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Posted by: atowhee | September 21, 2018

HARNEY COUNTY IN LATE SUMMER #2

This image from a farm on Greenhouse Lane shows how many collared-doves gather at a single location…a species that was not even present in Oregon two decades ago.ECD BOOMBelow: Great Horned Owl at NWR heradquarters…then GHO in evening at Malheur Field Station.GHO-MFSIMG_2825LEWO AT HQLewis’s Woodpecker at NWR headquarters above.  Below a watered field west of Riley, populated by pronghorn…near Hwy 20 and Silver Creek Road.PHORNSPSA-CHICKSpotted Sandpiper above, Chickahominy.  Below: Warbling Vireo at NWR HQ.wavi1wavi2WP IN CIRCLESWhite Pelicans soaring over Malheur.  Yellow-headed Blackbirds on fence line.yellowheds

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Posted by: atowhee | September 21, 2018

HARNEY COUNTY IN LATE SUMMER

MALHEUR FOR ROAD SCHOLAR, SEPT. 2018

Sept. 14: Today I drove from McMinnville to Malheur…actually I drove most the way…there was the short ride on the Wheatland Ferry in the pre-dawn dark.

Best birding came at Chickahomony Reservoir. [Note, one sign at the reservoir spells it “Chickahominy”] Hundreds of ducks and coots, of course. One Pectoral Sandpiper, four Baird’s plus snipe, Least Sandpipers, Horned Larks and pipits galore.  Waves of White-crowned Sparrows are passing through…they seem to be behind every bush.  At least two dozen Sage Thrashers are headquartered now at the Malheur Field Station.

Saw no eagles anywhere today, one Yellow-rumped Warbler at Dry River Viewpoint in Deschutes.  Many Western Bluebirds on power lines along Hwy 20 in eastern Deschutes County.  Townsend’s Solitaire at small pond two miles south of Hwy 20 on Double OO Ranch Road between Sage Hen Rest Area and Burns…eating juniper berries naturally.

Headquarters pond at Malheur is now shallow puddle, dozens of quail at HQ…towhees bullying the White-crowns.

Sept. 15:  We began the day at NWR headquarters where we found tanagers, young Great Horned Owl, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Warbling Vireo, three Lewis’s Woodpeckers, a passing Peregrine, numerous Turkey Vultures and Ravens.  At one point nearly one hundred White Pelicans soared high above us , demonstrating the carrying capacity of their nearly nine-foot wingspan.  When the sun hit the white wings they gleamed with a near blinding purity.

Along Sodhouse Road we saw harriers, ravens, magpies, many Savannah Sparrows.

We were at Sage Hen Rest Area for lunch.  There we were treated to a wave of birds: Townsend’s Solitaire, Mountain Bluebirds, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Warbling Vireo, MacGillivray’s Warbler far from his usual damp, brushy habitat.

Chickahominy Reservoir: low on water but high in avian content.  One birder estimated 987 coots.  He was being quite conservative.  Highlights included Red-necked Phalarope spinning, Eared Grebes including a few in breeding plumage as well as many juveniles, Horned Lark, pipits, Baird’s Sandpipers (3), meadowlarks and several dabbler species including pintail.  Waves of barn Swallows passed over, similar to flocks we encountered numerous times during the week, though not in the Steens.

Sept. 16 At Malheur Field Station at dawn the Sage Thrashers (couple dozen) and Barn Swallows (dozens) were all about us.  We head south from The Narrows (now a pasture, not lakeshore) on Hwy 205.  .  Great Horned Owl in the west-facing cliffs south of Diamond Loop turn-off.  Buena Vista overlooked almost now water.  Rock Wren at the overlook.  A Prairie Falcon gave us a demonstration of purposeful speed as it passed.  There was a pair of cranes near the only pool of distant water.

On the Central Patrol Road between Krumbo Road and Benson Pond we saw a kingfisher but no Long-eared Owl.  There were pheasants along the road side, a common sight whenever we were on CPR or later the East Canal Road.

Lunch at Krumbo Reservoir.  Many diving ducks including Redheads, Canvasbacks, Ring-necked Duck and Bufflehead.  One the road in a pair of Golden Eagles soared overhead, one adult, one juvenile with the white tail band.  A Say’s Phoebe was working the hillside above the picnic tables.  Marsh Wren were in the tules near the boat ramp.  Here we saw our first western fence lizards, one less than two inches long.

Benson Pond was a mudflat—Yellow-rumped and Yellow Warblers were plentiful in the a ancient willows along the north end of the “pond.” We also found a bright green mantis in a blooming bush, waiting for some unwary bee or butterfly.

At Diamond Craters we found a Rock Wren, at the south end of Lava Beds Road, two more Golden Eagles, one young and one adult.  Did I mention that we saw thrashers crossing the roads                  wherever we went in the basin?

At the French Barn Visitors Center we found a dripping hose on the north side of the parking lot—a sparrow magnet.  Vesper…savannah…chipping.

 

Sept. 17 Our Road Scholar group had

At NWR HQ: Nashville Warbler, Western Tanager, Yellow Warbler, Hammond’s Flycatcher, RC Kinglets, Fox Sparrow, Rufous Hummigbirds.  Dozens of California Quail beneath the hanging bird feeders.

A large, fresh badger burrow on the edge of the visitors’ parking lot.

Tern Island (limited access, by air boat only): many shorebirds inc. both yellowlegs, LB dowitcher, avocet, stilt.  One lone Tree Swallow among the barnies.  Malheur Lake at about 10% capacity.  Water very shallow all around island.   Only gulls were Ring-billed.

En route to Tern Island on Boat Launch Road we passed numerous remains of carp, explaining the large number of black birds about—TVs and ravens.  A young Black-drowned Night-heron was our first sighting of this species.  Also sparrows around the boat ramp included a Brewer’s among the many savannah and song.

East end of Sodhouse Road, Princeton: 2 Golden Eagles

Hwy 78 between Princeton and Crane: Golden Eagle, Ferruginous (6), MacGillivray’s Warbler in sagebrush.

Crystal Crane Hot Springs (admission charge) at wildlife pond: Common Nighthawk in flight, Blue-winged teal and numerous other dabblers

Hwy 205, MP 7–juvenile Great Horned Owl hunting from fence post along highway, not a safe pursuit for the kid. Posed nicely for pictures.  Two snipe in the mud hole next to the ppower sub-station around MP6.

Sept. 18 Spent morning with biologist Teresa Wicks or Portland Audubon Society.  She took us south to Boca Lake and Dredger Pond in the southeast portion of the basin.  Both accessible only behind locked gates.  Our first pair of Trumpeters Swans on Boca. Got our first good looks at Gadwall.  Both yellowlegs sp. there.  Young White-faced Ibis close to the levee where we were.  Sora sneaking along the tules lining the canal Long-tailed weasels which captivated our photographers.

From there south along gated portion of East Canal Road—numerous pheasants, two more Trumpeters just south of the last gate, on Mud Creek Pond.  Another Great Horned Owl.  We missed a young Red-shouldered Hawk that Teresa spotted in lead car.

Lunch at Page Springs:  Cordilleran Flycatcher.  Another Great Horned Owl. Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers in the willows.  No chat was found.  House Wren, Lesser Goldfinches (the only ones all week), flickers Spotted Towhee, loud crowd of magpies. There we had both Virginia Rail and Sora.

On lower, north end of Steens Loop: Mountain Bluebirds and a lone Purple Finch plus scads of yellow-rumps and white-crowns.

 

Summary posted on 9-18: So far: Malheur NWR HQ will have no water fowl, lake dry. Benson Pond is dry…Chickahominy Reservoir is best public access lake with dabblers and shorebirds, Krumbo Reservoir has the common diving ducks and some grebes but no shorebird shoreline nor dabblers, but we got a pair of Golden Eagles up that box canyon…or you can pay to access Crystal Crane’s “wild lake” which has dabblers at least…the best lake is Boca (Trumpeters and dabblers and shorebirds), not accessible without help from the Portland Audubon biologist is you with a group…we also got NWR biologist to take us to Tern Island but that was mostly shorebirds…there are two Trumpeters on Mud Creek Pond accessible from Page Springs then north to end of East Canal Road but view is distant and other waterfowl difficult to see

We have seen two nighthawks and three flycatchers: Say’s Phoebe, Hammonds at HQ, Cordilleran at Page Springs, only phalarope (RN) At Chick…no curlew, no willet, no bobolink nor oriole, no Sagebrush Sparrows, a few warblers inc. MacGillivray’s and Nashville but no Wilson’s or orange-crowned, one waxwing…struck out on all owls except Great Horned which we cannot get away from, not even a Barn…tomorrow the Steens.  Aspen already turned yellow above 6000 feet where we went at end of today for great Mountain Bluebird pics.  Yellow-rumps, Barn Swallows and White-crowned Sparrows everywhere you go right now. Two Common Nighthawks only.

 

Sept. 19  We do the Steens Mountain Loop after failed attempt to find Sagebrush Sparrow at Saddle Butte on Hwy 205.  We begin from south end.  Tree line is at about 8000 feet elevation.  There has already been night frost and the aspen are golden.  Some late summer wildflowers continue to bloom.
In the open juniper scrub we found Western and Mountain Bluebirds, solitaires, yellow-rumps and white-crowns.  The westerns were up to 6000 feet elevation.

At the col just before the trail to the peak we watched two Prairie Falcons in aerial combat.  Then we saw a third one sit on a rock and dine.  There were elusive Horned Larks above the tree line but they ran off before we could get a good photograph. At the East Rim Overlook after lunch: high wind, 53 degrees.

We stopped briefly at Page Springs after leaving Steens Loop, an evening  visit with our local Great Horned Owl and the campers beneath his perch who were pleased and proud of their neighbor, despite his nightly hoots.

110 bird species altogether.
The Malheur Field Station is back in business and many conveniences added, good working showers in E Dorm, yahoo!

Sept. 20 home via US 20.   In eastern Deschutes County–west of Hampton ghost town–the irrigated fields drew in the predators:  Golden Eagles, Ferruginous and Red-tailed Hawks, ravens, a magpie.  Then around metro Millican, some bluebirds on the wires, western by persuasion.

At Fisherman’s Bend off Hwy 126 in Marion County_ Hairy Woodpecker and flicker greeted me the moment I got out of the car, then BC Chickadees and white-crowns.

Posted by: atowhee | September 21, 2018

HARNEY COUNTY IN LATE SUMMER #1

apipAbove: pipits ashore at Chickahominy. Below: cranes in flight. The cranes afoot.cranes abovfivecranesIMG_2618Birds at Malheur Field Station: Sage Thrasher above, Common Nighthawk below, the only one we saw perched anywhere.  Most were gone south. Next year Oregon State Press will publish Edge of Awe, a book about Malheur.  It will include my essay on nighthawks.  The other stuff includes art by the late Ursula LeGuin and good writing by various.  Alan Contreras edited.IMG_2623IMG_2660TVs around refuge headquarters and not far from the carp carcass dump.  Yum fun!IMG_2661

Posted by: atowhee | September 20, 2018

MY FAVORITE MUSTELID OF THE WEEK

Beady eyes can be alluring.  At Boca Lake we encountered, enjoyed, interested and followed after a pair of long-tailed weasels. They came and went from their narrow burrow beneath a rabbitbush. They sped about, peered at us over shrubs, cavorted up slope and down, poked their agile feet and olfactory bulb into the business of the sagebrush steppe in which they live.  We large, oafish mammals were of slim interest to them, only briefly capturing the steady, unafraid gaze of the two dark, gloss eyes. Mostly they went about the business of the true weasel—sniffing, sighting, sorting, sizing up. Their diet is anything insect, reptile, avian or mammalian their tiny teeth can penetrate.  Their enemies would be the huger, strong badger who might dig them out, requiring a second burrow exit for security…or an occasional very lucky raptor.  Surprising these two would seem almost impossible, so quick and alert and speedy. The lawyer in our group admitted she had worked among many male weasels in her profession, none as fine or admirable as these two.

Click on any image to see it full screen.  For more on this weasel species, click here. Tne LT weasel is found mainly in damp habitat and in South America in montane areas.  Its range extends from Bolivia to Canada.  Length can be up to 14 inches, with females 10-15% smaller than the males.  The eat mostly ensconced in their burrows, comfortable and unseen.

Posted by: atowhee | September 19, 2018

THE LONG-TAILED TALE: WEASELDOM AT MALHEUR

Beady Eyes

Beady eyes can be alluring.  At Boca Lake we encountered, enjoyed, interested and followed after a pair of long-tailed weasels. They came and went from their narrow burrow beneath a rabbitbush. They sped about, peered at us over shrubs, cavorted up slope and down, poked their agile feet and olefactory bulb into the business of the sagebrush steppe in which they live.  We large, oafish mammals were of slim interest to them, capturing the steady, unafraid gaze of the two dark, gloss eyes. Mostly they went about the business of the true weasel—sniffing, sighting, sorting, sizing up. Their diet is anything insect, reptile, avian or mammalian their tiny teeth can penetrate.  Their enemies would be the huger, strong badger who might dig them out, requiring a second burrow exit for security…or an occasional very lucky raptor.  Surprising these two would seem almost impossible, so quick and alert and speedy. The lawyer in our group admitted she had worked among many male weasels in her profession, none as fine or admirable as these two.

Photos when I get to faster internet connection.

Posted by: atowhee | September 18, 2018

A SUMMARY OF ROAD SCHOLAR TRIP TO HARNEY COUNTY

Tomorrow the Steens Loop.
So far: Malher NWR HQ will have no water fowl, lake dry. Benson Pond is dry…Chickahominy Reservoir is best public access lake with dabblers and shorebirds, Krumbo has the common diving ducks and some grebes but no shorebird shoreline nor dabblers, but we got a pair of Golden Eagles up that box canyon…or you can pay to access Crystal Crane’s “wild lake” which has dabblers at least…the best lake is Boca (Trumpeters and dabblers and shorebirds), not accessible without help from the Portland Audubon biologist is you with a group…we also got NWR biologist to take us to Tern Island but that was mostly shorebirds…there are two Trumpeters on Mud Creek Pond accessible from Page Springs then north to end of East Canal Road but view is distant and other waterfowl difficult to see

We have seen two nighthawks and three flycatchers: Say’s Phoebe, Hammonds at HQ, Cordilleran at Page Springs, only phalarope (RN) At Chick…no curlew, no willet, no bobolink nor oriole, no Sagebrush Sparrows, a few warblers inc. MacGillivray’s and Nashville but no Wilson’s or orange-crowned, one waxwing…struck out on all owls except Great Horned which we cannot get away from, not even a Barn…tomorrow the Steens for views and rosy-finch es, we hope.  Aspen already turned yellow above 6000 feet where we went at end of today for great Mountain Bluebird pics.  Yellow-rumps, Barn Swallows and White-crowned Sparrows everywhere you go right now. Two Common Nighthawks only.
Best mammals: pair of busy long-tailed weasels at Boca Lake today.
Posted by: atowhee | September 13, 2018

KESTREL, THE SEASON AND THE VOLE

This morning the dogs took me to Joe Dancer Park for our walk. We arrived between the welcomed, enlivening rain showers.  The autumnal equinox approaches and nature is emboldening her color palette beyond all the many chlorophyll greens and the bold tints of summer flowers.

KESTRELIA

For the second morning we watched a male kestrel hunting the margins of the small wetland at Joe Dance Park.  Yesterday an Anna’s Hummingbird attacked and the drove the little falcon away.  Today he hunted unhindered.  The many Barn Swallows were concentrated on catching and SWALLOWing as many insects as they could.  They are building body mass before their long migration—some may end up in Chile.  Much of that flesh will be burned off before they reach their wintering grounds.

Here is sequence of the kestrel, first across the marsh, then flown to a perch nearby but the tiny branch and wind forced a bit of gymnastics.  A four ounce bird blown like a kite in the breeze .  Then he zoomed off across the soccer field.  Some of the shots give a view of beauty of the bird’s wings, frozen you can actually see the colors and white spots that just blur when seen in real time in real flight. Click on any image for full screen view.

One thing the kestrel is looking for, a big meal…and here’s one laying on the lawn…it’s a Townsend’s vole, apparently died of non-violent causes, perhaps drowned after recent hard rains?  These guys are normally nocturnal so I’ve never seen one before, dead or alive…and they lace the fields with wells and roads:T-VOLE DEADTVOLE ROAD

Barn Swallows, gulls, Turkey Vultures, crows…they’ve all learned to follow the mower:

BC FACING

Action at the old hornet hole, above.

The series of rain showers moving through have come with some fine cloud formations…gone the dull blue of clear summer days, or the gray haze of low haze and smoke.

Posted by: atowhee | September 13, 2018

FLORENCE IS JUST ANOTHER WARNING ABOUT OUR TURBULENT FUTURE

Hurricane Florence may, or may not, prove the Trump Administration can prepare for a  big storm given a week’s warning…but it will definitely confirm that coastal property is less and less a really wise investment in Hurricane Country.  That would be from Mexico along the Gulf Coast then up the eastern seaboard to Canada.

Don’t blame any god or nature, we did this ourselves as this essay (click now) explains.

WORLD’S FIFTH WEALTHIEST “COUNTRY”

#5 would be California.  And it is now hosting a major conference on how to deal with climate change…as the U. S. government has adopted the lie and deny policy toward hurricanes, climate change, greed, Russian shenanigans and so many other things.  It amazes me that business people and independent operators like farmers can still fall for Republican economic bullshit.  Let’s compare, say, Kansas or South Carolina, with that socialist state of California…where is the economy stronger, the pay higher, the protective laws more stringent and businesses more closely regulated?  So why did Gov. Brownback’s brilliant tax slashing not make Kansas everybody’s envy?  First, it’s Kansas where the farm fields are heavily poisoned every year…who wants all those organic toxins in their drinking water?  But secondly businesses like to operate where people are educated, safe, not afraid of people from other nations, not bigoted hypocrites about loving your neighbor only as long as your neighbor behaves in a certain way and hates abortion just like you….etc.  It is little wonder that winners (having it the worst) in comparisons of most of the negative measures of social welfare, education, poverty, disease, obesity, et al. are dominated by red states.  Now those states are blindly refusing to prepare for the onslaught of bigger storms, higher sea levels and worse droughts and fires.  Trump is the perfect symbol of the ignorance and refusal to face reality that now seems to be at the heart of the Republican Party religion, such it is, as you can only take it on faith.  Do not expect any real facts or evidence about tax cuts, hurricane deaths, immigrants or climate change.

Click here for public radio report on Sept 12th edition of “The World,” actually dealing with climate change conference in San Francisco.  Sadly it makes clear that we are already headed for a hotter, harsher, more deadly weather world.  My grandkids do not deserve what we’ve done to them.

PIGSHIT

It’s hard to believe that decades after E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, and even some time after the movie, Babe, that people still eat dead pigs but it is a popular repast from Birmingham to Beijing.  Those doomed pigs have to be imprisoned somewhere, and place where the pigs numbers are  prodigious is South Carolina.  So, unnaturally, one of the great dangers of the impending Florentine landfall is floods of pigshit.

One of nature’s laws, we are all downstream of something.

Posted by: atowhee | September 12, 2018

SWIFTS GO TO CHURCH, AGAIN

The annual fall migration of Vaux’s Swifts is on.  Once again each evening a flock gathers above the Cooperative Ministries Church at Second and Evans Streets in downtown McMinnville.  Then at sunset or a little after, they seem to be drawn down into the chimney where they hng for the night…hang, not perch…before they emerge the next morning for more bugging.

Tonight I estimate 250, plus a nearby crow who trumpeted his feelings about nightfall.  The began to enter the chimney about 732PM, and were inside by 740PM.

The sequence of flight and roost entry:

Click on any image for full screen view.
There seems to a system at work, either through swiftly communication or else visual analysis by the birds.  Only pulses of 20-30 birds enter at one time, then the rest still in the air swirl around, sometimes as much as 200 yards from the chimney before they once again form a tight tornado and some more of the swifts tumble down into the opening.  In this case the opening can’t be more than 18 inches by two feet, not a lot of room for birds with 7 inch wingspan that must flutter in the air until they can find the right crevice for their sharp toes to find purchase where each one can hang for the night.  If too many entered at once there would be crowding, crashing and bashing, perhaps wing damage.  Somehow they understand that and ration themselves…each pulse is separated from the next pulse by at least twenty seconds. Time for the new arrivals to get hung up before more enter.  Roost entry began about 732PM, all were hung up for the night by 740PM

Posted by: atowhee | September 12, 2018

NIGHTCATS

Not long ago I blogged some images of a bobcat in daytime.  After that my Ashland friend, Marieannette, repositioned her trail camera…and presto:NIGHTCAT1NIGHTCAT2NIGHTCAT3NIGHTCAT4

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