Posted by: atowhee | July 9, 2016


Today was the last field trip for the spring birding class through McMinnville Park and Rec.  Perfect weather at Rotary Park.  Several young birds, including one Song Sparrow with a flimsy excuse for a tail feeding along the path, unconcerned that ten large predators were watching.  Among the many singers this morning: Swainson’s Thrush, Robin, Black-headed Grosbeak and the adult male Western Tanager that was feeding alongside this juvenile, seen plucking a fruit:WETA YNG (1280x960) WETA -YNG3 (1280x960)The juvenile lacks the black back and cherry-toned head of the breeding age male. WETA-YNG2 (1280x960)Later we were to see a pair of Downys, one adult and one not.  Then there was a male adult Red-breasted Sapsucker whose bright plumage impressed us next to the youngster’s drabber outfit, with no white stripe over his beak like dad.  We also got good looks at a juvenile Black-headed Grosbeak flying around on his own.

Male Spotted male.ST UNDER (1280x960) ST-OPEN (1280x960)Cedar Waxwing, preening. WAXW (1280x960) WAXW PREENOne one narrow trail we were met by two yearling does.  This was the first to cross our paths as we each froze in place.DR-1 (1280x960) Then came “Whitey” whom I had photographed in Rotary Park about ten months ago.  She’s now grown up and her largely white fur is  bright and visible in the shaded forest. WHITE DR (1280x960)Later we saw twins from this year’s breeding, “hiding” in grass along Baker Creek.FAWN (1280x960)No stags, but some staghorn:STAGHORN (1280x960)


McMinnville Rotary Park (Tice Park), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jul 9, 2016 8:30 AM – 11:30 AM.   21 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  X
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  2
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1     heard only
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)  2     adult and juvenile
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  2     adult and juvenile
Hutton’s Vireo (Vireo huttoni)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  4
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)  X     numerous singing or calling
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X–many
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  2
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  X     heard, not seen
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  1
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)  2
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  2     one juvenile seen, one female seen, at least one singing

View this checklist online at

Posted by: atowhee | July 8, 2016


Nora the dog insisted on a walk this morning, before the rain returned.  For Nora a walk is really a run around.  In the boxer-lab scripture which she wholeheartedly believes the First Commandment is “Thou shallt run.”NORAThat slobbery tongue is evidence that Nora has been doing her running and has stopped for a brief catching of breath.

In one willow there was a pair of Brown Creepers, moving fast and not in good light.

BC UPP Half a mile away, west of the North Yamhill River was a soaring adult Bald Eagle.EGL1 EGL2 Along the river, lush Queen Anne’s Lace in bloom:QA LACE Unusual to see a Spotted Towhee twenty feet up sounding an alarm…perhaps not approving of Nora nosing calls One of two Wood-Pewees at the park.wp in sky

Wennerberg Park, Carlton, OR, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jul 8, 2016 10:00 AM – 10:40 AM.  14 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  2
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  3
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  15
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  3
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  1

Posted by: atowhee | July 8, 2016


Spix’s Macaw lives!  Until recently it was believed that Spix’s Macaw was one of the first species to go extinct in this millennium.   It was last seen in the wild in 2000 in Bahia, Brazil. Here is previous story onthe captive breeding programs aiming at saving the species. Now we know the birds are still out there thanks to an alert Brazilian farmer who spotted the bird and then captured video of it.Spixs-macaw--014

Posted by: atowhee | July 8, 2016


I have been working on a short book describing the history of environmental change in San Francisco from the time of the Coastanoans through colonization to the present.  It is a look at the power and complexity of changes wrought by man on nature.  I hope to have the book in print by the end of this year.  Let me know if you’re interested in getting a copy.

Today I think I have finally found the appropriate conclusion for this book:

“John Muir wrote: ‘When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.’

Aldo Leopold explained for us ‘What we call wilderness is a civilization other than our own… In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from the conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.  It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community…’

Rachel Carson emphasized the urgency of the need for humans to consciously consider our role on the planet:  ‘Dr. Schweitzer has told us that we are not being truly civilized if we concern ourselves only with the relation of man to man.  What is important is the relation of man to all life.  This has never been so tragically overlooked as in our present age, when through our technology we are waging war against the natural world.  It is a valid question whether any civilization can do this and retain the right to call itself civilized.  By acquiescing in needless destruction and suffering, our stature as human beings is diminished.’

Today it is clear that the mere survival of humans is in question.  Will we make this planet uninhabitable for warm-blooded mammals that need protein, fresh water and clean air to survive?

Days and seasons will cycle past.  Microbes multiply; eons come and go; solar systems move further apart; evolution persists.  Yet the human era may be only a hiccup in geological time, or it may last millions of years longer and see Earthly life spread to the far reaches of our galaxy.  We can be sure that our hubris and technology have now made us as demigods to the other life on this planet.  What we do and don’t do has become a matter of life and death.  If we wish to survive we must aid the survival of our fellow beings, regardless of their economic value.”

The book will be called Now and Then, A History of San Francisco’s Natural History.


Of manmade ecological damage that we have to stop:

Dying kelp forests in the ocean.

Climate change stress on numerous species.

Posted by: atowhee | July 8, 2016


Thomas Duane sent me this photo from his backyard in the St.John’s area of Portland…a Bushtit nest with enlarged entrance…the young have flown.  They are only nestlings for about ten days after hatching.  Everything happens quickly in Bushtit World.BTNEST-A

Posted by: atowhee | July 7, 2016


GE IN NEST3This pair of juvenile Golden Eagles were in nest on cliff face west of The Narrows along dirt road that is no south side of Harney and Mud Lake lakebeds…just past the rusting old truck on south side of this dirt road.  This eag’e nest  road itself is called Harney Lake Road, it’s gravel and you get onto it by turning west exactly opposite of where Sodhouse Road goes east from Hwy 205 where the RV park and store is on the southeast corner of the intersection.  These eagle are long fledged by now(pics taken last mnth by Kirk Gooding) but they may be back next spring.  Note junior gulping down a meal.  Never chews his food.GE IN NEST5 GE IN NEST-WIDE GGE IN NEST SWALOHorned Lark, king of the mound: HL ON MOUND

Posted by: atowhee | July 7, 2016


The dog and I checked out the Yamhill River North Fork where it flows through the southeast corner of McMinnville yesterday.  Also enjoyed our first ripe blackberries of the season while there.  Nora is the only dog I’ve known who enjoys blackberries as much as I do, but she eschews the blueberries in our garden…thankfully.  Many are low enough for her to reach if she wished.  She will never try to pick her own blackberries, not wanting her sensitive nose pricked.  I pick despite the prick.

We got to watch a Pewee picking insects off the surface of the slow-moving stream.  Listerned to singing Swainson’s Thrush and Black-headed Grosbeak.RBIN--MCM SOSP IN WEEDSAdult Song Sparrow above, fledgling below. SOSP--YNGPewee along the river. WPW--MCM

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jul 6, 2016 11:00 AM – 11:45 AM
Comments:     includes open space east of bridge on north side of Yamhill River
11 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  3
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  2     one picking insects off surface of the river
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  15
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  4
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  3

GARDEN TRAGEDY CRO-TWOThis is a perturbed adult Crow, looking down into our garden yesterday.  One of its nestlings had fallen or been dragged from the nest.  We took the injured bird to Turtle Ridge rescue center south of Salem.  No hope.  It died.  The adults are still searching today, giving me the evil eye.CRO-=ONESpeaking of fledglings, there was a newly arrived Spotted Towhee in our garden this morning.  This sooty colored kid was so young it still had the brightly-colored gape and almost no white on it yet.

Posted by: atowhee | July 7, 2016


Here’s the explanatory note from my friend, Jeff Tufts, who runs the Rogue Valley Audubon website: “As expected, the AOU has officially split the Western Scrub-Jay into two species:  California Scrub-Jay (that’s our bird) and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.  You’ll have to head south and west if you need to add the Woodhouse bird to your lifelist.

“So, what was once just one species–Scrub Jay–is now four:  Florida, Island, California and Woodhouse’s.   Enough already !!
“Actually, the recent decision to split Western Scrub-Jay is a return to some much older nomenclature.  The 1886 AOU checklist included Florida Jay, California Jay and Woodhouse’s Jay.  Santa Cruz Jay appeared in the 1895 checklist, and all four were also on the 1910 checklist.  Woodhouse’s Jay was dropped from the list that came out in 1931, and when the next full checklist was published in 1957, there was only Scrub Jay.   Florida Scrub-Jay and Island Scrub-Jay re-appeared in the 1998 checklist along with Western Scrub-Jay.
“So, where did I come up with all of these choice little tidbits of classification-and-nomenclature trivia ?
The Woodhouse is the interior form, California is coastal.  I am searching now for relevant range maps.


“Regional Differences

Birds along the Pacific Coast are sharply marked, with a bold blue necklace against white underparts and a distinct brown back. Great Basin birds (called “Woodhouse’s” scrub-jay and sometimes considered to be a different species) are grayer overall, the necklace is less contrasting, and the back patch is grayish blue.”

So the jays here in Willamette Valley and Rogue Valley and along the California Coast are “California Scrub-Jays.”


This is from Joel Geier, posted on the OBOL email list: “As others have commented, most of the scrub-jays around towns and ranchsteads in southern Lake County certainly appear to be of the (former) subspecies californica, which I guess we’ll now (again) be calling California Scrub-Jays.

This includes birds that I’ve seen around downtown Adel, south of there at ranches along Twentymile Road to the southern edge of the Warner Valley , north to Plush, east along the Hwy 140 grade up Greaser Canyon, and also around the Lakeview area.

In past years I’ve seen a few scrub-jays, generally in more xeric situations away from human habitation in the tri-state (CA-NV-OR) area, that appeared to have minimal “necklaces” and overall a more grayish cast. Those locations include (1) north of Cow Head Lake (north of Fort Bidwell) in extreme NW California, (2) near the junction of Big Valley x Long Valley Rd in Oregon SW of Adel, (3) WNW of Adel in a dry gulch off of Deep Creek canyon, and (4) in the Little Sheldon area on the west side of Sheldon NWR in Nevada. All of these birds were also more wary and more difficult to get good looks at than the usual California Scrub-Jays. All were in the type of habitat where you can also find Juniper Titmouse.

My notes on most if not all of those sightings should be in The ones near Cow Head Lake *might* have been juvenile scrub-jays, the others appeared to be adults.

My hunch for many years now is that the ranges of californica and woodhouseii are intercalated in the tri-state area, with californica more numerous but mainly sticking to more riparian situations, while woodhouseii uses the more upland, xeric habitat, which usually takes more effort to access. Now that these taxons have been elevated to full species status, hopefully that will provide more incentive for more people to search in the latter type of areas. Similar to Juniper Titmouse, I suspect that once birders put in more focused effort, we’ll learn that Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays aren’t really as rare in southern Lake County as the paucity of reports to date might suggest.

Happy birding,


This is the title of a great natural gardening book, but it is also a headline for the story about Island Scrub-Jays replanting the oak chaparral formerly destroyed by ranching on the jay’s only island, Santa Cuz, off the Ventura County coast.

Posted by: atowhee | July 4, 2016


Research shows that Magnificent Frigatebirds are not only magnificent, they fly…endlessly.  Over 250 miles per day, non-stop, no resting on the water. They may fly that for days, weeks…they do land to lay eggs and incubate them.

Here are some pictures I took of frigatebirds around the Galapagos a few years back, enjoy these champion flyers:FRIGATE ALOFT Frigatebird Dive frigatebird flying by frigatebird on mast Frigatebird Profile FRIG-BIRD EYELEVEL frig-pbird provile

Posted by: atowhee | July 4, 2016


The young fledgling birds out in my garden and still dependent on parents:  English Sparrow…Downy…Black-capped Chickadee…House Finch.  I see adult and youngster together in the smoke tree, on the feeding platforms, moving through the bushes along the fence.

At one point a pair of Black-capped Chickadees are feeding alternately at the feeders.  Then a third chickadee shows up and complaints break out, the rat-tat-tat of calls.  Are the calls angry?  Pleading of a youngster?  I don’t quit comprehend the chickadee language so I’ll never know.   Each one feeds on the platform, then vanish back into the bushes.BBC ON LIM (1280x960) BCC ON RIM (1280x960)bbc-feeds dw-suet1 dw-suet2

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