Posted by: atowhee | November 29, 2014


Yesterday it was wind, today it’s been rain.  Both days it’s been a birdin’ burden to get a good shot of our feathered neighbors. This morning’s precip modulated between light rain, drizzle and heavy mist.

Here’s what I’ve managed, starting with the worst that is also the best.kite (2)I believe this is an impressionistic impression of a White-tailed Kite.  The bird was high up, backlit and it was raining.  Just about the worst possible conditions for photographing a pale bird against a light gray sky. And I’d left my binocs at home because of the rain. But the wing shape says to me this was a kite, not a bird I often see within the Ashland city limits.  I expect them usually over the more extensive grasslands on the north side of I-5.AC-TRIO (1280x814)Trio of Acorners waiting in vain for the rain to stop. FEMAl HomerOne of 21 Hooded Mergansers on Ashland Pond today.HOEM FLOCK (1280x960) Home with raindrop (1280x1095) HOMER GRPNote on the far left the female mergansers has water droplets falling from her beak. HOMERANGERS (1280x960) kest afarFar off Kestrel, my second falcon of the day.  And Kingfisher who let me got a picture because he didn’t see me hiding behind a pine tree. KF-BAK KINGFLYER (1280x612)makll-prfctI rarely mention Mallards but this guy was do close and so beautiful in the muted light… MERL-ASH1 (1280x960)My first falcon of the day, treetopping Merlin near Helman School.  Briefly perched on one treetop, jetted off to a second, then took wing and disappeared as any other wizard would do. MERL-ASH4 (1280x960) RSH BACK LOOK (1280x960)This raptor is less likely to surprise with either speed or stealth.  The red-shouldered is a great lurker, hanging about in trees, waiting for some groundling to make a mistake and thus become food.  I am sure this is the same colorful individual who is near the pond most days. Note the nbattered and worn tail feather tail TURKS X 23Some of the 23 Wild Turkeys that were around our house this morning.  Evidently they are pleased at having survived Turkey Day. So now they are loud and they are proud.  They seem especially happy when the construction site next door is silent.


UPDATE: HERE’S COMMENT FROM FELLOW OREGON BIRDER: “Harry – I counted 259 in a similar formation at Fernhill Wetlands a few years back. Fascinating! (I love your descriptions.) – George Neavoll, S.W. Portland”

The Northern Shoveler may have a beak that looks like a garden spade but its behavior is more akin to a baleen whale.  The big beak’s not a shovel, but a strainer.SHOW GO RND1Here we have 23 Shovelers in a tight circle, swirling and creating a whirlpool of water that must bring good eats to the surface.   When they are twirling like this the beak is the duck’s whole  head is often below the surface.  What is difficult to discern: they are moving their heads side to side beneath the surface.  Water is sucked in and then combed by the filtering fibers along the edge of the beak, which traps all the edibles inside.  They then swallow “pond krill” which includes diatoms, copepods, ostracods.  Even so most of the Shoveler’s feeding is done right on the surface.  They eat almost two-thirds plants and one-third animals but that is more prey than most other dabblers.  They eat insects, small fish and crustaceans.  Plant foods include nearly all aquatic plants and seeds from rushes to sedges, from grasses to algae.SHOW GO RND2I tried to remember if I’d ever seen such a large circle of Shovelers before.  Below is a scene later when the groups are the more usual, modest size. SHOW SML GRPS

You do not see Shovelers feeding butts-up like Mallards or wigeon or other dabblers.  And the do not go out into fields to forage as Pintails, Mallards and some other species do.  The Shoveler is found around the Northern Hemisphere, almost as common in Eurasia as they are in North America.

There are other birds that cleverly use the circular motion of water to find food.  Snowy Egrets will stir the water with one foot and grab what’s brought up from the bottom.   White Pelicans will surround a school of fish and swim in circles to “corral” the fish inside the whirlpool thus created.


FLKR1 FLKR2 FLKR3 FLKR4 P2250135 (1280x960) P2250136 (1280x960) P2250137 (1280x960)

Yesterday the wind was strong and gusty.  When sharp blasts swept across the surface of Ashland Pond the glistening surface would ripple and shoot off bright reflections of the sunlight.  As the small wavelets raced from one edge of the pond to the other it was if the whole surface was afloat with tiny flakes of polished chrome.PND-WAVESThe wind was also shaking and vibrating the bare tree branches along Bear Creek.  Here a Red-tailed Hawk stays on his bucking, swaying limb like a rodeo bronc rider. RTH RODEO

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