Posted by: atowhee | September 25, 2022

BANDING ALONG THE WILLAMETTE

First three images: Bewick’s Wren; we saw two individuals up close. Next: first year male Common Yellowthroat. Fox Sparrow, two images; this bird’s overall size, large beak, and dark colors indicated it was likely from a breeding area around Kodiak Island in Alaska. Hermit Thrush and open wing. Steller’s Jay. Song Sparrow. Juvie White-crowned Sparrow–all six netted while we were there were first-year birds. Turkey Vulture. Domestic ducks on the nearby river.

Twenty-four birds were netted while we were there at the banding station along the Willamette River. White-crowned Sparrows led as one migratory flock headed into a single net–7. Next were Song Sparrows–6; some variation in plumage so likely not all local birds. Others: Bewick’s Wren 2; Hermit Thrush 1; Swainson’s Thrush 2; Lincoln’s Sparrow 1; Fox Sparrow (my first of the season in Willamette Valley) 2–no Fox Sparrows nest on Pacific Slope nearer than Olympic Peninsula; single Common Yellowthroat. Big surprise, as in largest bird of the day–Steller’s Jay.

At this range and at a banding station, you come face to face with the tiny size of most songbirds. Twenty-eight grams is an ounce (mailed for single first class stamp). Some comparative weights today: Bewick’s Wren 10-11 grams; Hermit Thrush 23; Swainson’s Thrush, around 40 grams; Song Sparrow 22, plus or minus; today’s Steller performer weighed in at 127.4 grams. And that bird definitely does not have to migrate. There was plenty of fruit in evidence: snowberries, blackberries, red-osier dogwood fruit. The white-crowns were out feeding in the weeds and grasses of the open field.

Absolutely insect-of-the-day:

Sep 25, 2022 7:45 AM – 11:00 AM
18 species

Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Belted Kingfisher  X
Northern Flicker  X
American Kestrel  1
Steller’s Jay  5
Black-capped Chickadee  6
Bewick’s Wren  2
Swainson’s Thrush  2
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  6
Fox Sparrow  2
White-crowned Sparrow  13     seven banded
Song Sparrow  7     six banded
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  2
Common Yellowthroat  1

This qualifies as the worst parking job I’ve seen this year. Car onto hazelnut saplings about fifty feet from edge of the road.

NPR anchor issues homage to earthworms–click here.
Has an “extinct” crop plant been resurrected? Rediscovered? Click here. Siphion.

I am so old I can remember when there was a Colorado River. Click here.
Somebody finally wrote it out. All those news stories you see or hear or, maybe, even read? BS. There is one story–climate. Click here.

Posted by: atowhee | September 23, 2022

BIRDERS BANDING TOGETHER

A small group of us gathered at a wildlife area along the Willamette River. We banded together, or rather, we were together while birds were banded. By licensed pros who track the migration and the nesting population there. The riparian habitat is perfect for Swainson’s Thrushes, so they led the band of banded–3. Two Song Sparrows, two Lincoln’s, a yellowthroat, Bewick’s Wren and a young male Spotted Towhee. It is likely the towhee, wren and Song Sparrows are residents there. The other half dozen could have been migrants. Other migrants seen at the forest edge: RC Kinglet, Townsend’s Warbler. One of the mist-netted thrushes was bird a previously banded.

LINCOLN’S SPARROW A species that is often quite hard to see. Today there were two–side-by-side briefly for plumage comparison.

YELLOWTHROAT

THRUSHED INTO THE LIMELIGHT

SPOTTED AND BANDED

Polk County, Oregon, US
Sep 23, 2022 7:50 AM – 10:50 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
19 species

Wood Duck  1     fly over
Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Black Phoebe  1
Steller’s Jay  4
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
Swainson’s Thrush  3
American Robin  6
Song Sparrow  2
Lincoln’s Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
Townsend’s Warbler  1

Click here for phantom in fog. GGO by Lee French in Jackson County’s Cascades.

What we do with forever chemicals–eek! Click here.

California ranchers take water, face a dry future without official help. Shasta River–click here.

NPR’s “Fresh Air” interview on climate and weather change–click here.

Posted by: atowhee | September 22, 2022

AUTUMN AUTOMATICALLY MEANS MOTION

This is a season of much movement. Leaves fall and float. Seeds may disperse on winds. Winds pick up as storms and weather fronts move around. Many birds and insects migrate. Today a large flock of Cedar Waxwings came into our south Salem neighborhood–first I’ve seen here this autumn. They will find the berries and fruit, clean them up and clear out. The waxwing flock was dispersing and gathering, coming together and coming apart. You can be sure that few rowan or hawthorn or chokecherry or pyracantha or crabapples or other edible fruit will remain when these waxwings wander off.

This is an image from an amazing new website–real time radar data on migration. 820PM PT last night–movement along the Pacific Flyway a tiny fraction of that along the Mississippi Valley Flyway. 612-million birds in the air! At 9PM PT on 9-22, there were eight hundred million birds on migration.

Click here for link to the Birdcast website.

Click here for my piece on Salem Reporter website–about this migration season.

Here is website that allows you trace the historical paths (click here) used by each North American bird species during the year.

PLANET EARTH

Click here for essay by Dr. Pepper Trail on the climate and our own response.
Like every negative effect of our global economy, climate is going to be harder on the poor and un-powerful. Click here.

Some two-word phrases just shout negativity. Earthquake damage. Dying coral. Widespread famine. Traffic accident. Plane crash. Teen suicide. Sulphur hexafluoride. Click here.

LEE FRENCH NOTE FROM ASHLAND
“Memo to myself: Make sure the garage door stays closed!”

BEAR, FOX

GARDEN ACTION

There is a lot of finchly activity here right now. House Finch and American Goldfinch numbers have been gradually increasing since early August when breeding seemed to stop and fledglings began to appear. Now we have over 20 American Goldfinch, maybe even twice that. A panicked cloud forms when they all take off at once into the treetops. There may be almost as many House Finches. The Lesser GF come in small groups or even pairs. I expect them all winter.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Sep 22, 2022. 13 species

Wild Turkey  2
Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
Mourning Dove  1
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  X
California Scrub-Jay  4
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  1
European Starling  2
Cedar Waxwing  80
House Finch  20
Lesser Goldfinch  5
American Goldfinch  30

Posted by: atowhee | September 20, 2022

EARTHLINGS WE ARE

We can imagine, maybe even hope, that most people will come to recognize our dependence on the many forms of life that share this planet. Where would we be without trees, carbonized ferns of eons ago, brewer’s yeast, microbes turning grape juice to wine, without lactic acid bacteria making yogurt, without leather or cotton or wool or silk or chickens or dogs? Life without mushrooms, without the bacteria and molds that produce cheeses, the goat or sheep or cow’s milk for such cheese, wheat, corn, rice, plantains, oranges, pecans, almonds, kiwi fruit, melons, potatoes? Let us all embrace our dependence on the other living parts of this tiny planet, and the get busy saving what we have not already destroyed.

I just recently listened to an audio version of Elizabeth Kolbert’s Under a White Sky. It looks at how we’ve changed the planet and its climate and how our modern cultures and agriculture and economies may have flourished in an unusually stable era of climate and now we set about making the kinds of extreme shifts that have led to previous life crises, extinctions, radical changes in life on Earth. Are we going to blunder on like self-destructive trilobites? Tone-deaf stegosaurus ignoring all the sirens and warning calls from nature and our fellow organisms?

Click here for look at Ukraine War and its relevance to the energy problems.

Click for survey of some of the issues of sea level along the US Atlantic Coast.

The sea level rise will have huge economic impact–will it happen before the global economy is so damaged that there is no will or way to stop the worsening of global warming? Click here for current suppositions about climate vs. profit. From the Pakistan floods to the Puerto Rico hurricane, how much longer will there be resources to try to repair? Are we past the days of re-building? Sure, billion$ will be $pent to $ave New York, maybe even Miami and Calais, but Mombasa? Calcutta? Algiers? Caracas? Can you imagine any national or international system that would try to save those billions of refugees? What of the religions and economic faith that hate birth control (and women’s rights) and insist on further over-population? My grandkids will witness a very disquieting time, should they survive.

Posted by: atowhee | September 17, 2022

SAVING, PRESERVING, ACTING

“New York Times” has opinion on what our species can and should do about extinctions we are causing:

Humans have the ignominious distinction of being the only species to be individually responsible for a global extinction crisis, and because of that many believe we have a moral responsibility to protect species we have imperiled.
Javier Jaén
By Tim McDonnell
Because of the ravages of habitat destruction, climate change and other man-made threats, up to one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. To what lengths can, and should, humans — the species singularly responsible for the worst ecological crisis in 65 million years — go to rescue them from the brink?
Conservation is traditionally a game of protecting parcels of land, keeping people out of the physical spaces that other species need to thrive. But technological advances, and the mounting urgency of biodiversity loss, have inspired scientists to experiment with ever-more ambitious, far-fetched, hands-on and sometimes risky interventions. They include assisted reproduction, which is poised to make the last two remaining northern white rhinos on Earth — both females — a little less lonely by spring 2024. They include physically relocating individual animals, potentially into even closer proximity to people. And they include the controversial, cutting-edge biotechnology known as gene drive, which could be used to write the demise of invasive predators into their own DNA.
As conservation science accelerates, its practitioners are grappling with new ethical questions about how to use it. The history of the field is replete with examples of well-intentioned interventions that backfired, and there remains little international regulation of how biotechnology is deployed in the real world, leaving it up to individual governments, funding organizations and scientists themselves to pump the brakes.
As I write in my guest essay this week, the rest of us humans also need to re-examine our relationship with the ecosystems that sustain us, and set aside the outdated, artificial divide between nature and society. “You might argue there’s no such thing as a natural system anymore,” Brad Shaffer, a biologist who has argued in favor of using cities as “urban arks” for endangered species, told me.
Humans have not been kind to our roommates on Earth. But we still have a chance to keep more of them from being evicted.”

Click here for link to Tim’s whole essay.

Click here for look at new book on extinctions.

Not all gloom. Big money making big moves–click here for two gazillionaires trying to preserve.

Click here for deeper look at the Patagonia future so contradictory to what profit-drive corporations are supposed to do according to conservative economists. This is NOT kow-towing to shareholders’ selfish interests.

California just enacted new climate change laws–click here.

India hopes to repopulate cheetahs–click here.

Posted by: atowhee | September 17, 2022

CORNERSTONE IN MID-SEPTEMBER

CORNERSTONE LIVE CAPTURED BY PHOTOGRAPHER TOM CAREY:

Two more images now in original selection:

Above: Seven images of waxwings on hawthorn fruit–all streaky first-year birds. Red-tail in flight, later red-tail ambushes Turkey Vulture. Raven. Robin flying. Song Sparrow, a year-round resident at Cornerstone as are raven, red-tails, Spotted Towhee.

I have a field trip this Sunday with some open slots. 8 AM at Luckiamute nature prfeserve, north end. we will visit a bird-banding station there–expect Swainsion’s Thrush and other small birds in the hand.
Email me at atowhee@gmail.com if interested.

Today (Sept. 17) the Polk County Water and Soil Conservation District sponsored a bird walk at their Cornerstone Preserve west of Baskett Slough. Perfect weather, no wind. This season is devoid of bird song but we did hear from the ravens, thrushes, and towhees–calls and some disapproving warning calls. A kettle of TVs seemed to be migrating. They were pestered by two soaring red-tails who seemed to be diving on the vultures as a matter of form. Best performance of the day–waxwings, as a small flock of them landed in a hawthorn about forty feet in front of us, cowed down and let us get much closer. Two streaky-chested young waxwings lingered in that tree for over half an hour.

What is in about waxwings? They are not large or loud or loquacious or even lively. Is it the bold feathered crest? Is it the gold tip on the tail? Is it the black mask of a villain? Is it their group behavior? Their sharp vision that always brings them to a plant with fruit? What is it…must be the whole package and how they relate to one another without squabbles, their intensity when feeding, their striking costumes (one of only a few* Oregon birds with a crest!), their tight-knit aerial flock-flights, their very beingness and waxwingery.

There were woolly bear caterpillars afoot this morning. A seasonal sign like migration.

*(I exclude bad hair waterfowl like Common Mergansers)–kingfisher, titmouses, Pileated–this list contributed by Karl Schneck…the “other” waxwing, Phainopepla and eastern Blue Jay are all occasional visitors.

Cornerstone Preserve–Polk Water and Soil Conservation District (restricted access), Polk, Oregon, US
Sep 17, 2022
14 species

Mallard  2
Turkey Vulture  8
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Steller’s Jay  2
California Scrub-Jay  4
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Violet-green Swallow  20
Swainson’s Thrush  2
American Robin  4
Cedar Waxwing  8
Savannah Sparrow X
Song Sparrow  3
Spotted Towhee  6

Click here to see gallery of images from our late June birding visit.

Posted by: atowhee | September 16, 2022

SISKIN SEASON STARTS

We have noted a single immature siskin in our garden, after those sunflower chips beloved by all the other local finches–house and two species of goldfinch. It is a little early for siskins down from the mountain forests so we won’t know how many there’ll be for some weeks. Siskin here is as sure a sign of autumn as the equinox, a week away.

While finch numbers grow and corvids come daily, most other birds are too busy gobbling up the insects, spiders, berries, seeds and other delights of late summer. Not even the city-dwelling collared-doves can be bothered. Suet has little magnetism now for nuthatches, Bushtits, chickadees, woodpeckers.
We seem to have nothing that robins or starlings want. The grosbeaks have likely gone south now. Nature has bounty, we are a boring footnote unless you are a finch or a jay caching peanuts. When will the waxwings come to our crabapple as they do annually?

MALHEUR BIRDING UP THE STEENS

Final Malheur area gallery:  Two Chukar reach the crest of a vertical road cut south of MP 43 on Hwy 205.  Morning arouses sleepy TVs from their tree roost at Malheur HQ.  Three feeder shots from HQ—quail, blackbirds, White-crowned Sparrows on migration and during September one of the most numerous species in Harney County.  Crows at Frenchglen Hotel.  Prairie Falcon above Hwy 205 rim rocks.  Great Egret east of Frenchglen.  Mule deer on Steens.  Domestic sheep on Steens—we did not see their wild, big-horned cousins.

Posted by: atowhee | September 15, 2022

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

CLICK HERE TO VISIT NEW SITE FOR BIRD MIGRATION MAPPING.

From last week in Harney County:

The golden-mantled ground squirrel was over 9500 feet up, on the wall of the Kiger Gorge, just below the overlook, Steens Mountain.  Cliff Swallow nests, making the hundreds on the rim rock lining Hey 205 south of Buena Vista.   Prairie Falcon speeding along the top of that rim rock.  Sharp-shinned Hawk on post above Page Springs.  Butterfly on rabbitbush.  Blitzen River upstream from Page Springs.  Wonderful to see running water.  Its gurgle was heartening.  Paper wasp nest at Fish Lake.  Kiger Gorge from the overlook.
Juniper berries ripening.  Nuttall’s cottontail.  “Bear Rock” at Buena Vista.  Real TVs kettling and wing-warming, also at BV.

We saw big brown bats one evening at Malheur Refuge HQ–biologist later told us they have not yet found any of the horrific white-nose fungus there! The disease came here from the Old World where their bats are immune to it.

Click here for our tallest owl on a tiny, vibrating perch. Video by dedicated owlman, Lee French in Jackson County, OR.

Posted by: atowhee | September 14, 2022

MALHEUR, CHINSTRAPS, AND LUCKIAMUTE BIRD BANDING

After speaking with a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Malheur, I will try to summarize what has been observed during this breeding season.

Neither Trumpeters nor White Pelicans bred, again.  Swans last bred in 2017.  Pelicans have no safe islands there now—Malheur Lake was down to 1000 acres in June, now at less than 450 acre-feet.  Harney and Mud Lake have been dry for years now. There were at least three Sandhill Crane colts this year, up from last year when none were confirmed to reach migration-ability.  Hard and dry meadows make it very hard for cranes to dig up enough food.

None of the gulls bred apparently.  Neither did the large terns, while a few Black Terns did manage to nest in marshes.  Ibis nesting was also limited.

Lack of robust ecosystem may be affecting alpha-predators.  The Great Horned Owls at refuge HQ did not fledge any young.  None of the other nests we found in spring had more than two young.  There seems to be a dearth of jackrabbits but that may be related to an epidemic, not just drought.

We saw shorebirds in only two places—Knox Pond and Burns Sewer Ponds.  Many traditional spots are bone dry—Chickahominy, Ruh-red Road at Silvies River, Greenhouse Lane, Substation Pond along Hwy 205, The Narrows.

Carp in Malheur Lake are even suffering as there is little water and little food.  This may be a chance for the refuge to eliminate much of that invasive population.

Even dryland birds welcome water—a large Horned Lark flock had gathered near an artificial cattle watering hole on Old State Highway west of Buena Vista.  Nearly every Barn Swallow flock was near Bltizen or other water source.  Both rails presented themselves at Page Springs which continues to be an  oasis.  Roaring Springs Ranch in Catlow Valley also had numerous waterfowl.  The oasis at Fields was dry—one afternoon bird, a Say’s Phoebe.  Irrigated fields often had a concentration of raptors and corvids.  Some raptors, inc. Golden Eagle, even riding the pivots as they moved.  Sometimes hundreds of icterids were feeding in the shower wetting the hay field.  This is water from the aquifer that will not be soon replaced, if ever.

Species that may even welcome the drought—more sagebrush, less cattails—include pronghorn, Sage Thrasher, Say’s Phoebe.  I saw more Mountain Bluebirds on this visit than any previous—strictly anecdotal.  The crow population at Frenchglen has exploded—dozens.  An open compost heap outside Frenchglen Hotel may help. 

MALHEUR GALLERY

The large white bird was one of two adult Trumpeters at Benson Pond. in good conditions they can live 20 years or more. These birds have not been able to nest at Summer Lake for the past two years. I was told there is a publicly-owned lake at Prineville where young were raised this summer.
The shorebirds were dowitchers and Killdeer at Knox Pond.
The Ferruginous Hawk in flight was around MP4 on Hwy 205.

As if drought weren’t bad enough, click here for my recent report on avian flu in Oregon.

PENGUINS–NO WONDER ROGER TORY PETERSON LOVED THEM!

Click here for Salem Audubon’s Birders Night–“Chinstrap Penguins” presented by Noah Strycker. He studied them on Antarctic’s Elephant Island. He wrote his Master’s Thesis on these birds.

BIRD BANDING

Wanna see a Swainson’s Thrush in the hand? I will be leading field trips at Luckiamute. Here is description for first trip. Second one is Sunday, the 25th. Email me at: atowhee@gmail.com if you want to come, limited parking space.

Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area

Friday, Sept. 23: bird walk and banding demonstration
Harry Fuller, trip leader    971-312-1735  

The Luckiamute River meanders through the 615-acre north tract, flowing into the Willamette River from the west and just a stone’s throw from the Santiam River confluence from the east. Travelers paddling the Willamette Water Trail can camp at the boater-access-only site. Hikers can park at the North Trailhead and take the North Unit Loop trail along a meadow and through a riparian hardwood forest of Oregon ash and bigleaf maple.

If you are coming down Hwy 99W take Stapleton Road east, just south of Monmouth.  Then turn south(right) on Corvallis Road.  If you are coming through Independence, take Corvallis Road south from the Willamette River Bridge.  At one bend in Corvallis Road, it turns south and Prather Road goes straight east.  Take Prather, then take the first right onto Buena Vista which goes straight south.  Stay on Buena Vista past the Luckiamute Landing Paddlers Access west of the road.  Keep going south until you cross the Little Luckiamute River.  Just south of the bridge turn left on narrow gravel road, Crocker Road.  Now stay to the left as dirt road parallels river on your left and ends in gravel parking lot.  This is where we meet.  8 AM.

Posted by: atowhee | September 13, 2022

PAPAYA THEFT–IT’S “A THING” SOME PLACES

From my friend, John Bullock:
These from our son in Oz [Australia]. He relates that there are two females fighting over the single male. They’ve had a nest in the nature preserve behind his house for several years. The Regent Bowerbird is really stunning compared to these Satin Bowerbirds, and more rare. We’ve seen them at one of his friend’s property out in the bush, raiding the blueberry crop, and we’ve found the bowers, but never been able to observe the mating display.

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