Posted by: atowhee | October 8, 2016


This morning Klamatth Bird Observatory’s “Talk and Walk” program took a group of birders up inot the Cascades east of Ashland, the topic: Great Gray Owls.  And they saw two of the birds.  Here’s KBO board president, Shannon Rio’s brief summary of the day: “it was beautiful this morning up on the mountain.  bird time was as usual timeless.  we enjoyed two views of a ggo, one at the beginning of the day and one at the end of the journey and in between:  pelicans, widgeons, bald eagle, bluebirds, vesper sparrows, coots,american goldfinches and pine siskens, red tailed hawks, a bobcat sighting, an osprey sighting.  and lots of nature.  thank you all for another journey with the birds and nature and each other100816-005_edited-1-1280x853 Both pictures by Mel Clements, top bird at Two Pine Meadow, the lower bird west of Howard Prairie Lake on private land. Both locations can be checked from public roads without disturbing the owls’ hunting territory.100816-010_edited-1-1280x853Jackson County, Oregon, may have as many or more GGOs than any other county south of Canada.  Evidence you do not need to spend big bucks and suffer a Minnesota winter to see Great Gray Owls in the U.S.

Posted by: atowhee | October 8, 2016


Perhaps it is not the oasis that was once the Henderson, Nevada, sewer plant…but Sheridan’s is certainly the best here in Yamhill…bird-wise.  And it smells better than the big landfill north on Hwy 18 not far south of McMinnville. Nothing unusual today but plenty of waterfowl and one passing adult Bald Eagle who sent them into flight and frenzy.

Turkey Vulture still in the air.greg-leans-1280x960 greg-reflx-1280x960Egret abd female Kingfisher at South Side Park.kf-shrdn-1280x960These two geese appear to be Canadians as well as Canadas…Dusky down from the north without invitation or papers. Trump would have them beaten and deported, no doubt after remarking on their big breasts. tav-geese-1280x960

Hwy 18, South Yamhill County, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 8, 2016 1:00 PM. 10 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  3–roosting near the landfill
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  3
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  4
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X

Sheridan WTP Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 8, 2016 1:30 PM – 2:20 PM. 18 species
Comments:     viewed from cemetery overlook and then from South Side Park

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
American Wigeon (Anas americana)  20
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  2000
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  30
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  40
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  15
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  3
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  400
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  2
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
American Coot (Fulica americana)  1200
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  1
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X

Sheridan South Side Park and Fishing Pond, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 8, 2016 1:50 PM – 2:20 PM. 12 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  12
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  2
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  1
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  5
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  3
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  20

Posted by: atowhee | October 7, 2016


The recurring rain has kept birding to a minimum for the dog and me.  Most small birds avoid getting wet.  Only a few songbirds were out this afternoon when she and I headed along Baker Creek Road to Grenfell Park.  But there were five Red-tails hunting their favorite mown hayfield.

Back home in late afternoon the birds were getting afternoon meals before the long, wet, cool dark night set in.  Waxwings dropped down into our neighbor’s rowan tree, their activity making the thin upright branches vibrate as they swallowed the berries. Just beyond the rowan stands a larger dogwood and it was hosting a clatter of starlings picking and swallowing the ripe fruit.  I know that a swirling flock of starlings is a murmuration, but it seems a perched or dining flock of these voluble birds can rightly be called a “clatter.”

Juncos will bathe during a snow storm, today this discerning male Junco decided a better bath could be had in the pool than from the small falling drops of rain:

junc-bath-a junc-on-pool junc-bath-b junc-bath-c junc-ghost junc-latr

And the first Yellow-rump of the season shared the suet feeder with our BC Chickadees this evening.

Here’s one of the Baker Creek Red-tails: p2790832-1280x960 shov-circl-1280x960 shov-congress

Above: Shovelers swirling about, making vortex of water that brings goodies to the surface.  Yamhill Sewer Ponds this week.

Baker Creek running high and muddy from rains:bkr-creek-1280x960

Posted by: atowhee | October 7, 2016


Hurricane Mathew may, or may not, be a threat…and Matt Drudge is angry that there is no conservative think-tank or Koch Brothers’ company that can produce “independent” data on the pending storm.  Government scientists are likely in cahoots with Hillary, climate change preachers and other horrific conspirators who want to take your guns, your 18-MPG SUV and the your coal-burning power plants away from you.

I suggest we applaud Mr. Drudge’s dudgeon and even encourage his fans, readers or dupes to stay in place.  After Mathew has done whatever it came to do we can see who’s in better shape…those Drudgers or the folks who fell for the storm warnings and went to higher ground.  And then let’s keep score on who asks for the most federal help: Drudgers or those willing to admit they believe in climate change.

A time will come when even this great debtor nation will not be able to afford to rebuild condos, resorts, golf courses, hotels and fishing piers at sea level just to see them wiped out by the next big storm surge.  What part of “higher ground” is difficult to understand?

What baffles me is why alt-righters think changing sea level is a conspiracy…just because it may make their gas-guzzlers and coal mines obsolete?  Guess gasoline really is an addictive drug.

Posted by: atowhee | October 4, 2016


There is little historical evidence for a co-operative relationship between man and the natural world.  From stone age hunters to the dawn of agriculture, from the Black Death to the volcanic demise of Roman Pompeii, man and nature have traded attacks, death and demolition through the ages.  The killing and destruction goes on.  Two recent books deal with different views of the man-nature interaction.

Cat Wars. The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer. By Peter Marra and Chris Santella.  Princeton Press.  216 pages. 2016.  $24.95.

From the widespread curse of toxoplasmosis to the direct killing of wild animals by house cats, this book is a sharp, unforgiving look at what this human-subsidized killer is doing to animals that struggle daily for survival and the chance to reproduce their species. The book tells how a single cat drove the once rare Stephens Island Wren into extinction.  It also recommends a realistic attempt to get feral cats out of the wild.  Spay and release is simply a romantic fell-good exercise not really helping wildlife, say the authors.

The book tersely describes another island victim of housecats: the Alala or Hawaiian Crow.  This one still brings tears to my eyes.  Unknowingly my wife and I were among the last humans to see this bird in the wild.  There is still a captive breeding program but the danger from toxoplasmosis on the cat-infested Big Island may mean this bird will never again fly free in its native home. In 2002 we went to the Big Island on vacation and included a couple birding trips in our plans.  One was a visit to McCandless Ranch south of Kona where the Crows were still present.  The dawn trip up into the mountain forest took us to a large wire cage where several captive Alala were being raised.   A pair of the free-roaming crows came to visit with their fellows.  After some discussion through the wire barriers, the two free crows flew off.  They were 50% of the wild population at that time.  By the end of the year all four wild Hawaiian Crows had died, mostly likely from toxoplasmosis from car feces. The wild cats and their resulting toxoplasmosis-rich deposits persist on the Big Island and any hope of eradicating the cats seems far-fetched.

Australia and New Zealand with their fragile endemic bird populations are world leaders in the work needed to get house cats back into the house. A must read for anybody brave enough to confront the pro-cat forces.  [Disclaimer: my wife and I have a housecat…a HOUSE housecat.]

Landskipping, Painters, Ploughmen and Places. Bloomsbury.  250 pages.  2016.  $35.

Centered on the English countryside this is a look at how man has shaped the outside world over the recent centuries.  This author’s view tends to regard the sheep as a necessary creator of grasslands and open space.  That is not a view shared by most American conservationists. She champions the farmer vs. the developer: “It is unfashionable to champion farmers as stewards of the landscape, but that is where my vote lies.”

I must wonder what she would make of the pollution coming from factory farms of the chemically-enhanced grain or cotton farming on the scale found in much of the U.S.

One place where she strikes a chord I find sympathic–golf courses: “There is nothing life-enhancing for a plant of animal on the average green or fairway. As an environment, a golf course is a fascist state. And a thirsty one.”

More golf courses in Arizona or around Vegas?  Golf does seem to have lost much of its Reagan-era lustre.  Thanks to the Internet and round-the-clock financial manipulation now, many of the folks who once populated golf courses with high fees no longer have the time.  It has become a sport primarily for a certain set of my fellow retirees.  Nobody who must check his or her iPhone every 40 seconds has time to spend hours chasing a little white ball around.


Posted by: atowhee | October 2, 2016


My friend, Lee McEachern, and his wife are in Colombia studying Spanish prior to some extended trips in Latin America.  He just emailed me this note and the following image:

” I’ve noticed a particularly pretty little bird a few times in our walks around the parks of Medellin.  I can’t supply the identification, despite all my online searches.  But I thought you’d like this little guy as much as I do.  It seems to stay in lower branches, as far as I can tell, inspecting the ground for little insects that it dives down, hovers over momentarily and then plucks.  I might actually be wrong about that because I haven’t seen the behavior much.  It might be catching flying insects near the ground like a flycatcher; not sure.  I don’t have a good camera with me; just a little point-and-shoot.  But here’s what I got of this pretty guy:”red-ufo-side_detail

I was happy to tell Lee that this is a Vermilion Flycatcher, which can be seen in the southwestern U.S. and much of Central and tropical South America.  I’ve seen this bird in at least 3 countries myself including the Galapagos and Texas. Last winter there was a vagrant Vermilion in the Sacramento Valley!

Posted by: atowhee | October 1, 2016


I saw both Barn Swallow (two) and Turkey Vulture (one) on this rainy first day of October.  Both were along the roads north of McMinnville.  Each could be my final sighting of those migrants for this year.  Then at Rotary Park it was all residents…except for one skulking Hermit Thrush who’s moved in to replace his southbound cousin, Swainson.

This is the only time you will find gold in Baker Creek at Rotary Park.  Hurry, it won’t last long.leaves-rtry-1280x960In this season each breeze brings a flutter to the nearest tree, and most of the time it is a falling leaf, not a moving bird.  Disintegrating as they move downstream toward the Willamette…the Columbia…the mighty Pacific, these leaves will enter the great sea as particles, fibers, specks,  molecules.

Female Spotted Towhee at Rotary Park. spto-rotry-1280x960 spto-rotry2-1280x960  The squirrels were adeptly harvesting the ripe haws in Rotary Park. Nature’s gymnasts were putting their flexibility and agility to work…getting all the haws except the ones at the very end of the slimmest branches which would not support the squirrel’s weight…those will go to thrushes, waxwings and jays no doubt.sqrl-haw1-1280x960 sqrl-haw2-1280x960 sqrl-haw4-1280x960 sqrl-haw5-1280x960 sqrl-haw6-1280x960This jay had a few choice words for me…in his woods. stllr-rtry-1280x960Cow birds, mostly Starlings along Hendrick’s Road…one Red-wing and some Brewer’s Blackbirds were there to adulterate a nearly pure Starling herd.bird-herd-1280x960Squirrel at rest, doubt that he’s really praying…sqrl-bath-1280x960

Posted by: atowhee | September 30, 2016


At Wennerberg today I encountered both kinglet species, and my first Willamette Valley Fox Sparrow of the season.  And the leaves on our lilacs are turning red along the veins…must be fall.rcki-in-middl-907x734 rcki-on-rit rcki-twst The Ruby-crowned was a difficult photo target, the lone Golden-crowned was too high and too fast for any image.  I was surprised that the Golden-crowned seemed to be alone.rcki-undr2 Song Sparrow at our feeder:sosp-grdnSome fall colors:amro-u-ppp fall-clr-1280x960 gcs-grdn2 gcs-grdn3

Wennerberg Park, Carlton, OR, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 30, 2016 10:15 AM – 11:15 .12 species

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  3
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  3
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  1

My fall events:

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.

Posted by: atowhee | September 29, 2016


I may have seen my last Turkey Vultures of the year for the northern Willamette Valley.  I saw a handful at Hagg Lake and then one over McMinnville.  Nights are getting colder and soon those carcasses will freeze overnight, not the sort of diet to please the vulturian palate.

I found no shorebirds at Hagg Lake but plenty of ducks tucked back in the quiet inlets, away from fishermen and boats.  It was especially nice to see a small flock of Hooded Mergansers; the males had their white cheek windows only partially ajar.home-a1-1280x960 home-a2-1280x960Note the up-turning tails not quite as vertical as would be required to qualify as a Ruddy Duck. home-a3-1280x960 home-a4-1280x960Note male in foreground with his flaming eyeball.

One female Common Merganser was doing her plumage when I got there.come-hagg2-1280x960 come-hagg1-1280x960Goose Island:cago-is1-1280x960 cago-is2-1280x960Sapsucker beak-work: sap-tree-a-1280x960Scoggins Creek, major water source for the reservoir which is well below capacity right now. scogg-crk-1280x960Triffids?  Metal-legged crabs that feed on pesticides and radiation?  Alien invaders?  Protectors of spawning fish when there’s water?  Impediment to anchoring?  Clearly they are under water when the lake is full…triffids-1280x960Comment below indicates these are in fact to protect spawning fish…now all they need is enough water to cover them up.

Garden denizen, a shaded and shady character indeed. sql-2 sql-3

Henry Hagg Lake Park (Scoggins Valley Park), Washington, Oregon, US
Sep 29, 2016 12:05 PM – 1:05 PM.  12 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  50
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  20; Ring-necked Duck   1
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  12, the
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  5
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  3
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  3
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  5
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  16
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  2

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 29, 2016 7:45 AM.  13 species

Four sparrow family species for the first time this season.  GC and Song are not in my garden during the breeding season.  Now if one of those traveling Whigte-crowns will just show up and bring a Fox Sparrow with him, we could get to a half dozen in a day with no vagrancy required.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  X
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  20

Posted by: atowhee | September 27, 2016


Today in McMinnville and yesterday on upper Baker Creek Road Robins were abroad in big numbers, autumn flocks.  These seem to be locals, not the darker individuals that migrate down from the rain forests further north.

Red-tails were focused on a mown field, four standing on the ground.

garterOKour only local snake with longitudinal stripes, a garter…but I’ve seen one so gray before. He was in a logging road at the upper end of Baker Creek yesterday. He didn’t even use his tongue to sense my presences, just froze until the dog and I left.  About 20 inches long, less than an inch in diameter at his chubbiest, much slimmer than those Miss Universe types that Trump criticizes for being fat.  This was one slender fellow, as Ms Dickinson would have noted. snak-hed-1280x960

Baker Creek Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 26, 2016 4:30 PM – 5:20 PM.  10 species

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  5     all in single field at intersection of Baker Creek Road and Orchard View Road
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  3
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  6
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  X
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  20
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2


Our first flock of waxwings (that I’ve noticed) for the season. I’ve been seeing them in tight formation around town for a couple weeks. And here’s the daily onslaught of hungry Bushtits, eschewing seeds, loving suet:btits-1280x960Cute, huh? btits2-1280x960 btits3-1280x960  gcsp-1280x960Golden-crown above, House Finch below…through the window at dawn’s early light. hofi-at-dawn-1280x960

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 27, 2016 7:30 AM. 10 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  20
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  15
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  1
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  3
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  30

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