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Posted by: atowhee | May 5, 2018

CINCO DE MAYO SORAS

May 5, 2018—McMinnville

The dog and I were back at No Name Pond this morning.  The Soras were present as well. At one time at least three of them were hidden by the grass that rims the shallow end of the pond, each calling in competition.  One rail lifted out of the tall grass and flew about thirty feet to disappear in another forest of grass and other plants.  Some of these stalks are now three feet tall and their stems are jammed together, leaving barely enough room for the plump little soras to squeeze through.  Then I also saw some motion in the grass hummock nearest me.  An indistinct dark shape moved along near the edge of the grass, but was not clearly visible.  These rails, like most of their cousins, are inveterately shy and secretive. Here is Soraland:SORALAND

On our way to the pond we saw our only surprise.  As the dog and I walked along the hedgerow a large gray bird floated our way about forty feet off the ground.  The unreflective part of my brain asked, “How can a gull be here this time of year?”  The reflection and observation occurred.  One good look through binocs confirmed it was a male harrier.  Not much more to be expected than a gull would have been.  There are few male harriers in Yamhill County in this season.  There are fewer adult male harriers than adult females in all seasons.  The males are polygamous.  Do they hunt themselves to death?  Is there some failure to thrive brought on by competition and stress?

There are reasons the harrier is not a common breeding bird in this area.  Unlike the abundant red-tail, the harrier is a ground nester.  It need open areas with no dense brush.  Further it is driven from habitat if…there are cows or cowboys stepping on the nest…there is plowing or mowing during nesting season…there are poisons used that kill small rodents and snakes.  In short, they cannot thrive around most industrial agriculture as Americans now practice it.  Nowadays harriers most often nest in waste lands around airports, in wildlife refuges or in remote areas where there is not the water nor the right soil to support profitable crops or livestock.GOOSE GUARDS

A quartet of geese stalked me from across the pond, ending up on a spit of mud nearby and warning the dog and me that we were not welcome at goose lake.  It was a true hissy-fit with the warning sounds coming across like air being let out of a truck tire.  We left soon after.  McMinnville is now infamous for potentially deadly geese after one attacked a young golfer on the nearby golf course.
The nesting coots were making noise…one invisibile, one in view. I anticipate the appearance of the orange-headed chicks when they float free from the nest.
Here’s the only shorebird I saw, the local mud thrush:AMRO SHOREBIRD

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