Posted by: atowhee | October 23, 2020


Busy birds, busy days. Just keep looking. Yesterday I saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk pass over our house, likely migrant. This neighborhood is not their breeding habitat. It is a first for me at this location.
Meanwhile, at Fairview Wetlands this morning I saw pintail for the first time. And, unusually, two RC Kinglets sharing a small, mostly bare tree in the marsh. I can only assume they arrived overnight and had not time to claim singular territories so hunger overcame possession.

In our garden the jays respond instantly to peanuts being thrown on the driveway. The lone Steller’s comes quickly, grabs and dedpare5s before the bigger scrubs can get at him. The crows often hesitate until the nuts are gone. They’ll learn, speed pays.

As the dog and I returned from a walk at Fairview Wetlands, we pulled into the drive next to a suet feeder. Bushtits gathered. They ignored us to concentrate on their mid-day meal.

AT THE WETLANDS: pintails, one kinglet


954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Oct 22, 2020
10 species
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  3
American Crow  6
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
American Goldfinch  20
Dark-eyed Junco  2

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Oct 23, 2020
16 species

Cackling Goose  30     fly over
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  3
American Crow  6
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bushtit  25
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  1
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  30
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Oct 23, 2020
15 species
Cackling Goose  25–FLY OVER, other waterfowl in the marsh
Canada Goose  11
Mallard  16
Northern Pintail  2
Green-winged Teal  2
American Kestrel  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
European Starling  X
Cedar Waxwing  6
American Goldfinch  1
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 22, 2020


Click for story of a fire-fighting owl in the California Sierra. Tom DeVries, my Mariposa correspondent, sent me this item.

The rarity here is not the bird, but the behavior!

Posted by: atowhee | October 22, 2020


Western Grebes, Tule Lake
Are they sharing or tugging?

This is just one of the fine photos Albert Ryckman got on his recent visit to the Tule Lake just across the border in northern California. Here are some more:

That last picture of a mature Golden Eagle in flight shows us the strength and majesty of this bird, justly feared by any animal smaller than a bear or elk. The Clark’s Grebe image shows the eye still in the facial white feathers, this long after breeding season. White Pelicans are beyond words–large, silent, deliberate, they define a certain inland habitat of the western U.S.

Bear facts. Grin and bear it. Bearing up. My good friend, Peter Thiemann, is visiting in the Tahoe area where nature is all around, you’d bear believe it. If you still do Facebook, click here to see Peter’s fine ursine videos.


And click here to see fine new video of a Great Gray Owl hunting a meadow in the Cascades east of Ashland. Video by owl-meister, Lee French. Music by another meister altogether.

Posted by: atowhee | October 21, 2020


Numerous birders looking for the elusive but persisting Wood Sandpiper. Our gru pfrom Salem Audubon did NOT see the bird, byt had a good morning at Ankeny nonetheless.

Likely spooked by an eagle, all the small geese west of Pintail Marsh lifted up from the fields to the west, about 1030AM. There among all the dark Cacklers was the one snow-white Snow Goose. Other unexpected birds: Canvasback, one at Eagle Marsh and one at Pintail, 2 overhead Barn Swallows at Pintail Marsh in late morning, Purple Finches at parking lot for Rail Trail. Likely Merlin there as well. First called by another birder but the dark raptor had dropped out of the sky at high speed, zoomed past the waxwings and finches we were watching in the chokecherries and then sped away. Very merlinesque.

Water and the birds it attracts. Third image shows the male Canvasback at Eagle Marsh.

All the ducks, blackbirds and shorebirds perched on logs–it is log-ical because they don’t drift out of the flock, there are simple log-istics for most of them to simply onto the log from the water.

Birds more at home on land–waxwings and Purple Finch in the chokecherry for the fruit. Our only woodpecker of the day. Four aloft, from left to right: crow, eagle #1, eagle #2, red-tail.

Ankeny NWR, Marion, Oregon, US
Oct 21, 2020
Checklist Comments:     Eagle March, Pintail Marsh, Rail Trail, Pintail Marsh–np sighting of Wood Sandpiper by our group
42 species

Snow Goose  1
Cackling Goose  3000
Canada Goose  4
Northern Shoveler  X
Gadwall  X
American Wigeon  X
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Canvasback  2
Ring-necked Duck  40
Bufflehead  2
Mourning Dove  1
American Coot  X
Killdeer  X
Least Sandpiper  40
Long-billed Dowitcher  50
Greater Yellowlegs  75
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  9
Northern Harrier  4
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  6
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  7
Northern Flicker  1
Merlin  1
Black Phoebe  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Barn Swallow  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Bewick’s Wren  2
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Cedar Waxwing  20
Purple Finch  3
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Song Sparrow  X
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 20, 2020


The ODFW offices on Fairview in southeast Salem, OR
Who better to fowl your lawn, and fertilize it?

Oregon Department of Fish and WATERFOWL. At least three hundred Alaskans–no social distancing, no masks besides the white chin strap, lots of exhalations though I would not say the sounds were exactly singing. A happy group of friends, dining together in close proximity, telling tales, reminiscing. “Did I tell you the one about the eagle? Flew into a noose, not a goose. Stupid eagles can’t spell…”

Across the street from ODFW is Fairview Wetlands. Two large mammals, one painting. One tiny songbird, Bushtit in bush.

There were over three dozen red-wings visible, including some females. Mallards and GW Teal were also present, the latter being good at hiding in the cockleburrs.

I saw two dragonflies at the wetlands today, nearing the end of their season. And my wife and I admires this fine bit of civil engineering on a walk near our home:

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Oct 20, 2020
12 species

Cackling Goose  300
Canada Goose  5
Mallard  30
Green-winged Teal  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  X
Bushtit  2
American Goldfinch  3
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  3
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1

Posted by: atowhee | October 18, 2020


My friend, Rich Fineo, lives in Palm Desert, and some of his neighbors move freely in and out of Rich’s garden…like this guy:

One of the great 20thCentury admirers of roadrunners was the artist and ornithologist George Miksch Sutton. Click here for photos of a nest he found over a century ago.

Sutton had two pet roadrunners as a youth and later wrote a fine essay on what it was like to live with roadrunners. The siblings would team up to chase prey in the garden.

There is a Sutton Research Center for bird science in Oklahoma, where Sutton was professor for many years. They have a good summary of roadrunner traits.

Here is the center’s bio of Sutton himself.
He was part of the US team that barely beat out the Canadian team in the mid-30s to find the first Harris’s Sparrow nest…in Canada, naturally. That left only Marbled Murrelet as a North American nesting species with no nest yet discovered.

Posted by: atowhee | October 17, 2020


The dog slept in this morning. So our “morning” walk began at noon, at Fairview Wetlands. The cockleburrs are still above water, but the first migrant waterfowl I’ve seen there have showed up. Green-winged Teal.

Last time I was there so were the Canada Geese, today they were busily passing overhead. None landed.
For the first time there were male red-wings in the catttails. Those are on the west side of the marsh adjacent to the CEP (Church Extension) offices. The males were practicing their territorial behavior, including songs. None of the Song Sparrows were singing but one gave a good scolding.

Far more subtle than a squawking Mallard or singing blackbird, the fungi were putting on a quiet show of ubiquity beneath the surface:

Across the street from Fairview Marsh is the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. Flickers dominated their open space margins. Plus a few plastic ducks and a Great Horned Owl, but that one left me flat:

At home: we got our first siskin visit of the season. None during the fires and smoke. This afternoon I looked up at a flock of about four dozen birds bubbling in the air, slowly the bubbles settled down into the top or our neighbor’s ailing birch tree*. Later they rose as if weightless and resumed their bubbling. Siskins departed, leaving only the few local goldfinches in the birch.

If I were a White House spokesman I’d call this guy a loser or sucker or socialist. Instead I am sorry to see him gone. RIP. Running Isn’t Protective.

*For information on the insect killing Oregon birches (which are introduced species, as is the killer) click on this link.

I am afraid airplanes and global shipping are continuing to spread deadly pathogens of all sizes around the globe. We aren’t the only species with a pandemic.

Posted by: atowhee | October 17, 2020


This patriotic symbol is just flyin’ around in circles. Photos taken by my life-long friend, Mike Lund.

Just read through the most recent State of the Birds report and raptors are one group of bird species that have been doing better since 1970 in North America. The 1974 DDT ban was one big help for thus species and Osprey. Thank you, Rachel Carson.

Posted by: atowhee | October 17, 2020


An evening stroll, click here for video of Lee French’s neighbor on upper Granite Street, Ashland, Oregon. 624PM says the camera data.

Posted by: atowhee | October 16, 2020



The dog and I are ambling through our little local park, Clay Creek.  With recent rains the little creek is happily chortling over rocks, then racing down its only ten foot long rapids over basalt.  The deciduous trees are turning color and yellowed, fallen leaves cover the greened lawn.  We stop as one walnut leaf frees from one of  the dozen huge trees.  Said leaf floats downward, flat against the air.  As gravity pulls and air resists the five-inch long leaf’s edges vibrate gently up and down.  As it touches earth it immediately loses individuality and becomes one particle in the bright leaf-carpet whose bold color will darken and vanish as autumn persists. Still the stubborn walnuts and some smaller nearby oaks hold onto most of their leaves.  Nearby cottonwoods and alder and ash are further along in their advancement toward winter bareness.  These large walnuts are over a century old. The people who planted them long dead and forgotten. These trees have been through this process of de-leafment every year, and will continue as long as they live. We short-lived mammals cannot know what their roots sense, what their accommodating fungi impart, what their cambium knows or has inherent.  Leaves will leave and return but each walnut tree will depart but once.  And then its wood may last more decades.  We have some old walnut furniture, at least one piece over 150 years old.  It is hard, dense, dark and firm in its resolve.  It will hold glue, screws, nails, shape and size far longer than almost any animal body this side of a sea turtle.

In the afternoon, a swift puff of wind rattles the leaves in the walnuts, then a gentle golden fall begins, some float off in front of the breeze, others speed straight downward.  The bright afternoon sun comes through each as if it were a small tinted window.  The wind makes a soughing tone, the leaves are silent in answer, but active in response, until they reach repose.

Back to morning: one squirrel acrobatically leaps from one bouncing, thin branch to another and it teeter-totters violently up and own when he lands on it.  His four squirrel feet grip tightly and then he climbs up the branch to the trunk and moves on.  Down on the turf one of his fellows races across the lawn with a walnut stuffed in his maw.  Up the slope and into a thicket he goes, another nut to be hidden away to fight the cold hunger of a January morning in the rain.

Later in our walk we hear, then see a red-tailed hawk circling above.  Wait, it is half of a pair.  It is a courting pair of adults. 

The smaller of the two, the male, is flying with his legs hanging down, talons spread.  That is a common courtship move for this species.  The high-pitched red-tail scream is familiar.  You often hear it in movies and videos.  It is popular among sound directors for making a landscape seem high, wide and lonesome, dangerous to the characters on the screen. One birding friend swears he has heard the red-tail’s call on other planets and around the globe, if you believe what you are watching. Meanwhile the real hawks–the pair circle and move slowly eastward.  Their courtship is actually a beginning of the next year, the next season.  The red-tails and the Great Horned Owls will nest in winter when the dormant, leafless plants make it easier to find the prey they need on the ground.

So it brings to mind something I read recently in a book by Helen Macdonald:
“Summer forests give me little sense of time past, or times to come; they’re rich with a buzzing, glittering, shifting profusion of life.  Everything seems manifested; there’s no obvious sense of potentiality.  But forests in winter do the opposite; they evoke the passage of time.  Winter days are always moving fast towards darkness…Above and around me are last year’s birds’ nests…”
                                                                                    —Vesper Flights, 2020.

And overhead are next year’s parents.  No eggs yet, but the potential is strong and eggs will follow.

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