Posted by: atowhee | December 16, 2018


Yesterday I got to bird parts of Salem Area #1 for their annual Christmas Bird Count.  I was lucky enough to be on a team with two young biologists working for the BLM office in Salem.  Appropriately it was the very day it was publicly revealed that Interior Secretary Zinke wsil be leaving his job, his demolition rules, regs and habitat will last much longer than the less than two years he had power over much of America’s public land.  In a sense we were counting survivors…long may they last.

I began the day for the morning fly-out from Mission Lake east of the Salem Airport…it is locally called “Lowe’s Pond” as the lakeshore abuts the Lowe’s and Walmart parking lots.  The willow fringe around the lake contains the detritus and plastic trash and styrofoam crud and old tires one expects in marginal urban areas neglected  by owners and habitat abusers alike.  Yet the water birds and nutria soldier on.

Many of the gulls were already in the dark sky when I arrived.  I quickly began counting birds still on the water.  It was exciting to count the largest flock of Hooded Mergansers I’ve ever seen in one place.  After the sun came up far enough for photos, I tried to get a shot,  but found, around 730AM, the Hoodies had flown off.  About 740AM many of the hundreds of Cackling Geese began to fly out in flocks of several dozen together.  The birds that seemed to be finding food on the lake included coots, Ruddy Ducks and shovelers. I think the only breeding species I saw there were Spotted Towhee and Pied-billed Grebe.
Mission Lake, Marion, Oregon, US
Dec 15, 2018 7:00 AM – 7:50 AM
19 species (+1 other taxa)

Cackling Goose  600
Northern Shoveler  15
American Wigeon  5
Bufflehead  30
Hooded Merganser  40
Ruddy Duck  25
Pied-billed Grebe  1
American Coot  50
Mew Gull  300
Ring-billed Gull  60
Western Gull  5
California Gull  X
Herring Gull  2
Herring Gull (American)  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
American Crow  X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
European Starling  X
Spotted Towhee  1

Our area included Geer Park just east of the state prison and then a large swath of open land around Corban University and the industrial park southeast of Salem:
SALEM CBC AREA #1, Marion, Oregon, US
Dec 15, 2018 8:35 AM – 2:35 PM
Protocol: Traveling
30.0 mile(s)
55 species

Cackling Goose  X
Canada Goose  X
Northern Shoveler  X
Green-winged Teal (American)  X
Bufflehead  X
Ruddy Duck  X
California Quail  12
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Mourning Dove  X
Anna’s Hummingbird  2
Killdeer  1
Ring-billed Gull  X
Western Gull  X
California Gull  X
Herring Gull  X
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  2
Northern Harrier  3
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  X
Acorn Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker (Pacific)  X
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)  X
American Kestrel  X
Steller’s Jay (Coastal)  3
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  X
Bushtit (Pacific)  25
Red-breasted Nuthatch  X
White-breasted Nuthatch (Pacific)  1
Brown Creeper  2
Pacific Wren  1
Marsh Wren  2
Golden-crowned Kinglet  X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  X
American Robin  X
European Starling  X
House Finch (Common)  X
Lesser Goldfinch  X
American Goldfinch  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)  X
White-crowned Sparrow  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Savannah Sparrow  X
Song Sparrow  X
Lincoln’s Sparrow  3
Spotted Towhee  X
Western Meadowlark  X
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

We managed to find both Marsh and Pacific Wren but failed repeatedly to arouse a Bewick’s. The Lincoln’s and Savannah Sparrows were in the weedy fields of the industrial park.  The many pools and marshes there held no shorebirds nor ducks.  The pond on the south edge of Geer Park gave us most of our waterfowl.  The two songbird hotspots were the feeders at the Kettle Chips processing plant, and the hilly campus of Corban University.  There we found both species of kinglet and both species of nuthatch plus a wave of Bushtits who checked us out and found us wanting.  No spider egg sacs so they moved on, leaving us in their wake.


This first group of photos were taken in the bad light of an overcast dawn, at Mission Lake:

These photos from state parking lot at dawn, later Geer Park and points south:lowes sunrise

At the Kettle Chips campus and nature trail:

Posted by: atowhee | December 14, 2018


In the southern hemisphere they have more and more sunlight this week. Here on the northern side of Equator we are going into our darkest hours…and it has nothing to do with politics, or even climate change.  As we near the shortest day of our northern year there are still busy days…over a dozen juncos, at least seven squirrels, occasional gangs of starlings, the one White-throated Sparrow, Auddie the aggressiver Audubon’s Warbler are among the regulars at our feeders.  In recent days I have seen a variety of fungi, and flowers on camellia, tansy ragwort, a Queen Anne’s lace and some English daisies.  Many of the deciduous plants in our garden are already budded out, waiting for those longer and warmer days to come.

The Spotted Towhee pair come come and go as a couple.  At Joe Dancer Park a pair of Red-tailed Hawks may be getting ready to nest in the large trees on the rideline overlooking the playing fields.  Daffodils are already sending up shoots.  So too are iris. n Tomorrow the Christmas Bird Count season begins and I will be in Salem for theirs.

Below: Shovelers, pair at No Name Pond north of Baker Creek Road…and two of the dozens on Yamhill Sewer Ponds.  Acorn Woodpecker at end of Pinot Noir Drive in remaining oaks threatened with clear-cut by developers who’ve already cleared all the underbrush, sending sparrows and Bewick’s Wren into exile.  Peregrine here and gone, also at end of Pinot Noir.  White-throat in our garden…daily right now.

Birding in Rotary Park this week, Rob Schulman and I found two Varied Thrush.  THat implies they are likely at Airport Park as well.

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Dec 9, 2018. 16 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  9
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  4
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  3
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  16
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  1
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  6

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Dec 10, 2018. 15 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  X
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)  2
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  1
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  4
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  16
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  1
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  5

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Dec 11, 2018. 13 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Downy Woodpecker  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
House Finch  4
Lesser Goldfinch  2
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)  16
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)  1
House Sparrow  X

McMinnville Rotary Park (Tice Park), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Dec 13, 2018. 6 species

Northern Shoveler  1
Northern Flicker  1
Black-capped Chickadee  6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  3
Varied Thrush  2
American Robin  5

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US

Dec 13, 2018.  13 species

Canada Goose  X
Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
California Scrub-Jay  X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  X
European Starling  X
House Finch  X
Lesser Goldfinch  2
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)  1
House Sparrow  X

Posted by: atowhee | December 12, 2018


This is our earth, love it or leave it lifeless.  That’s the message for a human now in outer space.

Posted by: atowhee | December 12, 2018


Click here to find out how his saga ended and about the wildlife expert who trapped and released the mega-climber.

Posted by: atowhee | December 12, 2018


There is little hope that the petro-chemical industry will ever help reverse the damage it has done to our planet and the living creatures on it, but it is somehow good to know that even Exxon’s CEO hs plastic particles in his body.  Even the 1% will suffer from the effects of pollution and climate change.

Scallops, nanoplastics and what we have done to our planet.

Plastic in every human  body.

It has been a romantic fantasy to think of nature as this grand panoply of vistas and vitality.  But truly nature is a process, not a place or collection of things.  And now she is a process of rapid flux.  Already we are seeing her changes in our past, not just a threat for the future of life on earth.

What climate change has already done…destruction and deaths.

Posted by: atowhee | December 8, 2018


“You may drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she will always return.”   –Horace
“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments–there are consequences.”  –Robert Ingersoll

There are more indications of how close to the precipice of extinction we have driven the planet.  The wintering population of monarch butterflies in California used to be in the millions, now it is less than 100-thousand.

The Trump Administration wants to drill for oil in land once saved from development for the helpless Sage Grouse.  What good is some silly bird if there’s a profit to be had from public land?

We are, unnaturally, poisoning ourselves along with the rest of planet.  Plastic stools of the fecal variety…

More and more scientists remind us of what happened the last time there was a crucial heating of the earth…uit was widespread death.


In New Zealand waters divers got video of a giant sea worm.

This is not a single creature but a pyrosome, a colony of tiny animals called tunicates.  They are filter feeders, using tiny syphons to move water through their bodies.

Posted by: atowhee | December 7, 2018


HOw do you know when a crow is grateful?  By the gifts he/she brings you. One Seattle girl is given presents often by the crows she feeds.

Posted by: atowhee | December 7, 2018


The White-throated Sparrow seems to have settled into our garden for the winter.  It must approve of the daily menu of suet and sunflower seeds.  NOw I can wonder what sex is this bird?  Male…female…gender 3…gender 4.  Click here to see article explaining how genetic changes have brought about FOUR sexes in this species.  All fertile in the right combination.

Auddie the warbler…and fourth shot shows his white tail patches. He would aggressively flash those and feint an attack on the Bushtits when they had the temerity and gall to feed on h”his” suet feeders.  Then two shots of the Whitey the white-cheeked, leucistic junco who’s also settled in for the nonce,

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Dec 7, 2018. 15 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)  1
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  15
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  4
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  15
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  2
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  4

Posted by: atowhee | December 7, 2018


“Wisdom,” the female Laysan Albatross has just laid another egg.  The wonder: we know she is at least 68 years old.  Could be drawing social security and using medicare if she were an American citizen.  Regardless of where she lives, she gets respect from birders around world.  Midway, where she nests annually, is an American territory, BTW.

An albatross only lays one egg per year.  The adult male may fly as far as California or Oregon coastal waters to fish, sometimes making a two-week long commute.  Upon return to Midway the hunter regurgitates fish oil for mate and chick.

The Laysan is not a particularly large albatross.  Wingspan over 6 feet, body about 30 inches long.  But we now know they can fly while asleep, one half of the brain continues to function so a commute to fishing grounds of thousands of miles is not as spectacular when you calculate 24 hours of flight, rather than just a typical human working day of 10-12 hours. (I am so old I can remember working an eight-hour day, longer hours meant overtime pay.  Today that would be unheard of nearly anywhere in the world of extreme capitalism where we all live.)

This albatross would weigh between 6 and seven pounds, plenty of weight in muscle and feathers.  The species can often be seen on pelagic trips off the Oregon and California coast if you venture far enough out.  The more common albatross in this area is the Black-footed, a mostly dark feathered bird and slightly larger than the Laysan. THe black-footed also nests in the central Pacific.

Posted by: atowhee | December 6, 2018


Today the NPR program “Here and Now” carried a feature on research into the Saw-whet Owl.  The field team catching banding these little guys happened to be in upstate New York.  Click here for the radio segment.

These guys are found in dense forests across North America.  Not rare, but little studied, this owl represents a wide gap in our knowledge.  Birds of North America online opens its description of the species with “much remains to be learned about its populations, distribution and movements, behavior, and breeding biology.”

We do know it is a nocturnal mouser.  Eight inches tall, seventeen inch wingspan, making it slightly smaller than that the more urbanized screech-owl.
Full official name: Northern Saw-whet Owl.  Name presumably comes from somebody thinking in sounded like a hand saw being whetted with a whetstone.

Below is range map from BNA; some of the population migrates.  One year a saw-whet spent its winter in Sutro Heights Park overlooking the Pacific in San Francisco.  I would often see that bird on evening dog walks.  A forest bird by the seaside, temporarily.

owl map

Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: