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Posted by: atowhee | September 19, 2017

SONG OF THE STEPPES

“My mind darts back to May of 1969 at Cabin Lake, Oregon, where I first met the smallest of them [thrashers] all, the sage thrasher. I still see him in his undulating song flight, his songs stitching sage to heaven as he dipped into the sagebrush and out again, over and over, circling around his territory and singing all the while… 32 years later, on June 12, 2001…I stand in the sage in Sierra Valley in east-central California, minding my own business and that of the Brewer’s sparrows when he swoops into the sage next to me and then out again…constantly singing. Constantly, as in never ceasing, it seems…What I hear is hard to believe. He is in clear view, perched in the dead twigs atop the sage…it is his bill opening and closing as from that sage pour the sounds of nighthawks and meadowlarks and sora rails and California quail and house finches and barn swallows and gulls and snippets of songs that remind me of so many other species.” –THE SINGING LIFE OF BIRDS by Donald Kroodsma.

There is surely no finer songster in the Oregon steppe than the Sage Thrasher. Kroodsma estimated one male thrasher has hundreds of songs. The male may have even more than the 2000 attributed to his eastern cousin, the Brown Thrasher. Only a couple times did we hear these birds sing, but they were hard to avoid. In spring the song flows over the steppe from many adjacent territories. From territorial pairs during breeding season the Sage Thrashers morph into gregarious gangs in fall. Nothing like a little water to bring folks birds together.st converg1st converg2
We know that there is no more SONG songbird than the thrashers of North America.
Their cousins include Mockingbirds and Catbirds. There are no members of their family (mimidae) in the Old World where listeners must make do with Song Thrush and Nightingale.
One commong sound at Malheur, not to be confused with song or music…the calling of the hungry young Forster’s Tern. “Fish, mom, fish…”TERN SCREAMYoung birds abounding, here young coot:xcoot yngyb-ro1Young male Red-winged Blackbird.YMRWB
I think of these as “Duncan’s quail” as they gather round his water hole at the Malheur Field Station:d-qwalD-QwAL2d-wwSo which masked predator is more piratical? Waxwing or shrike? On behavior points I judge the shrike to be the true pirate of the plains.PIRATERed-tail using kiosk for its highest purpose, a higher perch…rh kioskSavannah Sparrow:S-SPThis guy raced across tyhe gravel road in front of my car so I took his picture. Better stay clear of that shrike, little lizard…
lzrd-aRabbitbrush hosts a nectar orgy…RB-BF

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