Posted by: atowhee | August 19, 2016


komorebiHere it is, Wennerberg Park’s own exemplary komorebi.  That’s a marvelous Japanese word for “sunlight filtered through leaves.”  In this particular case, bigleaf maple leaves.

I guess the Northern European origins and cultural context of English would make it highly unlikely something like sunlight filtered through leaves would warrant its own special term.  It has no trade, political or economic value.  Totally worthless on the battle field.  And our Saxon and Celtic linguistic forebears spent much of their time in places with little sunlight anyway.  Just like we had to borrow words for umbrella, monsoon, spaghetti and other unfamiliar (at one time) things, so we should avail ourselves of komorebi.  This time of year it’s abundant if you stop and look up toward where the Wood-Pewees hang out.

Think how many English words we have for “kill” or “eat.”  That’s your practical world view.

Posted by: atowhee | August 18, 2016


Climate change continues to bring us bad news. Extreme weather.  Wild fires that are horrendous, and made more destructive because people have continued to build in forested areas.  Tropical diseases spreading their range–welcome to Zika City, Florida.  Used to be known as “Miami Beach.”

And July, 2016, once again, set a record as the hottest single month in modern history.  Like the death toll in Syria and the New York Stock Market, the numbers get bigger and bigger.

Louisiana, home of plenty of fossil fuel operations, got a nasty taste of unparalleled flooding.  Flooding so unusual that most of the victims were not even in official flood zones and thus not insured for flood damage.

While this is bad news for humans, we can decide to not live at sea level or in possible flood plains (which may need re-definition) and not build homes in forested areas and maybe even stop the spread of Zika, West Nile virus, dengue fever and other tropical diseases. However other animals have no news service, no alerts when fire or disease spreads through their habitat.  We humans are falling into a trench which may be lined with tragic memories of species that we have helped drive into extinction.   We broke the climate, can and will we fix it?


Posted by: atowhee | August 18, 2016


Many songbirds become quiet during the hottest part of summer.  The small flock of House Sparrows around our house do speak to one another in their flat cheeping language.  But the local Robins, House Finches, Juncos and Starlings are not often heard from. Back when the Starlings were nesting at our house six weeks ago they were singing, calling, fussing noisily.  After the young fledged, the quiet was noticeable. The Black-capped Chickadees do keep in touch by peeping back and forth.  Scrub-Jays, of course, continue their roles the town crier–alarms, food announcement, various news updates come at irregular intervals.    The Collared-Doves never seem to stop their moaning.

Now the nuthatches are among our most outspoken visitors.

Yesterday at Wennerberg Park the local White-breasted Nuthatch could be heard honking up in the Doug-firs as soon as we got out of our car.   And daily the Red-breasted Nuthatches in our garden can be heard.  Today a trio showed up, one adult and two juveniles.  The adult ferried food from our feeders to the anxious young.  The young begged with a soft twittering series of calls and wings a-flutter.  Even while mbeing fed the wing vibration continues, more than one flutter per second it seems.  Sometimes the adult arrives with food and begins to match the wing flutter of the youngster until the food is delivered, beak to beak.

Yesterday a single adult nuthatch came down into the garden and hunted on the folded, deeply cleft bark of our largest dawn redwood tree.  This group of nuthatches has become so used to us they sometimes buzz past at a few feet distance.rbn on trnk (1280x960) rbn on trnk2 (1280x960) rbn on trnk2a rbn on trnk3 (1280x960) rbn on trnk4 (1280x960) rbn on trnk5 (1280x960) rbn on trnk6 (1280x960) rbn on trnk7 (1280x960) rbn on trnk8 (1280x960)

Posted by: atowhee | August 17, 2016


To everything (turn, turn, turn)

There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

Posted by: atowhee | August 16, 2016


They’ve done it…Costa Rica, which is often a leader in conservation, has out-lawed all sports hunting.  Do I hear a second?



Posted by: atowhee | August 16, 2016


How to save our bees, which help pollinate so many plants needed by so many animals (including humans you may know of)?  One British study indicates it is our newest toxic threat, the widely dispersed neonicotinoids so beloved by industrial agriculture.

Posted by: atowhee | August 15, 2016


It is the height of the sunny season here in the Willamette Valley–insect populations are near their annual peak.  Good news for our swallowing neighbors.  There were three Violet-green Swallows high above the Yamhill Sewer Ponds mid-day.  Lower, just above the ponds and over the nearby pastures, Barn Swallows criss-crossed one another’s flights.  These swallows left behind an invisible mesh of random transects.  A few of them rose to the height of their violet-green cousins.

Out over the ponds were some heavy-bodies birds trying to imitate the swallows. There were slow upward swoops, heavy wing flutters, dropping bodies despite outspread wings.  These “flycatchers” turned out to be Cedar Waxwings, getting their share of the insects that had also drawn all the swallows.KEST ON POST (1280x960)Kestrel on a metal post.  TV soaring lazily through the blue. TV OVR YHMLL (1280x960)

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  25
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)  2
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  3
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  30
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  2
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  12
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  3
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | August 15, 2016


There are now almost daily sightings of Great Gray Owls in the Cascades east of Ashland.  Local owl aficionados regularly check the meadows and treetops and often one or more owls are seen…in daytime.  Mel Clements has taken many fine GGO pics and has sent theses two, of a pair of youngster born earlier this year.GGO YNG GGO YNG2A handful of Jackson County birders yesterday saw a total of four Great Gray Owls along one road at about 4600′ elevation.  The two young were heard calling but no adult was spotted nearby.  The two young were hunting together when these photos were taken.  Thanks, Mel.

For information on my Great Gray Owl book, click here.

Posted by: atowhee | August 14, 2016


The last youngsters of summer are fledging.  Some Barn Swallows are into their final clutch of egg incubating.  Most young birds of this year are out and about.  Just in our McMinnville garden today there were some examples:hisp feeds3hosp feeds3x hisp feeds4  HOSP FEEDS1 (1280x960) HOSP FEEDS2 (1280x960) HOSP ADULT FLIES (1280x960)A young American Goldfinch in sun bright dawn redwood.AMGO IN SUN AMGO IN SUN2 AMGO IN SUN3DEJU-FORYoung Junco. DEJU-ONE DEJU-THRE DEJU-TWORBN DUNK RBN DUNK2Robin in molt, note the scruffy throat feathers.  RBN MOLT RBN-DRINK RBN-DRINK2

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Aug 14, 2016. 11 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  4
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | August 13, 2016


Medford, OR.  September 20th.  I will give a talk about the Great Gray Owl and sign books.
6PM.  Wild Birds Unlimited, 961 Medford Court in the Medford Center off Biddle Road.179A7279

McMinnville, OR.   October 6th.  I will talk about birding hotspots along Interstate 5 in Oregon and places to look for the Great Gray Owl.  I will sign copies of both FREEWAY BIRDING and GREAT GRAY OWL books.  6:30 PM, Third Street Books, 320 NE Third Street, McMinnville.

McMinnville, OR.  October 20 and 27.  Birding upper Willamette Valley in winter.  A class sponsored by McMinnville Park & Rec Department.  Lectures on Thursday night, 630pm.  Field trips on Saturdays, October 22 and 29.

Register on line or at community center:

Salem, OR.  November 8.  The Great Gray Owl, a talk at Salem Audubon Birders’ Night. Birder’s Night: a presentation on various aspects of birding, followed by an informal sharing of bird observations and questions. Meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month, September through May, at the Carrier Room of the First United Methodist Church, 600 State Street in downtown Salem.


Both of these trips are sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon Society in San Francisco/Berkeley.  You can sign up through them or directly with me if you are member of Golden Gate Audubon.  Anyone can join.  There are only a couple slots open on each trip.  Details here:

Pacific Northwest in Winter, March 9-13. $350. Ten birders limit.  See the wintering birds from the Arctic and mountains as they enjoy the mild coastal weather:  Pacific Loon, perhaps Yellow-billed, Rhino Auklets, Harlequin and long-tailed Ducks, Brant, Trumpeter Swans. From Seattle to Sequim and back.Mountain Chickadee

Southern Oregon in Spring. May 26-29.   $325. Ten birders limit. Based in Ashland, OR.  We will bird Cascades, Siskiyous and Klamath Basin.  Great Gray Owl, Mountain Bluebird, Black Tern, Ferruginous Hawk, Mountain Chickadee, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Calliope Hummingbird are among the species we will be expecting.

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