Posted by: atowhee | January 4, 2017


January 4, 2017.
Weather conditions: cold, clear, brisk wind
Lighting conditions: bright sunlight even through cloud scrim, harsh glare from ice
Birding conditions: a pip, as in “pipit”
Landscape condition: glacial; like Greenland before it became a green land
Water conditions: most ponds and shallow pools iced over, little open water

As I was retreating from the wind and cold at Baskett Slough mid-day, a  bouncing bunch of American Pipits yo-yo-ed along Coville Road beside my car.  They would land briefly, scurry through the short grass, then bounce upward again.  Some of them finally landed on the road, others on nearby ice sheets where they gave me some poses.  When it is most cold and bleak, that’s when I expect pipits and sometimes even Horned Larks (but not this time).pipitpack-bestampi-huntampi-up1One pipit’s flight is like a parabola or a sine curve, applied geometry and never linear. Zen, not zig-zag, not zipping.  There was a Kestrel hunting  nearby, brain-scrambled by the lack of direction in the pipit flock’s motions.ampi-up2ampi-two

There was an even dozen Bald Eagles strung along the frozen edges of the marsh south of Coville Road.  Standing around, from first year to adult birds.  Here are five:eagl-stand3I think we can agree to call this a Cackline of Geese:caclineEven with freezing air sucked into their lungs, the geese could not fly without making a lot of noise. On the ground, on the ice, in the frigid water, the ducks were all silent.

I am old enough to aspire to cootdom, and I have pictorial proof you can’t keep a good coot down.  Even cold feet does not reduce the bird’s legendary aplomb, though they are quiet when it is quit cold.coot-onicecoot-onice2The few pools of open water were crowded by waterfowl.wfowl1That big white butt in the sun belongs to a goose. Just to its right the yellow eye of a Ring-necked Duck. Lots of wigeon, mallard and coots.wfowl2
I spotted at least two Western Meadowlarks in a mixed flock of Roblings–that would be robins and starlings.weme-onside

In our garden today, first American Goldfinches in weeks…at our oft-replenished birdbaths where we keep adding warm, unfrozen water to the permanent ice. Also, Bushtits came to our three suet feeders, evading the assaults of the Yellow-rumped Warler who now thinks he owns the suet log in the middle (when the starlings are absent).
Here is one Bushtit who eluded the warrior warbler:bt-loneWhen most free water is frozen or only in running streams, birdbaths become priceless to little birds eating dry food all day. Behold the thirsty warrior; chasing Bushtits is parching work.yr-drinxyr-thrst

At McMinnville Airport, one male and one female Harrier coursing together at west end of runways.  Two Great Egrets.  Three more were along Hwy 99W just south of Hwy 18.airp-greg

At Amity Pond there were a few Green-winged Teal and Shoveler, the latter shot dead by hunters while I was watching.  One surviving Coot remained, teal departed with all due haste.  Any of the Bald Eagles I saw today could have told those hunters that coot is a valued delicacy in eagalitarian society.

For some reason eBird thought my observation of a flock of White crowned Sparrows needed further explanation!?

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Jan 4, 2017 12:15 PM – 1:00 PM.  20 speciesCackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  X
American Wigeon (Anas americana)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  X
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  X
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  X
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  X
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  X
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  12     all standing on the ice south of Coville Road
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
American Coot (Fulica americana)  X
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  34
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  3
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  30
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  300
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)  100     just west of Hwy 99W along Coville Road, not on refuge land
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  35     along Coville Road on private land east of refuge
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  3
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  2


  1. Sure looks like you made the right move for bird availability – except for ggos. But we miss you!!!!!!

  2. If only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun where do Yamhill birders go when the weather is freezing?

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