Posted by: atowhee | February 5, 2023

RAINY SUNDAY

Today the American Goldfinches are uncountable, too many too frantic too flighty. But there must be forty, or more. They are at the seed feeders in tight flocks–only the chickadees seem bold enough to fly in, grab a chip and fly off. None of the other small birds want to deal with the goldfinches, not even the House Finches which not showed up today.

Steller’s Sea-eagle, close cuz of our Bald Eagle, is being seen right now in Maine–click here. Maybe that ultra-cold wave made him fell at home. The bird is native to Eurasia’s northern extremes. This bird is one of several new species (including the Steller sea-cow) that Georg Steller discovered in the North Pacific as medic on the Bering Expedition, in the 1730s. Steller was one of the few survivors. He managed to keep himself and a few trusting sailors alive, most of the expedition died in a wreck or later from scurvy, not listening to dietary advice from a German doctor.

Insect populations declining in Asia–click here.

A couple of dome shots by Lee French. Great Gray Owl behind the log:

2023 MALHEUR TRIPS WITH HARRY FULLER
Below: Franklin’s Gull, rowdy young Prairie Falcon buzzes sibling and father. Photos by Albert Ryckman.

MALHEUR BIRDING TRIP IN MAY
I am leading a fund-raising bird trip sponsored by, and based at, the Malheur Field Station. It is May 15-20. We will see Ferruginous and Swainson’s Hawks, Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagles, White Pelicans, Short-eared and Great Horned and Burrowing Owls, Loggerheasd Shrike, Sage Thrasher, Eastern Kingbird, perhaps early arrival Bobolink, Sandhill Cranes, Black Terns, Franklin’s Gulls, White-faced Ibis, Rock & Canyon Wren, Sagebrush and Brewer’s Sparrow, Cinnamon Teal, snipe, Wilson’s Phalarope, possible bittern. There are likely to be usual (Lewis’s Woodpecker, Evening Grosbeak) and unusual (any bird that migrates to northern Canada) migrants at the hotspots. We will bird the basin and foothills of Steens Mountain.
Interested? Call 541-493-2629.

SEPTEMBER

I am leading a fund-raising bird trip sponsored by, and based at, the Malheur Field Station. It is Sept. 8-13.   We will see Ferruginous and Swainson’s Hawks, Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagles, White Pelicans, Short-eared and Great Horned and Burrowing Owls, Sandhill Cranes, Black Terns, Franklin’s Gulls, Loggerheasd Shrike, Sage Thrasher White-faced Ibis, Rock & Canyon Wren, Horned Lark, Mountain Bluebird, Cinnamon Teal, snipe, Wilson’s Phalarope, possible bittern. There are likely to be usual (Lewis’s Woodpecker, Evening Grosbeak) and unusual (any bird that migrates to northern Canada) migrants at the hotspots. We will bird the basin and the entire Steens Mountain Loop.
Interested? Call 541-493-2629.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Feb 5, 2023
15 species

Mourning Dove  22
Northern Flicker  2
California Scrub-Jay  4
American Crow  7
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bushtit  20
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  10
Varied Thrush  2
Lesser Goldfinch  1
American Goldfinch  40
Dark-eyed Junco  25
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1     myrtle

Posted by: atowhee | February 4, 2023

TURKEYS, TANZANIA AND PREDAWN SOUNDS

The crows were up before the sun this morning. Several crow voices could be heard even with out doors and windows closed. Twenty-five minutes before official sunrise a crowcophony had arisen. Was it argument? Discussion? Protest? Celebration? Mobbing of a sleep owl or hawk? It was certain evidence of another typical day in a North American city. Crow economy operates on a seven-day work-week.

One pair of turkeys wandered into our garden this morning, snacked and ambled on. It appeared to be a male/female duo.

At Fairview Wetlands in the cold mist this morning male Red-winged Blackbirds were singing and showing off their shoulder patches. Not a single female was visible. Likely they have more interesting pursuits, like food, There was also a male hummer acting very territorial. Others present: a Coop, a Merlin, three snipe swirling about the sky, undecided about where they were going. A pair of Canada Geese were hanging out at an elevated nesting platform. Once before I saw a goose pair at Fairview actually lay eggs in one platform, but then they abandoned the nest.

The three speeding snipe were high and fast, specks against the blue. Just try and aim where you think they are going to be. Some of my shots were just blue emptiness. Click on any image to enlarge.

TASTE OF TANZANIA. Photos courtesy Albert Ryckman.

First and bottom images are Fisher’s Lovebirds; two shots of Lilac-breasted Roller; big one is Kori Bustard. It is the heaviest flying bird in Africa. A large male can weigh over forty pounds, weighing way more than your Thanksgiving turkey, or the ones who come into our garden.

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Feb 4, 2023
19 species

Canada Goose  2
Northern Shoveler  20
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  40
Green-winged Teal  50
Ring-necked Duck  3
Bufflehead  2
American Coot  7
Anna’s Hummingbird 1
Wilson’s Snipe  3
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Northern Flicker  1
Merlin  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  3
European Starling  X
Song Sparrow  5
Red-winged Blackbird  14     singing males

Posted by: atowhee | February 3, 2023

EAGLE WATCH #2

Feb. 3. Cold, rainy, wind, numb fingers. Both adult Bald Eagles were near their nest on north end of Minto-Brown again this morning. We are nearing egg-laying and then incubation season. Two other eagles were seen, one to the north of Center Street Bridges, the other south of this eagle nest. Neither seemed to bother our nesters. There was some anger among other local raptors. I heard screaming–bird, niot person–and looked up to see a peregrine chasing a red-tail south out of Riverfront Park. After claiming victory the peregrine turned back north toward the bridges where this species is known to hunt from a perfect perch with a 360-degree view of all the slower creatures below.

Further south beneath the footbridge I saw a Killdeer and a Wilson’s Snipe. My mammal today was a nutria, besides countless dogs walking their people in the cold. Only one dog had even bothered to wear a coat.

ROBIN & SNIPE

One reader just sent me this comment: “that robin is downright obese!” He does over-do on the earthworms, but he’s gotta fly all the way back to Alaska this spring.

Interested in the screecher-creature? Click here for some recent pix of Karl Schneck’s resident screech-owl in rural Ashland.

Exxon and climate change deniers will hate this. The U.S. is about to spend $400-billion on measures to cut emissions, and produce energy without fossil fuels. Click here for explanation of what’s up.

Riverside Park, Marion, Oregon, US
Feb 3, 2023. 19 species

Canada Goose  80
Mallard  25
Green-winged Teal  2
Bufflehead  1
Hooded Merganser  1
Pied-billed Grebe  5
Killdeer  1
Wilson’s Snipe  1
Glaucous-winged Gull  6
Great Blue Heron  1
Bald Eagle  4
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
American Crow  14
European Starling  X
American Robin  140
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | February 2, 2023

SEASONAL HORMONES AND PAIR-BONDING

It appears the local turkey flock has divided in prep for the spring breeding season. There are only small flocks appearing in our garden now. That’ll certainly save on bird seed costs. In less than half an hour the whole flock can devour what would last all day when it’s just doves, jays, finches, juncos and their ilk. I think thusly: a single turkey in two minutes can eat a day’s diet for a chickadee or goldfinch.

Here is our recent turkey count data: January 25-27 the flock of 21 descended on our garden multiple times each day. None on the weekend, which is an established pattern. Some neighbor who is only around to feed on weekends draws them out of our immediate vicinity. Turkeys have a weekly calendar! On Monday the 30th there were turkeys again, but only 8. Zero on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Today, Feb. 2, just six arrived. Often the big flock would preen and nap on our small lawn after eating their fill, no small accomplishment. After turkeys withdrew from feeding areas, the finches and other little ones returned. Not even crows nor squirrels would risk getting within beaking distance of the turks.

Soon there’ll be puffed-up tom turkeys stopping traffic on nearby streets, tails spread, attitude formidable. Here’s a picture from May, 2022:

The flicker pair appeared together this week, another sign of impending egg-laying time. Niot quite as explicit as those copulating eagles yesterday. Moir eagle watching tomorrow, BTW. Today there was a flicker pair in front, lone female behind the house simultaneously.

THURSDAY’S GUESTS, included Fox, Golden-crowned (in enlarged version of first image) and White-throated Sparrow, the male Varied Thrush who comes by daily. Click on any pic for full-screen view.

COLD AND HEAT, FROST AND SUNLIGHT
Even while the air temp remained below freezing, direct solar light would take away the frost on the grass and leaves it struck.

A koa‘e kea (white-tailed tropicbird) flies by the edge of the eastern lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u, at the summit of Kīlauea–click here. Or click here. And even here.

A little lesson in ‘natural engineering:”

New Zealand glaciers–disappearing., Click here for video report.

MALHEUR BIRDING TRIP IN MAY
I am leading a fund-raising bird trip sponsored by, and based at, the Malheur Field Station. It is May 15-20. We will see Ferruginous and Swainson’s Hawks, Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagles, White Pelicans, Short-eared and Great Horned and Burrowing Owls, Sandhill Cranes, Black Terns, Franklin’s Gulls, White-faced Ibis, Rock & Canyon Wren, Cinnamon Teal, snipe, Wilson’s Phalarope, possible bittern. There are likely to be usual (Lewis’s Woodpecker, Evening Grosbeak) and unusual (any bird that migrates to northern Canada) migrants at the hotspots. We will bird the basin and foothills of Steens Mountain. Bonus mammals: pronghorn, wild horses, possible badger.
Interested? Call 541-493-2629.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Feb 2, 2023
22 species

Wild Turkey  2
Mourning Dove  15
Northern Flicker  3
Steller’s Jay  X
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren 1
European Starling  4
Varied Thrush  1
American Robin  1
House Finch  1
Lesser Goldfinch  1
American Goldfinch  30
Fox Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Posted by: atowhee | February 1, 2023

EAGLE EYEFUL

This morning was my first stint as volunteer eagle watcher here in Salem. The city and U.S. Fish and Wildlife are co-operating on an eagle next monitoring program for two of the four known nest sites on, or adjacent to, Minto-Brown Island. The one I’ve volunteered to watch is west of Riverfront Park, near where the Willamette Slough empties into the Willamette River. This is just south of the bridges between Salem and West Salem.

Both adult eagles were present when I arrived at 945AM. During the next 75 minutes both were visible. Around 1020AM there was a rendezvous atop the nest, copulation, then soon the male went off and returned with stick. The worked it into place. Soon the male went off to perch about fifty yards north, just over the water. The female stayed at the nest except for a quick flight to grab another stick which she then worked into the pile. After 11AM the male flew off and she then perched near the river.

There was a lot of activity. When I arrived about 80 Canada Geese covered the park lawn. In small groups they later flew into the slough. By 11AM the were all afloat, leaving the lawn to the crows and robins. Several duck species were in the slough: Hooded and Common Mergansers, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead. Also a kingfisher male, Greater Yellowlegs…and a raccoon wading in shallow water along Minto-Brown.

From my friend Mike Lund in Virginia: “State bird is the cardinal, but we have a good population of bluebirds in town and I have several houses. This guy, I think, is checking out one of them.”

From Lee French near Ashland:

The ultimate mud-bath. Video provided to CBS by my friend Lee McEachern from a recent trip to East Africa. Click here. Have you ever seen that many happy elephants? Making quite a splash.

The Northern Cascades have lost a major glacier from the range east of Seattle. Once ice, now small lake–click here.

Good news reigns. Monarchs having a good winter in California as the count is up–click here.

You might not see many Canada Geese, but maybe some other interesting birds in Brazil–want a little intense tropical birding? Klamath Bird Observatory in Ashland is organizing a trip in April.
Join KBO’s dynamic duo Director of Conservation Jaime Stephens and Board President Shannon Rio for a memorable 9-day trip to Brazil, April 12th – 20th, 2023. This trip will be guided by past KBO intern and co-founder of Mantiqueira Bird Observatory (OAMa) Luiza Figueira. The cost of this trip includes hotels, food (breakfast, lunch, dinner), and transportation (to and from the airport and during the trip). The total cost of the trip is $5,000, $2500 to reserve your seat, and the total amount is due by February 10th. With 12 people attending, these funds will cover a FULL YEAR of OAMa’s banding program. It will also be used to help support a student intern that is participating in KBO OAMa’s intern exchange program.  To inquire or sign-up email: Elva Manquera ejm@klamathbird.org

Salem Riverfront Park, Marion, Oregon, US
Feb 1, 2023 9:45 AM – 12:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.3 mile(s)
Checklist Comments:     eagle monitoring
24 species

Canada Goose  80
Mallard  40
Green-winged Teal  30
Lesser Scaup  6
Bufflehead  4
Hooded Merganser  4
Common Merganser  2
Pied-billed Grebe  4
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Glaucous-winged Gull  10
Double-crested Cormorant  50
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  1
Bald Eagle  2     nesting pair; copulation and nest-building
Belted Kingfisher  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  12
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  40
Golden-crowned Sparrow  4
Song Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | January 31, 2023

WONDERFUL WINTER TWO-FER

Who could ask for anything more as January ends with cold weather, even the hellebore and snow drops looking forlorn.

The cold makes small birds more food-driven than ever. I stood less than two feet from a suet block, lifting some wet leaves bound for mulch–a Red-breasted Nuthatch landed on the feeder. To me he seemed to say, “Hah, you’re big and slow like those other trees.”

What is it about warblers?
From the Peterson Field Guide on Warblers (by Dunn & Garrett): “North American Warblers…have long captivated birders with their diversity, bright plumages, sprightly behavior, and spectacular migrations.”

The above post card comes from Magee Marsh, Ohio. Every spring there is a week-long warbler madness festival there. It’s in May and you must be on the boardwalk by dawn every day even though it comes way before ordinary breakfast time. Who arrived the night before? Consecutive days are rarely the same, bird-wise. Magnolia today, chestnut-sided tomorrow…

Sure the eastern forests have more warblers. But I wouldn’t trade our Townsend’s, hermit or MacGillivray’s for any of theirs…well, maybe the prothonotary once in awhile.

Posted by: atowhee | January 30, 2023

COASTING FOR A DAY

My wife convinced me to forget projects and errands for a day. Yes, it was one of our coldest days of the winter so far. But, mostly, it was a day of clarity. That must mean, for two lovers of open ocean, it is a day to be on the Pacific Coast. I can’t envision a better place to see, to enjoy, to experience the vital, vibrant, visual reality when the sun is sending its immense array of light frequencies through space to strike animals, plants, landscape, manmade stuff on Earth. The sunlight seemed as pure as possible beneath our think atmosphere. The air itself was clarity. The sky an unmottled blue. The things visible were not ordinary. Two white-headed eagles crossing Boiler Bay, the white boldly bright against the dark sea. Frozen pools in fields and roadside gutters–glistening, shining, glowing. The small white puffs on the heads of Surf Scoter like tiny flashlight beams. The red on Red-breasted Mergansers glowing like waterborne embers. Nothing looked ordinary.

AT Baskett Slough Refuge, fields were full of hundreds of robins, dozens of Killdeer, a few blackbirds. I noticed two little white dots moving around. A close look showed they were a pair of Least Sandpipers. Perhaps the frozen shorelines of marshes had driven these two from their usual shoreline habitat–it was now frozen.

Gulls ubiquitous, even on store front signs:

JETTY SCOTERS

From Brazil (and has nothing to do with the alleged George Santos, alleged U.S. citizen)–click here for rainforest hope.

Speaking of Brazil–want a little intense tropical birding? Klamath Bird Observatory in Ashland is organizing a trip in April.
Join KBO’s dynamic duo Director of Conservation Jaime Stephens and Board President Shannon Rio for a memorable 9-day trip to Brazil, April 12th – 20th, 2023. This trip will be guided by past KBO intern and co-founder of Mantiqueira Bird Observatory (OAMa) Luiza Figueira. The cost of this trip includes hotels, food (breakfast, lunch, dinner), and transportation (to and from the airport and during the trip). The total cost of the trip is $5,000, $2500 to reserve your seat, and the total amount is due by February 10th. With 12 people attending, these funds will cover a FULL YEAR of OAMa’s banding program. It will also be used to help support a student intern that is participating in KBO OAMa’s intern exchange program.  To inquire or sign-up email: Elva Manquera ejm@klamathbird.org

A bit on chicken genetics–click here.

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Jan 30, 2023
18 species

Cackling Goose  2000
Canada Goose  4
Northern Shoveler  X
Gadwall  X
American Wigeon  X
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  X
Bufflehead  X
American Coot  X
Killdeer  X
Least Sandpiper  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Bald Eagle  2
American Kestrel  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  1000
Golden-crowned Sparrow  50
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Siletz Bay NWR, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Jan 30, 2023 1
10 species

Mallard  8
Bufflehead  30
Eared Grebe  2
Clark’s Grebe  1
Great Blue Heron  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Robin  1
Fox Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  8
Spotted Towhee  1

Boiler Bay State Wayside, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Jan 30, 2023
13 species (+1 other taxa)–also harbor seal herd

Surf Scoter  X
Eared Grebe  X
Western Grebe  X
Black Oystercatcher  1
Common Murre  1
Western Gull  X
Herring Gull  1
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  X
Pacific Loon  1
Pelagic Cormorant  X
Bald Eagle  2
American Crow  X
Song Sparrow  2

Yaquina River–SE Jetty Way, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Jan 30, 2023
12 species

Greater Scaup  8
Surf Scoter  20
Bufflehead  30
Red-breasted Merganser  4
Eared Grebe  2
Western Grebe  X
Common Loon  2
Pelagic Cormorant  X
Great Blue Heron  1
American Crow  X
European Starling  X
House Sparrow  X

Posted by: atowhee | January 28, 2023

MORE TO ADORE FROM ECUADOR

John Kloetzel shared more from his Ecuadoran adventure, some of it spent at Sacha Lodge in Amazonia. “Glad to see you venture into the non-avian world, Harry — where you pay more attention to the natural world than most folk, obviously.  Are you going to add butterflies and dragonflies into your world of commentary next?  Some beauties in the Amazon:  morphos, natch — hard to photograph those dorsal flashing blue wings.  THIS guy did stay still:”

“And have you seen one of these bell-wasp nests?”

IMG_3257 copy.JPG

“And hard to forget one’s first view of a long line of busy leaf-cutter ants heading into their nest.”

The blue morphos butterflies are large, electric, making even our Mountain Bluebirds’ bluer look toned-down. Irridescent but pure, bright blue with no hint or tint of any other color. Besides the blue, jays, bluebirds and morphos all share the path to true blue. There is no natural pigment–it’s all structural engineering. the Blue Morpho does not gets its color from pigment, but from structure. Tiny scales on the butterflies’ wings have even tinier nano-scaled ridges that reflect and diffract light waves that hit the surface of the wing. All that is not absorbed is the brightest blue frequencies.

Click here for some Ecuador birds, blogged earlier.

Posted by: atowhee | January 28, 2023

WARBLER WEEK

IT SUETS THEM JUST FINE

Monday Through Friday this past week, we’ve been getting warblers in our garden. Today, Saturday they and the turkeys took the day off. Yesterday:

The kinglet is not often seen in our garden. This one came to the suet block while I was working a few feet away!

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 27, 2023. 23 species

Wild Turkey  21
Mourning Dove  24
Glaucous-winged Gull  2     fly over
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  5
American Crow  5
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  1
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  2
Varied Thrush  1
House Finch  X
Lesser Goldfinch  X
American Goldfinch  30
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Song Sparrow  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Townsend’s Warbler  1

Click here for a look at Arizona’s inter-community water anger. A water district would make sense but the parched residents don’t want to create a new government agency. That’s how deeply embedded the U.S. anti-government superstitions have become. Better die of thirst than create more government. “Keep your government hands off my Medicaid.” Ignorance is not bliss, here, it’s self-destruction.

Posted by: atowhee | January 28, 2023

THE BIRDS ARE ECUADORABLE

I am not a tropical bird expert. Two trips to Ecuador probably make me a notch above complete novice. I can tell a parrot family member from a motmot, a toucan from a troupial. But then you get to “which tanager is that?” These images are all from John Kloetzel’s recent stay in Cuenca. Using Lelis Navarette’s handbook, here are my best efforts at ID:

Juvenile Fasciated Tiger-heron. Below: Magpie Tanager; Swallow Tanager; Crested Owls; oropendola nest colony:

Green-and-gold Tanager
Turquoise Tanager
Plum-throated Cotinga
Pale-mandibled Aracari
Paradise Tanager

John Kloetzel added this note; “Harry, thanks for the bird ID’s.  Don’t be modest — it takes an expert!  These images were almost all shot at Sacha Lodge in the Amazon, not in Cuenca.  And there are 23 species of just tanagers among the 605 species shown the the Sacha Lodge birdbook that have been seen there!  Most of the photos were taken on my cheap iPhone thru the Fujinon spotting scope that our guide (Fausto Andy) carried with him on all the trips we made into the field from the Lodge.  He was a pro at getting the equipment lined up quickly for photography.”

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