Posted by: atowhee | February 13, 2017


Some days you have to look for the beauty in nature, other days it looks back at you:beautyIs it the fine edging colors on the wing feathers?  Is it that tail arrowing out, announcing gender and species? Is it the flashy white tracing stripe up the side of the throat, emphasizing the longer, more slender neck than most ducks could even hope for? Is it the under-stated tweed effect on the sides of the chest?  Is it the overall effect of color and design?  Is it the green sheen that makes this Pintail’s head into a shining example? Finally, could it be the pale blue slash along the side of the beak, making Nike’s swoosh look childish by comparison?  Whatever it is, this duck can so quickly make human art and architecture look like clunky failures.  The steady look from that dark eye says it all.  “I got it, whatchew got?”

The sunshine said “Go birding.”  The dog said, “Let’s get going.” The binoculars didn’t speak, they just gave me that look with both eyes wide open.  The scope averred, “I’d like to stretch my legs.”  So who was I to argue with such urging?

Thus we found ourselves, on a perfect winter day, birding at Baskett Slough…braving road graders, the glare of sun on water, a blindingly blue sky, coots ambling down the roadside, the sound of hunters’ shotguns all around and an island crowded with shorebirds. That shorebird concentration had precipitated onto one small, slender island in Coville Dunlin were so skittish and frenzied it was hard to pick out the other shorebirds, but in this shot you can see at least two of the dowitchers with their dark fronts and a line through the eye, both are near water line in front. I believe that is a third dowitcher in the water with his back to us.  Those duck butts in front belong to two male Green-winged Teal.  The teal were so plentiful it was hard to get a shot without one or two teal-tush in the frame. They may have even out-numbered the coots!dow-infrnt

The pipits were in a short grass pasture along the north side of Smithfield Road.2pips3pips2Roadside Cackler grazing:cack-on-grndI once had neighbors who would have called this a “varmint.”  I prefer nutria or marshland terrorist.  But he didn’t come here intent on destruction. His ancestors were slaughtered for human clothing and profit.  His race was enslaved, and then set free to make his own way in a strange and cruel world.  So he did make his way… newtree-ahMS PINTAIL: Not the bold tail, but finely marked feathers.  A hint of that spiffy swoosh along the side of the beak. She, too, can give you that look with the dark, inscrutable eye.pinpair2Let sleeping ducks lie, while teal feed.  Call this photo “pin-teal.”pin-teal

BTW: There is a new bird checklist for the whole Willamette Valley Wildlife Refuge complex. Click here to link to that PDF.

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Feb 13, 2017 11:05 AM – 11:50 AM.  Comments:     BRIGHT, CLEAR AND CALM
30 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  X     thousands
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)  9
American Wigeon (Anas americana)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  X
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  X
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  X
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  X
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  X
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  X
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  X
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  1
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
American Coot (Fulica americana)  X
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)  100
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)  20
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)  5
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)  1
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  4
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)  40
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  X
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X     males singing

Many of the birds I saw today will be around until spring when I am teaching a birding class for Mc Minnville Park & Rec. Baskett Slough is one place we will visit. Click here for info on the class and its four field trips.

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