swaths of the planet.  Perhaps only the rich will be able to afford underground living.  There’ll be no gated communities, but those with elevator keys for those heading down home.

Right now in Canada there is a neighborhood of fancy homes built with oil money  (full dose of irony anyone?) that are now abandoned and need to be torn down or moved because nature made a definitive statement.  Click here for the photo gallery, including an abandoned teddy bear.

Posted by: atowhee | May 14, 2017

SOUTH AFRICAN BIRDERS LOVE ASHLAND’S OWLS

Here are some photos from a recent birding visit to Jackson County, Oregon, by South African Ken Logan and his wife.  My friend Lee French showed them around the southern Cascades.  Birders are an international community. These are some of Ken’s owl photos:Western-Screech-Owl-Ashland-Oregon-USA_20170418_4825Western-Screech-Owl-Ashland-Oregon-USA_20170418_4823Western-Screech-Owl-Ashland-Oregon-USA_20170418_4818The comfortably housed screech is in central Ashland, the GGO is in the Cascades above 4500 feet elevation.Great-Grey-Owl-Howrd-Prairie-Circuit-Oregon--USA_20170418_4716Great-Grey-Owl-Howard-Prairie-Circuit-Oregon--USA_20170418_4736Great-Grey-Owl-Howard-Prairie-Circuit-Oregon--USA_20170418_4733Great-Grey-Owl-Howard-Prairie-Circuit-Oregon-USA_20170418_4728Great-Grey-Owl-Howard-Prairie-Circuit-Oregon-USA_20170418_4713Great-Grey-Owl-Howard-Prairie-Circuit-Oregon-USA_20170418_4712Great-Grey-Owl-Howard-Prairie-Circuit-Oregon--USA_20170418_4707Great-Grey-Owl-Howard-Prairie-Circuit-Oregon--USA_20170418_4701Great-Grey-Owl-Howard-Prairie-circuit-Oregon-USA_20170418_4700Remember this owl’s five-foot wingspan makes NO noise in flight.  Vole death. The GGO;s have young in the nest now.  Screech nest later in high summer when moths are most abundant for night hawking.

If you bare interested in the book I co-authored on Great Gray Owls, there is info here: https://ecowise.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/the-great-gray-owl-book/

Time to check in with that GGO nestcam in Montana’s mountains, the yountg are getting big enough to poke out from beneath mom’s feathers now: https://explore.org/live-cams/player/great-gray-owl-nest

 

I hope to be bringing copies to the OBA meeting at Malheur in September and they are carried by Powell’s Books in Portland.

 

Posted by: atowhee | May 14, 2017

SUNDAY MORNING IN PAGAN PARK

Sunday, May 14

The dog and I were in Pagan Park (nee Joe Dancer) this morning.  A rainy Sunday morning…others cluster and cloister in church, or shelter from the rain…only we pagans are out in nature.  The birds were active and sincere about their morning services. There’s a reverence in the way they pursue their daily bread. Starlings and robins were ferrying food from field to hidden nests in the riverside forest.  One softball squad of starlings was positioned in short centerfield behind second base, ready for anything that might move through the grass.  The creamy white wild geraniums had their flower stalks standing two feet above the ground.  The hawthorns were rich in blooms, promising a good supply of autumn haws for the thrushes and waxwings who are their most appreciative feasters. A brown-backed, pale-chested bird zapped into the base of a conifer and tried to melt into the shadows.  It was a retiring Swainson’s Thrush.  Later as we walked past a thicket one greeted our presence with a sequence of sharp “whit” calls, warning all nearby birds of a four-footed predator. Male hummers sat atop sentinel trees—trespassers will be persecuted. A single cottontail slid into the anonymity of a blackberry thicket before I could even reach for my camera. As we prepared to leave a kettle of Turkey Vultures had lifted off their roosts and were circling in the first updrafts of the day.  As we drove out of the park an adult Bald Eagle flew over and headed across downtown McMinnville.  It would not have been far overhead for anybody on the top floor of McMenamin’s Hotel.AGO-FMLAh-maplAH-TOPPBB LIFTSBB PAIRDTV KETTL

THE GREENS
It had stopped raining minutes before we began down the forest trail.  Yet water drops dripped down from the canopy.  As each one gravitated groundward it would hit upon the large soft new leaves of the bigleaf maples, producing a soft “phwit” and then would slowly flow to the lower tip of that leaf and drop once again.MAPLIt is the time of the yellow rhodies.RHDO-YELOHAWTHawthorn above, wild geranium below.IMG_6158

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 14, 2017. 21 species
Comments:     one brush rabbit seen

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  8
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  3
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  1
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  5
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  1; Black-capped Chickadee 1
Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  20
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)  2
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  3     singing
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  15
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

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