Posted by: atowhee | April 5, 2020


At Joe Dancer Park this morning a House Finch was singing, then another came into his tree to give chase.
In our garden a Bewick’s Wren was continually singing as the sun shone this afternoon.
Our warbler population is in flux.  Last year we had one wintering Audubon’s.  Then in January a handful of myrtles showed up, and stayed, out-numbering their yellow-throated cousin about six to one.  Then in mid-March a northbound flock of Audubon’s arrived and there may have been a one or two day high of 20, far more than the lingering myrtles.  That Audubon crowd has moved on and now at least a dozen myrtles are buzzing about, covering the suet logs like over-stuffed Bushtits.
Speaking of Bushtits, there are often only pairs now.  Flocks have gotten smaller and less dominant.  Time for those elongated tear-drop shaped grass bags, and then the tiniest of songbird eggs and then rustling about of the nestlings that make the sacs vibrate…all in the interest of more and more Bushtits. It takes them less than a month to go from first egg to fledglings. Such is miniaturization in bird-world.

I still see flocks of Cackling Geese about.  They’ll be leaving soon.

Cozine Creek forest, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 5, 2020
Checklist Comments:     saw one Townsend’s chipmunk;  numerous flying insects; cherries in bloom
13 species

Cackling Goose  50     near pond west of Old Sheridan Road
Turkey Vulture
Eurasian Collared-Dove  X     heard from nearby housing
Northern Flicker  3
Steller’s Jay  5
California Scrub-Jay  1
Bushtit  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Pacific Wren  2
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  2
American Robin  7

Posted by: atowhee | April 4, 2020


GLewis-Ducks_CrossWalk_Ashland_3_hiGLewis-Ducks_CrossWalk_Ashland_2_hiGLewis_Ducks_CrossWalk_Ashland_hiThese ducks are part of the population that lives in Lithia Park and along Ashland Creek in Ashland, Oregon.  They know how best to get from A to B, something our fellow hominids seem incapable of doing…sometimes.

The photos were taken by a friend who in normal times works for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce which is now shut down like so much of normal life.  In Ashland schools from kindergarten to university are closed down.  The Shakespeare Festival is shut, hoping to re-open in September.  Most business shut as well.

So why go to Ashland if that is still possible?  For the civil wildlife and great birding.  Great Gray Owls, Mountain Bluebirds and Quail (with much luck), White-headed Woodpeckers, nesting cranes,  Dusky and Hammond’s Flycatchers, California Towhee and Thrasher (again), Great-tailed Grackle, White-tailed Kite, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Vesper Sparrow, Williamson’s Sapsucker…and convenient access to the avian riches of the Klamath Basin where large grebes dance on the water in May.  Should you go and safes are closed, excellent delis can be found at Market of Choice and the Ashland Co-Op

Posted by: atowhee | April 4, 2020


Birds are pairing, birds are leaving, birds are arriving.  Airplanes may be mostly empty, the skies are busy.  Today my wife and I were driving around to see green–two different places we saw Tree Swallow flocks in motion.  At Wennerberg Purple Finches sang from the treetops, unseen.  Yesterday we watched a lone Turkey Vulture circle and prepare to land among his kind on a roost tree…that was on ridge half mile south of 17906 Baker Creek Road west of McMinnville.  April 1 I saw three Band-tails fly over Joe Dancer, first sighting for the year. ONe day this week we saw a flock of crows in a hazelnut orchard–looked at my wife and said “Corvid 19”.  House Finches sitting together on a power line.  Molting feathers, or shiny new spring outfits–depends on the species.

In the middle is a Hermit Thrush photo–this one actually flew out of the woods and perched in this tree in the open!  In the last photo is this set…chickadee and Bustit ponder a bath on a rainy day.

ah about (2)We have a pair of Bewick’s parked in our yard.  One sings.  Here one moves through a hydrangea in hyd (2)Our tiny finches persist…can we agree to call them “persiskins”/sistwos (2)Five TVs atop a doug-fir.t v atop (2)

Posted by: atowhee | April 4, 2020


A birding doctor gets reward for his patience–photo of rare, small kingfisher.

Posted by: atowhee | April 2, 2020



“Yesterday I read Migration of Birds;
The Golden Plover and the Arctic Tern.
Today the big abstraction’s at our door
For juncoes and the robins all have left…
And in this hazy day
Of April summer heat
Across the hill the seabirds
Chase spring north along the coast:
Nesting in Alaska
In six weeks.”                          –Gary Snyder

Our April north of Snyder’s California home has no summer heat, and our juncoes and robins linger but the season is all around us.

Is it snide in this time of viral concern to speak of spring “fever”?  I can’t help myself. In other species fever is a way to describe heightened extremes of behavior. Though the air stays chill and uncomfortable plants and animals, besides our species, seem energetic and brimming with vitality.  Starlings nest-building.  Red-tails soaring in cozy couples.  Flickers perched side-by-side in a tall tree, day after day.  Bewick’s Wren singing in the rain, in our garden.  A Black-capped Chickadee bathing between a rain squall and a brief, pelting hail.  A cottonwood showing the eagerness of its kind, already leafed out, bold green against the blue sky and white clouds pretending to be harmless.  Meanwhile the sedate, patient oaks wait for true warmth before they even admit to believe in the new season, much less bud and leaf.  Two male Anna’s Hummingbirds on sentinel duty on opposite sides of the Joe Dancer wetlands.

Right now the true fever pitch of spring can be seen in the behavior of some male animals.  Unlike certain people from politicians to CEOs to generals, the testosterone-driven behavior in most animals reaches its peak in this season in the Northern Hemisphere. It will ebb in most species so they can get back to parenting or simply finding enough food.  Today I watched two male robins at Joe Dancer Park.  They were repeatedly engaged in aerial combat.  A third robin was nearby, the female whose presence was their inspiration for violence.  Thrush version of a fight about which guy gets to flirt with the waitress.

The two dueling male robins would face one another on the ground, usually within two feet of one another. One would take off and the other would then rise and the battle begin.  Here we see the observing robin to the left, the duelers on the far right:a (2)bHere is a series of landings and aerial skirmishes, all at the wetland in Joe Dancer Park:


Female flicker flies in to join “her” male.  Hermit Thrush flies into open areas of the Dancer wetlands to feed.  An Acorn Woodpecker flew onto a pole right above my head and posed in the evening sunlight–the glow doth show. Male kestrfel hunting from electric wire:


Posted by: atowhee | April 1, 2020


Not for people….just for the birds.  In Peru CV lockdown means no hominids on the beach, lotsa gulls.  Click here for story with pics before and after lockdown.

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.

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