Posted by: atowhee | January 27, 2008

Diadem, Seraphim, Bombycilla


This quartet of goldeneyes was captured by Len Blumin.  That’s a female Barrow’s in the front left-hand corner.  Smaller, all-yellow beak and steep forehead. 

Ashland’s been cold for days, sub-freezing every night.  It climbs above 32 Fahrenheit during daylight hours but colder spots don’t completely thaw.  I was checking Ashland Creek in an unsuccesful look for a Dipper.  There was one pair of Wood Ducks on a rock along the far shore.  They nervously raised their heads when I checked with with my binocs.  I was really only getting a closer look at the fine-line golden stripes along the male’s face and beak.  Nature’s design genius.  It was then that I noticed the first diadem.

A conical-topped rock mid-stream wore a crystal fringe of ice.  Later I would see other frozen diadem.  Further along a shaded embankment was a bare limb with tiny branches hanging down, each enlarged to an icy finger. Another rock next to spraying cascade was completely coated in clear shining crystal, and some of the small bushes just above the edgeof the stream wore their own chest medals, each of purest ice condensed from the air above the rampant creek.

During a walk along the trail about a hundfred feet above stream level I came across a small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets.  This time they were in trees downslope and were at eye level.  Have you ever looked really closely at these guys?  So many of our smaller songbirds outside the warbler family are so…drab.  Bushtits, chickadees, wrens, sparrows, titmice, gnatcatchers.  Not the Golden-crowned Kinglet who;s as brightly tinted as his cousins in Europe: Goldcrest and Firecrest.

The tiny head: topped with a bright yellow streak, bordered by black, then a white streak with another black line which runs through the dark and beneath that another white stripe just over the olive drab chin.  All that crammed onto a globe slightly larger in diameter than a dime.  On the body itself are various subtle shades of green, sometimes hinting of yellow. The wings are another tiny collections of contrasting colors but without the distinct borders you find on the kinglet’s face.  Black smudges, edged in white or yellow, an elongated yellowish smudge on dark background, a vertical white wing bar.  So much on so small a  canvas.  Don’t believe it?  Check our your favorite field guide lor come with me on a walk along Pioneer Trail this winter before the GCs head back up the mountains and into the tops of the fir and pines.

And it is the Golden-crowned Kinglet that plays the roll of seraphim.  They only have two wings, unlike those angels, but hovering, whispering ot one another, forming little pendulous color drops at the end of an orange-barked madrone twig–that’s angelic.

And today’s late morning walk was Bombycilla City.  At least 250 Cedar Waxwings [Bombycilla  cedrorum] and even more Robins moved about a steep hillside above Glenview Road.  A non-birdwerstopped when she saw me staring through binocs at the trees.  It is always fun to see somebody’s eyes literally and figuratively open wide when they first get a close look at a Waxwing. It was an orchard with ill-kempt fruit trees, small oaks with mistletoe, a few bordering madrone.  It surprises me at this point in the seaosn to still find madrone rich with berries, but they’re out there.  The Waxwings and Robins are daily seeking them out.  Further up the canyon was a smaller group of Robins, maybe thirty.  Among them was one Varied Thrush and an accompanying female Flicker.  The Varied Thrush is scarce here this winter after being abundant last year.  My trip to Bandon hinted this year they may be out along the Oregon Coast.

Ducks: a quick run up to Medford to the first pond in a gold course south of town.  I was looking for a male AEurasina Wigeon wintering there.  No such luck.  But there were a small group of ducks onthe pond: a dozen coots, a Pided-billed Grebe, some Shoveler and Lesser Scaup, a male Bufflehead, and alogn side a female Goldeneye.  A female Goldeneye with a stubby beak and bulbous looking forehead that sloped steeply down to the beaklet.  This was the Barrow’s I had NOT found earlier in the week at Gold-ray Dam.  Not a Wigeon could be seen.  I got back in my car and headed up nhill just to check other ponds.  The second pond didn;t even have a Coot. I headed back down hill when I noticed a flock of ducks working one fairway.  I stopped.  Wigeons.

So I rished my life alongside a practic green, hiding behind a parked gold cart.  The Wigeon mumbered well over a hundred.  Was one the Eurasian.  The heads were mostly down in the turf.  And they were tightly bunched.  Some dummy didn’t bring a scope.  Just then a gold cart rounded the corner and the Wigeon all lifted their heads in alarm.  A flattened wigeon is an unhappy wigeon.  There in the far right hand corner of the flock was the intensely-colored head of the Eurasian.  His head stripe a different tint than all the rest.  TRhe view lasted all of two seconds unti lthe flock finally took wing at the cart’s approach and they flew behind abunker and into the far side of the pond, which I couldn’t reach without myself risking golf injuries. 

Wigeon, Goldeneye.  Oregon #197 & #197.  Not many easy winter regulars left. Guess I need to start scouring the windy spots for shrikes.

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