Posted by: atowhee | February 4, 2008

Water, water, everywhere

“The bluebird carries the sky upon his back.”  –Thoreau.

And the stain of red earth upon his chest.


Western Bluebird, by Don Bruschera.

Rain, snow, melt, rundown, roaring creeks, muddy rivers, filling resevoirs.  Fields seemingly more water than dirt, summer pasture now marsh, skies seem to have sprung a leak.  Such has been the past few days in the Rogue Valley.  We can tell ourselves there’ll be no water shortage this summer.  And so it was with a feeling “of course” that came to me after I saw two Dippers early today in Ashland Creek.  One seemed to be celebrating in song a world may become a network of streams fit for dipping by round gray birds.

Bill Hering and I headed back to Agate Lake for some birding onthe first day of February.  It was a scouting trip as I have a field trip there for Klamath Bird Observatory on February 9th.  It was a good two hours in the rain and snow because there was no wind, just cold still air.  Four Bald Eagles were the BIG birds of the day.  One adult, and three immature birds.  Two of young ones put on a mock battle for us over what must have been a small bit of carrion in a cow pasture.  There were silent hoppping and wing fakes and aerial fluttering in the fac e of the opponent.  No sound was heard and no blows were struck.  We weren’t the only audience.  Four Ravens were standing about, hoping there’d be some gain in it for them.  But eventually one of the two young eagles flew out with the prize.   And the cows still grazed, unstirred and unfazed.   

There were enough ducks to draw interest, two gulls standing about on the ice though most of the resevoir was open water.  A Say’s Phoebe hunted along the lakeshore as did many Juncos.  The oaks around the lakeshore are often alive with Acorn Woopdpecker activity.  And on the eastern shore near the picnic grounds we usually find at least one Lewis’s Woodpecker at close range.  On the southwestn shore of the lake there is evidently a colony.  Scanning treetops there usually finds a handful.

But the bird of the day was undoubtedly the Western Bluebird.  They were plentiful, active, vocal and nearby.  The color of the male is electric when hit by sun, even the wan beams that leak through holes in scudding snow clouds.  They were fly-catching, they were on the ground, they’d line up along a power line.  It was a Bluebird morning despite the lack of blue nthe sky or the mud-colored water of the runoff filled resevoir.  Paths we walked just two weeks ago are now below the waterline.  No drought, and no shortage of Bluebirds either.

Our old faithful Ferruginous Hawk was hunting along Antelope Road near the golf course.  And the cow pastures in that area were full of Icterids, Killdeer and Starlings.  I tried very hard to pull a Tricolored Blackbird from the hundreds but they refused to stand still, and the one good candidate flew off in a cloud of dark shapes and I couldn’t relocate him.  But I hope he’s there in the crowd for my next visit.

Location:     Agate Lake
Observation date:     2/1/08
Notes:     3 of the Bald Eagles were sub-adult, at one point two of them appeared tobe competing for carrion in a pasture, watched closely by a quartet of Ravens.  Lewis’s Woodpckers most abundant at southwest sideof resevoir.
Number of species:     35

Canada Goose     2
American Wigeon     60
Mallard     35
Green-winged Teal     50
Common Merganser     16
Ruddy Duck     150
Great Blue Heron     3
Bald Eagle     4
Northern Harrier     1
Red-tailed Hawk     2
Ferruginous Hawk     1
American Coot     80
Killdeer     6
Ring-billed Gull     2
Lewis’s Woodpecker     6
Acorn Woodpecker     18
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     3
Say’s Phoebe     1
Western Scrub-Jay     4
Common Raven     8
Black-capped Chickadee     2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     2
Western Bluebird     50
American Robin     35
European Starling     40
Cedar Waxwing     25
Yellow-rumped Warbler     1
Spotted Towhee     12
Song Sparrow     1
Golden-crowned Sparrow     30
Dark-eyed Junco     45
Red-winged Blackbird     40
Western Meadowlark     7
Brewer’s Blackbird     120
Lesser Goldfinch     2

 Tricolored Blackbird male ???

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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