Posted by: atowhee | January 1, 2018


Kate and I can think of no finer way to begin any year than to see, and hear, Sandhill Cranes.  Their bugled calls, their stately dances, their very being all reminders of long ago times, before our species even existed, when our ancestors were using the most primal communications (far simpler than even twitter, or snapchat) and still living in small groups gathered at night in whatever natural shelters could be found.  Cranes remind us of a world before man controlled fire, before man made music more complex than what came from birds, before man embarked on his technological rush to control and exploit the entire planet.  That Sandhill Cranes now feed in grain fields, pastures and relict marshes is to their credit, thanks to their eons-old ability to adapt and survive.  That’s an adaptability we’re going to test to its limits as we heat up the planet and cause even greater changes to the planet than those we’ve already wrought with agriculture and chemicals.  I can only wish the cranes a very successful new year and many eons more.

There were numerous Bald Eagles watching the pools with ducks.  We found modest duck numbers, largely the common dabblers like Pintail, Shoveler and GW Teal with a few Common Mergansers in the Multnomah Channel. Other divers were at Wapato including Bufflehead and Hooded Mergansers .  There the parking lot was filled past overflowing with more than a dozen cars along the roadway nearby.  Nature lovers/dog walkers escaping football on TV.

GALLERYCRANE-BYDo the people in that house watch such fly-bys often? Do they at least have an aesthetic appreciation of what’s just outside their window?  Do they simply grouse about the loud birds?
These crane-bys” are ballets of co-ordination and familial togetherness.  This is a family of four, adults with two–not the more normal single–youngsters.  They have migrated to Sauvie Island from some breeding ground to the north.  In ate winter they will head back to that breeding territory as a family unit before the adults turn the kids away to join the teenage gangs of cranes too young to breed.  Some birds are 7 before they mate.  In the wild cranes can sometimes live over 30 years.CRANE-BY2CRANE-BY3CRANE-BY4CRANES-VOLCNOcranfieldcranfield2We saw over a thousand cranes on the island today, on the west side parallel to the Multnomah Channel.  In researching a crane talk I will be giving in Ashland and Chico late this month I found most online range maps do not even recognize Sauvie Island as the northernmost wintering location for cranes in the west (along with Ridgefield NWR across the Columbia River in Washington).BALD BACKCM-MALLEDCCKST-FMLPINT-XW-PATO

Sauvie Island–Multnomah, Multnomah, Oregon, US
Jan 1, 2018. 29 species

Canada Goose (canadensis Group) (Branta canadensis [canadensis Group])  X
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)  11
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)  120
American Wigeon (Mareca americana)  20
Mallard (Northern) (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos/conboschas)  X
Green-winged Teal (American) (Anas crecca carolinensis)  60
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  20
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  2
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  2
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  20
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  1
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  40
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  10
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  1
Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis)  1000
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  8
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  3
Rung-billed Gull–many
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  6
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  X
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  200

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