Posted by: atowhee | December 21, 2014


Rain and wind stalked the birders who in turn stalked the birds in the Medford, Oregon, Christmas Bird County yesterday.  Total species seen is tentatively set at 120, compared to 119 last year and 128 in 2012.  One previously unreported wintering species: Great-tailed Grackle, flock of 8.  This species has become a regular spring and summer bird, likely nesting.  This is the first evidence they are over-wintering in the county.  This is one of several species clearly expanding their range northward, aided by milder winters thanks to climate change.  Others include White-tailed Kite, Black Phoebe, Red-shouldered Hawk, Mockingbird.  Milder winters definitely make life easier for some predators.  Less snow, more active small prey.  Here are George Peterson’s shots of the grackles in terrible, rainy day light:_IGP6190 (1280x848) _IGP6191 (1280x848) _IGP6192 (1280x848)

My team birded the eastern portion of Medford around Roxy Ann and into the foothills of the Cascades up to 3000′ elevation.  The warm, wet winter meant we had plenty of open water and thus waterbirds.  Last year there had been a cold snap and ponds were frozen so we had only 3 species of waterfowl.  This year we racked up 11 species including both Hooded and Common Merganser.  And we had a Great Egret which abhors frozen ground.  In addition we had 11 species of raptor in our count area, while the whole count had 13 species.  The only ones we missed were Peregrine and Rough-legged Hawk.

One note–blame it on the drought–there were zero Cedar Waxwings.  Some years they number in the hundreds but there are no madrone berries this year.  The number of Varied Thrush was low as well.  Both species are irruptive in their wintering range.  It will be interesting to see what we find on the Ashland count Jan. 3.  It averages about 1500′ higher in elevation with much more conifer forest even though its count circle center is only about 20 miles south of  Medford’s center.  All these lousy photos were taken by me:blubrd jumpOne of more than 200 Western Bluebirds we had in our count area.  Among native species it was out-numbered only by Golden-crowned Sparrows, nearly 300.  Last year we had over 300 Robins but that was a great year for madrone berries and mistletoe berries.  Robins were down to about 200 this year in our area. blue on grnd cold coopCooper’s Hawk in the cold rain of late afternoon.  As Sibley’s Field Guide explains: “perched accipiters can show bright white spots on back when feathers are fluffed.”  We all wished for fluffed feathers yesterday.  Below: the wet and frostless fall was made our area mushroom world…new ones sprout every day and will until there’s some serious freezing.FUNGUY GE-CBC1Golden Eagle soaring mid-day over Medford’s eastern suburbs. GE-CBC2 kest1One of the Kestrels we saw during the day. Below: cousin Merlin, looking as if its tail had been shredded.  This bird was hunting over a home with active bird feeders. MERL-CBC1 MERL-CBC2 MERL-CBC3 P2270556 (1280x960)Spotted Towhee male in terrible light and light rain.  We saw a couple dozen in our area but only 2 California Towhee which are near the northern end of their inland range here in Jackson County.  Below the largest of our team’s falcon trifecta: Prairie.  This bird surprised us by sitting atop a bare oak in an area of suburban oak chaparral, nowhere near a prairie.  It was an area that would supply Mourning Dioves, rodents and rabbits in abundance.pf2 pf3 pfal RND BEAUTSHandsome flotilla of Ring-necked Ducks on small farm pond.  Below; a Red-shouldered Hawk that preceded us as we proceeded along Coal Mine Road.RSH ON CBC RSH ON CBC2 TREE LARKThis tree lark also surprised us.  It realized, I imagine, that is was somewhat dryer in the rain than walking around in the wet grass and muddy pastures.  Once, during a brief lull in the rain, a meadowlark was heard singing hopefully.  Here we noted that we watchers were also the watched.  We encountered at least 30 deer during the day. WATCHD wr flockdHere we overlooked a large house with an even larger flock of Wild Turkeys (an introduced species here).  We counted 56 birds, about one for every 70 square feet of floor space in the nearby manse. wt flock wt forageSome other birds of interest on this count to birders who may visit over the holidays: Rough-legged Hawk (far more usual on the Klamath side of the Cascades), a handful of Ferrugys, Wrentit, one Grasshopper Sparrow–only the second for this CBC, Tundra Swans (also a Klamath side specialty in winter), Eurasian Wigeon, Tricolored Blackbird, Saw-Whet, Pgymy and Short-eared Owls.

For White-throated and Swamp Sparrow, Townsend’s Solitaire, Chestnut-backed and Mountain Chickadee you’ll need to watch the Ashland CBC.


  1. You send out the most charming & informative field reports! Thank you.

  2. […] Click here to read what I said about these grackles on the day of the count. […]

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