Posted by: atowhee | October 16, 2018


Here are five pictures from Kate Tomlinson, taken during and following our Friends of the National Monument field trip last Saturday:untitled-5untitled-6untitled

Posted by: atowhee | October 15, 2018


Today was the day.  The Cedar Waxwings have returned to harvest the ripe berries on our neighbor’s rowan tree.  Fortunately for us, much of the tree stands just above our shared wooden fence so we get nice, sunlight-bright views of the waxwings, many of them first year birds.IMG_4977

Click on any image to enlarge.  Streaky chests indicate juvenile birds:

Other seasonal firsts now: yesterday our junco count doubled, from two to four.  At the same time we note that nearly all of our American Goldfinches are gone.  One was seen today, perhaps missed the evacuation notice…so this bird could be in for a long, lonely winter. At Yamhill Sewer ponds there were two new birds for that location in this season: a lone White-fronted Goose in with the Canadas and Cacklers, and a single wigeon with the many shovelers.

Click on image to enlarge.  Above: far left the white-front hides behind a smaller Cackler; far right Ring-necked Duck. Below: shoveler armada, cackler with the big guys.

In McMinnville this morning, two season firsts: a raven cleaning up a roadkill, and a Ring-billed Gull landing in a parking lot.  Both species will be regular through the rest of the cold months here.

Young Red-tailed Hawk at Yamhill:rt in tree



Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 14, 2018. 12 species

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)  1
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  2
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  29
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)  40
American Wigeon (Mareca americana)  1
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  1
Ring-necked Duck   1
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  9
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  100

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 14, 2018.  11 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  20     in the rowan tree, eating the fruit
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 15, 2018


Right now we are in the sixth mass extinction of living species during the knowable history of the Earth.  It seems people have killed off over 80% of their fellow mammals, already…with worse to come.

Posted by: atowhee | October 14, 2018


Nature is profligate with life, millions of spider eggs to the point.  But nature is also adept at making everything serve a purpose.  You think yellow jackets are not useful?
Here is recent email from my friend Marieannette McCabe (calls herself ‘Mam’ in her notes) who lives just outside of Ashland, surrounded by nature’s happenings:
“Last week Mam was walking the field trail checking on her local wild neighbors’ activities and getting her daily exercise.
She came upon a clump of dirt that had somehow gotten into the middle of the trail.
She looked around and then remembered that this was the area where she had found the yellow jacket’s ground nest….The one she had intended to call the exterminator to ‘dispatch’.
This is the fourth nest here in nine years. What is amazing about them is that the yellow jackets living in this area trim their holes so it they are absolutely round and about 10″ in diameter. What is also amazing is that Mam has never been stung.
Well it isn’t really amazing……….she has just been lucky to have been several feet away when discovering the nest – so the ‘yellows’ never felt threatened. Josh, the helpful exterminator said that if they perceive you as a threat to their nest they emit pheromones toward you and that is when they chase in a swarm after you and thus defend the nest!
Here is the clod of dirt with the nest hole on the right.
Still the mystery remained; How did the clod of dirt get on the trail? It was not part of the nest.
Here is the inside of the hole showing the remains of the nest cone after it was raided. The exterminator said, “something got here before us”. The nest thief had dug out the dirt around it along with the clod. SOMETHING wanted to dig in and eat all the protein rich larvae……… You can’t see the few yellow jackets trying to rebuild the nest, but they were there..
Wonder who was after the tasty larvae.? Mam thought she knew…….. So she checked the trail cam and she found the likely culprits………
(See mom’s light muzzle above the cub’s eyes? Cub looking up to mom like a good, obedient child learning the ropes of life……….)
And so they go, Mom and babe (BIG babe) off into the night. They would have walked right next to the nest, dug the dirt out and then dug in for a few tasty morsels.
Bears love grubs. Mam has seen nature shows with bears ripping bark off trees and also turning over rocks to find moth and other insect larvae.”
Posted by: atowhee | October 14, 2018


The grand finale of our hike on Saturday was a flock of feeding Clark’s Nutcrackers. The species is unusual enough in that location that eBird required an explanation.  I referred them to the photos below. The hike was sponsored by the Friends of the Klamath-Siskiyou National Monument. Click on any image to see it full screen:


We found them about a mile south of Hwy 66 along Soda Mountain Road. We counted eight and they were eating cones in the tops of the Douglas firs.  We saw one fly between two fir-tops with an entire cone in its beak.  They were silent but very busy.  Two Steller’s Jays were nearby, perhaps puzzled that their big cousins were in the vicinity.

We found several birds gathered in their usual wintering flocks.  Our first flock were Lewis’s Woodpeckers that winter along Hwy 66 in the oak chaparral exactly ten miles from Ashland (look for MIlepost 10).  There we found at least twenty of them.  mIt first they hid, they ducked into the shade, they flew insect-hawking sorties from distant trees.  The longer we stood watching the more they took us for strange shrubs and finally a couple flew insect chases right over our heads–their green, pink, scarlet iridescence on full display in the bright morning sun.  A meadowlark was singing as we watched the woodpeckers.  American Goldfinches were flitting about.

Later we found a flock of Western Bluebirds sharing a ponderosa with a flick of siskins.WB This was on the north end of Hyatt Meadow about two miles north of Hwy 66 on Little Hyatt Lake Road.  There was also a flock of Savannah Sparrows there but they refused to give us a good look, flicking fearfully from one perch on the ground across the grass-tips to the next hiding spot.  Pne migrating harrier passed by about four hundred feet in the air.

At Little Hyatt Lake we found a lone dipper feeding on the lakeshore as Keene Creek was barely maintaining a flowing trickle. There we found a flock of at least a dozen Band-tailed Pigeons feeding in the conifers and posing in the sun on dead branches. BTP-LITL HYT

Ravens circled us and croaked but found us wanting in any trait that could hold their attention.  I glimpsed one lingering Yellow Warbler in the creekside willows.  Nearly everywhere we stopped alongside conifers we could hear the honking notes of Red-breasted Nuthatches and one stop brought us the sharp, thin alarm notes of a distant Townsend’s Solitaire.

Before we even started our trip, a Red-breasted Sapsucer flew into a tree near us in the Rite-Aid parking lot.   A happy omen, we thought.

There were no water birds on Little Hyatt Lake.  We did not find a Great Gray Owl.

BU-FLYIMG_4888This view looks west from Soda Mountain Road, across valley to Mt. Ashland, the gray hint of smoke still hangs in the air.

Hyatt Meadows, Jackson, Oregon, US
Oct 13, 2018. 10 species

Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)  12
Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)  1
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)  15
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  30
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  8
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  X

Little Hyatt Reservoir, Jackson, Oregon, US
Oct 13, 2018, 7 species

Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)  12
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  3
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  X
American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus)  1
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)  X
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  5
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  1

Soda Mountain Road, Jackson, Oregon, US
Oct 13, 2018.  3 species

Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  2
Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana)  8     photos on my blog; seen by whole group at close range; feeding on Doug fir cones
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 11, 2018


This morning I saw my first Cackling Geese of the season in Yamhill County.  AS pair were feeding on the grass along one levee at the Yamhill Sewer Ponds.  Not far away were two Lesser Scaup, a season’s first at this location.  Both species will be regular, if not constant at YSP through the winter.cack-fricack-fri2Fresh ferns after welcome rain:fernzIMG_4815Those shimmering lines across the grass, row upon row of spider web.   Nature getting decorated for Halloween perchance. weblawn

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 11, 2018. 12 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  2     first of the season
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)  40
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  2     first of season at this location
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  20
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 10, 2018


October 10, 2018

This week I’ve heard a street owl and seen a barn owl. Both the street and barn owls were, in fact, Barn Owls.  Before this week I hadn’t found a Barn Owl in Yamhill County this year.  The only previous Barn Owl I’d recorded here was back in November, 2015.

The street owl was calling about 930PM on Monday night.  That was in a residential neighborhood at 17th and Elm.  I hope he’s careful because I occasionally encounter Great Horned Owls in that same area.  GHOs regularly devour the smaller Barn Owl, or any other owl they can catch.

Today my wife and I visited some friends on their small ranch south of McMinnville. While we were there they proudly invited us to come meet “their” barn owl.  She was perched high in the rafters, overlooking and over-listening the area where hay and grain are stored.  Perfect draw for rodents, who are the perfect draw for the Barn Owl.

This family’s farm is focused on livestock so there is little chemical use.  However, they are surrounded by industrial-strength hazelnut farming.  You can click here for a look at the many toxins used on Oregon hazelnut orchards.  It’s scary enough to read that growers are to stay out of a sprayed area for twelve hours.  Yet many of these chemicals are to be avoided for 24 hours.  A few for 48 hours.  

Who’s gonna explain that 12 or 48 hour warning to the Barn Owl?  Who’s going to alert the owl that the rodent she finds staggering down the hazelnut row may be dying and toxic himself?

I can only hope the Barn Owl I met today finds enough prey right there in the feedway, and doesn’t need to go soaring through the toxic zone nearby. (Click on an image to see it full screen.)

Meanwhile the street owl has a safer place to hunt as long as he can avoid cars and bigger owls.  The use of toxins in suburban areas is likely to be less even if the rodents are more evenly dispersed to areas where cats, dogs or birds are fed outside.

One danger all American owls share if they get near people: d-CON.  It can kill predators as large as mountain lions if they get ahold of a poisoned carcass or dying prey.

Barn Owls are one of the few species of bird found on all five (or six) continents.  My wife and I went for many hours on two different planes to reach Uganda for a birding trip.  First species I saw before our first dawn there, atop the suburban hotel: Barn Owl.

My fall birding class for McMinnviller Parks and Rec Department begins next week. Three Thursday night presentations:  Oct 18, 25 and Nov. 1.  Field trips each of the following three Saturdays: 20, 27 and 3.

Posted by: atowhee | October 8, 2018


The newest UN report on climate changed will get no notice from the Trump Regime, but it has strong words for the rest of us. Don’t cut that tree, or the other one.

The report urges “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Hah, carbon taxes on oil producers?  Government subsidies to speed conversion to nuclear or sustainable energy?  Forced shutdown of coal-burning power stations or methane leaking gas wells or end to subsidies for industrial agriculture and livestock farming?  Give up my hamburgers and pork chops? [Actually, I did that long ago, but “red meat” is not just a political cliche, it is a way of life for many humans in wealthier societies.]

Forbes is a pro-capitalist magazine, yet its report on the climate report contains this scathing paragraph: “A new report by people who know what they’re talking about, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), explains just how stupid the Trump administration’s approach to climate change is, and the impacts that failing to tackle global warming will have on businesses – and investors – around the world.”

Click here to read Forbes’s take on this latest report. They argue we must save the planet to save capitalism and wealth-making corporations.   I would argue that a hurricane’s direct hit on Mara Lago might do more than any number of well-argued paragraphs in a UN report that nobody in the Trump could or would read.

Do not expect the UN’s report to have any effect on the U.S. government, Exxon, China’s coal-burning, mining of Canadian tar sands or Russia’s total dependence on oil money to fund their mafia organizations and keep Putin in power.  I always end up by saying that climate change will get attention when the oil companies have to move inland from Houston and Galveston and thus ask for trillions in federal aid because of high sea levels.  By then our grandkids and millions of species may already be doomed…if they aren’t already.  I presume Trump’s believers are using prayer to save us all.

Posted by: atowhee | October 7, 2018


Between rains this morning we walked the dogs in Joe Dancer Park.  At least a dozen Barn Swallows were coursing across the treetops.  They may be the last flock I see here this autumn.  Plenty of robins have arrived.  The were scattered across the fields at Joe Dancer. Elsewhere in town  flocks could be seen flying between one tree clump to the next.  The robins never use our feeders but do appreciate a good bath occasionally.

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 7, 2018. 7 species

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  2
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Barn Swallow (American) (Hirundo rustica erythrogaster)  12
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  50
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  5

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 7, 2018. 12 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X     fly over
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  2
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  15
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)  22
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  15
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  2
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 6, 2018


The arrivals and departures in the avian travel world are often unscheduled, fueled not by petroleum but protein and sugars and migration hormones.  Arrivals and departures can happen any time of day or night.  And this morning Joe Dancer was quiet bird-wise (lots of little people kicking soccer balls around) but all four birds I saw were on the move.  A Dark-eyed Junco, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, two Barn Swallows gathering insects.

I had never before seen a Yellow-rump in this park in autumn, and never between April and end of September.  Juncos can appear anytime but mostly in fall through early spring.  This is the first time I have seen Barn Swallows there later than Labor Day though they are regular and often abundant over the playing fields in summer. In spring Barn Swallows swarm back in mid-April.  I wish them well on their thousands of miles of migration in the coming months. May the bugs be with you.


Garter snake in Corvallis, soon he’ll be looking for a winter hideout.

For two days straight last week a Cooper’s Hawk casme through our garden and checked out the birds around our feeders.  Here he is nearly hidden in our Colorado spruce.  With the first rains come the first mushrooms.

These fall crocus are new on the scene, but a number of wildflowers and garden plants began blooming months ago and are still at it: tansy ragwort, wild radish, dandelion, Queen Anne’s lace, red and white clover, hydrangea, bindweed, English daisies, aster, wild chicory.

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