Posted by: atowhee | January 16, 2010

Snowless mountains and mountain birds

John Bullock, Dan Elster and I went looking for Pygmy-Owls.  Dan was hoping for his first sighting and even a photo.  We whistled and tooted sand drew some serious attention.  At one stop we had Oak Titmouse (still common at about 4000′ elevation), White-breated Nuthatches, both kinglets, Lesser Goldfinch and Siskin. They were all mobbing our faux owl.

Ever seen a titmouse mad enough to kill? Try imitating a Pygmy-Owl beneath the titmouse’s oak tree.  The titmouses were making a soft scolding call that sounded much like a chickadee-dee-dee.

And the White-breasted Nuthatches gave out their alarm notes, all the while searching carefully for the owl continually calling.  They were the first birds to respond to my owly whistles.

Nearby Acorn Woodpeckers were too busy with their own work to bother with some Pygmy-Owl that had the lesser birds so fussed.

At Willow-Witt Ranch we failed to rouse an owl, though the Red-breasted Nuthatches responded to our calling.  High above the ride we saw a Golden Eagle soaring near a Red-tailed Hawk which suddenly looked like a miniature raptor.

And there was one Hairy Woodpecker, working away and ignoring silly owling around:

The best birds of the day: a small covey of Mountain Quail crossing near 6003 Shale City Road.  We did not get close enough for a picture, of course. They disappeared into the ceanothus thicket and refused to respond to Mountain Quail sounds.

Even above 4500′ in the Cascades there as little snow on the ground, the roads were all clear, the temperature in the forties. Anbd we were on the west side of the mountains which is the wetter slope.  In Ashland we’re four inches behind average precip  for this time of the season.  This is shaping up to be a bad drought year.  Most irrigation and drinking water here depends on snow melt of which there will be precious little unless we get some serious storms in the next 90 days.

At lower elevations it was so warm the Western Meadowlarks were singing.  Willlows and dogwoods are in bud down at 2000′. We had our first mosquitoes in the house last week.  This is way too early for such springiness.

Location:     Howard Prairie Circuit
Observation date:     1/15/10
Notes:     no snow on ground
Number of species:     21

Mountain Quail     8

Red-tailed Hawk     3
American Kestrel     1
Mourning Dove     1
Acorn Woodpecker     30
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     3
Western Scrub-Jay     16
American Crow     14
Common Raven     1
Oak Titmouse     4
White-breasted Nuthatch     6
Golden-crowned Kinglet     1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     2
Western Bluebird     50
American Robin     3
European Starling     2
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)     25
Western Meadowlark     5
Brewer’s Blackbird     4
Pine Siskin     1
Lesser Goldfinch     15

Location:     Willow Witt Ranch
Observation date:     1/15/10
Number of species:     7

Red-tailed Hawk     1
Golden Eagle     1
Hairy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     1
Steller’s Jay     1
Red-breasted Nuthatch     3
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)     1


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