Posted by: atowhee | December 2, 2021


Fear seems to be one of the world’s omnipresent and strongest emotions. It gets carried, even carried away without vanishing. Fear of change, fear of “the other” or “the enemy.” Fear of dying. Fear of flying, fear of falling, fear of failing. Among our species–you might be a refugee, or a blogger who angered your country’s dictator, or a woman facing patriarchy or Taliban. In the U.S. you could be a public election official or school board member, a kid in some school without metal detectors, anybody whose car’s pulled over by police, an airline flight attendant telling some guy he needs to wear a mask on the plane. Well, today fear was found among the feathered.

For long periods of time there were no birds at our feeders. No juncos on the ground, no siskins in the hanging trays. Mid-day my wife went outside to get in the car and saw the Cooper’s Hawk flying away.
In the afternoon at Fairview Wetlands fear was literally in the air. I first heard, then watched, hundreds of anxious, frightened Cacklers in the air. Shortly after they appeared overhead so did an adult Bald Eagle. He or his cousin likely started the cackling cacophony.
At the marsh itself my mere presence terrified the Green-winged Teal who are hunted nearly everywhere, also the Gadwalls. Only the un-hunted coots maintain cool when humans appear.

I appeared to the teal frmo behind a pond-side bush and dozens flew off, making their squeaky fear whistles. They did not rise and fly far as the geese must. Thes small ducks just needed to get into the reeds and brush in case I pulled out my shotgun. Below you see a female Gadwall panic, which triggers a nearby teal. Male Gadwall remains non-chalant. In third frame a second teal enters stage right, also in fright flight.
Posted by: atowhee | December 2, 2021


There is no closing chapter to the climate change story. It will go on as long as the Earth does. Bu t this on us on us, and we’re on it (the Earth).

Here in Salem we have 5.5 inches of rain last month–just above average. To the south the tale is woeful. The California State Water Project just announced its allotments to water districts–zero. Click here. Lake Shasta is 900 feet (!) below full level right now. Click here to see the Shasta chart and drought maps of California and the US. Click here for the Lake Oroville website.

Meanwhile there’s unhappy news from the Atlatic Coast–climate change is not good to seabirds.

Speaking of East Coast–let’s not forget the Bandon area–climate may be coming for the cranberry bogs. Could this our last T-day with cranberry sauce?

Posted by: atowhee | December 2, 2021


There was a temporary crash in corvid populations when West Nile virus spread across North American nearly two decades ago. In was an avian epidemic. I remember one couple of birders I was guiding around 2008 near Ashland–they had me pull over so they could photograph a crow in a barn yard. In their suburban area of Chicago all the crows had died. Bet there are plenty now that the genetic pool is more West Nile resistant.

The crows are abundant here in Salem and nearby Portland. They are getting some public attention in the Bay Area now as they gather in huge winter roosts–click here.

It is a corvid recovery story worth noting. Earlier generations of American men looked on jays, crows, ravens as vermin. Like hawks they were shot on site. In Golden Gate Park there was a hired hunter into the 1960s whose job was to shoot all vermin–corvids, Red-shouldered Hawks, rats. And he did. When I wrote a piece on the first 100 years of Christmas Bird Counts in 1999 (it’s in Golden Gate Audubon’s Gull of November, 1999) I found the pre-WW2 counts found zero crows! In 1927 Joseph Grinnell wrote about Bay Area bird species and said that crows had been persecuted into oblivion. As late as the 1940s Grinnell presumed that ravens were gone except for rumors of survival on the remote Sonoma Coast. Both species were regularly shot on sight in those days.

The Salem Christmas Count in December 18–wanna come along?

Posted by: atowhee | November 30, 2021


Our best sighting today was a Peregrine chasing a crow while we watched from the Sturgeon Lake overlook. There were plenty of ducks and cranes there and what I took to be a handful of Trumpeters.


Sauvie Island (Multnomah Co.), Multnomah, Oregon, US
Nov 30, 2021. 36 species

Cackling Goose  2000
Canada Goose  X
Trumpeter Swan  8     Sturgeon Lake
American Wigeon  X
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  X
Mourning Dove  2
Sandhill Crane  500
Dunlin  40
Ring-billed Gull  X
Glaucous-winged Gull  1
Double-crested Cormorant  8
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  6
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  2
Red-tailed Hawk  5
Red-breasted Sapsucker  2
Northern Flicker  1
Peregrine 1–at Sturgeon Lake overlook
American Kestrel  11
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  3
American Crow  2–one chased by Peregrine!
Common Raven  6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
Purple Finch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird 200

Sauvie Island–Multnomah Channel (Columbia Co.), Columbia, Oregon, US
Nov 30, 2021. 17 species

Cackling Goose  X
Northern Shoveler  X
American Wigeon  X
Mallard  X
Common Merganser  X
Sandhill Crane  X
Ring-billed Gull  X
Double-crested Cormorant  18
Great Blue Heron  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
American Kestrel  4
California Scrub-Jay  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Spotted Towhee  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | November 26, 2021


[BTW, I am leading a team in Sector 1 of the Salem Christmas Bird Count…Dec. 18…would welcome a couple volunteers. Aslo doing the McMinnville count on the 28th. Interested?]

There are many words that go well with finch in America. Grass and gold. Tree and brown. Gregarious. Seed eater, not seedy. Insistent. Persistent. Flighty. Yet perhaps the best finch word is not a noun, nor an adjective. Try this verb: gather.

If you enlarge any of the above images you will note the notched tail…all our wintering finches show that except for the House Finch. Speaking of which:

Click here to read about FEMALE bird song discoveries.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Nov 26, 2021. 15 species

Cackling Goose  X
Mourning Dove  1
Steller’s Jay  X
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  X
Bushtit  20
House Finch  1
Pine Siskin  50
American Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  40
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1

Posted by: atowhee | November 26, 2021


There are several plants in bloom around Salem even in late November.  There’s dandelion and his compository cousins, cyclamen, some bare branched magnolia, hydrangea that have clung to clusters for many weeks now, a few roses, asters, Queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, a hardy group of violets here and there, English daisies, even a stubborn begonia.  And this plant that didn’t even put out leaves until the rains began, and now it’s blooming and it continued to bloom all last winter.  There must be hardy tubers underground.  The leaves resemble foxglove but the plants are less vertically inclined, none over two feet high yet. Five-petal flowers less than a half-inch across,  The leaves bristling with fine, flexible hairs.  Many leaves have multiple perforations so the plant is not highly toxic to some herbivore(s).

Posted by: atowhee | November 26, 2021


The young terns are still getting food from parents…think how hard it would be to learn to catch tiny fish beneath the surface with the light glare and bent refraction!  That’s why I find Osprey to be the most amazing hunters…they have only eyes to help, and the light reflected from the water is ALWAYS LYING. Further images from Oceanside in San Diego County:

Brown Pelicans and Marbled Godwits at sunset. Though I thin the shorter beaked birds in the upper ight are likely Willets who often mix with godwits at the beach.

Click here for information on Vesper Meadow, a private conservation effort that is restoring mountain meadows and forest in the southern Cascades. The owl seems to approve. The meadow is named for the Vesper Sparrow which breeds there, at the very far western edge of its range in southern Oregon. It is hoped this preservation and restoration program will aid the great little singer in its battle to survive.

They do not breed in Ashland but you can click here to see more pics I got of this one in town as he was returning from a winter vacation to the south.

Posted by: atowhee | November 25, 2021


Posted by: atowhee | November 25, 2021


Click here for soap opera in real-life, Peregrine style.

To read about one of the world’s most impressive and ungainly birds, click here. It was the presence of the Shoebill that flew my wife and I to Uganda for a birding trip. Oh wow!
In the Mabamba Swamp:

We did see a few other birds in Uganda, over 300 species…

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