Posted by: atowhee | August 4, 2021


The Oregon widlfire situation is complex. You can try to comprfehend it by checking on this Forestry Dept. website. Overnight lightning created many new fires.

It’s even worse in California, right now. We are not the only burners–Hawaii, Turkey, Greece.

California’s heat and dry problems don’t stop with fire and smoke. In the Sacramento River Delta it is now forbidden to pump any surface water for any purpose. I have seen some reasonable discussion of the word “drought” and that it is now hiding the fact that climate has gotten dryer, permanently dryer. “Drought” still implies that there will once again be much more water. Maybe “pandemic” is getting to be misleading, too? Will there always be new covid variants, a pernicious and deadly virus that evolves and continues to infect?

Just along the Cal-Nevada border a non-covid plague has broken out, literally. Bubonic plague killing chipmunks.

Further away the situation is not improving. In Florida the manatees are dying off faster than the un-vaccinated people. In the Gulf of Mexico (so we can blame them?) there is an enlarging dead zone due to stuff our species has created. Here in the Western Hemisphere the most pro-profit, anti-earth administration seems to be in Brazil. Did you get to see the Amazon Basin before it was Bolsinaroed?


California has three wolf packs–two have pups!

U.S. may finally and officially recognize the endangered situation of the Emperor Penguin.

Posted by: atowhee | August 4, 2021


I checked Salem’s Fairview “Wetlands” yesterday–no standing water, few birds, no ducks or swallows.
I should petition the city to change the name of our street. It should be “Finchley Road,” perhaps not as showy as the one in London*, but aviastically accurate. We now have three species and about twenty individual finches in our garden daily. All winter the siskins out-numbered the juncos. Their goldfinch cousins were around in modest flocks.

Above: adult and juvie Killdeer; lizard ina bird house from a friend who labelled it “Archeopterix;” kingfisher, male lacks red chest stripe; Coop hunting and friend’s back garden; Rich Fineo sent me the Back-headed Grosbeak shots, first time he has seen one in his Palm Desert garden…this an adult male.

*THat Finchley Road was built in 1836. Runs northwest from north London, through Golders Green, Swiss Cottage, Hampstead and on to….Finchley.

Posted by: atowhee | August 3, 2021


How do you get soot out of your feathers?

A friend in ASHland sends this report on her turkey neighbors, and smoke she has to breathe:

“The sun came up over Grizzly [Peak] at 6:30 – blood red from the smoke, but the turkeys were already up at 6:10 and getting out of bed/pine tree.
“The very interesting thing I have noticed is that when they fly down, each a few seconds after the other, they hang out on the field and if they suddenly stop mosing along (or harassing this or that one – the result of a just remembered beef from the previous day), you know they have realized that one of them has yet to appear. They ALL stand immobilized…… Then suddenly from out of the high, dense pine boughs, flies the delinquent last turkey………and they are off, usually one behind the other, on their walk to their first gleaning field at the end of the valley.
“I used to think that this was an altruistic move, looking after your group, but I think it is simply tribal. You all stick together. This is not unlike the humans in Ashland. We each may be thinking we should move away and save our skins from the ‘fire next time’, but we stay where we know people and they know us and we can depend (we think) on them……..But if the fire comes big time, we will all be in the same boat – pretty much helpless…………
It is yellow soup glen here now. They say it is from CA fires.”

She also sent this note and picture of some of her turks: “Male turkeys of Bobcat Glen seen in the happiest of times this spring – mating season. They will hang out together until next year’s mating season and get along fairly amicably. But come early next year there will be the annual competition for mating rights. After that their work is done – and that of the females will just be beginning as the females do ALL the work! nest building, brooding eggs, protecting the young and getting them raised. Poor, poor single mothers!”

Tom Fraternity Row, I’d say.

For old times sake, some turkey shots from when they came daily into our summer garden when we lived there…before heat and smoke drove us north:

Posted by: atowhee | August 3, 2021


Just got to see this video of bathing raptor, coutesy of C. S. Henry. Click to watch a Coop’s delight.

Here’s my take:  juvenile, vertically streaked chest with no rust coloringthe bird is molting,  note the shorter feathers in the middle of the tail, but it still looks like a rounded tail, not the sharpie’s blunt one,
The legs are meaty,  sharpies are noted for their twig-like legs; most telling to me, a real neck and a dark crown on the head, both Coop characteristics and a head that is not under-sized like a sharpie’s.
In an urban or suburban setting, a Coop is more likely this season…in my experience in summer most West Coast sharpies are breeding in dense, more remote forests…Coops will nest in your neighbor’s oak and hunt your backyard year round…their biggest problems–hiding from GHOs at night and avoiding those loud-mouthed crows in daylight.

In the Bay Area Evleen shares sightings oni SFBIrds…here’s her back gardenn visitor one evening:

This is an adult Coop, watching feeders.
Posted by: atowhee | August 2, 2021


July was Salem, Oregon’s hottest month in 130 years of records.

Some plants were damaged, others were pushed ahead on their summer schedule, Some animals didn’t survive from nestlings to brooding adults to fish in heated rivers to, maybe, the squirrels that used to come to our feeders. Two or three now compared to the six that were daily in June.


My wife and I never run short of garden work to do: watering, weeding, dead-heading the eagerly blooming roses, etc. The Lesser Goldfinches have been busy at their filagree assignment though they scurry away when they see my camera:

We also get a fewe American Goldfinches and a half dozen young House Finches.
The Bushtit flock is a regular as well. They flitter about, sometimes they are on and off a suet bloc or feeder in nano-seconds it seems. In this shot there are four:

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jul 31, 2021
14 species

Wild Turkey  6
Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Steller’s Jay  X
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  1
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Finch  6
Lesser Goldfinch  12
American Goldfinch  3
Spotted Towhee  1

54 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Aug 2, 2021 l
11 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Anna’s Hummingbird  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
House Finch  6
Lesser Goldfinch  12

Posted by: atowhee | July 31, 2021


I was enjoying the cool morning overcast, working to protect our baby blueberry plants from well-rooted, encroaching aggressors. Then, a neigbbor lady came by with her four gangly kids and interrupted. Soon I was a cameraman and birder.

Theses birds were certainly urbna, urbane, ur-poultry. They stayed off the street, ignored humans passing by on foot. When they walked down our drive were those wing flaps a turkish gesture of shrugging off the vision of a large, slow-witted mammal? Was it aeration of the under-wing? Limbering exercise?

The Wild Turkey was first successfully introduced into Oregon in the 1960s, there have been waves of introductions from the eastern U.S. and Mexico since then. The turkey is native to North America and the only species from here to become wudeky domesticated. Mom and her five young turks walked away with nary a gobble or a head shake in my direction.

Posted by: atowhee | July 31, 2021


A sequence captured at the pond next to the Oregon Fish & Wildlife office in Adair. Shot by Albert Ryckan as Barn Swallow dive bombs a juvenile Pied-billed Grebe:

Just being super aggressive maybe, though grebes do eat insects on the surface so they are competitors…great sequence.

The Barn Swallow’s aggression is not just against raptors (including Turkey Vultures which I take for symbolic, not worthwhile on swallows part), corvids and blackbirds. They have the effrontery to challenge humans so they have a nasty rep among certain holier-than-thou types online. Then some Barn Swallows will nest above a door and people often will not willingly deal with the emissions. We had one big-city neighbor who simply taped down newspaper to catch the droppings, and replaced said paper every few days. For some folks that’s a measure of tolerance too far. I can only add that I have read a single B-S consumes thousands of mosquitoes in a single day in that insect is on the local menu.

Posted by: atowhee | July 29, 2021


I hear second-hand reports of damage done by our forst heat dome this summer in the Willamette Valley. Some loss of Chardonnay grapes due to plant damage. Goldleaf shrubs burned to a blackened crisp above ground. Many trees and shrubs hurt, walnuts shedding nuts early, marionberry crop hurt, birds baked to death, my local squirrel herd greatly depleted. Could it have set off rapid molting among some species? I am surprised at howe many feathers I find around my house and local park. Mostly crow and scrub-jay, large and hard to miss. But I’ve seen one turkey feather, something owlish as well. And today, this fine specimen:

Flicker tail feather. Note the little spike at the end of a solid core, hlepsthe bird brace against the tree as it siddles up and down and leans back for better leverage as it chisels away.
Posted by: atowhee | July 29, 2021


Above is a damaged, aged walnt near our home. Oe third of its multiple trunk sheared off during last winter’s destructive ice storm. The part of the trunk blocking a street was sawn off, the rest remained, and this month it showed fresh leaves and branches growing upward. But the people who live on the land stepped in. The broken trunk was taken away about a week after I took the two shots above.

This is what could have happened if people had not interfered:

This photo was on Frans de Waal’s public page. He is a well-know biologist and student of animal behavior.
Posted by: atowhee | July 26, 2021


“Amidst global slowdown and risks of depressed future growth potential from climate changesocial unrest, and geopolitical instability, to name a few, responsible leaders face the possibility that growth will be limited in the future. And only a fool keeps chasing an impossibility.” –Gaya Herrington

Can we or can’t we? Will we or won’t we? If Florida’s current covidiocy is any indication much of the world’s current population will stubbornly refuse to change in the face of danger, be it covid, wildfires or the rising seas. The drive for more of everything, especially economic growth, plastic production and human reproduction could make sustainability into inability.

Ms Herrington has recently completed a study of forecasts made a half century ago as researchers then tried to see what economic growth and its environmental damage would do to people and their lives. She found that many of their forecasts for planetary and social disintegration are already playing out.

That study came out in 1972 from MIT, along with Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb, it helped fuel that decade’s environmental activism. In 1974 a Republican American President signed into law the Environmental Protection Agency. Now that half-century old report haunts our present and may presage a bleaker future than Wall Street and Beijing will admit.

Social unrest–what’s that like? Failed states, famine, civil war. Guatamala now is a source of refugees from famine, just one example, not far from the U. S.

In my personal microcosm, a neighbor today described to me a pair of Barn Swallows nesting on his porch. The female was brooding when the first heat dome of this summer hit, temps here topped 115F, and the mom was roasted to death. In our garden the number of living squirrels was reduced. Many of our plants suffered, burned leaves, blown blossoms, early die-back. Not only the living world was affected. We have a motion-sensor light on the front of the garage to aid late night dog walks. It stopped working. The owner’s manual for the light says in bold-face type it is only good up to 104 Fahrenheit–well, we blew past that. There may be a warranty good for replacement. Yet, clearly our control of the world, that is often passed off as civilization, is a fragile veneer.

The heat and drought are bringing death to more than just that one swallow and a sensor light. Waterless rivers become a curse upon fish, Utah’s “Great” Salt Lake is keeping its salt, but losing the “great” as it shrinks to a new low in recorded history. Here in Oregon we are familiar with disappearing lakes: Silver Lake, Lower Klamath Lake, Lake Chewaucan, Fossil Lake (Christmas Valley).

Here is comment from a man who’s been my frtiend since we were room-mates as frosh in 1963! His career was dedicated to atrmospheric science…ozone hole, climate change so he knows what can and can’t be done: “Unclear if we can cope but not doing our damnedest is no longer an option. Who to bless and who to blame is time wasted. Why is clear. GOP is gone. Trump may or may not be alive in a couple of years but his damage  remains. He has let the haters emerge from the shadows. They feel empowered. Negotiations with fascist racists lunatics are unlikely to bear fruit. In a world where truth and science are not accepted as truth. Highly dangerous. Time to be deeply, actively involved anyway we can. Son A and love C have a beautiful child, B. Lordy, I want my beautiful grandchildren to live in an open, caring, beautiful world. It is slipping away. Time is short. Aging is not easy. Often it sucks. But we are still kicking. We know how the fight goes. We have some experience, knowledge and many some money. I sleep better when something good happened today. Sometimes I can contribute to that. Many of us can.”

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