Posted by: atowhee | December 19, 2007

Tuesday: hits and misses

golden_eagle.jpgGolden Eagle by Don Bruschera.

There was rain when we set out just after dawn.  But the birding gods were pleased by our effort.  The dreary gray clouds drifted about, holding their rain until we finished.  Bill Hering and I didn’t get the two birds we were hoping for. But I came away with a couple Oregon lifers, including one totally unexpected bird.

Our first destination was Agate Lake, a resevoir a few miles northeast of Medford. On Saturday the Christmas Count team had spotted a kingbird.  We were hoping for a look ourselves.  No luck.  We tramped around in the notorious Agate Lake mud until each boot weighed about 7.4 kilos.  But there were plenty of birds.  Biggest of all: a mature pair of Bald Eagles.

Blue Heron, Common Merganser, dozens of Wigeon, a couple of Lesser Scaup, numerous Ruddy Ducks, Pied-billed and Western Grebe, Coots.  On land: Killdeer, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrow, Juncos, Spotted Towhee, White-breasted Nuthatch, RC Kinglets.  Icterids were Brewer’s and Red-winged Blackbirds, Western Meadowlarks. Ravens, Mourning Doves–both species ubiquitous here in the Rogue River Valley.  And four woodpeckers: Downy, Acorn, Lewis’s and Flicker. As you can guess from the species list it was oak forest with grassy glades, with mudflats around the lake.  A lone, brown Northern Harrier was coursing the grassy fields next to the lake.  A couple Kestrels, a Red-tailed hawk and, then, right where he seems ot pick up his mail, a Ferruginous Hawk on a post next to 1870 E. Antelope Road where he’s a regular.  His take-offs and landings are more predictable than most airlines’.  Perhaps the most abundant land bird at Agate Lake was the Western Bluebird seen in several small groups.

But our best bird had been running along the edge of the lake, alone, feeding on whatever tiny creatures he could find in the 45-degree weather.  It was a Lesser Yellowlegs, unsual in Oregon between the fall and spring migrations.  This bird and the Ferruginous were Oregon lifers #179 and 180.

The smaller yellowlegs should have been further south.  Known scientifically as Tringa flavipes, some of these birds go all the way to Paraguay for the winter.  What this guy was doing in the wintry confines of Jackson County, Oregon, I cannot say.  Like allshorebirds the weight of a Lesser Yellowlegs can vary radically depending on how much body fat the individual bird has.  In full body fat a migratory Lesser can weigh almost a full four ounces.  That’s a quarter of a pound for the math-challenged.  As much as a medium-sized spud.

Later Bill and I looked for a Northern Shrike seen occasionally at the north end of the Medford Airport.  Another no-show, but we got fine looks at an immature Golden Eagle hunting over the grassy area. More doves, of course.

Click here for some pictures of much more exotic creatures than any we’ll see in Oregon.  These are Papua photos taken by gleeful researchers in the remotest of rain forests.


Location:     Agate Lake
Observation date:     12/18/07
Notes:     Lesser Yelloowlegs and Golden Eagle were CBC count week birds for the Medford count circle.
Number of species:     36

Canada Goose     1
American Wigeon     220
Mallard     2
Ring-necked Duck     1
Lesser Scaup     2
Common Merganser     4
Ruddy Duck     45
Pied-billed Grebe     3
Western Grebe     2
Great Blue Heron     3
Bald Eagle     2
Northern Harrier     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Ferruginous Hawk     1
American Kestrel     3
American Coot     23
Killdeer     2
Lesser Yellowlegs     1
Mourning Dove     6
Lewis’s Woodpecker     1
Acorn Woodpecker     1
Downy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker     4
Common Raven     6
Black-capped Chickadee     3
White-breasted Nuthatch     1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     2
Western Bluebird     15
European Starling     4
Spotted Towhee     3
Song Sparrow     1
Golden-crowned Sparrow     25
Dark-eyed Junco     10
Red-winged Blackbird     8
Western Meadowlark     8
Brewer’s Blackbird     4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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