Posted by: atowhee | February 4, 2009

Audubon’s naming comes to roost in Rogue Valley

The single most influential person in North American ornithology was J.J. Audubon.  He was a French draft-dodger sent here to escape Napoleon’s naval impressment.  He was a repeated failure at  commerce and not too good as a tutor.  But birds and art!  Audubon created a whole new catregory of natural history illustration as a profitable business.

And another lasting influence are his bird names, many in honor of friends who helped him peddle his books across Europe. Or else helped in his travels seeking new species.    Often Audubon’s art showed the world a bird for the first time.  That gave him lots of naming clout.

Today was the monthly Central Point Greenway walk  led by Dennie Niebuhr for Rogue Valley Audubon.

One Audubon-named bird we usually see is the Bewick’s Wren.  Today pairs of wrens were flitting about, the males signing repeatedly.  The 50-degree temps must have given them the idea it was spring.  They were named to honor Thomas Bewick, England’s leading nature illustrator in the early 1800s.  He was a master of the woodcut.  And he helped Audubon sell his elephant folios to wealthy natrual history buffs in England.  Bewick never came to America to see his namesake wren alive.

We have a large Brewer’s Blackbird population in the Rogue Valley as well.  This bird was named for Dr. Thomas Brewer of Boston, an avid amateur ornithologist and financial backer of Audubon.  It was on his final expedition, up the Missouri River in 1844, that Audubon’s companions brought in several speciemens of the new blackbird.  Brewer had been contributing information to Audubon’s books for years and finally got his namesake. On that same Missouri River expedition was Edward Harris.  He was a wealthy Philadelphia farmer who often financed Audubon and his travels.

A new sparrow had been discovered a few years before the Audubon expedition  by Thomas Nuttall when he crossed the Great Plains.  Audubon made the first drawing and named it Harris’s Sparrow.  And today we saw one along Bear Creek.  It was a first for that stretch of Greenway, and it was an Oregon lifer for me, #226.  The Harris’s Sparrow is occasional here in winter.  BIRDS OF OREGON says a few are found in the state every year.  This is at least the third spotted in Jackson County this year.  I once saw this bird in  Nebraska where they’re more regular spring and fall migrants.  This adult Harris’s had the dark face from crown to throat, a white upper chest and flecks of black in the white.  A good-sized sparrow, slightly larger than the Golden-crowns and White-crowns around him.

Interestingly the first Harris’s Sparrow nest was not found until 1931 when a U.S. team beat out their Canadian competitiors and found a nest in north central Canada, July, 1931.  On that team was ornithologist and bird artist George Sutton.  It was he who first followed a female Harris’s back to eggs on the ground.


ghowlpairGreat Horned Owls, she on left, he on right.  A second bird new to the Central Pt. Greenway list.

muskratMuskrat?  My mammal book shows the nutria to be much larger and having a square nozzle.  This guy was less than two feet long, with a tail we couldn’t see.















Bewick being bold. bewicksbold






And then one singing from the treetop.  Assuredly there will be spring again this year.bewicksings






 rcki2-4-09RCKI, in motion as ever.  But not daunted by 26 eyes focused on his activities.





Location:     Central Point Greenway Walk
Observation date:     2/4/09
Notes:     Central Point Greenway Walk #28  13 participants, foggy to clear,
two new species – A Harris’s Sparrow and two Great Horned Owls for a total
of 123 at this site
Number of species:     45

Canada Goose     21
Gadwall     5
Mallard     21
Northern Shoveler     5
Green-winged Teal     15
Canvasback     5
Ring-necked Duck     11
Bufflehead     1
Common Merganser     1
Ruddy Duck     1
Pied-billed Grebe     6
Great Blue Heron     1
Great Egret     1
Red-tailed Hawk     5
Merlin     1
American Coot     6
Wilson’s Snipe     1
Rock Pigeon     15
Mourning Dove     19
Great Horned Owl     2
Anna’s Hummingbird     4
Belted Kingfisher     2
Acorn Woodpecker     6
Northern Flicker     5
Black Phoebe     1
Western Scrub-Jay     11
Common Raven     5
Tree Swallow     3
Black-capped Chickadee     10
Bewick’s Wren     10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     6
American Robin     13
Wrentit     3
European Starling     33
Yellow-rumped Warbler     12
Spotted Towhee     6
Song Sparrow     7
Harris’s Sparrow     1
White-crowned Sparrow     23
Golden-crowned Sparrow     132
Dark-eyed Junco     26
Brewer’s Blackbird     4
House Finch     16
Lesser Goldfinch     39
American Goldfinch     2

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(


  1. Love the shot of the Bewick’s being bold.

  2. Especially interesting aspects of Birding History today and the photos of the Bewick’s Wren are lovely
    Thank you. Keep writing!

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