Posted by: atowhee | March 29, 2020


March 29, 2020 at Joe Dancer Park, McMinnville

It was a chilly and drizzly morning.  There were a few dogs and their staff on hand.  Two men kicking a soccer ball back and forth, fifty yards apart. But the rest of the outdoor world was absorbed in its spring awakening.

Cottonwoods are already the tallest trees in the small wetlands.  They are now in leaf, getting a head start on the year’s growing season.  Last to leaf out will be the stubborn oaks.  Late to leaf, late to let those leaves fall in fall.  Some Oregon oaks now still have brown, parched leaves on limbs.  In one blooming willow an Anna’s Hummingbird was feeding on willow nectar.
Cottonwood:c-wood (2)

In the marsh a single chorus frog croaked loudly.  Also, the dog and I aroused two snipe from the marsh and watched their typical zig-zag exit flight, complete with loud “cwakkk” calls of annoyance.  Among the willows I spotted one small bird that wasn’t quite right for Song Sparrow, which are abundant.  A quick glimpse before it retreated into a denser willows disclosed its ID: Lincoln’s Sparrow.  I have had repeated sightings of same there all winter, likely a single bird that never left after its fall arrival.

On the ground spring wildflowers are flourishing.  I couldn’t find any trillium but there were yellow violets, cardamonium, best of all—fawn lilies in all their beauty.

Walking through the woods along the river I noticed some small flitting birds in lower trees and brush.  Oh, I thought, could be a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets. Behavior and group presence were the indicators.  But close looks through binoculars showed they were all Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  Busily feeding, no time or concern for territorality.  At least once three were three in the same tree at the same time.  Not winter behavior for this species which has long practiced social distancing. As I watched one ruby-crown, it poked its beak into a cherry blossom, came out with a half-inch long caterpillar, swallowed it with a gulp. So my presumption is this was a flock of migrating kinglets, maybe they arrived overnight

“North to Alaska go north the rush is on
North to Alaska go north the rush is on…”  –Johnny Horton

DANCERLY WOODPECKERS: male flicker, Downy.  The Downy actually backed down the tree limb, twice, not a common woodpeckerly behavior.

The only four-footer we noticed at Joe Dancer was a single Townsend’s chipmunk, discounting dogs who usually have at least six legs–their own four plus two on each attendant.

First three images are of fawn lily.  They naturally hang the flower facing the earth so it takes some manhandling to get full face view.  Then bigleaf maple, Oregon grape and a patch of yellow violets.


Cottonwoods–some years back I wrote about the black cottonwoods found along water courses here in Oregon, click here for that blog.


My wife and I were eating a peaceful breakfast when a flash passed our windows that overlook the feeders.  A Cooper’s Hawk had jetted in and landed on our garden bench.  My camera was yards away but Kate got shots through the window with her iPhone and then we noticed the usually brash young squirrel, cowering beneath the lawn chair.  The Coop left emptied taloned:

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Mar 29, 2020
15 species

Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Wilson’s Snipe  2
Turkey Vulture  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
California Scrub-Jay  3
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Bushtit  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  10
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  2
American Robin  16
Song Sparrow  12
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  5

Posted by: atowhee | March 28, 2020


I am not even sure birds pause to consider that question about our species.  Their behavior indicates they are eagerly taking advantage of our absence in nature.  This morning I drove through a city park, officially open but unpeopled.  CV, cold and rain=no people in the park.  Robins and starlings were using the soccer field.  Others of their species were bathing in shallow pools of water.  All that open space and no large lumbering mammals.  Bird paradise for the nonce.
Yesterday I saw a starling carrying nesting material and it entered a hole at the edge of the roof of a business building that is also devoid of people and their hammering and drilling.  A starling snug, quiet, waterproof, just what starling eggs require.

In our garden the Audubon’s Warblers rule now.  In flight they flash the black, white and gray semaphore signals of a winter Willet.  The white tail-lights blink on and off as the tail fans out, then contracts.  Their bold and  bright yellow patches contrast with the purple-black chest spots.  I think the warblers would vote to keep us around if an avian pollster asked.  They LOVE my suet logs; nature provides nothing half so pleasing in March–protein and fat, yummy.

We are at Peak Warblerwoww4 (2)What is Peak Warbler–they come and go so briskly it is hard to estimate their number–12?  15? More?  Fluttering, flitting, fighting, flapping, fidgeting–it is a world of whirling warblers.  There cold hardly be room for more in our garden or on a single suet log where up to six will cling at once.  Their frenzied actions make even the Bushtits seem sedate.

Despite the cold and rain a siskin was singing his fulls spring song today, leading to the/ending crescendo of the bzzzzzzzzzzt, rising in pitch and volume.

Along Cozine Creek this morning the dog and I found some Varied Thrush with their robin cousins, and a mint family member in bloom. In the first forest shot you get the full frame, try to spot the orange eyebrow.  Last image I zoomed in virtually, thrush in full view:

Petals shower down in the wind, leaving sidewalks, lawns, even lowly gutters decorous with soft pinks and whites.  The cherries, plums, crabapples, star magnolia seem to have no end of blossoms.  Soon they’ll fade, giving center stage to the next wave–apples, later magnolias, dogwoods.  All this will happen whether people pay attention or stare at their small screens inside.

Posted by: atowhee | March 27, 2020


Nora and I get around, some.  Yesterday the town of Yamhill.   Did not find the Mockingbird–starling sitting in the usual tree.  Wigeon, GW Teal and snipe in flooded grasslands.  Usual ducks in the ponds at Yamhill Sewer.  Paired–two kestrels side  by side at sewer ponds, flickers side by side at Wennerberg.

Today’s killer bird–isn’t every falcon a killer?–Cooper’s Hawk on pole top in the rain.  The bird was atop of a utility pole at the south end of the Baker Creek Road S-curve.

Speaking of raptors, female on the right:KEST PARD (2)

Lesser Goldfinches landing feeder at same time, I don’t think they were “together” like the kestrels above:LEGO TWOGTHR (2)

Now about that beauty in the garden , kinetic  glory:

Not a Blackburnian or Prothonotary I admit, but I’d put these guys up against a Magnolia any day.

Closed–Yamhill city park, state parks; county parks.
Open–Yamhill Sewer Ponds trail; Wennerberg in Carlton; Joe Dancer in McMinnville.

Stores selling bird food still open here in McM.

The recently arrived Audubon’s Warblers are bright and lively.  The other warblers must be doubly impressed because they can see ultraviolet spectra that escape my mammalian eyes.  The local Bewick’s Wren couple are very busty about the feeders now.  I often see them skittering across the open areas while the stolid juncos appear almost frozen in place by comparison.

Posted by: atowhee | March 24, 2020


Arriving from the south, Audubon’s Warblers found our feeders this morning.  All winter we’ve had one little Auddie and a small posse of myrtles.  Today the ratio reversed and now the bright colored Audubon;s out-number the drabber myrtles.
Here is a gallery of the newly arrived warblers in their bold spring finery.  They have increased the colorfulness of our garden avifauna by about 150 points…beyond anything a Bushtit or junco or House Sparrow can ever aspire to.

Note in the next-to-last image how he leans down so agilely, then look closely…those black lines down the back are actually tightly-packed rows of small black smudges.  We have few enough warblers here on the Pacific Slope compared to the eastern U.S. so I think we have to glory in the beauty where we find it.  Probably none of us will be flying off to Magee Marsh in Ohio this year to see thirty or more species in May.  Let’s really soak up the bright local guys.

Posted by: atowhee | March 24, 2020


jan morris (3)_LI              –Jan Morris, In My Mind’s Eye, writing of her garden in Wales

Away from people now it is more fascinating than ever to watcb those around us.  Just today I caught a 1.5-inch hunting spider and ejected her from the dining room.  We use no toxins in our house or garden so there is significant life on a small scale when it is warm. Yesterday I carried in a piece of firewood from outside and noted a small slug had moved from the bark to my sweater.  A few days back I moved an object that had been in place beneath our apple trees for a few years–the density of the disturbed sowbug# population was considerable.  On warmish evenings I hear the male chorus frogs serenading for mates. The birds are at the feeders, dawn to dusk.  Last birds now are seen around 7PM, usually a junco or two.  They are assiduous feeders, often among the first to appear in the morning as well.
These days of confinement are surprisingly quiet even though we live within a couple miles of over 30,000 other people.  Gone is the constant day-time drone of cars and their tires.  Gone mostly are the loud gear-shifting of heavy diesel-burning pick-ups.  The noise on our morning walk today was a single lead-blower and the jays.  The real estate market for local nesting birds is heating up  The juncos, siskins, yellow-rumps will all move on before nesting.  The Bushtits have paired off and are now stealthily going about building their tear-drop shaped nesting sacs.  The scrub-jays….oh, why this is high season in THEIR housing market.   Thus the corvids’ contentious clarion comes from all quarters.  Clamor and competition are the mode of the moment.  Jay pairs fly at intruders, including robins, screams of “scram” aloud and about.
# Known also as woodlouse or pillbug.



Notice the pale side patch where she is shedding her heavy winter coat.

Posted by: atowhee | March 22, 2020


Venice, sans people, sans boats, is returning to nature….or rather, nature returning to Venice.  Clear water…porpoises…click here.

Mallards on the sidewalks, cormorants in the channels…and I’ve birded some of the little, verdant park there–finches and serin and sparrows and warblers  Must be fine birding this spring, but you would have to do it through a window, looking out.

Posted by: atowhee | March 22, 2020


A day away…from people…and naturally birds are quite good at social distancing.

Away from people and pronouncements, coronavirus is trivial.  Mammals come and mammals go, giant sloth, mammoth, saber-tooth tiger, Irish elk, Tasmanian tiger, Steller’s sea cow*, bluebuck, Guam fruit bat, Japanese sea lion, Neanderthal, australopithecus.  Nature is a harsh judge of species and their shortcomings. Click here for one list of modern extinctions.

Trees are at their most exuberant right now.  No, they aren’t dancing or even making unusual noises, but they are pushing out into the air and sun (when there is any).  Most ebullient here in western Oregon must be the bigleaf maple.  Its buds are living candles, the flames the pale, curled leaves inside, now bursting forth from inside their pliable green coveralls.  The maples’ bud shape shameful in a Victorian parlor–it’s tumescent, priapic, erect.  Blooming trees like willow and cherry now are aswarm with wakened insects, and that draws in the small insectivores—kinglet, Bushtit, chickadee, warbler.  This week I’ve begun to see bumblebees buzz past. Many of the flowers Nora the dog ignored and I noted are invasives now—dandelions, English daisies, mustard, henbit.  But there was one bold native—Oregon grape, its stabbing leaves shining dark green and its buttery blooms in dense, comely clusters.

We birded the perimeter of McMinnville’s Airport Park, avoiding all other mammals.  The meeting point of forest and field was alive, as edges are often the best place for birding.  From there we went to Grand Island. No Osprey yet but plenty of woodpecker noise and action.  Wood Ducks in pairs, Mallards as well.  I got my first Violet-green Swallows pics of the year, a couple on the wire.  Speaking of coupledom, the two Red-breasted Nuthatches now come to our feeders together, the female’s breast much paler than his.  Bushtits now go about mostly in pairs.

Singers today include Pacific Wren, Song Sparrow, the calling of Pileated and flicker, robins, and a Purple Finch who was up in the canopy as ever so heard but not seen.  At Grand Island the flicker and pileated called loudly and repeatedly.  The flicker and sapsucker were drumming as well.

Ravens at the airport were discussing something emphatically.  They seem observant and opinionated birds.  They were soaring high above the conifer canopy.  I wondered if they were discussing real estate for possible nesting?

AT AIRPORT PARK: Fox Sparrow and Pacific Wren.

ON GRAND ISLAND: Wood Duck sneaking away, White-crowned in an open field.

McMinnville Airport Park & Airport Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Mar 22, 2020
18 species

Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Steller’s Jay  4
American Crow  1
Common Raven  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Pacific Wren  1
European Starling  X
Varied Thrush  1
American Robin  20
Purple Finch  1     singing
Lesser Goldfinch  1
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Song Sparrow  3
Spotted Towhee  1
Brewer’s Blackbird  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Grand Island Loop, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Mar 22, 2020
30 species–no Cliff Swallows yet at Keiser’s old barn

Canada Goose  X–fly overs
Wood Duck  4–I saw several Wood Duck nest boxes on the island
Mallard  6
Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
Killdeer  1
Great Egret  1
Turkey Vulture  3
Red-tailed Hawk  5
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  4
American Kestrel  2
Steller’s Jay  4
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Common Raven  X
Violet-green Swallow  2
Bushtit  5
Brown Creeper  1
European Starling  X
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  20
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  1
Lesser Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  12
White-crowned Sparrow  8
Song Sparrow  X
Spotted Towhee  X

*George Steller of jay fame was the only scientist to ever see this species alive…he recorded it in Alaska in early 18th Century and soon after the Russian fur hunters drove it extinct.  It was our only known cold water manatee.

Posted by: atowhee | March 21, 2020


Smart first,  Marieannette, an inveterate bird watcher and feeder in Ashland sent me this pic of her local male Downy.  He plucked this nut from the feeder, than poked it into the suet hole where it was held steady for him to chip away.downy--mam2Smarting…this poor little Lesser Goldfinch shows up daily in our garden with horrid foot-swelling ailment.big footI have read that avian pox can affect feet, is that what I’m dealing with?  It would mean I should stop feeding and try to decontaminate…at least it’s not coronavirus but could be as bad for the finches…life in an era of  microbial revenge.

Posted by: atowhee | March 20, 2020


Spring has arrived officially and in this place and time, emotionally.  Bees and a warbler and a kinglet were all buzzing in the top of a blooming willow this morning.  A pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches came to our feeders together, she with a much paler chest than he.  I counted over 130 trillium blooms in the woods along Cozine Creek this morning.  Pacific and Bewick’s Wrens are in song.  Early cherries are in bloom.  House flies have begun sneaking through open doors.

While humans are roiled and riled and scared and trepidatious, nature is moving boldly forward. Buds swelling, ferns playing out their fiddleheads, soft cottony clouds float on the horizon in front of a blue sky that looks liquid and safe.

Cozine Creek forest, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Mar 19, 2020 4:15 PM – 5:00 PM
9 species

Red-tailed Hawk  1
Steller’s Jay  4
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  X
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  2
American Robin  9
Song Sparrow  X
Spotted Towhee  X

Cozine Creek forest, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Mar 20, 2020 11:10 AM – 12:10 PM

Checklist Comments:     4 tree squirrels; 1 Townsend’s Chipmunk
17 species

Anna’s Hummingbird  2
Northern Flicker  4
Steller’s Jay  5
American Crow  X
Common Raven  2     fly over
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Bushtit  3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Pacific Wren  1     singing
Bewick’s Wren  3
European Starling  1     fly over
American Robin  8
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Song Sparrow  4
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1     myrtle

Posted by: atowhee | March 18, 2020


Many public institutions are closed now.  The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is closed to the public, but one of its inhabitants was set free to explore.  Watch Wellington. a Royal Penguin methinks, explore his large home.  Royals are native to an island in the far south of the New Zealand Archipelago.

Then click here to see some penguins people going down stairs.

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