Posted by: atowhee | April 8, 2021


Today the dog took me to Fairview Wetlands for her morning excursion. It was the liveliest scene I’ve ever encountered there. Swallows criss-crossing just above the water and the budding spirea. Higher up, more swallows were like flying commas upon a huge sheet of blue paper. There were four species among the swallows. The flock was mostly violet-greens but I managed to pick out one each of–barn, tree and northern rough-winged. Barn and rough-winged were first of the year species. Elusive? Some of the violet-greens would fly low just over my head, or Nora’s. But they passed at top speed; there was no hope of getting a picture. Food was their focus. I did not see a single one perched anywhere–motion in all directions, at every moment. They have been clocked in traveling flight ay 28 miles per hour.

There is an estimated VGS population of 7 million, sadly decreasing over recent decades.

New for the location today was a single Pied-billed Grebe. I have been wondering why I had not seen one there before, or heard one? Perhaps the shallow water made it an unattractive place? How fast the water dries up may determine if a pair tries to nest there.

Today the land bird species far exceeded the waterfowl. Many of those will be departing soon. I expect only Canada Geese and Mallards around this summer, and maybe a pair of Gadwall.
WINTERING WATERFOWL–The coots, GWE Teal and snipe were all at the wetlands by early October. By late October the shovelers, wigeon (who didn’t stay long) and pintails had arrived. In November the Gadwall, ring-necks and Bufflehead showed up.

For the first time at Fairview Ms RBW was blatantly present, usually much less demonstrative than the effusive male Red-winged Blackbirds who’ve been shouting and touting for weeks now. Song Sparrows were singing there today.

Yes, the invasive American bullfrog, seen for the first time this year. Soon I exect to hear their baritone calls around the marsh. Then: G. Yellowlegs, male GW Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Shoveler pair and when they return in the fall the male will be in his drab eclipse plumage sans the bright crimson, then a series of skirmishes between two pairs of Canada Geese (i noted none of the females were on nests while I was there), camas in bloom. current in bloom.

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Apr 8, 2021
28 species

Cackling Goose  30
Canada Goose  4
Northern Shoveler  25
Gadwall  12
Mallard  30
Northern Pintail  2
Green-winged Teal  60
Ring-necked Duck  4
Bufflehead  12
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
American Coot  24
Killdeer  3
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  1
Violet-green Swallow  60
Barn Swallow  1
Bushtit  2
European Starling  X
American Robin  5
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  6
Red-winged Blackbird  15

Posted by: atowhee | April 7, 2021


There are still dozens of siskins in our Salem garden, but today I saw just a single junco. An adult male. He might find a place nearby to nest. Juncos first appeared as a flock at the start of October. In mid-winter we had as many as sixty at a time. They’ll be back in a crowd after a summer of making more juncos. I hope they’re successful. The siskins came in late October and have been here ever since. One day I will look out on a very quiet, empty-feeling garden. Whether we get siskins again next year…? The Bewick’s Wrens will be relieved I suspect, and the Bushtits.

At Bush’s Pasture Park this afternoon I saw an Orange-crowned Warbler, also a coup0le of White-crowned Sparrows. Here in our garden we have one hanging around.

My “junco jay” with that jazzy white-striped tail is here for the summer and may be mating and rearing young soon. Perhaps there’ll be a whole set of white-striped tails by August?

Posted by: atowhee | April 6, 2021


Rob Schulman and I birded Grand Island in Yamhill County for a little over two hours this morning. In perfect weather we got to see two new species for the year–a flock of Cliff Swallows at the bridge onto the island, three Osprey. Two of the Osprey were on nest atop platform erected especially for them. The swallows annually nest under that bridge though it is too early for mud gathering. We drove past the Keiser Farm’s old barn where the cliffies also nest and not a single bird was there…yet.

The White-crowned Sparrows looked sharp and prim in their fresh feathers; the Golden-crowns are still molting and a little scruffy-looking.

Sunday at Boiler Bay my wife and I saw Pigeon Guillemot offshore, returning for spring nesting. Pacific and Red-throated Loons were heading north as well. No whales seen in the gale-force wind and choppy white-caps.

Flat-headed gulls with dark gray mantles are Westerns. In multi-gull shot the pale one in middle is young Glaucous-winged and the round-headed, dark mantled gull in grass in second row seems to be a California. Shot showing the use of picnic tables by the natives includes adult Glaucous-wing in front.

Great Blue and Green-winged Teal:


Grand Island, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 6, 2021
34 species

Mallard  2
Ring-necked Duck  6
Common Merganser  2
Mourning Dove  1
Killdeer  1
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  5
Osprey  3–FOY
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Great Horned Owl  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  2
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  6
American Kestrel  1
Steller’s Jay  2
California Scrub-Jay  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Tree Swallow  2
Violet-green Swallow  2
Cliff Swallow  50–FOY
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  30
Purple Finch  1
Dark-eyed Junco  1
White-crowned Sparrow  20
Golden-crowned Sparrow  40
Song Sparrow  8
Spotted Towhee  3
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | April 3, 2021


You can click here to see the youtube video of a Great Gray Owl hunting a meadow in the Cascades of Jackson County, OR. Turn up the audio…there are geese and coyotes sounding off in the same area. The owl comes up with a morsel and swallows it whole, head-first, as is protocol for the species’ adults. In the next few weeks mated pairs will begin laying eggs if the food supply is sufficient to support reproduction this year.

Video is by good friend and great owler, Lee French, of Ashland. I now know that the best thing about writing a book on this species is that I have helped find good friends for both the birds, and myself. The Great Gray Owls are certainly the core of a karass.

Posted by: atowhee | April 3, 2021


We had our first (seen) Orange-crowned Warbler of the season in our garden this morning. Likely an overnight arrival. The orange-crowns generally precede warbler species that winter further south (Hemit, MacGullivray). I also suspect the Orange-crowned Warbler, like the Tree Swallow, Turkey Vulture, Black Phoebe and others is adjusting its wintering range northward. THat means less time in the air each spring and fall, reduced travel stress. I checked the historic records for the San Francisco Christmas Bird Count. For the years 1960-1-2, the ORWA count was O, 5 and 4. For the CBCs of 2016-7-8-9 the counts have been 45, 42, 38, 29. I doubt that is simply due to more and better birders on contemporary counts, thought that is certainly true. After 1962 the SF count went dormant for a few years and later was revived. Now there are well over 100 counters every year.

A similar comparison for Pt. Reyes CBC: OCWA for 1970,1, 2, 3 was 12, 4, 6, 14. Then for 2016, 7, 9 (don’t know why there was no data for 2018): 34, 33, 13. Clearly 2019 was down year for OCWA in North Bay Area. But an increase over forty years is discernible.

One OBOl correspondent says he’s had OCWA at his feeders this winter. There are multiple reports of OCWA sightings in western Oregon this month, The orange wave is moving northward.

Here in Salem there was still a White-crowned Sparrow in our garden as well. The flicker was trying out various drums, including one metal squirrel guard. The siskins were almost constantly in song. The crows are fussing about as if one family was going to nest in our conifers.


SISKINS’ GOLD–The siskins’s wings have much more yellow tint now than last fall. The most yellow appears on the wings of the male adults, I suspect. Some morning soon I will awaken as usual, but there will be a gaping vacancy. I may not sense it at first , but as the morning wears on and a couple of juncos, then the Sing Sparrow, maybe a Bewick’s all pass before the window, my brain will suddenly recognize the season is over, the siskin flock has gone back into the mountains. The vacancy will last all summer, and may not be filled for years as these guys are not predictable outside breeding season.


GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, at Fairview. I took his picture because any day the GCs will be gone, like the siskins–back to the mountain forests. They are molting now and the crown looks a little scuzzy.

MOMS ON EGGS, Fairview. One on an island, the other in the mesh cage…and she looks at me, “Who you starin’ at there. bub?”


FAWN-LILIES AT DEEPWOOD–The never willingly face you, always looking down and away.

The only butterflies I have seen so far are cabbage whites.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Apr 3, 2021
17 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bushtit  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
House Sparrow  X
Pine Siskin  60
American Goldfinch  1
Dark-eyed Junco  X
White-crowned Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  1     first sighting of the year
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Fairview Wetlands
Apr 3, 2021
24 species

Cackling Goose  150
Canada Goose  3     females in nests
Northern Shoveler  50
Gadwall  12
Mallard  40
Northern Pintail  8
Green-winged Teal  75
Ring-necked Duck  4
Bufflehead  15
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
American Coot  35     high count for this year so far
Killdeer  3
Turkey Vulture  2
Cooper’s Hawk  1
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  3
European Starling  X
American Robin  3
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Golden-crowned Sparrow  8
Song Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  2
Red-winged Blackbird  16
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Posted by: atowhee | April 2, 2021


A pair of Chipping Sparrows were at our sunflower seeds on the ground this morning, first for the year and first in our garden so far…they were soon gone as this is NOT their habitat, they probably dropped in after a night of flying northward. Another White-crowned was here, another lost soul, and a Fox Sparrow seen yesterday, first here since late September…another clear calm night ahead so may get some new guests tomorrow.

Yesterday there was a single Greater Yellowlegs at Fairview Wetlands. In dozens of visits starting last fall this was a first sighting. Suspect the bird may have been on migration as well. He left the marsh and flew east even before I left. He is i this picture, washing…to the left of the two Killdeer who will likely nest somewhere near there. Lots of empty parking lots to choose from, and flat roofs.

Some of the hundreds of Cacklers around Fairview, about 5% of them had some visible white necklace:

He just looks like he’s one-legged.

Three of the raised nesting baskets were in use by Canada Geese, as intended:

Posted by: atowhee | April 2, 2021


I once heard some South Texas birders go gah-gah over a stray Black Phoebe along the Rio Grande–never mind the Altamira Oriole or Chachalaca or those field strollers, the caracara. I once off-handedly mentioned seeing a Lesser Scaup at a lake in northern Scotland and the local went nuts…it was just an ordinary bird to me, for them it was the first-ever county record! I laughed aloud when I heard some British birders plotting their trip to Ireland to pick up a vagrant AMERICAN Robin one winter.

Well, eat our hearts out, Oregonians. Brandon Breen sent me these shots of his parents’ feeders in Traverse City, Michigan–redpolls:

Brandon lived several years here in Oregon and knows the bird-envy this arouses. I last spoke to him on the phone as he watched a cardinal out the window….but, remember, those Michiganders are never likely to see a Varied Thrush or Steller’s Jay and will never see a Lesser Goldfinch, impoverished finch-wise as they are, stuck with only the American Goldfinch.

Posted by: atowhee | March 31, 2021


Posted by: atowhee | March 31, 2021


Clearly not all invasive species are alike. I personally prefer henbit over starthistle or even French broom. Many westerners in the U.S. would rather see a couple more collared-doves than a gang of starlings. In Europe they exterminated our American native, the Ruddy Duck, because it was destroying the nests of their native ducks and endangered their already scarce White-headed Duck. Yet in Merrie Olde these days the Mandarin is breeding rampantly, inhabiting ponds in many London parks. Beauty can get you by in many cases.
My old college chum and inveterate walker, Yani Sinanaglou and his wife recently saw this handsome pair in Battersea Park:

Obviously: male on left, female on right. Cousins to our Wood Duck. Mandarins native to Asia, now feral in parts of Europe. Other feral species there are the Egyptian Goose, and Rose-ringed Parakeets which can be found in several cities including London and Amsterdam. Europe, like North America, has been quietly invaded and populated by collared-doves, from South Asia originally.

Yani and his wife see a lot of London’s urban wildlife, they either walk or bike much of the time, owning no auto and most public transit being a bit iffy during the pandemic.

The mandarin has not been identified as any kind of environmental problem so far. They do not use ponds frequented by the local natives. For more click here. It is estimated there may be 8000 now wild in England where they were originally imported for estate wildfowl collections, a common thing un parks and wealthy estates across the U.K.

Posted by: atowhee | March 30, 2021


Karl Schneck is a friend, birder, and bird-lover who lives in the countryside near Ashland. His place has out-buildings. Those buildings have residents. Here are his own words: “I’ve been doing daily checks on the Barn Owls around my house. They are often in either of the barns or in an ivy-filled tree near a nest box. I had 3 BAOW inside the shop building a couple of days ago and a single owl in one of the barns or the tree on most days. I had to choose between poop and pellets in the shop or blocking their entrance… of course, I went with the poop and pellets to keep the BAOWs around. Photo [of the] BAOW roosting in the tree today.”

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