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Posted by: atowhee | October 18, 2019

ON A BEND-er

Traveled to Bend to speak to East Cascades Audubon.  It was their annual biz meeting and about 70 people showed up. Then I got to spout off about Great Gray Owls for almost an hour.  But, best of all, I found myself among the pygmies. On the east slope of the Cascades the Pygmy Nuthatch is a common resident. At Robert Sawyer State Park I encountered  a flock—unlike the larger nuthatches, these guys move around in a flock. Among the nuthatches were a quartet of Mountain Chickadees, a couple juncos and a Brown Creeper.  Throw in an overhead flock of waxwings, a Merlin fly-by, a singing Townsend’s Solitaire,  a Dipper in the Deschutes River and a Great Blue Heron stalking the riverside marsh.
Later at my motel I walked onto the riverside balcony and there were chickadees and nuthatches six feet away, eye level in the nearest ponderosa.

ECAS has members active in efforts to save the Oregon Sage Grouse population.  it is likely that cattle grazing is to blame for the dropping population.  Cows eat all the forage that young grouse would need to thrive. A report at tonight’s meeting: fewer than 15,000 grouse still alive in the state.  Less a half million left on earth.
Recently a federal judge in Idaho stopped the Trump Administration trying to open grouse habitat to extraction industries and environmental demolition.

One of the “pinenuts:” pynu bend2des rivr (2)dipflySawyer Park, Deschutes, Oregon, US
Oct 18, 2019
15 species

Mallard  X
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  X
Great Blue Heron  1
Merlin  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  3
Mountain Chickadee  6
Pygmy Nuthatch  10
Brown Creeper  1
American Dipper  1
Townsend’s Solitaire  1
American Robin  10
Cedar Waxwing  30
Lesser Goldfinch  2
Dark-eyed Junco  1

Shilo Inns, Deschutes, Oregon, US
Oct 18, 2019
7 species

Mallard  X
Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
Mountain Chickadee  X
Pygmy Nuthatch  X
American Robin  X

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Posted by: atowhee | October 15, 2019

ALL IS FLUX…WELL, NEARLY ALL

The local Red-breasted Nuthatch never misses a day, sometimes it seems like he arrives on an hourly schedule to use our feeders.  Does he even remember how to climb along a tree trunk?  The Collared-Doves and scrub-jay are ever present, unless there’s a predator in the trees.  Most of the other species in and out of our garden are less predictable.
Last night we heard a Great Horned Owl near the house–first time in months.  This morning there was a tooting pygmy-owl at Grenfell Park along Baker Creek Road.  We saw neither owl, of course.

For the first time in weeks a starling was in our garden yesterday.  Recently they’ve been out harvesting in the fields.  As the supply of seeds and insects there diminishes they will slowly re-invade the town. Crows, gulls, overhead geese, robins, woodpeckers in October, waxwings–maybe, maybe not.  The Bewick’s Wrens were regular last year, this year rare.  Ditto the Song Sparrows.  Yet the American Goldfinches don’t seem interested in going south. The junco count in my garden is now up to seven, less than a month ago we saw our first of the season.  The crowd will build as winter comes on.

NUTHATCHES”

White-breasted rarely venture into our garden but I can often hear or see them a few blocks away in the oak grove at Michelbook and 13th:

Other garden birds (Except the dead Fox Sparrow at Wennerberg Park–I have yet to see alive one this season):

Above: group shot from left to right–junco, House Sparrow, goldfinches(Amer); Black-capped Chickadee; Fox Sparrow corpse; Song and then Golden-crowned Sparrow.  Below: Chestnut-backed Chickadee chiseling off bits of sunflower seed; male junco on rabbit of cement; Golden-crowned Sparrow; Red-breasted Nuthatch in possession of suet log.cb feedzDJU ON RBBT (2)IMG_4461rbn lite

Posted by: atowhee | October 14, 2019

LIFE IS A CACKLE

One field at the north end of Reeder Road was Cackling central.  Thousands were there when we arrived in later afternoon…and dozens more were arriving, flock after flock.  As with the cranes, many of the geese now on Sauvie will move further south though most stay in the Willamette Valley.  Keeping a very low profile was a quartet of white-fronted geese on the back side of this Cackling crowd.

In the one shot above that is all sky a flock of Cacklers passes beneath a soaring eagle.

Posted by: atowhee | October 14, 2019

SAUVIE SATURDAY SATIATES OUR CRANIAC HANKERINGS

There were five of us on this Saturday birding trip to Sauvie Island.  No rain, mostly overcast, no wind, great light for binocs and camera alike. There were multitudes of birds, few birders.  I marvel that so many people live within an hour’s drive of Sauvie, yet few bother to experience the island when the crane numbers are at a peak. More astonishing still, we chatted with a long-time local homeowner on her bike—she admitted she’d hardly noticed the cranes and didn’t know anything about them. (To see full size image click on chosen one.  White dots above cranes among Cacklers) 

 

 

Later we encountered a couple photographing geese and cranes (see birds above)—which they proudly identified as “herons.”  Speaking of which we saw some actual Great Blues all snoozing in a line near the edge of a large crane flock in a pasture.  Did the herons feel protected by the presence and alertness of the cranes?  It seemed to be unusual to find over a dozen herons lined up, sleeping, in an open field.

On one hillside we could clearly see the size difference–the Greater Sandhill Cranes nearly a foot taller than their “diminutive” Lesser cousins from far-off Siberia.scr7 (2)

By winter the crane numbers on Sauvie will be modest. Most of the ones we saw will have moved further south. For me there’s no doubt that I go to Sauvie for the cranes.  All the rest of the beauty and the birds, the clouds and no crowds—that is a bonus beneficence of nature.
For a surfeit of crane images, dancing and more, click on this link…pure cranestuff.

Through the day we birded each of the roads that reach north from the Sauvie Island Bridge.  First, we went to the terminus of Sauvie Island Road.  Wapato Pond was dry—but there were dozens of Yellow-rumps (both Myrtle and Audubon), sparrows galore and our only Steller’s Jay of the day.  At the Columbia County end of the road we found our largest crane flock which may have numbered a thousand or more.  Along the Multnomah Channel we found our first Common Mergansers.  Along Oak Island Road we found waxwings while cranes bugled from beyond the hedges.

Reeder Road took us to the Sturgeon Lake overlook where some cranes fed along the margins of the greatly reduced lake.  Much of the usual winter lakebed was now densely overgrown  by grassers and other soft plants.  Further on, in Columbia County, there were mostly coots to be seen from the viewing platform, plus harriers and a hunting kestrel. At the western terminus of Rentenaar Road we stroke onto on the levee above the parking lot.  No other humans around.  But the sky was live with slow reformulation of cloud, and birds.  A Bald Eagle, robins in small flocks, then a red-tail. Red-winged Blackbirds in dark threads just above the shrubs and cattails. At one time several flocks of Cacklers, often moving in opposite directions, but a majority headed to a field we found later on. Among the geese would move small groups of cranes, often at goose speed but with their usual deliberate, steady wing-beats, not the frantic piston-like strokes of the seemingly tiny geese.cloudsky-cranes (2)_LI

NOT ALL ARE CRANES

If Cacklers give you goose bumps, click here for gallery of a flock of thousands.

We only saw Great Egrets once, two among the cranes. Adult Glaucous-winged Gull in Multnomah Channel.  Red-tail in sky. The only three swallows we saw all day, three laggard Barn Swallows.  What are they waiting for?

 

It was not easy finding a waxwing that flew into this fruitful hawthorn at the dead end of Oak Island Road:cw-haw_LI

You think the Supreme Court or your credit card company make you feel insignificant?  Try getting the attention of a Bald Eagle:

Paper wasp nest, White Pelicans in loose formation, Myrtle Warbler:

The trip was organized by the Rogue Valley Audubon Society as an auction item at last year’s fund-raiser.  All of us on the trip live in or near Salem in north end of the Willamette Valley.  In and out of the front seat of my car all day was well-known bird artist and illustrator, Jon Janosik.  The colorist and the colorblind birder, me.  It seems we always agreed about the clouds which performed admirably behind and beyond the flocks in flight all day.

To see some of Janosik’s work and learn about his beautiful works for bird books and bird admirers, click here for his website.

He has been painting cranes throughout his career, often the ancestors of those we saw on Sauvie Island.  He has been painting Sauvie cranes for over 4 decades.  Here is one such painting:sandhill-cranes-dancing-jon-janosik

We first  met up at Tualatin River NWR, not much to see.  And here’s the explanation for the dry marshes there from a fellow birder: “They have drawn everything down for all the work to recreate the Chicken Creek drainage and re-establish historic water flow.   As soon as they are done for this year they’ll open the gates.”

Sauvie Island–Multnomah, Oregon, US
Oct 13, 2019
38 species

Greater White-fronted Goose  X
Cackling Goose  X
Canada Goose  X
Mallard  X
Mourning Dove  X
Anna’s Hummingbird  X
Sandhill Crane  500
Ring-billed Gull  X
Herring Gull  X
Glaucous-winged Gull  1
Double-crested Cormorant  X
American White Pelican  X
Great Blue Heron  X
Great Egret  2
Northern Harrier  X
Bald Eagle  X
Red-tailed Hawk  X
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Northern Flicker  X
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  2
Bushtit  30
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  X
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Pacific Wren  X
Bewick’s Wren  X
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Cedar Waxwing  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
White-crowned Sparrow  (Gambel’s)  x
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Song Sparrow  X
Spotted Towhee  X
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  100

Sauvie’s Island Lower–Columbia Cty, Columbia, Oregon, US
Oct 13, 2019
28 species

Greater White-fronted Goose  4
Cackling Goose  10000
Canada Goose  X
Northern Shoveler  X
Mallard  X
Common Merganser  X
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Mourning Dove  X
American Coot  500
Sandhill Crane  1500
Ring-billed Gull  X
Great Blue Heron  14
Northern Harrier  X
Bald Eagle  4
Red-tailed Hawk  X
Northern Flicker  X
American Kestrel  X
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Common Raven  X
Barn Swallow  3
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Song Sparrow  X
Spotted Towhee  X
Red-winged Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | October 14, 2019

CRANOLOGY: DANCING, FEEDING, BUGLING

OLD, OLDER, OLDEST

scr-relics (2)How to describe age.  In this photo we move visually across ages, past eons, and perhaps see a possible future if our species doesn’t exterminate life as we’ve known it.  The visible grass is not too old, most leaves may have begun last fall.  Yet, beneath thrive the roots, the crucial part of the plant we rarely see.  Those roots may have been place for a decade or more.  The cattywompus oak in the center could be a couple hundred years old, the trunk that is.  If a previous trunk were chopped down by white invaders around 1840, the persevering roots could be centuries old. The abandoned rusting hulk of a truck is less than a century old and may not last another hundred years.  The house tucked beyond the hill may be the newest thing in view.  The cranes–well, no individual bird is likely to be over forty years old, but their species is ancient.  The crane family is the oldest known surviving bird family on earth, over fifty million years old say fossils.  Our ancestors at that time were clinging to small branches in trees that protected them from more capable predators.

THE DANCE OF AGES

A FIELD-GOOD KINDA

The sounds of crane bugling was sporadic but spread across every hour we were on Sauvie.  Family groups in flight.  Unseen fielding cranes beyond the line of trees or view-blocking bushes, somewhere far off, sometimes close but hidden by berry thickets.  It is an ancient sound dependent on their long, convoluted trachea and the physics of vibration and reverberation.  A sound that has echoed across marsh and forest, prairie and oceans for millions of years.  Imagine some of these Lesser Sandhill Cranes  have already flown here from northern Siberia.  Soon most will be settled for winter in California’s Central Valley.

Posted by: atowhee | October 12, 2019

TUALATIN RIVER NWR–DRY BUT BIRDY

Here is explanation of why Tualatin River NWR looks so droughty–restoration work.  From Dennis Deck: “They have drawn everything down for all the work to recreate the
Chicken Creek drainage and re-establish historic water flow.   As soon
as they are done for this year they’ll open the gates.”

Today our McMinnville birding class went to Tualatin River NWR.  There was very little water.  “Ponds” were really acres of dried mud and reviving grass.  We saw more nutria than ducks.  Geese were plentiful, but all were airborne.  Despite that, we had a good morning for seeing songbirds.

Along trail was a feeding flock of sparrows: song, many golden-crowned, a couple white-crowned and a slew of juncos.  A Pacific Wren was among the sword ferns in the riparian forest.  Out in the regenerating oak forest were more juncos, chickadees and a curious kinglet who looked us over and left unimpressed.  One of our sharp-eyed birder also spotted a creeper there.
Below; flicker, chickadee, gaggle of flying Cacklers:

 

Tualatin River NWR–Atfálat’i Unit, Washington, Oregon, US
Oct 12, 2019
28 species

Cackling Goose  X
Canada Goose  X
Gadwall  2
Mallard  6
Green-winged Teal  12
Anna’s Hummingbird  3
Killdeer  2
Least Sandpiper  1
Great Blue Heron  3
Northern Flicker  3
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Brown Creeper  1
Pacific Wren  1
Bewick’s Wren  2
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Cedar Waxwing  X
House Finch  4
Lesser Goldfinch  X
American Goldfinch  15
Dark-eyed Junco  40
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Golden-crowned Sparrow  15
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | October 11, 2019

ACTIVE GREAT GRAY OWL PLATFORM

Video from Sweden.  This video includes good stuff of the juveniles being banded, and one walking up a slanting trunk to get to higher, safer perch.  Plenty of break clacking, too.  And adult with meal in beak.

And here is new video of juvenile GGO facing his first winter in the Oregon Cascades.  Taken by Lee French east of Ashland yesterday.  This bird probal by was born in May of this year.

Posted by: atowhee | October 11, 2019

INSIDE A KINGFISHER’S NEST

Incredible video of construction and family-making inside kingfisher’s nest.  This is the small, bright blue Euro model.  The Robert Fuller who did the video is not a known relative though all the original American Fullers came from England, so could be a 32nd cousin.

Whu don;t we build nesting sites for kingfishers in our country?

Posted by: atowhee | October 9, 2019

WINTER’S BIRDS ARRIVING

The constellation of wintering birds that we expect every winter is forming; Golden-crowned Sparrows and juncos have been here already this month.  Today I saw our first Song Sparrow of the season.  Present occasionally are the very red-breasted robins who breed much further north. Not much sound except the honking of the nuthatches and the scolding of the jays.

I actually saw my first Fox Sparrow of the season as well.  But dead.  It was lying along a ball field at Wennerberg Park.  It didn’t seem emaciated, nor had it been mauled by a predator.  Disease?  Fatigue?  Migration-caused heart attack?  Flew into a foul-ball screen?

TIME TO RETIRE?

Shoot first, ask questions later.  I despise that policy for cops and soldiers, but with a small camera and small birds and non-violent observation it can be heavenly.  I have now–immodestly–taken a superb picture of a young Cedar Waxwing.  I have hundreds of images of these birds and thousands more have been discarded (the glut brought to us by digital photography).  But I have never come closer to showing the vitality, beauty, joy and animal hunger that is the essence of being a waxwing.
This happened as the dog and I walked near home.  After a heavy late afternoon rain the sun shown low in the western heaven.  Evening light brighten every color, every view.  A cold night was coming, our first frost.  The birds were having dinner and a neighbor’s hawthorn was berry-rich and full of waxwings and robins:ww at dusk (2)ww haw1ww haw2I do not know if this young waxwing went whole haw.

Here’s an Anna’s male in our garden:

Anhu grdn (2)

Here’a a lone Turkey Vulture I saw at Joe Dancer Park earlier this week, perhaps my last one in the county this year.  It was cold and early morning so he was hoping for some sun, warmth and updrafts:tv-jdp (2)

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 9, 2019
14 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  7
Downy Woodpecker  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  4
Bushtit  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
American Robin  1
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  8
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1     first of the season at this location where they do not breed

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 8, 2019
15 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  8
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  4
Bushtit  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
American Robin  1
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  8
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 7, 2019

THIS VOID HAS MEANING

Sometimes a void is just nothing, a vacancy means nada.  Today, Nora the dog and I were taking our morning walk at Joe Dancer.  Blue sky, sun but not too warm, windless and cloudless.  Far off at the other end of the soccer fields was a single mowing machine running circles and back-and-forth.  The void?  No swallows.  Gone are those elegant aerialists who zig-zag at three times mower speed, catching insects sent fleeing  by the loud, vicious blade cutting grass.  I may not see another swallow at Joe Dancer until next April.  Faretheewell, Hirundo.

Later on, we walked along the edge of riverside woods.  A Townsend’s chipmunk scrambled into the tangle of a newly fallen oak.  He stopped on a horizontal log and watched us.  I think it was a youngster.  The curiosity for us was palpable. Nora and I were both wearing our blue jackets.  I suspect the young chipmunk had never before eyed a blue dog.TOW CHP2 (2)

Blooms at this tail end of the green season are few: yellow composites, chicory, Queen Anne’s lace, one rosebud in our garden.  Bees and moths and ants and spiders can still be seen at work. One chorus frog was soloing in the marsh, a cricket was trilling as well. The deciduous trees are stars of the current outdoor performance.  Like this exotic ash:

foliagOur best bird of the day was a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  I had to pursue him into the middle of the wetlands to get a good look and confirm his ID.  The first bird we saw was this male Lesser Goldfinch, perched between us and the bright sun:LEGO ALONE (2)

And our early rains (September was above average by an inch) have encouraged the patient fungal spores to awaken.  Recently I saw a semi-circle of one species of mushroom ringing a small and dense cedar tree.  As I looked I realized the fungi were growing at the drip-line, where all the water cascaded down the conical shape of the tree and finally fell to earth.  There was not a single mushroom inside the drip line, and few beyond it.  Water so often means life.dripline (2)Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 7, 2019
10 species

Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  3
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  15
Lesser Goldfinch  1
Dark-eyed Junco  1
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1

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