Posted by: atowhee | March 3, 2021


The Lindsay Museum in Walnut Creek has invited me to talk to their donors about Great Gray Owls. When our GGO books was published a few years back Lindsay had the only captive GGO in California. She was Shadow, a permanently crippled rescue from Minnesota, and a brilliant education ambassador. I got to visit with Shadow twice before she died of old age infirmities late in 2020. This talk is dedicated to her beauty and her memory, indelible to all who ever saw her.

March 18th is almost exactly three years from the last time I saw Shadow when I spoke at her home in Walnut Creek. Click here for images from that visit.
Here are the first pictures I got of Shadow, back when I was researching the book, still the closest I have ever been to a living GGO.

This will be a Zoom talk at 6pm Pacific Coast Time. For non-members the donation is $15. Lindsay is a wildlife rescue and nature education center in largely suburban Cintra Costa County where conservation and wildlife could not be more precious.

Click here for registration details.

A few shots of our subject for March 18 aa a preview of Great Gray Owl Day:

These last images are from Larry Huber who helped a widowed female raise her four young. He is the first featherless foster father I have met in the Great Gray Owl population. Huber lives near La Grande which is one center of GGO breeding range in eastern Oregon. The male of the pair was killed by a Great Horned Owl, so Buber stepped in and provided live trapped rodents for the family, thus he became accepted and awaited, perhaps appreciated.

Posted by: atowhee | March 3, 2021


Here’s one veteran birder’s best Long-eared Owl encounter:
“Harry, Just a bit of my experiences with LEOW. We went camping at Hart Mountain in May of 2015 and Devyn spotted a LEOW fledgling in the trees right next to our campsite but we didn’t get good looks since we arrived late and the light was poor and I think it was raining also. The next morning we found an adult and another youngster, this one still in a nest in a juniper right next to our camp table. I attached a picture of the adult and another of a fledgling. Those are the only LEOWs I’ve seen since 60 years ago in Sonoma County. Karl Schneck Ashland, Oregon”

Posted by: atowhee | March 2, 2021


The Long-eared Owlery at Ankeny continues to draw birders. One woman had flown in with her mega-camera from Atlanta, another couple had driven over the Cascades from Bend. Somebody wondered if we could label it a “Hearing of Long-ears.”
Maybe, a “Sound of Long-ears” or even a “Listening” would be more apt. They miss no sound, I’m sure. Still, they are very quiet in daytime. Some LEOs today were busy with feather preening. I saw five, my highest count so far. But the “ordinary” birds were gong about their business.

The woodpeckers are in drumming mode these days. The Hairy was at the north end of the Rail Trail and nearby by was the Red-breasted Sapsucker. Later in my hoe garden there was a drumming Downy. The bumpersticker was in the LEO parking lot.

The big bulk in the bare tree is a young Bald Eagle. One of his cousins must have sent the nervous Cacklers into the sky.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, there were these owls and all their admirers (the latter were these elongated hominids hanging along tghe boardwalk, no images):

One of the LEOs was carefully preening his frontal feathers. Photography light is best in early morning and later afternoon.
In yesterday’s blog I took a look at what records we have, or lack, on previous visitations by these owls. Click here.
After today you must admit, the ears have it!

Ankeny NWR, Marion, Oregon, US
Mar 1, 2021
28 species

Cackling Goose  1200
Canada Goose  X
Tundra Swan  30
Northern Shoveler  X
American Wigeon  X
Mallard  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Ring-necked Duck  X
Lesser Scaup  X
Bufflehead  X
Ruddy Duck  X
American Coot  X
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  17
Bald Eagle  4
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Long-eared Owl  4
Red-breasted Sapsucker  2
Northern Flicker  X
American Kestrel  4
Black Phoebe  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Song Sparrow  X
Spotted Towhee  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Ankeny NWR, Marion, Oregon, US
Mar 2, 2021
31 species

Cackling Goose  1500
Canada Goose  X
Tundra Swan  98
Northern Shoveler  X
Mallard  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Ring-necked Duck  X
Lesser Scaup  X
Bufflehead  X
Hooded Merganser  3
Ruddy Duck  200
American Coot  X
Great Egret  X
Bald Eagle  5
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Long-eared Owl  5
Red-breasted Sapsucker  2
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  3
American Kestrel  2
Black Phoebe  1
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  X
Tree Swallow  3
Bewick’s Wren  2
European Starling  X
American Robin  40
Dark-eyed Junco  10
Song Sparrow  12
Spotted Towhee  4
Red-winged Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | March 1, 2021


We could save the Grasshopper Sparrow of Florida, but it will take a politics of concern and some money that doesn’t to corporate profits.

Posted by: atowhee | March 1, 2021


After going over all the Long-eared Owl records in eBird, we should all realize the current Ankeny NWR wintering flock is highly
unusual for the Willamette Valley. From Portland south through the Eugene area there are altogether less than fifty different LEO sightings. Before this event at Ankeny, the highest number of LEOs ever reported to eBird in the Willamette Valley: 3. That was one time, at Baskett Slough in 1994! So far the highest count reported on the Ankeny congress has been seven* in eBird, while most observers have reported four or more. Further, none of the previous LEO sightings in our area were repeated day after day. Many were one-time-only, of a single bird. The first eBird account for the current Ankeny owl fest was on February 5th. We are now nearing the one-month anniversary. The lone previous eBird report of LEO at Ankeny was a singleton in 2019.

*Emailed updates: Sylvia Maulding reports she and a companion saw 8 birds there on Feb. 8. Nagi Aboulenein says he’s heard first-hand reports as high as 11. Mark Nikas sent me this note; “There was a sizable winter Long-eared Owl roost on Pigeon Butte at WL Finley NWR in the 80’s-90’s.

Sometime later Mark added this detailed clarification:I was living out of state in the 80’s but was an OFO member and recall reading about the Finley roost in Oregon Birds.  I tried digging out those old reports from OB but gave up after a while.  It would be nice to be able to easily  do text searches on the whole run of the journal.  
I dug out Hendrik’s old Birds of Benton County manuscript and pasted the LEOW entry below.

Long-eared Owl (•?)   Asio otus This enigmatic species occurs as an uncommon winter visitor and possibly as a rare resident in dense stands of conifers or deciduous trees, mostly at low to moderate elevations. It is best known for its winter roosts in dense woodlands. From 1971 to 1977, a roost was reported from Finley NWR with a maximum of 13 birds counted in November 1973. Since 1986, another roost site has been reported at E. E. Wilson WA in a dense ash swale, with up to six birds present in 1989. Roost sites are usually occupied from early November until March. There are very few summer reports, but it is possible that this secretive species has nested in the county at least occasionally. One was near Finley NWR as late a April 19, 1975 (J. Annear, Ch 4(9)), and one was found in McDonald Forest on June 8, 1987 (D. Swanson, Ch 16(10)).
This entry only mentions the 70’s for the Finley roost so maybe I was dreaming about 80’s sightings.  After joining OFO in the 80’s I ordered back issues of OB so maybe I was reading about the 70’s roost in the 80’s.  I’m easily confused.

Need to count those Ankenyites…waders anyone? Just kidding, don’t want to disturb them.

A few locations in our area have had recurring sightings, but never frequent. Hagg Lake has records of one owl in 1984-84-85-91-93, then 2000 and 2004. E. E. Wilson had a run of 1989, 1994-5-6. There have been a few single sightings in the Eugene but none were repeated at a later date.

Finally, I picked up the official printed checklist for the Willamette Valley NWR Complex (copyright 2016 before any Ankeny records) lists LEO as “rare” in Finley and Baskett Slough, never seen at Ankeny.
I was at owl roost today with Peter Thiemann from Jackson County, He is co-author and photographer for our book on the Great Gray Owls. He was ecstatic to get sunlit shots of the loafing owls. Today we saw four different LEOs. They were difficult to photograph mid-day–bright sun right behind them, many twigs and branches in the way. I finally got a good shot from the level of the lower railing of the boardwalk, one owl just a couple feet above the standing water.

Here’s what their roosting thicket is like:

Here’s what the owls look like when a real photographer gets a shot…this one from Philippe Pessereau of McMinnville:

A fine side-show, complete with squeaking sound-effects was put on by a pair of Red-breasted Sapsuckers right beside the boardwalk. What a show–I may never need to take another sapsucker picture.

It’s definitely the season courtship and pairing. Just in the past two days I’ve seen a Downy pair together. Two Red-breasted Nuthatches came into out garden today as a pair. Then the sapsucker duo. One other sure sign of the season. At Ankeny I saw my first reptile of 2021:

Posted by: atowhee | February 28, 2021


Tara Murphy sent me two more pictures of the Great Gray Owl on their Applegate farm. Then birder/photographer Philippe Pessereau sent a few shots of Long-eared Owls at Ankeny. He reports seven individual owls in their day-time roost.

For a more thorough look at the unprecedented nature of this Ankeny event, go to my next blog.

Posted by: atowhee | February 28, 2021


“To those who seek, much may be revealed.” –Lord Beaver Brook

Here in the rainy Willamette we land-based hominids might stretch our mind to image being an aquatic mammal.
Say, with dense fur to insulate, long whiskers for feeling your way along a pond shoreline, huge incisors for chiseling or shaping green wood, a strong and flat tail for propulsion through water or ruddering or as a profound signaling device. Slap the surface of the pond–once for food, twice for danger. Then presume your favorite salads are the fresh twigs and new leaves. There is plenty of fine fodder in late winter and spring–reeds, cattails, grasses, new willow sprouts. But when was the last time you tasted that prized delicacy, the new shoots and tiny leaf buds at the top of an alder? Not for you the prehensile thumb of the hominid or the grasping claws of the acrobatic squirrels or the flight of the siskins. For you it must be waiting and wisdom.


This morning we heard the Downy drumming in our gum tree. Then we saw both him and her. I managed to get some shots of one and I think it was responding female as this bird was excited, wing flapping, but no drumming.

As Beaver Brook said, “Seek.” Right after the ice storm I noted one oak down, its trunk across the small Clark Creek in city park of same name in Salem. A day later a companion trunk lay parallel across the creek. Two downed oaks. After more than a couple days of downed trees I bothered to look beyond the arboreal havoc. I could clearly see how the sturdy roots ran between the two downed trunks. As research has shown many oak trunks can come from a single individual tree, the underground root system spreading and serving trunk clones, if you will. Now I suspect this Clark Creek oak has four trunks–two that fell across the river and two more still stand further back from the stream with support less imperiled by erosion, without a lean that made ice weight catastrophic. In the third image you see the two standing oak trunks to the left of the fallen ones.

Posted by: atowhee | February 27, 2021


There are tens of thousands of Cackling Geese from Alaska down here in the Willamette for their winter vacation. They like our lush lawns. The flocks that frequent Fairview Industrial Parkway prefer the lawns at the state Fish & Wildlife office and the adjacent Vitro glass company. Just as the dog and I arrived at the Fairview Wetlands this morning, hundreds of cacklers were also arriving. After they’d landed, I saw on the Vitro company lawn the juxtaposition of grass, goose and glass that was a natural nexus. It is a small mental thrill to be able to put “grazer” and “glazier” side-by-side in the same sentence, and have it be a true window on the natural order.

Posted by: atowhee | February 27, 2021


Our species has been pretty hard on Mother Earth. As I say in my climate change talk about birds, “You break it, you own it.” We have truly and sadly broken our climate on this tiny spinning rock.

The NRDC is trying to get all the old protections put back in place to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty.

In Mexico the Military Macaw is suffering population declines, except in one preserve. You can click here for go-fund-me campaign to help conservationists protect this gorgeous fellow earthling.

There’s plenty to hate about climate change but there is one short-term advantage. Mysteries are being revealed…as the ice melts.

Speaking of ice melting–Alaska’s economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels that are rushing toward destruction of much life on the planet. At the same time it’s one of the places (like Greenland) that’s going through the most severe alterations…right now.

And in the U.S. the cost of flood insurance could increase sharply. The current subsidized insurance system does not cover costs now, and certainly isn’t geared for rising sea levels and worsening storm damage. Private corporations would never be willing to take part in what is a loser’s game of climate roulette. Basically those of us living well above the water line are now subsidizing the folks who stubbornly insist on being at the beach or along the river, or dwelling in those very vulnerable cities from Norfolk to New Orleans, Miami to Manhattan. How many times should we fund rebuilding at sea level after the next hurricane? How will we fund moving all those endangered naval bases? Oil refineries? Airports from SFO to LaGuardia? Just as covid is likely to greatly alter the commercial real estate market–perhaps we’ll see big office blocks become condos…we should expect low-lying residential real estate to soon become financially ruinous–take much of Florida…please. Maybe we will see a return to coastal marshes, with homes at least fifty feet above sea level?

Down in the Lone Star Republic with its stand-alone electricity grid, the outlook is for a very loooooong effort to recover.

Then there are the tsunami-vulnerable places out here along the Pacific Coast, this a game of tectonic roulette. You can click here for a series of maps showing places most likely to get dunked when a tsunami hits Oregon’s coastline.

Finally, human sperm counts are falling. There are many ways to spin this one. Nature’s revenge on our species. Did this happen to allosaurus? Suicide. Good news for Planet Earth. Technology over-powering any hope of self-preservation. Profit now, future later. Goods news for elephants and whales and lady-bugs. What will Earth look like with only a few hundred thousand lumbering hominids? Need to pay subsidy for every child born–they do this in some European nations already. You can’t have economic growth when the population is dropping rapidly–so will there be a major cloning business promoted? How can you maintain a modern nation-state without lots of young men and women for the military? This is a topic with unlimited sci-fi potential.

Here is link to website with interview of author who just published her book on the falling sperm count. Crisis or deliverance?

Here’s is movie over fifteen years old that looked at Earth where no babies are being born. “Children of Men.” Then there is the Handmaiden’s Tale

Posted by: atowhee | February 26, 2021


There is only one member of the babbler family in the Western Hemisphere–our stealthy, sedentary Wrentit. But babblers abound in the forested areas of Africa and Asia. Now comes news that one believed extinct for over 150 years…survives!~

Here’s the American Babbler–found in Oregon, California and Mexico:

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