Posted by: atowhee | July 7, 2017


There were four kinds of swallow plus our local swifts hawking insects over the sewer ponds this morning in Yamhill town this morning. I feel a little ownership now of those ponds–I just paid my $160 speeding ticket to the Yamhill Municipal Court.  Some of that surely will go to keeping the ponds maintained and the daphnia therein well fed, which in turn feeds the ducks. It was chilly and windless and the bugs may have been a little sluggish. The Tree Swallows are finished with the nest boxes, only a couple House Sparrows showed any proprietary interest in the boxes today. It has also been a successful breeding season for the Mallards and Canada Geese, plenty of young on the ponds.CAGO-FAMTHE SENTINEL SHOREBIRD

Of course we’ve all seen Willet and snipe on posts or sagebrush, watching over the land in nesting season, but I am sure I have never before seen a perching Spotted Sandpiper.  This guy was using a portable pump that is parked on one of the dikes between two of the ponds.  I presume his mate was nearby on a clutch of eggs. While I watched he fluttered  up to the very peak of the perch:SSUP-1SSUP-2SSUP-3SSUP-4SSUP-5

Also today the dog and I found three separate clusters of bird feathers. This led me to ponder who killed and who ate whom.  Here are the first two piles, nearly identical, same species, both along the trail next to the creek, in plain sight.FETHRS1FETHRS2Here are my conclusions about these two piles, each of which was contained within a diamater of less than three feet, not widely scattered.  Victim: collared-doves.  Killer: not a diurnal bird.  Both piles were in clear view in tight space with little flight room due to dense brush along the trail.  Unlikely anything as big as a Cooper’s Hawk would eat in such an exposed place where it would hard to take off.  Ditto a Great Horned Owl. Whatever ate the doves was not up in a tree as the tight circle of feathers would not have been created by some predator dropping them from above.  The little feathers especially would have drifted more widely.  Something nocturnal I presume because feeding along the trail at night would allow a sharp-eared predator to know whether there was any danger approaching and escape into the brush.  I am assuming it was a mammal that climbs well: fox, weasel or housecat.  Seems the collared-doves have been properly welcomed into the natural world.

Later I found a small scattering of Mallard feathers along the fence around the ponds. No trees nearby, only perch would have been on the fence or a nearby fence post.  Too small for an eagle so the duck killer must have been a peregrine, large corvid…or maybe a scavenger found a dead or dying duck. Even the young Mallards now are too big for a Coop, I think. The small number of feathers could have come from a Peregrine stopping there to get his bearings before rising up into a tree for a safer meal. Or a scavenging crow or raven may have gotten only a morsel and eaten it on the fence.  Perhaps part of an eagle kill out along the ponds themselves.

So that’s a bit of my birding day, trying to figure out what might have happened…and yet…

  Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jul 7, 2017 10:10 AM – 11:10 AM.  22 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  20
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  40     including many young
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  4
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  3
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)  1
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  20
Barn Swallow (American) (Hirundo rustica erythrogaster)  4
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  3
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  3
Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  6
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  30
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  X
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X


  1. If the mate of your Spotted Sandpiper was nearby on a nest, then the brooding bird was “he” and the bird in the photo was ‘she,’ because Spotted Sandpipers territoriality, courtship, and incubation happen under “role reversal’ like Phalaropes. 😉
    Paul Sullivan

  2. We feel your pain, Harry. Sorry about the ticket but the cost of a birding blog? It was worth it.

  3. […] A month ago I had my first forensic birding experience at the Yamhill Sewer Ponds–click here f… […]

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