Posted by: atowhee | February 16, 2020


Our fellow Americans are not going out and deliberately shooting Bald Eagles, but they do go out and shoot.  And the lead shot does the rest.  Any animal left with a bullet or shot in it can attract eagles which are alpha scavengers.  I often see one or more eagles around a large carcass (say a goose or Tundra Swan) and then encircled by ravens, waiting their turn.  So any shot animal not hauled off in a pick-up is eventually going to attract scavengers and that is likely going to include Bald Eagles.
Most government agencies are afraid of the NRA and vociferous gun lobby so any work to remove lead from the environment will have to be done by the gunners themselves.  Are you holding your breath?

Let’s not forget that we almost drove eagles to extinction carelessly once before…that time it was DDT.  We really need another Rachel Carson.

Of course, many wild animals suffer from the lead we shoot into the environment.  But, whaddaya expect from a species that still runs knowingly drinking water through lead pipes so we don’t have to pay to replace them?   Lead paint in old buildings…

Click here for the story on lead killing eagles, done mostly on the East Coast.

Posted by: atowhee | February 15, 2020


The warbler action is most likely to grab an observer’s attention.  They flutter, dive-bomb one another (without any actual contact), hover (less well than the adept hummingbirds) and flash their tail lights.  Those are actually pure white spots in otherwise dark tail feathers.  When they open their tail in flight on on perch those white spots flash brightly though they can only reflect what light there is.  It evidently impresses other birds as well, or frightens them if they are small enough for warbler-bullying.

None of these shots is very good but they are best I have of the flashing tailights…so far.  I shall endeavor better.  You can click on any one to enlarge but be prepared to be disappointed.  The first and last have at least a blurry hint of what the eye can see as the warblers are in motion.

Impervious to an observer focused on the good stuff, quicker than a camera lens.  He cannot lick his chops like your dog, so how does he clean his beak of suet flecks?  I have seen nuthatch and chickadee rub beaks on plant bark,  but this time he stayed in place for a couple minutes.  Quick tongue action?  Or impervious to flecks as well?rbn-frid (2)rbn-frid2 (2)rbn-frid3 (2)rbn-frid4 (2)rbn-frid5 (2)rbn-frid6 (2)rbn-frid7 (2)rbn-frid8 (2)rbn-frid9 (2)rbn-frid10 (2)rbn-frid11 (2)rbn-frid12 (2)rbn-frid14 (2)

Yesterday’s garden sapsucker, an occasional occurrence and so prized, b;lurred thanks to window glass:RBS-FRDAY_LI (2)

KEEPING UP WITH DOWNYdowjlean6 (2)downlean (2)downlean2 (2)downlean3 (2)downlean4 (2)

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 14, 2020
17 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  3
Bushtit  30
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  4
Pine Siskin  1
Lesser Goldfinch  5
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  3
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  6

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 15, 2020
17 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Downy Woodpecker  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  3
Bushtit  30
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  1
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  X
Pine Siskin  1
Lesser Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  3
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  5

Posted by: atowhee | February 15, 2020


Social networks are as old as dinosaurs…and birds…and those late-arrivals, mammals.  Click here to read about research n how those noisy nuthatches, collect and pass on information,

I know in my garden I can hear nuthatches any day of the year in all kinds of weather.  Like jays and chickadees it is in nuthatch nature to tell anybody listening what’s happening.  If I stand near the suet feeder too long, the nuthatch will scold.

Posted by: atowhee | February 14, 2020


The dog and I circled the Joe Dancer Wetlands this morning.  From high in a bare tree came music.  A male House Finch was singing his spring melody.  Singing to his intended Valentine?  I did not see a single female in the vicinity.  Perhaps they listen under cover.hofi singer (2)

There were at least two snipe and we saw three individual escape flights.  The water level is down from last month but still enough standing water and dense grass to suit the snipe.  I have seen none this season at Yamhill Sewer Ponds but the seasonal wetland there was mowed last fall and there is only short growth which would expose snipe.


There were over a dozen Song Sparrows in the wetlands this morning.  I don’t know that they could be accurately portrayed as a flock, not like finches or Bushtits that often fly around as a unit, feed shoulder to shoulder and act like a group.  The Song Sparrows are gathered there because of the habitat and food supply.  I do not get the sens that any one of them cares a bit whether there are other Song Sparrows nearby, or not.  There is just the beginning of spring song ( I heard two individuals tuning up) and no evidence yet of territorial behavior.  Like lone topers at a saloon I don’t think Song Sparrows come and go together.  They just happen to share the same taste for time and place.  There is a variety of plumages to be seen.  If you want to study Song Sparrow variations, this is the time and place to begin:ss bush5 (2)ss in bush (2)ss in bush2 (2)ss in bush3 (2)

ahmmr (2)jay two (2)jd wetlnds (2)

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 14, 2020
13 species

Anna’s Hummingbird  2
Wilson’s Snipe  2
Northern Flicker  1
American Kestrel  1
California Scrub-Jay  3
American Crow  2
European Starling  X
American Robin  30
House Finch  2
Lesser Goldfinch  5
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  40
Song Sparrow  18

Here are the roof, not tree, top singers with their folk hit. Click here.
The Rooftop Singers were an American progressive folk-singing trio in the early 1960s, best known for the hit “Walk Right In”. The group was composed of Erik Darling and Bill Svanoe (vocals, guitar) with former jazz singer Lynne Taylor (vocals).

Posted by: atowhee | February 13, 2020


I saw blooming violets at Wennerberg Park this week, and our first native plant to bloom…is blooming.  Oemleria cerasiformes.  Indian plum.  Osoberry (though you can find it on some websites as oso berry).
Wikiepedia says, “The fruits of osoberry are edible and resemble small plums which are dark blue when ripe. Indigenous peoples of the Americas include osoberry in their diets, make tea of the bark, and chew its twigs to use as a mild anesthetic and aphrodisiac.”

It doesn’t get more than twelve feet tall, not much for a western tree.  But it will live a long life.  It has evolved to not be attractive as deer browse, meaning it won’t  get eaten to the ground.  Its range coincides with elk as well so they must not have favored it back in the days when elk were in every wet spot where this small tree thrives.INDPLM1 (2)INDPLM2 (2)

 The population of yellow-rumps in our garden is increasing.  Two months ago: one Audubon’s.  Then early this year a single myrtle showed up, then later: two.  Now we are up to six warblers: four myrtle and a pair of Audubon’s.  Sometimes they converge.  They pretend to own the feeders, bullying smaller species.  They seem to have pretty much drive off the local Bushtit flock.  The pick on one another with swoops and chipped warning calls.  Chickadees understand the sport and persist, as does the stolid little Red-breasted Nuthatch.  Bewick’s Wren is too fast for them but become scarcer.  “Who needs this crap” seems to be his wise motto.  The buzz, bomb, flutter, show off their white tail spots, generally strut around like the “owners” they purport to be.  Their twitter account is their eagerness to confront and they now account for nearly all the aggression in our garden.  Ignored, of course, by scrub-jay and starlings and the larger sparrows.WRB2 (2)wrb4 (2)wrb5 (2)wrb6 (2)Yellow-throated yellow-rump = my first good shot this day of one of the Audubon’s:wrb7 (2)wrb8 (2)wrb9 (2)The tail is more than a rudder, or indicator of species, it is a signalling device, a built-in placard for one-on-one communication or societal demonstrations.  wrb10 (2)wrb11 (2)wrb11 (3)wrb12 (2)SEIGNEUR OF SUETwrb15 (2)wrb16 (2)

Posted by: atowhee | February 13, 2020


Albert Ryckman’s photos show you why:BLACK CROWNED NIGHT HERONunnamed (1)unnamed (2)unnamed (3)unnamed (4)unnamed (5)unnamed (6)These are all spring photos; some of these species are gone if you visit in September, but there are migrants seen at Malheur who don’t breed in the basin. More spring birds:unnamed (9)unnamedWILSON'S SNIPE copyYELLOW HEADED BLACKBIRDYELLOW WARBLER-sharpen-sharpen

I will be leading these trips.

May 23(Sat)-May 28(Th)
This trip will give us a chance to see the results of on-going spring migration.  Many nesting species will have just returned.  Males will be singing and there will be territorial displays.  There may be the young of early nesting species like Ferruginous Hawk, Bald Eagle, Great Horned Owl, Sora.  There is always a chance of vagrants such as Catbird, eastern warblers, Orchard Oriole.  Some species that nest in the region will be passing through and may include Lewis’s Woodpecker, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Arrive for dinner on the 23rd, depart after breakfast on the 28th.  All meals and accommodations provided by Field Station.

June 13(Sat)-June 18(Th)
This trip will give us a chance to see most of the nesting species of Harney County.  Common Nighthawks and American White Pelicans will be in the air.  Both Eastern and Western Kingbirds will be on territory.  Bobolinks should be seen along with water-related birds such as Trumpeter Swan, Black Tern and Wilson’s Phalarope.

Some birds we expect to see on both spring trips include Mountain Bluebird, Sagebrush Sparrow, Brewer’s Sparrow, Horned Lark, Franklin’s Gull, Short-eared and Burrowing Owl, Swainson’s and Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, numerous harriers, Marsh, Canyon and Rock Wrens, Loggerhead Shrike, Sage Thrasher, Yellow-headed Blackbird, White-faced Ibis in large numbers, Long-billed Curlew, Willet I breeding plumage, Eared Grebe in breeding plumage.  Nesting ducks could include Blue-winged Teal and Canvasback.

Arrive on June 13th in time for dinner, leave after breakfast on the 18th.  All meals and accommodations provided by Field Station.

Sept. 12(Sat)-Sept. 18(Fri)
This trip will allow us to spend a full day in the Steens where we will go to the peak at just under 10,000 feet elevation.  In the late summer we may get access to areas closed during breeding season.  There may be migrating raptors passing through the valley and mountains.  While many insectivorous birds will be gone there will also be songbirds on migration including huge numbers of White-crowned Sparrows and their cousins from several species.

Arrive for dinner on the 12th, depart after breakfast on the 18th.  All meals and accommodations provided by Field Station.

Mammals possible on trips include: Belding’s ground squirrel, pronghorn, wild horses, mink, river otter, long-tailed weasel, badger, coyote, mule deer, yellow-bellied marmot, kit fox, Nuttall’s cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, bats, California ground squirrel. 

To get more information or sign up for these trips, call the Malheur Field Station at (541) 493-2629.

–Harry Fuller

Posted by: atowhee | February 13, 2020


Gallery of birds seen recently on Oahu by Albert Ryckman:pairunnamed (6)unnamed (5)unnamed (4)unnamed (3)unnamed (2)unnamed (1)unnamedLaysan Albatross; Hawaii Stilt; Hawaii Coot; Pacific Golden Plover, in winter they run around on golf courses there like Killdeer here on the mainland; Bristle-thighed Curlew.

Posted by: atowhee | February 12, 2020


Birders and waste management personnel are the only people who willingly hang out at sewer ponds.  Today at Yamhill town ponds there were two workers on the pond levees and this one birder…and lotsa birds from Bald Eagle down to Anna’s Hummingbird.
First, I stopped by to pay my respects to the wintering Mockingbird at the Main Street yellow Victorian.  He was overseeing his domain as usual.MB1 (2)MB2 (2)MB3 (2)MB4 (2)MB5 (2)

I first noticed the adult Bald Eagle in a bare oak tree at least two hundred yards west of the sewer ponds.  I have seen eagles there before this month.  Could there be a pair nesting in that vicinity?
When the workmen drove their trucks along the levees the ducks moved away…swimming to the opposite end of the ponds or even flying low across a levee to the next pool.  But then the eagle launched into the sky, circling and climbing higher.  At that most of the ducks began flying in swerving formations high above the ponds, and moving at their top speed.  Eventually the eagle moved away and the ducks began to splashdown.BE FAR OFF (2)BE SKYD (2)BE SKYD3 (2)FLKD (2)FLKD2 (2)FLKD4 (2)

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 12, 2020
21 species
Canada Goose  12
Northern Shoveler  75
Mallard  8
Lesser Scaup  60
Bufflehead  27
Ruddy Duck  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
Mourning Dove  7
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Killdeer  4
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Kestrel  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  8
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
European Starling  X
American Robin  20
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Song Sparrow  1

Posted by: atowhee | February 11, 2020


There were two very agitated Pacific Wrens, not pacific at all.  They were wintering in the sword ferns on a slope beneath mature, dense conifers along the west edge of Ed Grenfell Park.  One was angry enough at the dog and me that he came out and gave us a good looking over, and a series of threatening wing ruffles.  Wow, were we ever chagrined at our very existence in HIS chosen forest:PW PRFCT2 (2)This is our smallest wren, along with his eastern cousin, the Winter Wren.  One gram lighter on average than Bewick’s Wren.  One-third of an ounce per body.  Four inches long, 5.5 inch wing span.  “Flying mouse” some early ornithologist called him.  Likes shades and damp and ferns and being near the ground.  Not a tree-top singer, this one.
Some comparisons:  Red-breasted Nuthatch might share the same conifer grove.  He’s a half inch long (and not nearly so much tail), and has a three-inch longer wingspan. And a weight of an entire gram more. Hutton’s Vireo also has longer body, more wingspan and 2 grams more weight. All the Empidonax clan are larger in every measure, as well.  Even the miniscule Chestnut-backed, our smallest chickadee, is slightly larger all around.  The Bushtit  is actually longer and has greater wingspan, but its long tail means it is  svelte compared to the pudgy wren, weighing  just over 5 grams!PW (2)PW FACE (2)PW FLUTTR (2)PW2 (2)PW4 (2)PW6 (2)PW7 (2)PW8 (2)PW9 (2)PW10 (2)PW12 (2)PW15 (2)PW16 (2)PWPRFCT (2)PW LAST (2)It was a WRENching decision but I had to walk away despite this bird’s love of attention.  I suspect in a previous life he was a twitterer and a vlogger, maybe even an Instagram addict.  I did promise to photograph him some more, should we meet again…

Baker Creek Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 11, 2020
14 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Red-tailed Hawk  5
American Kestrel  3
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  2
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Bushtit  30
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Varied Thrush  8
American Robin  75
Dark-eyed Junco  10
Song Sparrow  1
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Pheasant Hill Rd. & pond, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 11, 2020
6 species

Mallard  X
Hooded Merganser  X
Pied-billed Grebe  X
Western Bluebird  1
American Robin  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X

Posted by: atowhee | February 11, 2020


Not only is the political world full of lies, half-truths, propaganda, fostered conspiracy theories and internet trolling, but many issues we may have thought we had put behind us…still unsettled.  The Trump Regime just gave landowners and businesses big and small complete permission to kill any bird that gets in the way, as long as the bird dies during a pursuit of profit and bird killing is not the business being pursued.
Log a forest, burn a prairie, mine some minerals and let the trailings run free, fill a marsh to make a parking lot, use herbicides to get rid of pesky plants that finches might need.  All these are now legal acts despite the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty.  Damn those robins, I got business to do round here.

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