Posted by: atowhee | July 7, 2020


We had a Klamath Bird Observatory sponsored birding trip on Monday.  We birded the Howard Prairie area in the Cascades above Ashland.  Social distancing, no shared scope, birding in the covid era.  Here are some pictures captured by Kirk Gooding on the trip:

Cranes were along Dead Indian Memorial Road (can this name survive much longer?) east of Lily Glen.  The bunting and towhee were along Keno Access Road.

My favorite sighting of the day: young Hermit Warbler, soaking wet from bathing in small spring-fed stream, flitting about in trees along Keno Access Road, at and below eye level, not atop some towering conifer.  These birds are normally high in the canopy.  The small stream formed a bathing pool as it dropped out of a culvert beneath the road and there were numerous birds there, many bathing, including one wet junco whose feathers spiked out around his head and throat as he dried in the sunny, arid air.  Further downstream the little trickle of water was adorned by numerous species of butterfly.

Keno Access Road, Jackson, Oregon, US

Jul 6, 2020
22 species

Rufous Hummingbird  X
Turkey Vulture  X
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
Common Raven  X
Mountain Chickadee  X
Tree Swallow  X
Barn Swallow  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Wren  X
Hermit Thrush  X
American Robin  X
Chipping Sparrow  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Song Sparrow  X
Green-tailed Towhee  3
Common Yellowthroat  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  X
Hermit Warbler  2
Western Tanager  1
Lazuli Bunting  X

Jul 6, 2020
12 species

Rufous Hummingbird  2
Sandhill Crane  3
Great Gray Owl  1–this bird I saw on my own before the field trip, sadly
Northern Flicker  1     feeding nestlings
Mountain Chickadee  X
American Robin  X
Purple Finch  1
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Song Sparrow  X
Common Yellowthroat  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  X
Lazuli Bunting  X

Howard Prairie, Jackson, Oregon, US
Jul 6, 2020 –these birds I saw by myself before the field trip began
13 species

Turkey Vulture  X
Steller’s Jay  X
Tree Swallow  X
Barn Swallow  X
Cliff Swallow  X
Brown Creeper  1
Pine Siskin  X
Chipping Sparrow  X
Lark Sparrow  1
Vesper Sparrow  X
Western Meadowlark  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  X

Hyatt Reservoir, Jackson, Oregon, US
Jul 6, 2020 –these birds I saw by myself before the field trip began.
12 species

Canada Goose  X
Spotted Sandpiper  X
Double-crested Cormorant  1
American White Pelican  X
Osprey  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
White-headed Woodpecker  1     feeding nestlings at wildlife  viewing pull-out
Northern Flicker  1
Tree Swallow  X
House Wren  2
American Robin  X
Western Tanager  1

Posted by: atowhee | July 5, 2020


The Coopers–mom, dad and the four kids. Visible are the off-spring.  Mom and dad having to commute several times daily to hunting spots.  No small bird with even the tiniest brain would be found anywhere near this nest and its pleading occupants. The parents don’t have to save for college but they have to cater lots of meals for hungry teens.  This will mean hard times for local sparrows, finches and mice.  My college classmate, Marc Reigel, a life-long Minnesotan sent these images from a secret viewing spot in the Twin Cities.

Ever reflect on how many young birds are white or pale yellow when in the nest?  Canada Geese, White Storks (duh), many ducklings, chickens, many owls, Peregrines, Prairie Falcons, these guys…
Speaking of Peregrine, here’s a National Park Service image from Pinnacles, in California: CT-9-PRFA-nestlings-1E

Posted by: atowhee | July 5, 2020


My wife and I made a late afternoon visit to the the meadows and woods along Old Hyatt Meadow Road. A highlight in the warm months is always a stop at the dam for Little Hyatt Reservoir where often one or more dippers can be seen.  Here’s the swimmer we saw out in swift-flowing Keene Creek, below the dam:


On the Fourth there were several families around the gem-like setting of Little Hyatt, but the beauty, serenity, overseeing majesty of Cascade shoulders, the lush green, the silent conifers rising above–a setting for somebody’s next greeting card or movie about the Pacific XCrest Trail that passes just below the reservoir dam.

The shrub coloring the roadside above the lake is none other than our native Rosa canina, dog rose to you and me.  Many of the blooming plants right now in the Cascades are invasive weeds as most o four native plants have evolved to bloom earlier before the dry season begins.  The calypso orchid, most buckwheats, the Oregon grape are long done with the flowering part of their annual cycle.

Posted by: atowhee | July 5, 2020


puma in carolinaMy life-long friend, Mike Lund, sent me this picture from North Carolina…a village of Purple Martins, North America’s largest swallow.  They are not often cruising above the lawn behind a lawn mower like Barn Swallows like to do.  These bigger aerial hunters often feed over 150 feet in the air.  A single adult martin can catch up to 2000 mosquitoes in a single day, if the supply if sufficient.  Here in the west they are generally found near water as there just aren’t enough mossies and other flying insects out in the dry lands.  Our martins do not appear in areas where they would have to compete with Black Terns and Franklin’s Gulls.

Posted by: atowhee | July 4, 2020


We are staying here in the Cascades so our venerable dog won’t have to suffer fireworks explosions. Because of high fire danger fireworks are not allowed here in the national monument in southern Jackson County. The birds hereabouts are a welcomed set of neighbors.

Expected but exceptional, the Macgillivray’s skulking in the willows and underbrush:

Green Springs Inn, Jackson, Oregon, US
Jul 4, 2020
16 species

Rufous Hummingbird  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Hairy Woodpecker 4–family group
Wood-pewee   1
Steller’s Jay  2
Common Raven  3
Mountain Chickadee  3–family group
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
House Wren  1
Hermit Thrush  4–singing
American Robin  8
Purle Finch  x –singing
Dark-eyed Junco  9
MacGillivray’s Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Western Tanager  2–singing

Posted by: atowhee | July 4, 2020


These two photos were shared with me by Tom Kuhn, birder and neighbor back when we lived in Sutro Heights.  That is where he found this bird, in the park above the Cliff House:

Posted by: atowhee | July 2, 2020


Here are some real photos by Graham Lewis, a real photographer.  They were taken during a recent stay at Fish Lake in the southern Cascades:

Posted by: atowhee | July 1, 2020


Our Bushtits are reforming the flocks that are prevalent in late summer through late winter, before they pair off for spring breeding.  This is art of a 15-member flock (maybe more) that poured through our garden this week:bt regrouped (2)Pewee I saw recently at Wennerberg Park, Carlton:pw at w

Posted by: atowhee | June 30, 2020


On our Malheur Field Station birding trip in mid-June we glimpsed brief flashes of flying Sage Thrasher, time and again.   Not one would post or pose when a camera was around.  Only a couple times we heard one sing, far away in the sagebrush, unseen. The final day on our way west, Albert Ryckman and I pulled into Chickahominy.  There on the entrance sign was our singing Sage Thrasher. He sang from the right end of the sign, then moved down and sang from the left end.  In the passenger side nearest the sign I shot some images without moving toward the open window.  The songster was fifteen feet away.  He flew off to the fence, came back, turned his back and continued to sing.   By now Albert was out of the car, getting good shots…of back and shoulder and nape of neck.  The loud, complex melodies poured forth. Please, Albert, pleaded look at me, give me your best angle. The thrasher sang on, thrashing through his repertoire, trashing Albert’s hopes of a frontal shot.

Albert said he suspected the bird was being  by the song, a rep of the Harney Chamber of Commerce.  He was still singing as an exasperated, musically battered Albert got back in the car and we went off to consort with more compliant Horned Larks and phalarope.  Sitting in the window seat, getting a free ride, I kept my smugness to myself.  Patience is a crucial virtue in nature photography, but luck often brings an unearned dividend.

Dr. Donald Kroodsma is a master student of avian song.  His books thereon are rightfully respected as classic though no one work could ever be definitive, because song birds keep inventing.  Kroodsma did grad work at Oregon State. He heard his first Sage Thrasher at Cabin Lake, Oregon, in 1969.  Yet it was over thirty years later that he finally got to record a singing male:
He swoops into the sage next to me and then out again, bounding from sage to sky as he circles his territory, constantly singing.  Constantly, as in never ceasing…he continues that way for the hour and a half that I chose to strand and absorb it all.

What I hear is hard to believe…I listen to the tape again in the afternoon, dumbfounded at all this bird can do [remember Kroodsma now has three decades of bird song study in his past]… Ninety minutes isn’t enough, so back I go the next morning, now awakened at 2:30 A.M…. Entranced for two full  hours, I track him from sage to sage as he works his territory… That afternoon I listen to the morning’s tapes for two full hours, immersing myself in his revelry… [Next day Kroodsma does four hours, obsesssion is a requirement for this kind of field work, and tracks the many imitations, from Sora to nighthawk to meadowlark]

Kroodsma finally concludes that this thrasher has over 700 distinct song units that he can string together in myriad chains of music. Quotes are from his book, The Singing Life of Birds.


It seems nature is being relentless, as always.  A virus that kills rabbits–domestic or wild–is being reported across the western U.S.

This piece in Science describes how the virus kills and confirms its presence in New Mexico as early as 2018.  

The virus was confirmed in Arizona just over two months ago.
Here’s a second piece on the southwestern spread, with advice to rabbit pet owners on how to keep it out of your home.

This past week a second case was confirmed in Nevada.  One nickname is now, sadly, rabbit ebola.

This report from earlier this month is on the disease killing bunnies in Colorado.

There’s an article in the new New Yorker [July 6 issue] by Susan Orlean.  You can’t access without a subscription so no link.  It’s entitled “Rabbit Outbreak.”  It describes cases in the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound area of Washington State dating to 2019.  Here is article from last summer when the virus cancelled the rabbit show up there.

One week later the island newspaper ran article confirming the virus was killing feral, not just domestic, rabbits.

Rabbit people in the Midwest are rightfully concerned.  The Missouri State Fair cancelled its rabbit show for this year.  Rabbit shows in the western U.S. are being cancelled as well.

Here is link to article in veterinarian journal which includes map of where the virus has been confirmed in the southwestern US, so far.  This puts you ahead of the curve, publication date is July 15!rhdv2 map

So far, I’ve found no evidence that the disease has struck in Oregon.  A spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Agriculture told me there had been no confirmed cases in the state.

Nuttall’s Cottontail at Malheur Field Station.  Live long and prosper, my furry little friend:nut-cot-mfs (2)

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