Posted by: atowhee | January 25, 2008

Birthday birds as owl week continues

common-goldeneye.jpg

Male Common Goldeneye  by May Woon.

Well, I made it to social security age.  Whew!  May get a check before the entire federal government goes broke trying to bail out the economy after the mortgage scandal.  Meanwhile, I did what everyone should do on a momentous birthday.  I went birding.  Thanks to accurate info from fellow-birder Bill Hering, inturn obtained from ace local birder Gwyneth, we found the Short-eared Owls.  They are not common in the Rogue Valley at any time.  We found the weedy field with its scraggly pear saplings and walked through chest-high teasal.  We scared up at least five individual owls.  A couple times we had swirls of Short-eareds circling over the field.  Three of them perched on short trees long enough for us to get good scope looks. 

Black feathers encircle the bright golden eyes.  The owl swivel was in full moton, side-to-side, back-to-front, they scanned the weedy horizon.  They have the usual stubby body and long flexible wings of all owls.  One perching owl showed a bit of the tiny “ear” tufts which are really for camouflage and profile changing.  One perched owl watched a Starling whizz past not far overhead and the little tufts went erect for a nano-second in response the the fly-by.  The tufts are not ears as all owl ears are deep beneath the feathers at the center of facial discs which gather and focus sound. These owls themselves made no sound.  Their flight is always silent and not a call was heard.  The only other hunter about was a female Harrier who saw us and floated away.  A distant Red-tailed Hawk may have been sleeping on his power pole crossbar.

The SEOwl’s a crepuscular hunter, morning and evening.  Not mid-day and not at night.  Today they were active as late as 9AM, because the day was heavily overcast and by 10:30AM it was snowing.  These birds love the distant horizon.  Not for them the tightly packed evergreens of the Spotted or Saw-whet.  Give ’em tundra, dunes, wind-tortured grasslands.  They breed all the way to the northern rim of North America.  SEs are found all over the Northern Hemisphere and it is THE owl, Pueo, endemic to Hawaii.  Most taxonomists do NOT separate the Hawaiian Short-eared as a distinct species.

Their diet is largely rodent (except on Hawai where they must eat birds to survive, no native mammals except bat).  In that field we saw only two Jackrabbits, slightly bigger than the owls themselves.  The local voles were wisely hidden. There were also two Wilson’s Snipe hanging around the hard-frozen puddles.

From the north end of the Medford Airport where the Short-eareds did their own take-offs and landings, we flew north.  First to Gold-ray Dam, the oldest dam and first hydro-electric plant (1906) on the Rogue River.  From there east to Kirtland Ponds and Denman Wildlife Reserve.  At Gold-ray we dipped on Barrow’s Goldeneye but found their Common cousins.  Despite the snow we had a good morning afield with five Bald Eagles, over forty species including a dozen waterfowl.  Denman was nearly fozen solid except for a couple Mallard-maintained shoreline patches of open water, and two shivering Wigeons.

Slapstick move of the day, a Western Sandpiper on the frozen puddles in an otherwise dried up impoundment at Kirtland Sewer Plant.  One little bird skidded on the ice, lost control, landed on his bum and slid a few inches across the ice before righting himself.  Then he went back to plucking bite-sized bits from the frozen surface along with the other performers at the Sandpiper Icecapades.  Those are sandpiper bite-sized bits, not visible though binoulars for which I am grateful.

————————————————————————————birds  1-24-08  Birthday birds

Lifer: Short-eared Owl, at least five indidividuals with multiple sighitngs
and a couple of owl swarms in feld south of Industrial Way next to Medford Airport
Oregon #196, was overall lifer for Bill Hering.

Canada Geese     8
Ring-necked Duck 10  Gold-ray dam
Lesser Scaup            18  Gold-ray & Kirtland Sewer Ponds
Green-winged Teal       6, Gold-ray Dam & Kirtland Sewer Ponds
American Wigeon         80
Mallard                150
Shoveler                25
Gadwall                 4   Kirtland Ponds
Bufflehead              15
Common Goldeneye        2    Gold-ray
Wood Duck  2
Ruddy Duck              50   Kirtland
Common Merganser        10   Gold-ray
Great Egret  1    Gold-ray
Bald Eagle  5    2 at Gold-ray, one at a small pond, 2 at carrion along
   Kirtland Road west of the ponds
White-tailed Kite       1    Kirtland ponds
Harrier   1    female, Medford Airport
Red-tailed Hawks >10  pair chased away Kite and proceeded to courtship display
American Kestrel 7
Ring-billed Gull 20    Kirtland  
Pied-billed Grebe 4     Gold-ray
Coots                   4     Gold-ray
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Killdeer
Western Sandpiper 25    Kirtland ponds
Wilson’s Snipe     2     Medford Airport
Kingfisher  1     Gold-ray
Flicker
Acorn Woodpecker
Common Raven
Scrub-jay
Starling  ubiquitous, over 500 at Kirtland alone
Brewer’s Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Spotted Towhee
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Junco
Lesser Goldfinch
 


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