Posted by: atowhee | November 13, 2018


Heat can destroy male insects…bad news for flycatchers, humans and insectivores the world around.

In Utah they’ve found a complete fossil of Turkey Vulture-sized bird that went extinct 66 million years ago in a previous extinction crisis.

Posted by: atowhee | November 11, 2018


Gray whale northward migration off Boiler Bay this afternoon.  Picture shows at least two whales on surface simultaneously.  Birds there included colonies of Pelagic Cormorants and gulls galore:


Latter gull a ring-billed marching across shallow water.

Best landbird of the day was my first autumnal Varied Thrush, at C]=Van Duzer State Park along Hwy 20.   I have not seen one in the Willamette Valley yet though this guy was just in the lower Coast Range, between 700-800 feet in elevation:

Best flock of the day was to be seen along a street in Newport:newport birds

Posted by: atowhee | November 10, 2018


A one-island rail, that can’t fly.  A warbler like no other that we know of.

The three species hybrid warbler.  Instead of hyrbid bird, maybe just “hybird?”

The island rail and he/she may have gotten there.

Posted by: atowhee | November 10, 2018


FROSTFrost filagrees roof and lawn.  Sunlight glints from millions of ice crystals.  Sunlight melts its path across the hoar as it rises.  Hungry birds at breakfast. The collared-doves arrive with the scrub-jay.  Do they depend on the jay’s perspicacity, his loud alarm call?  Many previous doves have fallen to the marauding Cooper’s Hawk.   The jay’s role is town crier.  Inadvertent saver of doves.  Juncos are often the first to arrive at dawn.  Cold does deter this determined, hardy sparrow.

745AM  I carry out the sunflower seeds to feeders.  The night shift always cleans up every grain.  A lone starling whistle greets my task.

750AM  A crisp-patterned male junco is the first to savor the morning grains.  Fog lies close to the ground.  It is cold, gray.  32.7 degrees.

752   Two juncos now.

825   Seven juncos,  sunlight now coming through smoke tree foliage.  First squirrel on the seeds.  34 degrees.

835  First scrub-jay of the day and host of juncos at the seeds.  Quartet of House Sparrows are first to taste the suet delights this Saturday morn.  Two squirrels now–one in hanging feeder, second on the ground.   37.

843  Two starlings arrive.  One goes for suet, the other has a chilly bath.

846  Jay hauls off six-inch strip of burned bread crust, perhaps to cache it somewhere.

847  Flicker comes, feeds on ground.  Collared-doves come out with jay present.

900  Jay back and forth.  House Sparrows and juncos feeding.  43

911  Eight juncos now.  Three squirrels.

934  Scrub-jay.  Flash of color: Red-breasted Sapsucker lands on smoke tree.  I never see this bird on feeders or bird bath, just tree trunks.  Juncos, House Sparrows, suet squirrels.

940  Ten juncos now.  House Sparrow drives away lone House Finch.  Jay on suet now.

1005  Spotted Towhee appears.  Male flashes his tail spots to fend off any critter nearby,  43 degrees.

1043  Two Spotted Towhees now, male and female but not together.  Juncos avoid them but linger with much coming and going and white tail lines bright in mid-morning sun, fog is lifting.

aw on oak2Acorn Woodpecker at Wennerberg Park.  Sapsucker tree there as well:IMG_6194Garden sapsucker, behind his bamboo cover:

HEADS UPJ-SUETTWO DOWNTWO IN TREERobin was in garden earlier this week.FLAP.JPG

Posted by: atowhee | November 8, 2018


A wildfire is burning out of control in northern California.  It is ablaze in the dry grasslands east of Chico in the Sierra foothills.  The ineptly named town of Paradise is being evacuated.  This is November, would have been rainy season there back before we altered the climate.

The weather records show that Chico has had exactly zero precipitation since October 1.  Fire season continues.

This is not a real estate column but we in the Pacific Northwest should expect more and more Californian refugees moving north.  Let us not build a wall, OK?

Posted by: atowhee | November 7, 2018


Chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall accuses our species of destroying life on the planet.

A UN report says if we don’t save other animals, we are destroying our own species’ future.

I have just finished a fine book on the large seabirds–albatross to auks.  It is The Seabird’s Cry, by Adam Nicolson.  His closing chapter presents some hope:
“This is a resetting of life,.  The fossils will be different in the future.  And in this enormous process, which we are now in the midst of, there will be winners and losers.  Many bird lineages–early gulls, albatrosses, shearwaters, cormorants and penguins–survived the mass extinction 66 million years ago when three-quarters of all life disappeared, including most of plankton.”

Nicolson has some hope that our current seabirds have the genetic capacity to adapt.  Many species in the oceans are already being pushed toward the poles as fish and plankton populations shift or die off in warmer waters.

The most tragic fact I learned in this book…small predators release dimethyl sulphide when they attack plankton.  The seabirds can smell that gas from miles and gather for feeding.  Then, comes the kicker… the waste plastic we strew about the planet, gets into the ocean…and then it starts to decompose…releasing…of course, dimethyl sulphide.  So the seabirds gather and swallow the tasty smelling plastic.  Another huge victory for deregulated oil and plastic industry.  I am just waiting to see the free enterprise system rise up and save our seabirds…not.

Nicholson, BTW, is grandson of the Harold Nicholson, along with his wife Vita Sackville-West, who created the splendid gardens at Sissinghurst.

Posted by: atowhee | November 7, 2018


Not a bird.  Something edible, probably a wild cattle family member.  In a cave in Indonesia.  Click on link for whole story.

Posted by: atowhee | November 3, 2018


Our McMinnville birding class visited Baskett Slough today. Just after we turned off Hwy 99W onto Coville Road we found a kestrel and a red-tail on matching poles out in the field.  Another mile west and we found a peregrine shooting across the horizon, and our first two harriers, cruising like low-riders.  Just before the parking lot on the Coville Road elbow (with the toilet building) there was our second peregrine sitting on the same dead tree along the road…where I’d seen a peregrine two days earlier.  Around the parking lot we found our first scrub-jays and a very haughty Spotted Towhee who warned off his patch of brush.

Then we headed south of Coville Road before the next elbow.  Where the road heads west again we stopped.  A field was full of Canada and Cackling Geese, a harrier sat in a short, bare tree.  Meadowlarks  showed themselves even though the  peregrine was within clear view.  A loose group of flickers began landing in the hedge row, and at one point bracketed a meadowlark in clear view.

At the Coville Road Pond we were visited by some restless Dunlin…briefly.  A few of us got quick glimpses of snipe in the marsh.  Teal, a shoveler, Mallards and plenty of geese there in the still-shallow pond. Red-wings, harrier, nutria…you get the picture.  Then we found our first juncos and Golden-crowned Sparrows.

A drive along the length of Smithfield Road brought us to the eagle pair, a small flock of Tundra Swans, a murder of crows, chickadee, kinglet.

He stood about and walked along listening for the soft shuffle of vole under grass, then lifted off and flew his ordinary, low path along the hedge:

Click on any age to enlarge it.

Along Smithfield Road:

In one of the images you can see the upper eagle preening with a feather pluck.  We thought this was female as the upper bird looked larger.


Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Nov 3, 2018 9:35 AM – 12:05 PM. 33 species

Cackling Goose (minima) (Branta hutchinsii minima)  X
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)  9     in reservoir east of Smithfield Road, south of Morgan Lake
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)  1
Gadwall (Mareca strepera)  8
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  10
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  4
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
American Coot (Fulica americana)  X
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)  8
Wilson’s Snipe   X
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) (Ardea herodias [herodias Group])  1
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  5
Bald Eagle–2 adults in same tree along Smithfield Road, south of the winery
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  8
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  6
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  3
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  2
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  6
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  60
Raven   2
American Pipit    X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  3
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  2
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  4
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  X

Left Coast Cellars, Polk, Oregon, US
Nov 3, 2018 12:15 PM – 12:30 PM. 7 species

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  6
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  3
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  5
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  3–all females
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)  3
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)  2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  1000–a murmuration

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | November 2, 2018


Here’s a letter from me that just ran in the McMinnville bi-weekly newspaper (it’s the only paper we have here):

Spare us the toxins

Recently, my wife and I visited some friends on their small ranch south of McMinnville. While we were there, they proudly invited us to meet their barn owl.
She was perched high in the rafters, overlooking and overlistening the area where hay and grain are stored — the perfect draw for rodents, who are the perfect draw for the barn owl. You couldn’t ask for a more helpful neighbor.

A single barn owl eats about four small rodents per day. A family of five would eat 20. And they are far less trouble than a herd of house cats.

This family’s farm is focused on livestock, so there is little chemical use. However, it is surrounded by industrial-strength hazelnut orchards. You can click here for a look at the many toxins used on Oregon hazelnuts:

Growers are advised to avoid a sprayed area for 12 hours, 24 hours or, in a few cases, even 48 hours. Who’s going to explain that to the barn owl? Who’s going to warn the owl that the rodent she finds staggering down the hazelnut row may be dying of poison?

I can only hope the barn owl I met finds enough prey right there in the feedway, and doesn’t have to go soaring through the toxic zone nearby.

One danger that all American owls share, if they get near people, is d-CON. It can kill predators as large as mountain lions, if they get into poisoned prey or a poisoned carcass. (

Barn owls are great allies in keeping rodents out of homes and crops. They need our help, not our poisons.

Harry Fuller


The letter can be found at this URL:–1541194474–31268–letters

Here’s my picture of that owl in his barn: bo-Holden

Now Japan is facing a crash in squid business…because of over-fishing and warmer oceans.  Will that lead to any serious efforts to reverse man’s trashing of the earth and its waters?

This sounds a lot like the vanished shellfish industry in the eastern US. which I blogged about last week.

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