Posted by: atowhee | October 12, 2019


Here is explanation of why Tualatin River NWR looks so droughty–restoration work.  From Dennis Deck: “They have drawn everything down for all the work to recreate the
Chicken Creek drainage and re-establish historic water flow.   As soon
as they are done for this year they’ll open the gates.”

Today our McMinnville birding class went to Tualatin River NWR.  There was very little water.  “Ponds” were really acres of dried mud and reviving grass.  We saw more nutria than ducks.  Geese were plentiful, but all were airborne.  Despite that, we had a good morning for seeing songbirds.

Along trail was a feeding flock of sparrows: song, many golden-crowned, a couple white-crowned and a slew of juncos.  A Pacific Wren was among the sword ferns in the riparian forest.  Out in the regenerating oak forest were more juncos, chickadees and a curious kinglet who looked us over and left unimpressed.  One of our sharp-eyed birder also spotted a creeper there.
Below; flicker, chickadee, gaggle of flying Cacklers:


Tualatin River NWR–Atfálat’i Unit, Washington, Oregon, US
Oct 12, 2019
28 species

Cackling Goose  X
Canada Goose  X
Gadwall  2
Mallard  6
Green-winged Teal  12
Anna’s Hummingbird  3
Killdeer  2
Least Sandpiper  1
Great Blue Heron  3
Northern Flicker  3
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Brown Creeper  1
Pacific Wren  1
Bewick’s Wren  2
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Cedar Waxwing  X
House Finch  4
Lesser Goldfinch  X
American Goldfinch  15
Dark-eyed Junco  40
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Golden-crowned Sparrow  15
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | October 11, 2019


Video from Sweden.  This video includes good stuff of the juveniles being banded, and one walking up a slanting trunk to get to higher, safer perch.  Plenty of break clacking, too.  And adult with meal in beak.

And here is new video of juvenile GGO facing his first winter in the Oregon Cascades.  Taken by Lee French east of Ashland yesterday.  This bird probal by was born in May of this year.

Posted by: atowhee | October 11, 2019


Incredible video of construction and family-making inside kingfisher’s nest.  This is the small, bright blue Euro model.  The Robert Fuller who did the video is not a known relative though all the original American Fullers came from England, so could be a 32nd cousin.

Whu don;t we build nesting sites for kingfishers in our country?

Posted by: atowhee | October 9, 2019


The constellation of wintering birds that we expect every winter is forming; Golden-crowned Sparrows and juncos have been here already this month.  Today I saw our first Song Sparrow of the season.  Present occasionally are the very red-breasted robins who breed much further north. Not much sound except the honking of the nuthatches and the scolding of the jays.

I actually saw my first Fox Sparrow of the season as well.  But dead.  It was lying along a ball field at Wennerberg Park.  It didn’t seem emaciated, nor had it been mauled by a predator.  Disease?  Fatigue?  Migration-caused heart attack?  Flew into a foul-ball screen?


Shoot first, ask questions later.  I despise that policy for cops and soldiers, but with a small camera and small birds and non-violent observation it can be heavenly.  I have now–immodestly–taken a superb picture of a young Cedar Waxwing.  I have hundreds of images of these birds and thousands more have been discarded (the glut brought to us by digital photography).  But I have never come closer to showing the vitality, beauty, joy and animal hunger that is the essence of being a waxwing.
This happened as the dog and I walked near home.  After a heavy late afternoon rain the sun shown low in the western heaven.  Evening light brighten every color, every view.  A cold night was coming, our first frost.  The birds were having dinner and a neighbor’s hawthorn was berry-rich and full of waxwings and robins:ww at dusk (2)ww haw1ww haw2I do not know if this young waxwing went whole haw.

Here’s an Anna’s male in our garden:

Anhu grdn (2)

Here’a a lone Turkey Vulture I saw at Joe Dancer Park earlier this week, perhaps my last one in the county this year.  It was cold and early morning so he was hoping for some sun, warmth and updrafts:tv-jdp (2)

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 9, 2019
14 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  7
Downy Woodpecker  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  4
Bushtit  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
American Robin  1
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  8
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1     first of the season at this location where they do not breed

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 8, 2019
15 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  8
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  4
Bushtit  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
American Robin  1
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  8
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 7, 2019


Sometimes a void is just nothing, a vacancy means nada.  Today, Nora the dog and I were taking our morning walk at Joe Dancer.  Blue sky, sun but not too warm, windless and cloudless.  Far off at the other end of the soccer fields was a single mowing machine running circles and back-and-forth.  The void?  No swallows.  Gone are those elegant aerialists who zig-zag at three times mower speed, catching insects sent fleeing  by the loud, vicious blade cutting grass.  I may not see another swallow at Joe Dancer until next April.  Faretheewell, Hirundo.

Later on, we walked along the edge of riverside woods.  A Townsend’s chipmunk scrambled into the tangle of a newly fallen oak.  He stopped on a horizontal log and watched us.  I think it was a youngster.  The curiosity for us was palpable. Nora and I were both wearing our blue jackets.  I suspect the young chipmunk had never before eyed a blue dog.TOW CHP2 (2)

Blooms at this tail end of the green season are few: yellow composites, chicory, Queen Anne’s lace, one rosebud in our garden.  Bees and moths and ants and spiders can still be seen at work. One chorus frog was soloing in the marsh, a cricket was trilling as well. The deciduous trees are stars of the current outdoor performance.  Like this exotic ash:

foliagOur best bird of the day was a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  I had to pursue him into the middle of the wetlands to get a good look and confirm his ID.  The first bird we saw was this male Lesser Goldfinch, perched between us and the bright sun:LEGO ALONE (2)

And our early rains (September was above average by an inch) have encouraged the patient fungal spores to awaken.  Recently I saw a semi-circle of one species of mushroom ringing a small and dense cedar tree.  As I looked I realized the fungi were growing at the drip-line, where all the water cascaded down the conical shape of the tree and finally fell to earth.  There was not a single mushroom inside the drip line, and few beyond it.  Water so often means life.dripline (2)Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 7, 2019
10 species

Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  3
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  15
Lesser Goldfinch  1
Dark-eyed Junco  1
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 4, 2019


We don’t keep a nectar feeder so hummers are only occasional in our garden.  This morning our still-blooming trio of penstemons were visited by a male Anna’s.  Those plants will  likely bloom on until the first hard frost so we can hope he’ll be buzzing back.

Last night a local birder told me she had siskins at her feeders, and images to prove it.  Maybe this means we will have another siskin winter.  Last year: nada.  Two winters ago they out-numbered even the starlings.

There was a flock of Barn Swallows at Joe Dancer this morning.  Don’t they have tickets to their wintering ground?

The one sound we hear daily in our garden is the annoyed honking of the Red-breasted Nuthatches.  When two arrive they dislike one another.  At one point a bright male landed on a platform full of American Goldfinches.  He looked down his sharp beak, perhaps thinking what slow-moving dullards those finches can be.  Some were on the feeder rim but many were outstanding…on the sunflower seeds.  Still RBN found a fine seed, beaked it and flew away to dine in private, away from the nattering finch mob.amgo pform (2).JPGRegulars at our feeders are the two chickadee species.  Here one shows off his chestnut back:



I’ve become a pusher.  Not as bad as Big Pharma and their opioids, or the vaping vampires and their toxic e-cigs, but pusher nonetheless.  Somewhere inside the corvid brain are receptors aligned to react to nuts in shell.  So I feed that innate appetite…with peanuts in shell.  The scrub-jays cannot resist. Nuts prime for caching.  The nuts go out, the jays come in.  They would probably mow the lawn or carry out the garbage for peanuts…if I could only speak jay-squeak.



Speaking of jays.  They have many strong opinions.  One universal jay-value: hate all owls.  So this morning my friend Shannon Rio checked outside when her local jay-gang started complaining loudly.  Screech-Owl sheltering under her porch roof.

“I am tired, can you tell those loudmouth jays to turn it down, please?”oct4-screech820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 4, 2019
14 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  7
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  2
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  3
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  11
Dark-eyed Junco  3
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 3, 2019
13 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
California Scrub-Jay  X
Black-capped Chickadee  X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch  X
American Robin  6
Cedar Waxwing  30
House Finch  X
American Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
White-crowned Sparrow  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 4, 2019


Climate change has a very severe effect it is beginning to exercise.  Not only will island nations vanish, coastal cities nestle down next to Atlantis, droughts remove millions of square miles of land from arability…no, worse than even dengue fever in the Arctic…the taste of fine French wines will be changed…as the same time as the US government has levied a heavier tariff. Serious is as serious does, my granny used to say.

Posted by: atowhee | October 4, 2019


One large British farm has been de-industrialized, modern farming with chemicals and machinery has been abandoned.  There in heavily populated, long populated by people, urbanized and criss-crossed by motorways, nature has been given free rein once again.  Isabella Tree and here husband now tell their story, proud of having rewilded their farm despite widespread condemnation by their farming neighbors.

Also, in Britain, George Monbiot is my favorite environmental writers and a long-time proponent of rewilding.

Here is video of a talk by Monbiot for TED.  Step back, restore large species where they once were.

Perhaps a little rewilding in our living rooms is a worthy start–spare that spider says one expert.

Posted by: atowhee | October 3, 2019


Foraging species can have incredible time and space memories.  Without a paper calendar or smart phone, without paper maps of GPS satellites, birds and mammals, bees and butterflies know when and where they found food last year.

Annually a waxwing flock comes to clear out the ripened berries from our neighbor’s medium-sized rowan tree.  Today was that day.  The waxwing flock descended out of the sky, soon their motion and commotion brought in other berry-lovers, to wit, nearby robins.  Knowing the waxwings proclivities for rowan fruit (in Scotland where the tree is native I have seen one full of Bohemian Waxwings) I found a small volunteer rowan sapling and have transplanted it into a proper spot in our garden.

The streaky-chested waxwings are this year’s young.  The adults have streakless fronts and more crisply marked face masks.  All are equally adept at berry plucking, the fruit then swallowed whole.
Behold the waxwing, a fruitful endeavor among robins:

Birds attract…and they often attract other birds with similar gourmand leanings.  Local Song Sparrows may suddenly find themselves followed around by wintering Fox or Golden-crowned Sparrows.  Spotted Towhee may also attract smaller sparrows and juncos.  Like any wise travelers, wintering birds know to ask the locals where to eat.

The same goes for insectivores.  It is not unusual to find wintering warblers or migrants, kinglets from afar, even migratory flickers or sapsuckers following around the locals:  Downys, Bushtits, the locally resident chickadee species.  Bushtits seem to often be the heart of a winter gleaning flock.  They ignore the large birds but their constant soft messaging is heard by the others and heeded.  The Bushtits don’t cover large territories but they know the local area as well as any bird can.  Their presence and movements means good gleaning for those not familiar with the surroundings.  Plus it means more eyes on alert for an accipiter or Merlin.

Posted by: atowhee | October 3, 2019


Paul Sullivan lives here in McMinnville as I do.  He has huge county lists for every county in Oregon.  His birding expertise is admirable and his dedication to seeing our feathered neighbors is intense.  He occasionally leads birding trips out of the Willamette Valley and I recently got him in touch with a couple of my birding friends in Ashland where he was taking some birders.  Lee French and Dr. Karl Schneck met with Paul and his group…and, of course, they headed into the Cascades after big game.

Karl sent out his photo under a subject line…what happens when you can’t find a single Great Gray Owl?  You find …2 GGOW smallI recognize this meadow not far from Howard Prairie Lake.  This may be an adult male and one of his nearly grown off-spring from the past breeding season.  Maturing owlets are fed by the father long after the mother has departed for her own hunting meadows if all goes well over the summer.

Congrats to Lee, Karl, Paul and their owlers.

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