Posted by: atowhee | August 20, 2018


At Wennerberg Park this afternoon the Chipping Sparrows were almost as thick as the smoke in the air.  And also, in the air, was a quintet of Canada Geese. Three of them were wearing neck bands, presumably the youngsters.  Who’s banding our local geese in Yamhill County vicinity?  This summer’s young are now flying about with parents so those lines of geese will become more common and larger as the summer narrows into autumn.CAGO QUINTA few minutes after these geese flew over going north, the same group (same number anyway) came back, heading south.  Perhaps to Carlton Sewer Ponds which are near Wennerberg.CHSPI like young Chipping Sparrows, they don’t know to fly away when they first see a large, lumbering biped.CHSP2This unedified fellow was out stirring up0 dust to add to the smoke particulates already in the air and in his own lungs…this view is west from Westside Road looking toward the Coastal Range foothills through the smoke.DUSTERCherry tree prepares for autumn, for fall…of the leaves.YELO

In the flight picture the whole chickadee is in motion already…except the feet.


“These very well could be from the big collaring project in Nanaimo, BC. Several were harvested on Fern Ridge Lake (and a couple other Willamette Valley locations) during the second week of September 2017, banded the same year. I know personally of 6 harvested last September and 1 other seen. These westerns are migrating south early on and are not all residents. The alternative is the annual banding project on the islands of the Lower Columbia River – I know they banded there this year, but I’m not sure if they put on collars.–Cody Smith, Molalla, OR”

“I have sightings of white neck collared Canada Geese here in Washington County.  Amazingly both times were also in August.

August 30, 2016 there were 6 collared Geese at Jackson Bottom Wetlands in Hillsboro.August 21, 2017 there were 5 collared Canada Geese at Fernhill Wetlands in
Forest Grove.

I reported the band numbers to the Banding Lab and learned that all the birds had been banded near Nanaimo, BC and were hatched 2015 or earlier.  One of the birds seen at Jackson Bottom in 2016, was also one of the birds at Fernhill Wetlands in 2017.–STeve Nord”


A friend of mine, Kirby Flanagan, is a professional bird photographer. And he’s teaching a class on the techniques and skills this fall…in Nevada.  Click on this class description for details:  Bird Photography… Capture stunning images of our local waterfowl, birds of prey and more. Review the basics of composition, correct exposure and photography techniques…


Posted by: atowhee | August 20, 2018


Those three words are the heart of the warning on climate change from a recent report.  Focused on the Northern Hemisphere and the results of Arctic warming, be ready for weather that reaches “very extreme extremes.”

The warmer Arctic means high and low pressures will get stuck, and that means weather will less often moderate itself.  But, worry not, it means the Trump Comp can soon build a fine money-laundering golf resort on the coastal plateau f Greenland.  Another first. making Greenland great again…not since the days of the Vikings…

Posted by: atowhee | August 20, 2018


August 20, 2018

Nature has designing ways.  From the curves of the nautilus inside and out, to the dandelion seed heads to the fine tweed feather patterns on a male Gadwall, nature is both subtle and dazzling at once. Immensity begets intensity.  Think of the zillion stars strewn across a clear, dark sky.  Think of the uncountable grains of sand along a wave-wracked beach, shuffled and reshuffled with each touch of the ocean. There is even beauty in destruction.  Have you not wondered at the colors of dying leaves on a maple in autumn?  Or picked up the bleached bone from some long lying carcass on a meadow, or a unbroken sand dollar on the beach, or the shriveled scaly shed skin of a snake who’s moved on days before?

A small form of destruction is afoot in our garden right now.  Our lone large sunflower plant is giving up its living leaves to the American Goldfinches. And it is not really destruction, it is nature re-purposing the cellulose and carbohydrates and water into bird nutrition. I have come to think of their work as “finch lace:”FLACEFLACE2FLACE3FLACE4Young House Finch:HF KIDIMG_0362We found this feather at Wennerberg Park. It was about five inches in length, bigger than a Wilson’s Warbler, for example.  I suspect it comes from a Cooper’s Hawk:PLUMERed-tail over our garden:RTH CIRCLESAR WITH HFAbove: robin and House Finch turn their backs to the camera.  Below, first Chestnut-backed Chickadee in our garden this year…a youngster with a still-stub tail:CBCH YNGCBCH2A tragic death, window victim.  We use reflectors and hang wind twisting ribbons, but occasionally a small bird will try to fly into the deadly reflection.  We keep bird baths and feeders more than fifteen feet from windows, but still…DEAD AGHighways, transmitter towers, high-rise buildings, windows, housecats outdoors, pesticides…we make the world even more dangerous for our tiny bird-neighbors.

Interested in birding class this fall in McMinnville?  Click here for information.  Check page 23 of the PDF program for Park & Rec.

Posted by: atowhee | August 20, 2018


To which the Republicans reply: Log, baby, log.

I used to live in Rep. Greg Walden’s District.  No longer, but I still get his Republican spam.  Here’s his solution to the forest fire problem, no inconvenient mention of drought or building houses in forests or climate change (heaven forfend):

“We are hostages in our own homes.” That’s how Jennifer, a mother from Medford, described to me what communities in Southern Oregon and across the West are enduring yet again: a summer filled with smoke and fire.

Jennifer continued in her letter to me saying, “my children are robbed of being able to play outside. I absolutely hate that nothing is done to prevent this from happening.”

As I traveled throughout Southern Oregon in recent weeks, I met with concerned citizens, veterans, small business owners, and community leaders who had the same deep frustration as Jennifer. I share that frustration as well, as do people I meet with throughout our state.

Year after year, we are suffering from the effects of catastrophic wildfires and the smoke that comes with it. Our airsheds are choked and smoke blankets our communities, giving us some of the worst air quality in the world this summer.

We cannot accept this as our “new normal.” The only way to fix this problem that impacts us all is to fix the broken policies that have led to these overstocked forests and unnaturally catastrophic wildfires in the first place.

As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I announced that we are going to hold a hearing this fall to examine the health consequences of the smoke from these fires and explore the various contributing factors, from climate change to overstocked forests. This hearing will serve as an opportunity to address the current state of our forests and what policy changes need to be made.

In parts of Oregon, our forests are packed with nearly 1,000 trees per acre on land that  historically had 20 trees per acre — a clear sign that our forests are overstocked and need to be restored to their natural balance.

Moreover, a recent study by The Nature Conservancy, Forest Service, and others found that fuel management projects can reduce the size and intensity of fire up to 70 percent and reduce carbon emissions from the fire by up to 85 percent.

That’s why we need to give our forest managers additional tools to remove the excess fuel loads that have built up in our forests.

To help mitigate the risk of these fires, we need to speed up and increase our work in the woods.

And after fires, we should remove the burned, dead trees — where appropriate and while they still have value — and use the proceeds to pay for replanting a new, healthy forest for the next generation. That’s called stewardship, and that’s what happens on private, county and state lands. These needed reforms were included in the Farm Bill that passed the House earlier this year with my support. Unfortunately, the Senate’s version of the legislation failed to include these common-sense changes.

As negotiations on the final bill proceed, it’s time for the Senate to act and include these needed provisions.

The Farm Bill builds on the progress we made toward fixing federal forest policy earlier  this year when we passed into law the most significant reforms in over a decade.

We provided the Forest Service with tools for rapid implementation of wildfire resiliency and hazardous fuels reduction projects.

And we took steps to fix fire borrowing starting in 2020, which will help end the vicious cycle of depleting resources for fire prevention to pay for fire suppression.

This progress is important, but we have a long way to go. Nearly 30 years of poor management have created a tinderbox in our federal forests that ignites every summer. It will take significant time and effort to restore balance to our public lands.

But we must push forward. Working together with people on the ground in Oregon, my colleagues in Congress, and the administration, I am confident that we can continue moving in a better direction for communities across the West, our airsheds, water sheds, and federal lands.

I’ve heard the same message loud and clear from Oregonians like Jennifer no matter where I go in our state: something needs to change in the way we manage our forests. I am committed to making that change happen.

It is an honor to represent you in the U.S. Congress.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon’s Second District

He has a point, if we cut down all those damned trees then we’d only have to worry about grass or sagebrush or wheat fires…though that didn’t go so well for the folks in Wasco County this summer where thousands of acres of wheat burned.  I am only surprised that the brilliant Mr. Walden doesn’t advocate lightning rods for all, anything but mention climate change.  I am starting to smell smoke, I must be getting hot under the collar, a slow burn, just trying to comprehend the ignorance and arrogance that imagines everything on earth should be twisted to make profits for a few who will then thankfully donate to Mr. Walden’s future campaigns.
Here is comment emailed to me from another BOO subscriber who read the above: “These salvage logging sales are closed to the public for safety reasons.  Heaven forbid that we, the owners of this land, should make first hand observations of what is being done to it. I snuck into the Lone Pine Fire on the former Klamath Reservation about 25years ago. So much stumpage was sold off that burn at 10cents on the dollar that no private stumpage was sold anywhere in eastern Oregon that year. But what will always haunt me was the 200ft tall sugar pine whose own canopy was so far above the second growth that it was unscathed. It had blue paint on its base.”

Posted by: atowhee | August 19, 2018


Two birds appeared today that have not been around this summer…it’s not their breeding territory.  But they winter here in the McMinnville area.  Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Lesser Goldfinch.  The last of these chickadees I saw back in June.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a Lesser Goldfinch in my garden in 2018.

I will be teaching a three-week birding class here in McMinnville this fall.  Starts October 18th.  Three talks, three walks.  You can click here for the park & rec program, class is listed on page 23 of the PDF.

Our likely Saturday field trip destinations will be Hagg Lake, Tualatin River NWR and Baskett Slough.   The latter only if we get some rain before then.  Its practically a desert now.

Posted by: atowhee | August 19, 2018


There’s an amazing new book out about the Arctic and the photographer is a young man who grew up on the ice, and under it.

That’s right, those horrid forest fires are the result of eco-terrorism, not matter the real cause.  Just ask Secty, Zinke.  And he is curtailing all that science stuff about climate change, shutting off research.  As the famous philosopher once said, “Ignorance is bliss.” Sadly for the Zinkster, he can’t stop other nations from measuring the glaciers’ melt rate, the rising sea level, the extent of severe drought or forest fires or extreme weather events.  He can pretend to ignore the American islands becoming water-logged and uninhabitable but what will he do when Mara Lago or Exxon Headquarters get flooded and they come to the feds for bail-out money?  He’ll be long gone by then.

Does he know about the fires in Montana?  So far, less than 4000 acres in Glacier National Park–paltry by 2018 standards.  Or does Zinke simply care only for profit and power?

Posted by: atowhee | August 17, 2018


Three birders spent the morning at Sheridan Sewer Ponds.  Our trio had a busy morning.  Before we were out of the car we saw hundreds of swallows lined up on the electric wires next to the ponds, waiting for more warmth and more flying insects. Two hours later most of the swallows were over the water or perched along the pond edges on sturdy weeds.  We saw  nothing unusual but got quite close to ravenously feeding shorebirds.

Least Sandpiper and Spotted Sandpiper, along the shoreline of the sewer ponds. Yellow legs of the leasts clearly seen as they let us get close.  In Last image the Spottie is looking up, alert to some danger we could not see.  Click on any image to see full screen:

Swallow gallery:

In the next to last image you can enlarge and see an immature Tree Swallow with his dirty collar is loudly complaining, maybe a parent late with the insect for brunch.

OSP-AOSP-BThe Osprey went overhead, hunted the edge of the ponds, THen came back, carrying something in its talons…which it later dropped.OSP-COne of two female Ruddy ducks with ducklings. This was the youngest group…six, good swimmers already but still small and fuzzy.rudd-famrudd-fam2

Our mammal herd consisted of Rob Schulman, Paul Sullivan and I.  Two of the species were first in Yamhill County THIS YEAR for Paul, significant because he probably has more birding hours in the county every year than any other person:  Black Phoebe and two immature Green Herons. I got several new birds of my own 2018 county list: Cinnamon Teal, Great Egret, Black Phoebe, California Gull, and Western Sandpiper.

In addition to the hundreds of swallows, the waxwings and phoebe were also fly-catching. The blackbirds were behaving like shorebirds.  The only cowbird we identified was a juvenile born this summer.  Two of the the three yellowthroats were also first year birds, plus one female adult.

Sheridan WTP Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Aug 17, 2018 9:10 AM – 11:40 AM.   42 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  100
Cinnamon Teal (Spatula cyanoptera)  2
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)  10
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  400
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  4
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  1
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  30, at least 14 youngsters
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  3
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  12
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  6
American Coot (Fulica americana)  50
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  30
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)  8
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)  2
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)  2
California Gull (Larus californicus)  4
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) (Ardea herodias [herodias Group])  1
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  1
Green Heron (Butorides virescens)  2     both immature
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1     chased by swallows
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  20
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  300
Barn Swallow (American) (Hirundo rustica erythrogaster)  500
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  X
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  4
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  3
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  3
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  X
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  8
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  100
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  1
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  200
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  3

Posted by: atowhee | August 16, 2018


Of course, Secty. Zinke thinks if we cut down our forests it will stop the forest fire problems.  He can’t imagine a grass or brush fire.  Only total desertification can prevent wildfires.  Sand doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile, here in the west we are facing and breathing the future…droughts, fires, smoke.  ANd a friend in Ashland, where air has been unhealthy for weeks, sent this photo…real estate marketing at its most contemporary:face masks

Posted by: atowhee | August 16, 2018


Click here for the ABA checklist update.

And now eBird has altered its taxonomy order in its checklists!!  Eeeek, all that I had learned I must unlearn and then relearn.  The pigeon family is now right behind grebes…all the raptors have fallen lower, though hawks and falcons are still separate. Right behind pigeons come nightjars and swifts and cuckoos, pushing raptors and cranes and shorebirds much lower still.  Your old field guide is now REALLY outdated. Hummers come next, then shorebirds and gulls, with egrets, cormorants, pelicans, loons falling after gulls.  Go back and look at your thirty year old field guide, loons on the front page of the ID section!  HOw their stock has fallen.
Now the list goes straight from hawks to owls.  We used to have owls and nightjars next to one another, seemed so apropos…
I didn’t detect any major changes thereafter.  Songbirds seemed to have settled comfortably into their taxonomic niches and aren’t migrating up or down the list.

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