Posted by: atowhee | March 1, 2008

Glam at the lakeshore, and an American classic in full sunlight

pintail.jpgThere are many gloriously colored birds in Oregon.  The Western Tanager comes to mind, the male Wood Duck.  A Red-breasted Sapsucker in good light is full of colors and subtle tints.   A male Lazuli Bunting or a Macgillivray’s Warbler can bring a startling flash of color to a spring day.  But for elegant glamour there may not be a match for the male Pintail in fresh plumage.  Birding at Emigrant Lake Glenn Etter and I had two males in bright morning sun.  They were on a beach among lesser ducks–Mallards, Ring-necks, Wigeon, Green-winged Teal.  A couple Bufflehead were bobbing upon the surface, then diving.  And there stood the Pintails.  Along a rocky mud shoreline.  Next to a resevoir the color of dishwater. pin_tailedpair.jpg Each with a long and slightly arched neck topped by those glossy green head.  To set off the dark pate there’s a white streak up the elegant neck, tapering to the back of the skull.  A white belly that’s the only snow not melted in the recent warmth.  Those curved side panels with pointed markings that would be racing stripes on a man-made vehicle.  And the poise.  Sure, there’ve been movie stars with elegance and poise. A posing bull elk is a creature of marvel.  So, too, a towering Ponderosa pine.  But in Oregon, in nature, this kind of understated, almost plain, but undeniable elegance is rare.

It was only made more pleasing to know that Pintails are not a common wintering bird here in Jackson County.  They pass through, in small numbers.  These two were the first I’d ever seen at Emigrant Lke, or anywhere in the county.  Later a lone White-fronted Goose flew over the lake, another uncommon bird in these parts.

American Classic

wilsonart.jpg This is a page of drawings by Alexander Wilson, done in the first decade of the 19th Century, just after the Lewis & Clark Expedition returned to the United States from their hisotric crossing of the American continent.  During their exploration many new species of animals and plants were seen.  These three birds were first discovered for science by Lewis & Clark.  That’s Lewis’s Woodpecker in the upper right-hand corner. Named for the explorer by Wilson when he first wrote a scientific description of the new species.  An American classic indeed.

Wilson wrote the first scientific description of allthree of these discoveries and drew the first color images for the world to see.  This page shows the only twos species of Amercain bird named for the two great explorers sent forth by President Jefferson in 1803.

And Glenn and I saw many of these gregarious birds flitting about the stubby Oregon white oaks on a hillside about a mile east of Emigrant Lake.  They were chasing, calling, fly-catching, occasionally sitting still long enough for us to get good views.  Here is some of Lewis’s original description of “his” woodpecker:
“black as a crow, the belly and breast is a curious mixture of white and blood red which has much the appearance of having been artificially painted or stained of that color.”

Over two centuries all but one of the bird specimens collected by Lewis & Clark have been lost or disintegrated.  One remains: a Lewis’s Woodpecker in the zoology collections at Harvard University.

Waxed and Waned

I’ve seen no Cedar Waxwings for at least two weeks.  They waxed, they ate, they cleaned out the cupboard and they winged, verily they wax-winged away.  Where they feast now I cannot tell you.  Perhaps they shall pass this way on their northerly migraton.  Perhaps not.  Predictability is not a noted field mark of our Cedar Waxwing.

When will man know what the Waxwing knows?  Perhaps not until he can think like a madrone.  I’m not expecting that breakthrough any time soon.

The Pintail photos are by May Woon and there are many of her great bird pics on

Location:     Emigrant Lake
Observation date:     2/29/08
Notes:     Glenn Etter and I watched Lewis’s Woodpeckers cavorting about an oak-covered hillside about one mile east of lake on Highway 66.  No Kites seen.
Number of species:     32

Greater White-fronted Goose     1
Canada Goose     12
American Wigeon     25
Mallard     75
Green-winged Teal     8
Ring-necked Duck     40
Bufflehead     2
Common Merganser     30
Double-crested Cormorant     1
Turkey Vulture     1
Sharp-shinned Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Golden Eagle     1
Killdeer     1
Ring-billed Gull     5
Lewis’s Woodpecker     20
Acorn Woodpecker     16
Downy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker     2
Western Scrub-Jay     6
Common Raven     10
Oak Titmouse     8
White-breasted Nuthatch     2
Bewick’s Wren     1
European Starling     10
Spotted Towhee     2
Golden-crowned Sparrow     9
Dark-eyed Junco     2
Red-winged Blackbird     35
Western Meadowlark     3
House Finch     6
Lesser Goldfinch     4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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