Posted by: atowhee | December 5, 2016


With two birding friends from Ashland I went to Baskett Slough in the snough [sno] this morning.  Large, wet flakes were falling straight down from the colder air far above us. One of our first sights was a Peregrine driving a Harrier from the field.

The numerous dabbling ducks had no concern for the weather.  Pintails were lazily ambling across the road as the wintry storm had reduced car traffic to almost zero.pint-road1pint-road2These ducks are not only elegant, but the blue racing stripe down the length of each beak qualifies as tres chic,  clearly there’s an Italian designer somewhere in their evolutionary past.pint-podd

Overlooking the duckscape was this three-year old, already an adept assassin:be-3yr


Right near the car was character, nibbling grass for brunch and ignoring our closeness:nutria-anutria-bNoting his diet, I can’t help borrowing some gutter slang from another realm: his ass is grass.  If keep talking like this I could maybe run for President.nutria-cDoes all that wet wool get itchy?  He wouldn’t say.nutria-dnutriaface

Here’s what the Oregon Encyclopedia tells us about these guys: “Nutria, a large, semi-aquatic rodent native to South America, were brought to the United States for their fur in the 1880s. They were introduced to Oregon in the 1930s. Farming nutria fur was marketed as a quick and easy way to make money. When the nutria fur market collapsed in the late 1940s, however, thousands of nutria were released. Because of their prolific and mobile nature, the population quickly spread throughout western Oregon.”

This all sounds so familiar.  During World War 2 we brought Mexicans north to work on railroads and farms, then kicked them back across the border.  We  brought nutria and red foxes into areas where they had never been, so somebody could make money from killing them for fur, then we blame them for surviving in the wild.  Eucalyptus, broom plants, Pampas grass, buddleia, English and German ivy, pythons in Florida, Rock Doves…we humans heedlessly bring organisms into new environments and then grumble when they become as weedy and over-populated as rats or humans.

Anyway the nutria is far more attractive and interesting than the fur farmers who brought his ancestors here in the first place.  And  I suspect he does far less damage to the environment than a lot of humans and corporations we can name.

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Dec 5, 2016 10:10 AM – 10:40 AM
Comments:     snowing.  16 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  X
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Gadwall (Anas strepera)  X
American Wigeon (Anas americana)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  X
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  X
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
American Coot (Fulica americana)  X
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X


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