Posted by: atowhee | November 25, 2007

Tiny, large and cold–our themes for the day


 This picture of a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk was taken by Dr. Tom Kuhn in his San Francisco garden.  The secret: he has running water which attracts many birds.  And he’s pretty good with the camera as well.

The hill was alive with the sound of music.  And it was the softing, lisping sound of tiny voices.  Golden-crowned Kinglets.  Bridget and I were on a narrow forest service road with madrone and manzanita above and below us.  The road moves along the a steep slope that rises northward toward Bald Mountain.  That’s about 5,000-feet high and two miles away.  Our currect elevation was less than half that, well below the snow line so far this season.  Looking like a miniature Goliath (how can that be?) one Hermit Thrush shrugged his shoulders and eyed us carefully from the fluttering throng of little bodies.  The slope was getting the first sunlight of the morning after a sub-freezing night.  The Kinglets were not wasting any time. As one local birder said so aptly, winter birds live a life based on calories.  How many calories can they take in, for the number they burn up staying warm enough to survive?   For now, I’ll pass over the Anna’s Hummingbird which uses torpor as a weapon against the cold.

Later in the week Bridget and I paid another visit to the quarry on upper Granite Street.  We had some pretty lively action for a few minutes.  Then nothing.  I noted a Robin had just bolted to the north, then silence.  Then I saw him, an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk perched near where the Robin had flown from.  He was upright in a small, leafless tree.  The sun caught his pale chest and made it look white.  After a couple minutes of being stared at he flew uphill and disappeared behind a large madrone.  We turned to leave, expecting no further small birds.  Just before we dropped down below his sight line I turned and saw the Sharpie was back in his small bare tree.  I was just bird-watching for pleasure.  For the accipiter and those he watched it was life-and-death.

Thinking small: the Bushtits are daly into and out of our garden.  Sometimes eight or more will hang onto the suet feeder at one time.  They are congenitally incapable of settling down to a feast.  A nibble or two and off they go, following the restless flock.  The Junco and squirrels will settle for a long meal at a single sitting.  Especially under the canopy of a willow or other tree where they feel safest.  And sfaety is an issue now.  We found the telltale feathers from a Steller’s Jay.  Likely it was a Cooper’s Hawk who caught the bird at the feeder just above where the feathers fell.  The killtook place sometime in mid-morning, because I had gone out with hot water to pour over the bird-bath ice around 8:30, then shortly before noon my wife and I noticed the feathers.

For the big part of the blog, we must go up the mountains to the east of Ashland.  we took Bridget up for a romp in the snow.  Her dense black fur and her genetics make her an ideal snow dog.  She got her romp.  And Kate and I got views of some good birds:  Lewis’s Woodpeckers and Western Bluebirds along Highway 99 east of Emigrant Lake. That was below the snow line.  Hyatt Lake large flocks of Common Coot, perhaps five thousand of them.  Mixed in: Coomon Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, American Wigeon.

In a pasture just west of Howard Prairie Lake a Bald Eagle was having his Thanksgiving repast.  It appeared to be carrion he was sharing with two Ravens.  Our local Turkey Vultures have all migrated out for the winter so Ravens and Bald Eagles get a better shot at carrion over the cold months.  As we drove the edge of this long snow-covered field a Goshawk coasted out of the woods and flew over, alert for motion.  Up there at 5,000-feet it was a world of green and white, except for a few Hereford cattle back from road.  Even they were partially snow white.

Cold: this morning Bridget and I walked the frosted Bear Creek Greenway.  For the first time there was a flock of Wood Ducks in Bear Creek.  I suspect some of their usual smallponds are starting to ice over.  The swift flowing stream is icy-cold, but not iced.  In with them were at least eight Mallards and a Blue Heron fishing the pool’s edge.  It was the same pool where I’d seen the Hooded Mergansers a few days ago.

Location:     Upper Granite St., Ashland
Observation date:     11/22/07
Number of species:     11

Sharp-shinned Hawk     1
Anna’s Hummingbird     1
Northern Flicker     5
Steller’s Jay     2
Western Scrub-Jay     2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     1
American Robin     12
Cedar Waxwing     32
Spotted Towhee     1
Purple Finch     1
Lesser Goldfinch     3


Location:     Emigrant Lake
Observation date:     11/22/07
Number of species:     15

Bufflehead     18
Common Merganser     10
Double-crested Cormorant     2
Great Blue Heron     1
White-tailed Kite     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Coot     7
Ring-billed Gull     42
Hairy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker     1
Western Scrub-Jay     4
Common Raven     6
European Starling     5
Spotted Towhee     1
Red-winged Blackbird     5


Location:     Bear Valley Greenway, Ashland
Observation date:     11/24/07
Notes:     sub-freezing temps may have driven the ducks from ponds to the flowing stream, Bear Creek
Number of species:     27

Wood Duck     54
Mallard     11
Great Blue Heron     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Killdeer     1
Rock Pigeon     78
Mourning Dove     11
Acorn Woodpecker     3
Northern Flicker     4
Western Scrub-Jay     12
American Crow     6
Common Raven     3
Black-capped Chickadee     2
White-breasted Nuthatch     1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     2
Hermit Thrush     1
European Starling     89
Spotted Towhee     1
Fox Sparrow     2
Song Sparrow     4
Golden-crowned Sparrow     23
Dark-eyed Junco     21
Red-winged Blackbird     4
Brewer’s Blackbird     9
Purple Finch     8
Lesser Goldfinch     5
House Sparrow     4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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