Posted by: atowhee | September 18, 2017


Getting there can be half the fun, half the birding. So it was for the Klamath Bird Observatory field trip to Malheur…with an overnight at Summer Lake.FERRU-KMThis was our first Ferruginous…at Klamath Marsh in the neighboring dry grassland. And there was small garter snake in the lake at Rocky Point.G-S ROCKY PTGS ROCKY PT2There were many Western Bluebirds at Deadwood Junction along Dead Indian Memorial Road in Jackson County….then Mountain Bluebirds at the leaky water tank on Antelope Flat in Lake County:IMG_6504MB IN LINEMB-ANTFLAT (2)MB-ANTFLAT3WB-DEADWD Loggerhead Shrike:
LOSH FLYZLOSHOpen range, cow gives hard stare, Howard Prairie:OPEN RANGOpsrey west of Chiloquin:OSP SCREAMOSP SCREAM2
Summer Lake shorebirds and ducks galore: SL1SL2SL3SL4SL5SL6SL7SL8Shorebirds at Summer Lake included avocet, stilt, Long-billed Dowitcher, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs and a single Pectoral Sandpiper (not seen here).SL9SUM LAK PONDWhite Pelican flying pasdt Rocky Point on Klamath Lake: WP-FLYWP-FLY2One of a quartet of Red Crossbills in the ponderosas at Collier State Parl:XBILL-COLL

Posted by: atowhee | September 18, 2017


ek at bpEastern Kingbird in the willows on east side of Benson Pond, Malheur.ek at bp2Below, Golden Eagle over Christmas Valley:ge in windincomingmodo aloneNuttall’s cottontail at Malheur Field Station where they bound and abound.NUTCOTorangRabbitbrush in bloom:rabbrushRock Wren at Buena Vista:RWYoung deer suckling at Page Springs:
sucklewait for meWhite-faced Ibis at The Narrows:WFI-YNGWFI-YNG2Action at the water hole at Malheur Field Station:WHOLE1WHOLE2THe Narrows–Caspian Tern, Ring-billed Gull, ibis, Hooded Merganser female:
TERN-GULTHREE ON MUDTownsend’s Solitaire at Page Springs:toso at psThese images are from Klamath Bird Observatory trip prior to the OBA meeting at Malheur.

Posted by: atowhee | September 14, 2017

Malheur–Sept. 14

Today our Klamath Bird Observatory field trip birded the length of the Malheur Basin from Then Narrows south to Page Springs. We went through a cold light rain, some wind at Krumbo Reservoir and ended with the usual fine dinner at Diamond Hotel.
Some things to note if you’re headed out this way:
Only one pond distant from the Buena Vista overlook has any water. A pair of cranes today hunted on the parched lakebed just below the overlook cliff.
Benson Pond is low and has welcoming mudflats so there were many shorebirds, including yellowlegs and LB Dowitchers.
Krumbo Pond is dry. Krumbo Reservoir is crowded with diving ducks: Redhead, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup and Ruddies.
Right now White-crowned Sparrows out-number even cattle in Harney County.
The Great Horned Owl nesting attempt at the Field Station failed this year.

There was a single Eastern Kingbird in willows near the old drovers stone cabin east of Benson Pond.
Sagebrush Sparrows are still present. Sage Thrashers are abundant.
At The Narrows Caspian Terns screamed and fished, Greater Yellowlegs pulled fish from the shallows and a Prairie Falcon raced back and forth along the escarpment east of the highway parking area. Three harriers stayed out of his way.
Buena Vista was dry in every sense of the word.
Benson Pond had plenty of ducks, shorebirds, coots and Barn Swallows. We saw only a single wood-pewee along Central Patrol Road besides sparrows and icterids, vultures and ravens.
Hairy Woodpecker and Townsend’s Solitaire were at Page Springs.
We had two immature Golden Eagles kiting in the storm winds along the ridge south of Krumbo Pond.
We saw no Trumpeters on our route and missed Long-eared Owl.
We watched every imaginable plumage of Sage Thrasher among the many birds at the waterhole outside the Evereds’ home at Field Station.

Posted by: atowhee | September 13, 2017


Coming to the OBA meeting out here later this week? I am leading a Klamath Bird Observatory field trip and we arrived at Malheur Field Station this afternoon. We had Lewis’s Woodpecker, Fox Sparrow, Warbling Vireo and Yellow Warbler plus one Great Horned Owl at Malheur NWR headquarters. Lone Sanderling at The Narrows. Many Sage Thrashers still about and thousands of White-crowned Sparrows. There are Sage Thrasher galore…they must’ve had a good breeding season. There were many ibis along Greenhouse Road south of Burns. Tree and Barn Swallows were in the air. In the pond in near Christmas Valley city park there was an Eared Grebe still carrying chicks on her back today. One newly mown alfalfa field south of CV had no fewer than six Ferruginous Hawks plus dozens of Ravens, some Red-tails and a Prairie Falcon. On Christmas Valley Road east of town we had a third year Golden Eagle. Tomorrow we chase the Long-eared Owl.
Ducks we’ve seen bwtween Ashland and Malheur: Canvasback, Ruddy, Gadwall, wigeon, pintail, Green-winged and Cinnamon Teal and Common Merganser
Yesterday our best bird at Rocky Point on Klamath Lake was a chat amongst 100 or more Yellow-rumps. There also had been many Yellow-rumps along Dead Indian Road in the Cascades between Ashland and Klamath Lake. St Howard Prairie Lake in Jackson County there were clouds of Vesper Sparrows, especially at Lily Glen Canpground. In Antelope Flat east of Klamath Marsh the leaking water tank had attracted several Say’s Phoebe, a score of Mountain Bluebirds and some Lark Sparrows.
The Belding’s ground squirrels are taking one of their prolonged underground naps, but we’ve had Douglas squirrel, mule deer, many pronghorn, coyote, golden-mantled ground squirrel, least chipmunk, Nuttall’s cottontail and jackrabbit. It always warms the blood to listen to the local coyote pack serenade the setting sun.

Posted by: atowhee | September 11, 2017


Some sea birds are dying of starvation in the northern Pacific. Click here for the sad story.
Yes, Donald, it;s really climate change. This is one way extinction occurs.

Posted by: atowhee | September 11, 2017


I drove I-5 south from Exit 263 to Ashland, once I got south of Salem I never escaped forest fire smoke. Worst pockets were south of Eugene in Lane County, Canyonville and northern Josephine County. Sunny Valley was not.
Six shorebirds at Ankeny. Eagle Marsh is bone dry: two birds there, one Barn Swallow and a parched Great Blue Heron. Water at Pintail Marsh with lots of Pintails. Six shorebird species, missing the rumored Pectoral. Least and Western Sandpipers, both Yellowlegs and sometimes close enough to see size differential, ubiquitous Killdeer and half dozen of huddled snipe:SNIPE HIDEAWAY
When I got back to Ashland, one of my old neighbors was there to greet me, and I swear, he winked:WSO STARE2WSO WINK

Posted by: atowhee | September 10, 2017


NPR’s “Science Friday” program presented a good segment on the battle to keep the black-footed ferret from going extinct. When it was rediscovered a couple decades ago there were fewer than twenty known to be alive…after most experts thought it had gone extinct. Now its major enemy is an invasive disease brought to the new world through human action…plague which apparently came ashore in San Francisco, on the backs of snip rats. From there it spread eastward to the Great Plains where these ferrets and their prey, prairie dogs, live.
In my forthcoming book on San Francisco’s natural history over the past 300 years invasive species from West Nile virus to feral pigs get full discussion.

Posted by: atowhee | September 9, 2017


clowdsSept. 9. The swallows were taking advantage of the blue sky, cotton clouds, no wind, calm morning. Dissipated smoke, desiccated earth, insects aloft. That was the situation at Yamhill Sewer Ponds this morning. The swallows came in two flavors: Barn and Violet-green. Some swallows along with a trio of cavorting ravens and a pair of Turkey Vultures were very high in air. Meanwhile, the peeps were loafing on one cormer of one sewer pond where the scum was thickest. Again, two species: Western and Least Sandpipers, though I think there was a single Spotted in the crowd.
One kingfisher lifted out of the trees along Stag Hollow Ceeek and flew over the ponds, heading west. As we walked through the thirsty forest of oak and cottonwood and ash, a covey of quail had heard our approach and went scuttling past us in the underbrush. I could hear the warning clucks surrounding us and got a glimpse of a couple birds fluttering a few feet off the ground. It is only the second tie I’ve recorded quail at this site.
I am now up to 98 species total for Yamhill Sewer ponds site. A new duck species and a traveling Merlin this winter could get me to 100. This late inthe year it is nice to see the Wilson’s Warblers, likely migrants as I saw none at this site in the summer.
Just before dog and I got back to parking lot, a garter snake crossed our path. About two feet this modest personage may be our last snake of the season. The dog never notices snakes, or birds smaller than Wild Turkeys and hardly even acknowledges squirrels who can usually dominate the doggie senses. She will snap at annoying flies but in general she lives her sensual life through her nose and except for other dogs or humans, creatures are not as interesting as complex spore.
crooCrow above. The smaller, darker peeps are Leasts.IMG_6228I believe the cneter bird in this abd image with the white shoulder is the Spotted.peepz5
No rain all summer. The blackberries are shriveling down to raisins, but still tasty. Leaves are falling. Cracks in the parched soil are gaping. My shoe is about five inches raisinsdry-adry-b
The white (Garry)( oaks are acorning well this summer.acrnoakA;ong the trail were tufts of this fine gray and black-edged fur. Seems perhaps a local predator had dined on raccoon right there on the path.coon-fur

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 9, 2017 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Comments: No robins–we are in the robin gap
19 species

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) 3
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) 3
Mallard (Northern) (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos/conboschas) 8
California Quail (Callipepla californica) 15
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 2
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) 4
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) 20
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) 1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) X
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) 1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 2
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 3
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) 300
Barn Swallow (American) (Hirundo rustica erythrogaster) 200
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla) 2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 2
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) 2
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) 6
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 1

Posted by: atowhee | September 8, 2017


Sept. 8
Here in the dry, smoked-up west we wait to see if Florida becomes an island or a marshy archipelago after Irma passes through. To pass the hours, the dog and I went out to Dry Isle today, formerly known as Grand Island.
Even though it was mid-day the birding was pretty good because the temperature had moderated, there was little wind, only a modicum of smoke as there was once again a visible horizon not just gray haze and soot. In the woods one Steller’s Jay nagged us as we walked away. He made imitation Red-tailed Hawk calls as if to say, “This is my woods, be gone.”
The most abundant birds were swallows and a weed patch with over three dozen American Goldfinches.
The swallows came in three flavors: Barn, Violet-green and Cliff. Al three are local nesters but these are migration-sized flocks.
In the forest itself the dryness was pervasive. In the treetops once in awhile there would be a flutter of yellow I watched a leaf leave. Each ash or cottonwood leaf would fall silently, wafting feather-like, then settle into its final resting place…pending some future gust. Yellow and reds were appearing in various parts of the forest and its undergrowth. Poison oak plants were already sporting deep purple leaves. The last of the summer’s windflowers were about: Queen Anne’s lace, wild chicory, California poppies, ragwort, and bright yellow flowers growing in the shallow ox-bows.
There was a Turkey Vulture corpse near the parking lot. An impartial coroner might rule death in suspicious circumstances. I could not see any obvious cause of death. The body was largely undisturbed except for the close attention from numerous carrion flies.
At home in the garden the feeders were golden, filled with American Goldfinches. They are not aggressive birds, willing to share with House Finch or nuthatch or whomever. But they are not patient either. Several will pile onto a platform regardless of who’s already there. They seen only to avoid the squirrels.

SE Grand Island Loop
, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 8, 2017 11:40 AM – 1:00 PM
24 species

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) 2
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 1; plus one TV corpse
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) 2; Harrier (female)
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 1
Downy Woodpecker (Pacific) (Picoides pubescens gairdnerii/turati) 2
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group]) 4
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus) 2
Steller’s Jay (Coastal) (Cyanocitta stelleri [stelleri Group]) 3
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 2
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) X
Barn Swallow (American) (Hirundo rustica erythrogaster) X
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 3
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) 2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 4
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) X
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) 1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 5
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) 1
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) X
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 40
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) X

Posted by: atowhee | September 8, 2017


Here is interesting look at what can or may happen to birds, especially migrants, when faced with a hurricane.

Here in the arid west we can ponder what birds do about forest fires and smoke. They out-fly them when possible. A huge fire two decades ago at Pt. Reyes drove the local Ravens out to the Farralones, more than 20 miles out at sea. However, we must imagine that many Wrentits, White-crowned Sparrows and Bushtits were simply consumed in the flames.
I know that particularly heavy storm winds along the Pacific can kill ocean birds or damage their wings so that they are doomed. You can find their broken bodies on the beach after the storm has passed. Migratory birds would be especially prone to disaster in a disaster such as fire, wind or storm.

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