Posted by: atowhee | May 21, 2022


First it is a treat to see some body looks our gnarled, scarred old cherry trees besides me. As the fruit grows, a pair of chickadees is growing a brood inside a rotted old wou nd in the tree trunk:

Jaysd have now stopped being daily visitors, repeatedly. They are nesting, no doubt. Hiow such an obvious and loud bird can suddenly “vanish” and become secretive is credit to their smarts. By the time the young fledge, they’ll once again be at us all day long. “Where’re the peanuts?” The “gone” jay feeling happens annually around this time.

Long song? The Black-headed Grosbeak. His length must rank alongside some Europeans like the Nightingale and Skylark…and even the native Americans in the mocker/thrasher family. One sang to me the whole time I was watching and photographing the chickadee nest activity.

We get a qaurtet fo ficnhes daily. Nit the dozens of siskins ot goldfinches as we before breeding began. Modest numbers now, but at least one siskin, a pair of each goldfinch species and a few House Finches. Today was a true spring day, complete with sunshine. The robin seemed pleased.

Vanessa Loverti is a biologist with USA Fish & Wildlife. She’s wormking with me on the Motus project aimed for Ankeny NWR. Back from some field work she sent me these pictures of a migratory Red Knot being banded:

Posted by: atowhee | May 20, 2022


Photos from Peter Thiemann, except for dancing BBPlover from Eva Thiemann. The bunting was in Peter’s home forest in Applegate Valley.

Plovers–Black-bellied “For 2 weeks at Kirtland [Ponds] with Semipalmated Plovers.” Treat to see the black belly of breeding season. Red Knot there as well; replete with red belly. You belly believe it…
Emperor Goose near Grants Pass…now reported (same one?) near Astoria…headin’ home.

Posted by: atowhee | May 20, 2022


In my garden this morning I heard the unmistakable long song of a Black-headed Grosbeak in a nearby treetop. Both male and female sing in spring. Then late this afternoon I saw them on our suet block:

So now I can hope mthey nest nearby and make themselves daily diners at our outdoor cafe. If they can stand being near squirrels.

This grosbeak species’ song can be loud and expressive, it is a series of slurred doublets, often no two alike, sometimes punctuated by shrieks and sharp calls.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US

17 species

Wild Turkey  3
Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Mourning Dove  X
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  15
American Robin  2
House Finch  2
Pine Siskin  1
American Goldfinch  2
Dark-eyed Junco  1
Black-headed Grosbeak  2

Posted by: atowhee | May 19, 2022


Pewee as in flycatcher returning, not young catchers of fly balls. Pewees in league of their own, not a pewee league of baseball beginners.
These inveterate flycatchers, small of stature yet big of performance, were obvious in their high or open perches, their busy pursuit of prey, their inimitable ability to hold ground, and air, and attention.

This morning I got to lead the year’s first public bird walk at Cornerstone Preserve, conserved and protected by the Polk County Soil & Water Conservation District. There’ll be another walk there in June. Info on the district’s website.

Despite a short squall that delayed our start, we watched a pair of bluebirds come to a nearby road puddle, beak up earthworms and carry them overhead across the river. Our first stop after we started the walk–where we could watch the bluebirds deliver food to young inside a nestbox. Soon we saw about thirty yards away another box being used by Tree Swallows.

Blurred pic is the swallow nest box. Blue was a strong theme today–the bluebirds, blue lupine, wild iris, blue butterfly, camas lilies. Even an occasional glimpse of blue sky and a distant scrub-jay.

Voices we heard at Cornerstone: ravens chasing a Turkey Vulture but later they missed a Cooper’s Hawk carrying small bird back to its presumed nest among the hilltop Doug firs; towhee; Bewick’s Wren; numrous Song Sparrows; White-breasted Nuthatch; Barn Swallows; wood-pewee; yellowthroat. Wrentits preferred to remain hidden, perhaps due to chilly conditions.

“Western” may have been our bird word today–for the tanager in the hilltop oaks, the several wood-pewees and the bluebirds. The Osprey came to fish at the neighbor’s two-acre pond, visible from Cornerstone’s higher hillside.

We saw two insects–the butterfly above and one bumblebee. Insects have become so irregular that each today provoked interest and comment. I still recall thr wonderland of my Ozark childhood. If yiumleft a porch light on outside there’d be hundreds of insects around it two hours after sunset. Mostly moths, but mantises, beetles from June bugs on up in size, gnats and mosquitoes and various flies, some spiders also and the stars of the nshow–an occasional luna moth and the prodigious, terrifying Dobsonfly.
Click here for look at the current insect banishment.

Cornerstone Preserve–Polk Water and Soil Conservation District (restricted access), Polk, Oregon, US
May 19, 2022 8:50 AM – 11:50 AM. 24 species. It’s only been birded three times by eBirders, but it already has 54 species on its checklist. It’s a designated eBird hotspot.

Canada Goose  7
Mallard  3
Mourning Dove  X
Rufous Hummingbird  1–didn’t pose for photos
Killdeer  1
Turkey Vulture  3
Osprey  1
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1
Western Wood-Pewee  4
California Scrub-Jay  1
Common Raven  2
Tree Swallow  2     using a nest box
Barn Swallow  30
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
Western Bluebird  2     carrying worms to young in nest box
American Robin  2
House Finch  6
Song Sparrow  10
Spotted Towhee  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
Wilson’s Warbler  1
Western Tanager  1

In the afternoon a short dog walk at Deepwood Gardens in Salem brought me back inro the presence of a lone pewee, working the trees. At 220PM the garden was alive with feeding birds. I can only assume the cold, rain-dampened morning kept many of them under cover…then both the sun and hunger came out at once. It was a morning feeding frenzy in the early afternoon. The pewee was openly hawking bugs overhead, the tanager was in and out of shrubs and trees twenty feet away. A male junco flew past me to land by a puddle ten feet further on where he drank and bathed. It was glorious–I felt invisible, not presenting the usual perceived threat of a major predatory mammal. The hummers were zipping about, the males doing their vertical dives.

There is a full-sized blooming chestbnut tree at Deepwood right now–as close as I will get to Paris this spring:

Deepwood Museum & Gardens, Marion, Oregon, US
May 19, 2022. 16 species

Vaux’s Swift  1
Anna’s Hummingbird  4
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
Western Wood-Pewee  1
Pacific-slope Flycatcher  1–the only bird who deliberately hid from me
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  1
Violet-green Swallow  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
American Robin  2
Cedar Waxwing  4
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Spotted Towhee  1
Bullock’s Oriole  1
Wilson’s Warbler  3
Western Tanager  1

Posted by: atowhee | May 18, 2022


Click here for piece on Salem Reporter website–about drought and birds in Oregon. I wrote it after my recent birding trip to Malheur.

California already lost over 100 homes in a May wildfire. Here’s summary of how the state’s water use continues…upward.

Click here–trees together or alone cannot save us.

Remember when there was a Lake Mead? Click here.

So humans bring year-round Canada Geese into an area where they have never lived before. The birds will be eaten, hunted, controlled, right? Well all, along the Pacific Slope, Canada Geese (and Wild Turkeys) have been imported and they’ve found convenient feeding and breeding, often in cities, towns, suburbs, away from the rural shotguns. But they insist on pooping outside, fertilizing as they feed. How dare they? Blue City San Francisco threatens an anti-goose jihad! Click here.

I just saw several families at Fairview Wetlands in Salem, mowing the grass and fertilizing, naturally. Don’t tell San Francisco for fear they will send an execution squad.

In this final image you can see tiny flying specks over the water, a sample of dozens of swallows feeding at the marsh around 430PM. Cliff, barn, violet-green and tree–all our locals. Plus high up–Vaux’s Swiftsd.

Just across the road from Fairview is the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW). There were so many levels of irony present, I could not plumb them. There was a flock of exactly three bird species feeding on the lawn. One is hunted under ODFW regs. All three were introduced to the Willamette Valley by our species. None would have been breeding in this valley in May, 1820. Now some of our kind consider their kind to be pests to our kind and so they are treated roughly, even unto capital punishment. There is zero evidence that any of their ancestors ever asked to come to western Oregon. The birds: cowbird, starling, Canada Goose. I will say that the cowbird came along with cows driven west, and was heedlessly, but not deliberately, brought here as the other two were.
One other introduction was relevant this afternoon–bullfrogs, two jumpers and a croacker around the pond. Also a water turtle, didn’t appear to be the painted.

Still room on the June birding trip–Bobolink, Black Terns, YB Chat, Common Nighthawk, Mountaun Bluebird. Interested?

My next Field Station sponsored birding trip: June 2-7. There are some seats on the van still open. Best trip for Bobolink and Eastern Kingbird (not here in early May) and Common Nighthawk. Call 541-493-2629 for details.
September trip is 7-12, includes trip to summit of Steens Mountain and a visit to the snow-tortured aspens with horizontal trunks.

Posted by: atowhee | May 17, 2022


My wife and I have co-habited for over a decade among Wild Turkeys in Ashland and now Salem.  I feel it is much like life in a college dorm.  These neighbors are loud, bold, social, unpredictable, always hungry.

Yesterday there was a frat party in our garden last evening.  Three males showed up, and chowed down.  Makes me think many of the local campus hens are on eggs in some secluded spots.  They nest on the ground in a scraped out depression.  Some local litter may be used to line or surround the nest—no stick carrying, thank you very much.  A typical clutch is 10-14 eggs.  The turkey nests once per year unless the whole first clutch is lost.  The tom is nowhere to be seen so the hen does all the family stuff.  She incubates eggs until they hatch after about four weeks.  Within a couple of days of hatching the chicks begin to follow mom who feeds them until they are able to find their own forage.

The young will not fly for weeks, but get pretty good at running after a few days.  No lingering in a soft nest like baby robins or herons.

There is one couple, tom and hen, that still arrive together to feed.  Not joining the fraternity.  This tom is very protective of his mate.  He lowers his outer wing feathers until they touch the driveway pavement then rustles them along, making a sound like distant thunder.  And his gobbles are loud, sharp and meant to intimidate. Here’s one doing the wing drag:

Turkeys are not our only loud neighbors (besides a couple lawn mowers and chickens after laying an egg). We are part of Morningside Crow Kingdom. I mentioned to my wife recently that we should be proud of our little part in evolution. We may have had long-gone ancestors were Cro-Magnon. We ourselves risen to become Crow-Magnets.

Crows are slow to trust our kind. The above images were taken through a window. But still, when we go outside:

These are tanager days–I see returnees almost daily near our house. They will move on to more forested areas when they start nest preps.

Thus handsome male kestrel was hunting at Mill Creek Industrial Park (wetlands) on my recent visit. All the wintering birds are gone–it is so quiet without the cackling cacklers who’ve left for Alaska.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
May 16, 2022 7:20 AM
Protocol: Incidental
17 species

Canada Geese fly over (thankfully)

Mourning Dove  X
Northern Flicker  X
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  X
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  2
House Finch  2
Pine Siskin  1
Lesser Goldfinch  2
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Song Sparrow  1     singing
Spotted Towhee  1
Black-headed Grosbeak  1

Posted by: atowhee | May 16, 2022


Here are some photos from Sevilla Rhoads who lives east of the Cascades. She and her children live close enough to a nest site to monitor the activity:
“Today we think we saw a GGO in last year’s nest.  From a distance, I sat quietly for a while watching with my binos and I saw a tail moving, then the owl turned its head and I managed a photo.  Photo attached, but it is hard to see because I was so far away with a long lens.  I blew up the photo to the max magnification so you can see the face and tail.

“Also, we had a Northern Goshawk fly into our neighborhood…  It tried hunting some sparrows by feeders during the cold weather.”

Woodpecker appears to be a Williamson’s Sapsucker. The foggy pic of a perched GGO was another day and place, not at the nest. Ms Rhoades is working to protect known GGO nests in eastern Oregon from an on-going fure suppression campaign that is now burning forest meadows…she may be abvle to convice the feds to stay naway from nests or wait until the owlets are flying.
If you know of a GGO nest site on National Forest land, let me know. It will not publicized but could be protected from flames and smoke.

Posted by: atowhee | May 16, 2022


From Wood Lake in Richfield, MN. Pictures provided by Marc Reigel. Trumpeters are so aplenty there Marc added a “yawn” to his email:

The mystery bird in the shade I think is a female American Redstart, common Midwest species.

Earlier: female Orcgard Oriole, Eastern Kingbird.

Posted by: atowhee | May 15, 2022


At the scenic Burns Sewer Ponds last week, we were the only visible mammals, but birds galore—ducks, gulls, Caspian Terns, cormorants, Eared Grebes, Snow Geese, Spotted Sandpipers…and feeding Black Terns.
Their buoyant flight, their needle-pointed wings, their silvery shine at the right or wrong angle, their swerves and curves and verve, ups, downs and arounds, their intense silence, their skimming the pond surface turning a circle at speed, bounce in every ounce, their passing us within a few yards.  Never has a stance along a sewer pond berm been more mesmerizing.
The setting:

The actors in action:

It is almost the same body length as an American Robin.  That’s just under 10 inches.  Yet the tern’s wingspan is 7 inches greater (two feet), more than 40% advantage. The tern is also lighter than a robin as much of the tern length is its talented tail.  A rail that enables its aerial acrobatics and seeming weightlessness in air.  Black Tern: 24 inch wingspan well over 200% of 9.75 inch body length.  The high ratio of wingspan to body length intrigued me.  I found only common, “ordinary” American species with an even greater ratio—it is my beloved Common Nighthawk, also found at Malheur (read Edge of Awe to learn more).  Nighthawk: 24 inch wingspan, 9.5 inch body length.  Higher ratio by a fraction.  The swifts, naturally, have even higher wing to body ratios, but they live in the air, sometimes not landing for months at a stretch, eating, sleeping, molting in flight.

The Black Tern and American Kestrel have much the same length proportions, but the kestrel is a muscular bird, weighing nearly double the tern though not quite as long.  Kestrel’s must sometimes eat prey that resists.  These terns swallow many flying insects—gone in one gulp.  They also take small aquatic prey. The Black Tern breeds in inland North America, in loose colonies.  They range from Colorado to northern Canada.  In warm months juvenile birds may stay along the Pacific Coast.  In Eurasia Black Terns are found inland at the same lattitudes.  Both populations winter in sub-tropical climates.

My next Field Station sponsored birding trip: June 2-7. There are some seats on the van still open. Best trip for Bobolink and Eastern Kingbird (not here in early May) and Common Nighthawk. Call 541-493-2629 for details.
September trip is 7-12, includes trip to summit of Steens Mountain and a visit to the snow-tortured aspens with horizontal trunks.

Posted by: atowhee | May 15, 2022


UPDATE: Three votes in so far…two for Black-headed, one for Black-headed hybrid.

Susan Harrison was on the recent Malheur Field Station birdig trip with me. We encountered this freezing, starving bird near P Ranch, snow falling. The bird let us within a few feet as it was focused on food for survival. Is this a Rose-breasted Grosbeak or some hybrid thereof? Here are four images Susan got:

My next Field Station sponsored birding trip: June 2-7. There are some seats on the van still open. Best trip for Bobolink and Eastern Kingbird (not here in early May) and Common Nighthawk. Call 541-493-2629 for details.
September trip is 7-12, includes trip to summit of Steens Mountain and a visit to the snow-tortured aspens with horizontal trunks.

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