Posted by: atowhee | February 24, 2021


“I haven’t seen a crocus or a rosebud
Or a robin on the wing…
It might as well be spring.”

Actually, I have recently seen all three above-mentioned organisms. At Ankeny yesterday there were birds besides the snoozing Long-eared Owls. One field had 41 Tundra Swans. Eagle Marsh had a flock of feeding Tree Swallows. Multiple Bald Eagles of various ages. One Peregrine hurrying over Eagle Marsh. Perhaps, most5 fun was a very thirsty Red-breasted Sapsucker. All that sawdust can make one so parched.


Ankeny NWR, Marion, Oregon, US
Feb 23, 2021
38 species

Cackling Goose  500
Canada Goose  5
Tundra Swan  41
Northern Shoveler  X
American Wigeon  X
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Bufflehead  X
Ruddy Duck  X
Pied-billed Grebe  1
American Coot  X
Great Egret  14
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  9
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Long-eared Owl  4
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
Northern Flicker  2
American Kestrel  6
Peregrine Falcon  1
Black Phoebe  1
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  X
Tree Swallow  30     at Eagle Marsh
Golden-crowned Kinglet  X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  X
Brown Creeper  1
Bewick’s Wren  4
European Starling  X
Western Bluebird  2
American Robin  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Song Sparrow  10
Spotted Towhee  3
Red-winged Blackbird  300
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Meanwhile, here’s a piece on competitive bird feeding in Britain.

Posted by: atowhee | February 23, 2021


At Ankeny Wildlife Refuge I saw four Long-eared Owls today. They were taking their daily rest in a thicket of trees along the Rail Trail boardwalk. Today they were south of the boardwalk about ten yards at a spot about twenty yards west of the birding blind on that boardwalk. I wasn’t the only happy birder taking pictures. One birder who was there before me and staying around said he had counted five LEOs. While I watched one awoke enough to begin preening himself.

Sibley’s bird guide calls the species “rare” though it is widely ranging across North America. EBird records for this part of the Willamette Valley are sparse. Birds were noted at Baskett Slough in 1994 and 1998. Sightings have been reported at E. E.Wilson Wildlife Area for 1989, 1994-5-6. One LEO was sighted at a home in Polk County in 2011. Aumsville Ponds County Park had a lone bird sighted once in 2016. There are zero reports for the entire Portland Metro area in eBird. And this is the just the second time LEOs have been reported for Ankeny–first sightings posted on Feb. 10. There was a lone sighting in December, 2019. The Long-eared Owls do breed in some parts of eastern Oregon, including Harney County.

Here is what Birds of the World online says about the LEO population (found across the Northern Hemisphere):”Relatively common in w. U.S., but numbers fluctuate from year to year. No estimate of numbers in North America. As of 2004, population estimates for Europe by BirdLife International totaled 380,000–810,000 pairs, including 150,000–350,000 pairs in Russia, 70,000–120,000 in Romania, 33,000–47,000 in Ukraine, 25,000–40,000 in Germany, 10,000–30,000 in France, 8,000–25,000 in Poland, and 12,000–20,000 in Belarus. Fairly common in China. Numbers appear to fluctuate with rodent populations. Other, older estimates of population numbers from Europe from Cramp (Cramp 1985a), with highest estimates from United Kingdom (3,000–10,000 pairs), Netherlands (5,000–7,000), and Sweden (10,000).”

Winter roosts of up to one hundred have been found, but numbers usually run from two to twenty.

Posted by: atowhee | February 23, 2021


Take away the melanin and whaddaya have? A yellow penguin.

Posted by: atowhee | February 22, 2021


A real ice storm hit the upper Willamette Valley the night of Feb 12. Just this afternoon our house in Salem was reconnected to the internet, again. Then days–that was longest time I have been offline in a quarter century. Back in 1995-6 we built a website at my SF TV station (KPIX) and the CBS bosses in New York thought it was a waste of time, just another sill California fad.

THE ICE STORM—February President’s Day weekend

A few days before the weather forecasts for Salem had promised snow.  The winter storm did bring snow to some of the region but not to Salem. Fifty miles north in Portland fur daughter got at least eight inches of snow at her house.  In the days and then hors prior to the storm our own local forecast morphed from snow to freezing rain.  Thus it was, our biggest ice storm here this century.

Thursday night and Friday morning a light drizzle began coating all exterior surfaces with ice.  And outdoor areas not conducting heat from the soil itself was glazed with diamond clear ice on Friday.  All that day remained below freezing and so the ice stayed, but this original glazing was less than a quarter-inch thick.  Some deciduous evergreens like bamboo bent but looked hardy enough to withstand the weight.  On Friday the dark pavement absorbed the minimal solar heat that leaked through the clouds and so remained wet but not iced.  There was treacherous walking on flag stones, wooden bridges, anything metallic or even steep grassy slopes.

On Friday night the disheartening heart of the storm passed over Salem.  Real rain this time and rapid freezing.  The sound of cracking wood and crashing limbs began well before dawn.  The rain came all night.  There were sporadic explosions as limbs of all sizes, even some tree trunks, split and fell onto whatever lay below.  Electricity was gone from all the homes around by 2AM.  The cold seeped inside.

After Saturday dawned the dog and I surveyed the neighborhood on foot, careful to avoid ice, falling limbs, each announced by the warning crack of shattering wood,  and those few swerving vehicles trying to navigate slippery streets strewn with the shattered ruins of an urban forest.  The heedless storm had ripped down limbs, toppled some trees from the base where roots gave in to the weight of ice, tore off single leaves, small twigs, aged walnuts, whole shrubs.  Power lines and cable lines were snapped by falling timber and lay limp across the streets, draped over cars or roofs.  Occasionally I would stop to marvel at one line arced artfully from a utility pole to the nearest drapery point, a road sign or a pick-up.  Many fallen limbs had brought down long strips of bark torn from the tree’s trunk beneath where the limb had once attached.  Every tree naturally adds reinforcing growth beneath the point where each limb reaches away from the trunk.  Nature’s buttresses, so of course that portion of the bark would cling dutifully to its appointed limb, even as failure destroyed the limb joint.  Near Clark Creek two ash trees had been undercut by years of running water, the ice simply completed the destruction by felling both across the creek.  In some cases limbs were shattered when they hit pavement, or even the soggy earth itself.

During Saturday ambulances were heard racing through the streets.  Otherwise there was almost no traffic noise.  No planes overhead. For a day without electricity the only warmth came from hot water out of a natural gas-powered water heater.  After dark candles, flashlights, an electric lantern and a small reading light had to suffice.  No internet.  That continued to be true all through Sunday and then Monday.

Saturday our next-door neighbor was out with his chain saw, helping yet another neighbor remove fallen limbs from their yard and a street corner.  Those neighbors said one limb had crashed int their kitchen on the back side of their home.  Earlier I had seen one car and one trunk slammed by fallen limbs.

By 1030 AM Saturday the temperature was up to 36 but it got no warmer.  Limbs continued to crash as the slow melt produced drops that were as heavy as the pre-existing ice.  And there were elongating icicles.  Two inches at dawn, six inches by mid-afternoon, so low-hanging limbs and portions of roof edge were bearing ever more weight, sometimes failing and falling.  By 11AM the temp had climbed to near forty and now ice is crashing down, sometimes doing its own damage without need of wood.  By 1130AM the ice fall is prodigious—large sheets or sudden bursts of ice chunks slam onto lawn furniture, cars, lower limbs or shrubs.

For days afterword the sound of chainsaws can be heard across South Salem.  I feel here in Oregon the percentage of households with a chain saw may be higher than the percentage with firearms.  The firwood vendors are in for a slack year here in 2021.  Free wood abounds and will be ready for next fall and winter.

Our home got electricity back on Sunday.  Neighbors a few doors down did not have electricity even late Monday.  Business on main thoroughfares are not all open.  Some major intersections still have no traffic lights by dusk on Monday.  Drive-in fast food vendors that are open have long lines.  No power means food in the frig is spoiling and the microwave doesn’t work, not the dishwasher, and if you don’t have a gas stove….

In our garden five large limbs fell, doing no damage to manmade structure but punishing the plants below.  Spring will surely bring new growth to replace some of what has been lost. Monday temps got into high 40s but still there were small portions of the original ice mounds beneath big trees that had not melted completely.

Without internet I had to cancel a Monday night Zoom bird class.  Without email I called each participant.  Two who live north of us in Clackamas County had been badly hit—one woman was out of her home which had been cleaved by a large tree trunk.  No reports of injury among our group.  We heard several stories of family members with electricity hosting family members from around the areas with no power.  So much for social distancing when the house temp drops below 40 degrees.  That’s why many of our ancestors preferred cave-dwelling, back from the entrance the temperature rarely drops below 55.

A bit of unforeseen beauty came with the ice covering of a half inch or more.  Each leaf or conifer needle was coated with the clear glaze. The crystalline veneer clings to each surface like a death mask.  A gentle shake or flexing of a leaf would free the ice.  Holding one for close study you see its leaf-touching side is a perfect replica of each vein, nob or curve or scallop of the leaf it once covered—a death mask for the living.  The most refined and adept sculptor would be humbled.  Ephemeral beauty that nature giveth and soon taketh away.  By Monday all the surviving ice nodules were like cold bits of nobbly gravel.

Posted by: atowhee | February 12, 2021


There was freezing rain overnight. There was still more freezing rain again today. Icicles that were an inch long at dawn were three inches long by evening. Conifers and sturdy evergreens like mahonia were unbowed. The Doug-firs and spruce and cedars have spent millions of years evolving to deal with wet snow. Their linmbs and needles lean toward the earth, letting ice or snow dribble off and fall down. Tough and flexible bamboo bent to the ground but will likely rebound. Thinner limbed critters, say nandina, were bent and bowed and may be seriously hurt by the weight of ice on twigs and leaves.

The cawing crow was on a light standard and making a series of loud calls. He bobbed forward with his head almost down to his feet, calling the whole time as the head rose on an arc until his beak pointed to the sky. Then the head and cawing circled back down toward the crow’s feet. The hole near the top of the bat box at Fairview Wetlands shows the work of a bored flicker, or maybe one that was just curious to see what’s inside. There was sleeping pair of GW Teal at Fairview, and a circle of shovelers–stirring up the water to bring more goodies in reach of their beaks. BTW, around the edge of the shoveler circle, were two female Bufflehead, picking off the the edibles that the shovelers missed.

Posted by: atowhee | February 12, 2021


This photo of an Egyptian Goose was sent to me by Yani Sinanoglou, a college friend from over fifty years ago, now resident in Dulwich, south London. He took this picture in Dulwich Park near his home,. Like the non-migratory Canada Goose in North America, this species has been spread far and wide by human intervention, both intentional and heedless.

Here is fairly current range map of the species’ breeding range now:

Here is one description of the species’ spread from the Internet: “A native of sub-tropical Africa the Egyptian goose was brought to Britain in the late 17th century as an ornamental bird for the lakes of country gentlemen. Its attraction is its apricot breast, white wing patch and the dark brown patches over its eyes that make it look as if it is wearing dark glasses.”
I saw them in most Frankfurt city parks over 15 years ago. They are successfully settled un the fens of England’s Norfolk as well.
In London proper the two most successful introduced species (besides Rock Pigeon) seem to be Mandarin Ducks and Ring-necked Parakeets (first noted in London n the 1960s). The latter originated in Pakistan.

Not all introductions of the species were deliberate, e.g. “In the early 1990s, Egyptian Geese were introduced into Florida when individuals escaped from private bird fancier’s collections, perhaps from hurricane-damaged enclosures, or through intentional releases.

More input from Yani on “his” Egyptian Geese: “The RSPB guide (2002 edition) says that they were introduced to England as ‘decorative’ birds without giving dates.  When the book was researched/updated, nearly 20 years ago, they were said to be largely in Eastern England. We usually see them in pairs, as in the attached photo, also with goslings. They’ve been around Dulwich for at least 3-4 years.”

My Lewes correspondent, Joss Makin, reports there is a Northern Mockingbird in Devon right now. First reported in England since the 1980s. Covid lockdown means many twitchers (birders who chase rarities) are home, grinding their teeth. One could say his presence is mocking them.
I wrote back to Joss: “The Mocker comes from a family of birds native to the Western Hemisphere…he sings like your Song Thrush, a professional mimic who even does chainsaws, car engines and slamming doors, along with most of the local birds. Not very dramatic to look at but makes up for it with great music (sings at night like your blackbird) and flashy flights where he signals “beware” with his built-in semaphore, the gray and white tail. With climate change the Mockingbird has expanded his range northward across North America, does well around people.”
It is likely the nearest breeding locations for the mockingbird are in New Brunswick…t’other side of “The Pond” as we Anglophiles like to call the Atlantic.

Posted by: atowhee | February 11, 2021


Click here for brilliant photo essay on the those butterflies in current NYer magazine.

Posted by: atowhee | February 10, 2021


Any morning can bring a surprise when you start looking at the natural world. For the second morning in a row, birds presented themselves both pleasant and present. Yesterday I saw a pair of tom turkeys, introduced Wild Turkeys, native to eastern US and Mexico, and they were strutting in their machismo manner as a harbinger of the courtship season soon to start. Then this morning (no pictures) there were at least four Wilson’s Snipe at Salem’s Fairview Wetlands.

Here are those turkeys in a garden just east of the busy intersection of Commercial and Vista in south Salem.

At the south end of Minto-Brown Park: Golden-crowned Kinglets.

A male Anna’s surveys his territory:

Male Spotted Towhee:

Creeping up the trunk:

I did not see any Bushtits, so the title Day’s Cutest went to the chipmunks:

Likely the two I saw were Townsend’s chipmunks. Click here for more on this species. This time of year the chipmunks eat lots of fungi, and they helpfully spread the crucial spores across the forest floor.

Posted by: atowhee | February 9, 2021


This from birder, photog Lee French: “I saw this beauty where Indian Memorial Road and Hyatt Prairie meet today.”

This location is the actual Howard Prairie at the north end of Howard Prairie Reservoir. It’s at Milepost 17 east of Ashland. It is usual to see one Roughie in that open grassland that is not farmed and likely rodent-rich:

Posted by: atowhee | February 8, 2021


Marty Karlin of Jackson County sent me these pics he got near Tule Lake in Northern California: “This bird has caused some consternation. I thought it a roughie, [ONE BIRDER] said Ferruginous. It’s banded so I sent it to the banding folks who after researching it as a Ferruginous sent it to an expert in Canada who called it a light morph roughie. Its now making the rounds of the rough-legged banders to see who and where it was tagged. Want to offer an opinion? Marty”

February 12, 2021, UPDATE: Here is update on this raptor from banding team leader.

Marty, the photographer, emailed this note: “I just received this post From Buzz Hull, retired bander from the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory.
‘Allen Fish forwarded your email and pictures of the roughleg to me. I don’t know if you’ve heard back from the BBL yet, but that bird was banded by one of my sub-permittees. It was banded on January 9, 2014, near the town of TuleLake, CA. The bander evaluated the bird as after it’s third year (ATY) and as a male, based on wing chord length. He and I have been color banding roughlegs in the Sacramento Valley and further north in Butte Valley and the Klamath Basin for more than ten years now. I have received 4 reports of encounters with these birds, two of which were within the same or the next year as banded, and two  — including yours —  seven years later.’

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