Posted by: atowhee | November 16, 2007

Oh, peabody, peabody, peabody


The sparrow tribe is daily the most abundant in my autumn garden.  And it is now primarily Oregon Junco here in Oregon.  But today I got a pleasant surprise.  There onthe ground was this spiffy looking sparrow, an adult White-throated Sparrow.  The Christmas Counts in this part of the state usually turn up a few.  So nbow I can contribute at least one to the Ashland count if he sticks around.  Larger than the Juncos, of course.  And it;s the wrong time of the year to hear him sing, “Oh peabody….”

 It was a lister’s delight.  Oregon lifer # 154.  Of course, I have 120 more species than that just within the 49 square miles and offshore ocean of San Francisco County.  But it’s a start.  Four years of birding whenever possible got my life list in Britain to only 201.  But diversity there is quite limited as it’s a heavily populated, northern island.  I recall that I got my life WT Sparrow in Sutro Heights years ago when I didn’t even know how to put it on the birdbox.   Then about a decade ago while birding with a group in Central Park, New York City, I picked a lone White-crowned Sparrow from the swirl of local White-throated.  Allowed me to give a little thrill to the hospitable locals.  But my biggest “accidental” rarity sighting came in Scotland.  I mentioned to my trip leader that there were only a few ducks on the lake.  Everybody else was talking the local Capercallie for good reason, splendid huge grouse.  What’d you see? he asked politely.  Just a few Goldeneye and a Greater Scaup I shrugged.  Oh. They must have all been Goldeneye, he politely corrected.  No, I said, I’ve seen a few zillion Greater Scaup and there’s one on the lake right across the road from this parking lot.  After he took a good, long look through a scope, the leader sheepishly agreed.  Said it was the first Greater Scaup on this inland lake (Loch Garten) that he’d ever seen.  Whyat did I know, just another ordinary duck I’d thought.

 Speaking of big sparrows: THREE Spotted Towhees were feeding in our garden simultaneously today, a high so far this season.

 We were out of town for two weeks and suet feeder ran out, but the Red-breasted Nuthatches (2) and the local Downy Woodpecker were in action today nonetheless.  Both jays, Robin, Flicker, Anna’s Hummer, a handful of Ruby-crowned Kinglets filled out the roster.  No sign of the Mourning Doves.

Today’s observations in Jayconomics: The Spotted Towhees were aggressive toward one another but easily shared feeders with nuthatches or Juncos.  The Juncos likewise share with other species but won;t let their co-genersa any clooser than a few inches.  They will share the paltform feeder because it’s about one foot by eighteen inches.  It seems to be a space issue as they will be about eighteen inches apart on the ground and seem perfectly comfortable with that distance.  A Steller’s Jay and Flicker were on the platform feeder at the same time.  The Steller’s will share with one another, but not the Scrub-jays.  The Nuthatch is a quick hit artists and seems to not care who else may be at or near the feeder.  Flies in, grabs a seed and eats it elsewhere.  The seedeaters and jays will gorge at the feeder unless driven off.

 A short afternoon walk along lower Ashland Creek and its confluence with Bear Creek came up with a list of the usual: Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Acorn Woodpeckers, Mallards and Wood Duck on the functioning cement sewer ponds, Brewer’s and Red-winged Blackbirds, Scrub-jays, Ravens overhead, Pine Siskins, a Spotted Towhee in the underbrush, as always.

Two lines of Canada Geese passed overhead around 4 p.m.  Honking their way north to an evening roost along the Rogue River. The second, longer line finally formed into the V that somehow symbolizes large birds moving far beyond our reach and ken.  No matter how common they becme, the nuisance they are to golfers and their ilk, the Canada Goose calling in flight will ever be a wonderful sight.

 At the end of our walk it was very quiet, bird-wise.  Only a single hunter perched atop a leadless alder: a Cooper’a Hawk.  All the smaller birds were under cover.

That Ruby-crowned Kinglet was photographed by May Woon on the sidewalk at Cosumnes Reserve a year ago.  The White-throated Sparrow was taken by David Assman as it scratched around in the weeds next to North Lake in Golden Gate Park last winter.

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