Posted by: atowhee | April 25, 2019


Not even a Mockingbird would venture to copy the looooong sooooong of a Black-headed Grosbeak.  They are the loquacious member of the cardinal family.  Yesterday evening I saw my first one of the year at Wennerberg Park, but I didn’t know it.  I took a picture of a lone bird far up in a bare tree.  I imagined it to be one of the House Finches singing in the park.  Finally today I downloaded the image and looked at it up close–black head, black back, orange chest and a bold whitger bar on the wing.  Bingo, my first male grosbeak of the year,  Females return usually lags behind the more eager, territorially driven males.BHG-FOY (2)This morning I heard one singing, and singing, in the forest along the river in Joe Dancer Park.

Posted by: atowhee | April 24, 2019


Science is finally getting around to realizing how many other communicating species are on this earth.  Remember the old days when we were supposed to believe we were the only species with ideas and communication and tools?  Talk about heedless arrogance…

Well, now some attention is being paid to whale speak…and if we pay close attention we will no doubt learn that it makes more sense than a lot of the crap on twitter, naming no names, of course.

Posted by: atowhee | April 24, 2019


We had a good hour at Linfield this morning.  Swift, swallows, warblers.  Aggressive Bewick’s Wren.  Pair of downys together, later a pair of creepers. No quibble that the highlight was a trio of Turkey Vultures and an adult Bald Eagle, circling the parking lot at St. Vincent de Paul and a neighboring bar-b-que shop.  Turns out there were food scraps in the dumpster with the lid open.  So did the eagle smell the garbage, or follow the TVs who we know have keen smellers?  The science of birds’ olfactory ability is very primitive.  Click here for the best available info.  Nothing pertinent to Bald Eagles of course.

Here are some thoughts from Paul Sullivan who was on the walk: “I’m thinking about this question of a Bald Eagle being able to smell carrion.  Further thoughts.  Could it be possible that the eagle had previous experience finding carrion at that location?

Could it be possible that the eagle followed the Turkey Vultures to the site?

I checked a few things out.  First of all, the vultures were not zeroing in on the parking lot this morning, they were just wandering about.  The eagle came, and they gave it room.  Then the eagle zeroed in on the parking lot.   The barbeque pit was not operating this morning.

I rechecked the dumpster and did not find it smelly (I don’t have a very good nose.), but my companions assured me it was smelly.  What I saw looked more like pizza and barbeque waste, not raw meat.   I asked the folks at the market, and they do indeed butcher meat.  Attractant is present.

They said they had never seen an eagle or a vulture around the market, which points toward no previous experience on the part of the eagle.   So this points to the eagle finding the site on its own and focusing in on the dumpster.”  —Paul Sullivan

I would add that the TVs were perched less than 100 yards from the dumpster when we first saw them so they might have been able to smell the target BEFORE the eagle arrived.  They had launched into flight but not obviously focused on the parking lot before the eagle as Paul described.

uHere are the TVs while they were perched:TV-TOO (2)

Here is the eagle circling low over town:be (2)_LI

Here is the pursuing crow who was trying impress the eagle with his territorial mandate.  Eagle seemed unimpressed:cro after be (2)

Creeper and Downys:

Camas in bloom now:CAMAS (2)

Linfield College campus, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 24, 2019 8:00 AM – 9:05 AM.  24 species (I missed raven and hummingbirds that were noted by others in the group.  Most birders had left when we found the creepers, Steller’s Jay and Song Sparrow.)
Mallard  1
Vaux’s Swift  1
Great Blue Heron  2     fly over
Turkey Vulture  3
Bald Eagle  1
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  1
Violet-green Swallow  4
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  1
Brown Creeper  2
Bewick’s Wren  1
American Robin  15
European Starling  X
Evening Grosbeak  X
House Finch  X
Lesser Goldfinch  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  6
Yellow-rumped Warbler  15

Posted by: atowhee | April 23, 2019


We just spent four days in San Diego.  Surfers think they are tops.  Porsche drivers always think they own the roads.  Developers have seized the day, the week, the years and covered all but vertical slopes with more and more stucco.  Gas costs $5/gallon so you might think the Hunt Brothers’ Chevron owns the world.  But I took my binoculars and I aver that Northern Mockingbirds rule in that southern stronghold.  They are omnipresent, omnivocal and omnibelligerent.BG-MOCK (2)Their spring territorial displays fo far beyond song.  They fly up with wings and tails flashing bold white patches, then flutter back to a singing perch again.BG-MOCK3 (2)BG-MOCK4 (2)BG-MOCK5 (2)BG-MOCK6 (2)Or course, the mocker is a supreme mimic as are his thrasher cousins:MOCK-A (2)As soon as we got away from parking lots and stores the song of the local mockers could be heard.  A melodious warning of ownership laced with emboldened effrontery.BG-MOCK7 (2)On the attack against an over-flown raven:CORA1 (2)

Posted by: atowhee | April 23, 2019


I went to check on “my” dippers today after being out of town all weekend.  Both were adults were present and I concluded they were beginning to feed nestlings.  First Bird #2 spotted when I got down to the edge of the creek facing acoss at the nest.  #2 flew under the bridge making a sharp alert call.  Bird #1 then fled the nest and flew downstream to land on a rock about ten feet from the bridge.  Then Bird #2 landed on the same rock where they stayed together momentarily.  Then Bird #1 flew off downstream and disappeared around the bend.  Dippers do not like to take short cuts over land, they fly along the course of their stream.

#2 then flew downstream and landed on what I think is their sentinel rock.  It’s the highest point within sight of the nest and usually contains some bright dipper-originated whitewash on its steep slopes.  I was still at creekside across from nest.  #1 then flew back into view, some singing was exchanged between the dipper pair then #1 went back downstream beyond sentinel rock but in view.  See the first picture below.  Clearly, #2 was not going back to fishing until I left.  I went back onto the top of the bridge and then both flew upstream under the briden and began hunting.  I wished them well and left them to it.two dpr (2)_LI

Image on the right in this grouping shows #2 on sentinel rock. Click on any image for full screen view.

Below, what I take to be a red-legged frog in the creek.  Bleeding hearts blooming in woods along Baker Creek:

Posted by: atowhee | April 18, 2019


Vaux’s Swifts, lots of Violet-green Swallows and a lone Rough-winged, all over McMinnville this morning.  Their aerial ballet a tribute to some sunshine and warmth, thus to the presence of flying insects.

And yesterday I had my first flock (more than one) blue butterflies.  I think they are spring azures, aptly named.

Posted by: atowhee | April 17, 2019


Jeepers, creepers.  A pair of Brown Creepers were feeding together at Joe Dancer this week.  That pry bar of a bill always gets me excited, they can reach into crevices closed to all other bark feeders we have here.  Later I came across a skulking, singing Song Sparrow:

White-crowned Sparrows are abundant in many parts of western U.S.  But one shows up in my harden only occasionally.  Today one posed in his spring finery:WCS-GRDN (2)

So long to our wintering Cacklers…until next fall:cackline (2)

Spring, late season mushrooms and my first columbines of the year while the nearby river runs high and muddy.  Writing “yellow violets” lets me feel just how contorted our English language can be.

Posted by: atowhee | April 16, 2019


Birds of Notre Dame: Common Kestrel nesting on rose window facing the river…Pied Wagtail…House Sparrow, gulls and cormorant passing along the Seine nearby…do any birding in Paris?

I have a pretty good Paris list, inc. Serin, Black Redstart (Montparnasse Cemetery), Song Thrush in Parc Montsouris and the Common Swifts that course the narrow streets in summer.   Wagtails like the lawn beneath the Eiffel Tower.

My favorite France birding adventure (besides the Griffon Vultures in Provence, another magnitude of coolness altogether):  December 26th we took our daughter by train to see the cathedral at Chartres.  Cold. Snow on ground and much of the cathedral roof and buttresses.  In view of the church we lunched in a small bistro.  As I watched I saw something moving around high on the stone walls in the sun: bincos told me the story–a Black Redstart, presumably finding granite mites or spider eggs or Gothic caterpillars…some bit of French avian cuisine.  Binocs–never leave home without ’em.

Below two antique photos I shot on film more than a decade ago.  First, looking at Notre Dame from the end of the bridge that goes east from there onto Ile St. Louis.  This is the bridge where street musicians play all night in the summer.  Here you can hear anything from Roy Orbison to Bach.

Below that the House Sparrow colony that populates the Place west of Notre Dame, on the side of the main entrance.  Often there are one or more sparrow-maniacs feeding them in the daytime, the sparrows clustered on shoulders, hat (to avoid poopy hair-dos), arms and any nose long enough to provide a perch…here I jest jest a-leetle.

nd from eastND-HOSPARROWSHere, one of the bird people of Notre Dame Place, not far from the Charlemagne statue–sparrows and Rock Pigeons congregate:nd-bird man

Posted by: atowhee | April 16, 2019


The Hawaiian Crow is a tool use.  Yes, the Alala can use an avian icepick to get want it wants from a crevice or hole.

Sadly these birds are mostly in captivity because people have infested their native habitat with cats, cat poop and its accompanying toxoplasmosis–all three are fatal to the crow which evolved long ago on the islands where the only mammals were in the Pacific Ocean, not in the forest.  Well, that’s not quite true…there is the Hawaiian Hoary Bat.

Posted by: atowhee | April 16, 2019


It seems nature is more flexible and understanding than some animals of our own species.  Can you gauge the reaction if a trio of adults in the U.S. were openly parenting a family of kids?  Only if one of them were a governess or au pair or a grandparent.

Well, we have proof of two males and one female Bald Eagle raising a family together.  The nest is along the Mississippi River in Illnois; nest contains three eaglets.

In the past it has been learned by people that some species, especially Corvids, will often welcome a nest helper, usually a young bird that is approaching breeding age.   But the eagle trio is composed of three birds who are at least four years old, based on the mature plumage.

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