Posted by: atowhee | September 24, 2021



This video was shot by Nancy Keane, through a window into her back garden in San Francisco’s Richmond District. The Red-shouldered Hawks there are the city’s premiere rat catchers. This one’s getting the spa treatment,
Posted by: atowhee | September 24, 2021


Large forests are among the best, natural, inexpensive carbon sumps possible on this planet. Yet our action and inaction is putting them at risk.

On the East Coast “ghost forests” are spreading in coastal areas. Salt intrusion increases as groudn water is depleted and the sea level rises. We cannot force Greenland to reclaim all its meltwater, nor the Antarctic, or Kilimanjaro or…

In California the largest tree trunks in the world are on sequoias and their redwood cousins…yet climate change and fires threaten them both.

Then there is the Amazon forest, perhaps the sinbgkle mist crucial carbon capture system possible on Earth. There greed competes with green, here’s recent report on what’s happening to Amazonia.

Posted by: atowhee | September 23, 2021


Mama and cub go to the pkayground after school, click here.

Posted by: atowhee | September 22, 2021


A small group of birders–riding in separate vehicles–birded Lincoln County from Lincoln City south to Newport. Today was a great start to fall birding. I saw nearly 45 species myself. Birds seen by others in the group included Sooty Shearwater at Boiler Bay and Black Turnstone on Newport’s South Jetty, Horned Grebe at two locations. Our cumulative total was over fifty species without a single foray away from coastal habitat after we left desicated Baskett Slough’s overlook (where we had our only Bald Eagle of the day).
Then on the way home I saw a Rough-legged Hawk. He was standing in a field near the eastbound lanes of Hwy 22 about one mile east of Hwy 99 intersection.

The four expected species of gull numbered in the hundreds by end of my birding (around 2pm)–Western, Glaucous-winged, California and Ring-billed. At one point we were bery close to a Western X GW adult hybrid.

Highlights for me–
Boiler Bay: White-winged Scoter, four Parasitic Jaeger at top speed, first Red-throated Loons of the season, Common Murres in bright sun, numerous skeins of pelicans, a lone Cackler (also my first of the seaso) who was patrolling the lawns with crows and gulls.
Hatfield Nature Trail along Yaquina Bay: five species of shorebird at the far southwest finger of the bay, none unusual, all far away; father and juvenile pair of murres swimming together at close range; peregrine and red-shoulder in the air.
Newport South Jetty was our richest spot: two more loon sp. including Commons in breeding plumage, Red-necked Grebes, two female Harlequin, our only Heermann’s Gull, our only Rhino Auklets.

Some Common Loonacy:

Click on middle image to make the loons appear.
Below: Pelican aloft; Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants at rest; Harlequins on the rocks with G-w Gull in fireground; our only Heermann’s Gull of the day. All along the Yaquina estuary.

Boiler Bay State Wayside, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Sep 22, 2021
15 species (+1 other taxa)

Cackling Goose  1
Surf Scoter  40
White-winged Scoter  8
Parasitic Jaeger  4
Common Murre  10
Western Gull  X
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  X
Red-throated Loon  4
Brandt’s Cormorant  X
Pelagic Cormorant  X
Double-crested Cormorant  X
Brown Pelican  180
American Crow  50
Savannah Sparrow  2
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Mark Hatfield Marine Science Center and Estuary Trail, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Sep 22, 2021
29 species

Canada Goose  X
American Wigeon  X
Northern Pintail  X
Whimbrel  X
Long-billed Curlew  X
Marbled Godwit  X
Short-billed Dowitcher  X
Greater Yellowlegs  X
Common Murre  2
Ring-billed Gull  X
Western Gull  X
California Gull  X
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Brandt’s Cormorant  X
Pelagic Cormorant  X
Double-crested Cormorant  X
Brown Pelican  X
Great Blue Heron  8
Great Egret  15
Turkey Vulture  5
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
American Crow  X
European Starling  X
Savannah Sparrow  X
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Yaquina River–SE Jetty Way, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Sep 22, 2021
24 species

Canada Goose  4
Northern Shoveler  2
American Wigeon  1
Green-winged Teal  2
Harlequin Duck  2
Surf Scoter  2
Red-necked Grebe  8
Common Murre  X
Rhinoceros Auklet  3
Heermann’s Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  X
Western Gull  X
California Gull  X
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Pacific Loon  1
Common Loon  3
Brandt’s Cormorant  X
Pelagic Cormorant  X
Double-crested Cormorant  X
Brown Pelican  X
Great Blue Heron  1
American Crow  X
White-crowned Sparrow  3
Savannah Sparrow  2

Posted by: atowhee | September 21, 2021


We’re in for it now…three months of diminishing daylight, longer nights. But some of our local trees are coloring, and today, this very afternoon, a flock of waxwings came into our neighborhood for the first time in weeks! I saw these birds overhead, flycatching above the Doug-firs. Neither swallow nor swift. I raced back home with dog in tow to get my binocs (NEVER leave home without them). Yes, a flock of waxwings, perching in the treetop sthen flying up from there for aerial hunting. Some day soon they will notice our heavily fruited old crabapple and pick it clean.

The camera I am using is not up to this task, my regular camera is off in ICU; there are five waxwings in this shot, BION.

I spent some time in our back garden as the small birds gathered for their afternoon tea. The menu was sunflower seed bits. The goldfinches have seed crushing beaks. They sit on the rim of the hanging trays or plunk down on the seeds and feed…and feed. The chickadees and nuthatches can’t do that. Their fine and delicate little pointy beaks are built for quick grab, not crunching. So each time they grab a seed each bird retreats to a covert perch. Here’s the score–we had two RB Nuthatch, two CB Chickadees and two BC Chickadees. The nuthatch pair took at least 23 seeds. The BCCs only three; the CBCs 12. Each of these birds, to eat a seed, must clutch it between toes and peck off littler bits of the bit they hold. The nuthatches, however, cache food like jays…that’s the count accounting. Many of those 20+ are now hidden for future retrieval.

Mid-day at Deepwood Gardens today there was some bird action. Migrants included male Western Tanager with still some cherry flavoring about his crown, wood-pewee and Hermit Thrush. Residents birds were busy in the same loose flock. The tanager was the first I’d seen in town since last spring.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Sep 21, 2021 7:30 AM
Protocol: Incidental
13 species

Wild Turkey  X
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  4
American Crow  15
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
European Starling  X
Cedar Waxwing  20
House Finch  X
Lesser Goldfinch  1
American Goldfinch 50

Deepwood Museum & Gardens, Marion, Oregon, US
Sep 21, 2021 11:40 AM
9 species

Western Wood-Pewee  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  2
Hermit Thrush  1
American Goldfinch  1
Song Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  3
Western Tanager  1

Posted by: atowhee | September 21, 2021


Just heard from one of the Vaux’s Swift count co-ordinators, here in the West, that McNear Brick Yard (Marin County, CA) had 22000 swifts into the twin chimneys this past Saturday. At the downtown Baptist Church here in Salem last night five of us saw about thirty birds go into the chimney. During a clear day many from the previous night may have headed south. Time is short.

Here’s a note I posted earlier about these amazing birds:
Our local Vaux’s Swifts are small, the smallest swifts in North America.  They are larger than some island swiftlet species, but much smaller than the Chimney Swift of eastern North America or the species in Europe (Common, Alpine, Pallid). There are about 95 species of swift in the world and on every continent except Antarctic though they avoid really cold climates and high altitudes.  Every time I see one speeding through the sky, passing swallows in the slow lane, I must remind myself exactly how unusual and marvelous these birds are.

Vaux is less than five inches long, but has a twelve inch wingspan.  That’s a longer wingspan than the Spotted Towhee which is several times bigger in bulk.  Other swift species measure between four inches and 9.5 inches in length.  Swifts are the fastest bird on earth in level flight–regularly reaching 70 MH, while one species has been clocked at 100 MPH.  Some swifts use bat-like sonar echolocation when returning to roost site in the dark. There is speculation among those who track such things that larger swifts may be faster than peregrines in straight-forward flight without use of gravity as an accelerant.

In migration after breeding this species is most abundant in western Oregon during the first half of September.  There are several well-known, perennially popular roost sites along their route.  Three locations that can attract thousands of swifts in one night (plus hungry raptors): Chapman Elementary School in Portland, Agate Hall in Eugene, the old brickyard chimney in San Rafael.  I have found modest numbers roosting in chimneys here in McMinnville. Check your neighborhood this fall.  They need old chimneys without slick metal or ceramic linings so they find crevices and uneven surfaces where their tiny toes can get a grip.  Last year we had one pair nest in our chimney, we hope for a return.  Before the white man our swifts used hollow trees for nesting and roosting.  The Black Swift of the West nests behind waterfalls.  In the tropics some species use hanging palm, fronds, others use caves.  Fortunately we have provided chimneys as we have certainly decimated the supply of old, dead trees left standing in the forest.

The Vaux’s Swifts winter in Central America and coastal Venezuela.

They live most of their life on the wing.  Sometimes flying for months without stopping. We now know something of swifts’ lives thanks to nano-technology and our digital tracking ability.  Here’s a video on the European Common Swift.  We now surmise a single bird can fly hundreds of thousands of miles in its lifetime, click here.

I found this fine video of swifts in slow motion and you can see them close in on flying insects and swallow them.

Most touching video I found: ceremony welcoming the swifts back to Jerusalem in spring.


It would be redundant to say “watching swifts in flight.”  I continue to search for the words.  Not even video does them justice, words about their flight are as shadows speeding past a window.

Migrating Vaux’s Swifts inhabit the sky right now.  Any time from dawn to dark you may see one or more crossing beneath cloud or blue. But they are often too high for oiur eyes to see. No other creature flies the same way.  The arc-shaped wings beat rapidly several times, then stop as the body speeds onward.  The swift motion through the sky seems too fast for deliberation. Yet they run down insects and other small fly [sic], and swallow them with wide mouth fully open.  At one moment a swift will head straight, then suddenly carom off an unseen edge, loop back around, zig-zag off at a step angle, dropping or climbing to a new altitude. I occasionally see them dip one wing, perhaps this helps them make a sharper turn? They seem to reverse direction with no effort I can discern.  The swifts live and move so swiftly our meagre eyes cannot keep up.  We are so slow. At times you can hear them signaling to one another, a cranky sound not confused with song or music.  We now know they can migrate at a height of thousands of feet above the earth, feeding on aerial plankton as they travel.  Here to breed this summer these small swifts are only slightly more earthbound now.  They do not stand, nor perch, nor belly down on a limb to rest, they fly.  Only rarely are they not in flight.  Then they hang in a chosen chimney or hollow tree, head down like a bat. For some swifts this happens only during nesting season. It’s a tiny fleck of life among that tremendous expanse of air, every direction a possibility.

Data from Vaux’s Happening, for northbound migration last spring, high counts for specific locations and then hugh counts for 2020 as well:

Click here to see the Vaux’s Happening website.

Swifts, aerial plankton and weather conditions–click here. 

Click here to read about how they fly, and sleep, simultaneously. Like people on an airplane, but who’s the pilot or navigator…?

Live in Jackson County? Here’s invite to their swift count from head of Riogue Valley Audubon:

“The Vaux’s Swifts are migrating. Rogue Valley Audubon is counting nightly at Hedrick Middle School in Medford (by the football field) and also at a residence about 6 blocks from Hedrick at 15 Florence Ave. The next door neighbors allow us to sit in their front yard and even have chairs we can use. Arrive at either site at least 15 minutes before sunset. Come earlier if it’s raining. They usually are done by the first week in October. I hope you can get to see them. Cheers, Carol Mockridge”

Posted by: atowhee | September 19, 2021


This evening I went to watch the Vaux’s Swifts as they gathered at a chimney of a Baptist church here in Salem, the one at Marion & Liberty. The chimney is on the south side of the building complex next to the north side of Marion, and clearly visible from the Rite-Aid parking lot across Marion Street. There were at least two hundred swifts circling. I did not stay until after sunset when they would funnel into the chimney. It is accommodating because it has no chimney cap and is made of rough brick, and there must not be a slick metal liner so the swifts can grab a crevice or protrusion to hang on to. Swifts cannot perch. They can grab and hang, like bats.

Often they are not seen in the sky overhead like swallows because swifts may rise far up into the sky and become invisible to our eyes, They may even go high enough to feed on aerial plankton thousands of feet above the Earth.

One of the most amazing facts about swifts is that some swift species can go months without landing when they are not nesting. Half the brain sleeps while the other half monitors the flight.

Vaux’s are the smallest swift in America and there is a sequence of chimneys along their migration route where they gather nightly during their late summer flight south which roughly follows Interstate 5.

Posted by: atowhee | September 19, 2021


Despite over an inch of rain in the past 48 hours most of the Fairview Wetlands are dry lands. In the far sityhwest cirner there was a shallow pool under the scruffy cottonwoods. The flock of swallows was busily feeding, and it could be my final flock here this year.

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Sep 19, 2021
12 species

Killdeer  3
Red-tailed Hawk  2
California Scrub-Jay  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Violet-green Swallow  4
Barn Swallow  30

Bushtit  15
European Starling  3
American Robin  1
American Goldfinch  1
Song Sparrow  4
Spotted Towhee  1

Posted by: atowhee | September 19, 2021


Dick Ashford got this picture in Ashland where he and the Wstern Screech-Owl both live. These guys do not migrate.

I did see migrants today–a few Barn Swallows and a single Turkey Vulture. Any day now I will get my final look at those species in Salem…for this year.

There are several lakes in southeast Salem which may explain why I was watching a V-formation of white-fronted geese flying NORTH about 930AM. Maybe they were looking for a parking place.

Over our garden:

Posted by: atowhee | September 19, 2021


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