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Posted by: atowhee | August 12, 2018

WHEN AN INTERSECTION IS MORE THAN JUST A STREET CORNER

August 12

The intersection of 13th Street and Michelbook here in McMinnville will strike most drivers or walkers as an ordinary intersection without stop signs or street light.  It is across from the parking lot for the gold club, but otherwise it is simply a location for homes of a certain age with sidewalk on one side of Michelbook, and passing traffic on that busy street.  To a birder this is a special spot.  When the homes were put here decades ago, they covered some of the land that had been a walnut orchard. Before white man brought agriculture this land would have been covered by valley forest: oak, ash, bigleaf maple, maybe some Douglas firs, willow in the wet spots.

Despite having been farmed, at this spot there stands a grove of white oaks, second growth no doubt, that must have been left by the walnut growers, perhaps for firewood or fence posts. Many of these trees are now fifty feet high, forming a canopy well above the rooftops of homes on lots that may contain a dozen or more oaks each.  There are at least 100 oaks in this grove that covers one medium-sized and one double-sized city block.  Somehow the builders back then either saved money by not chopping trees or deliberately left them for shade and a forested feel.  Our neighbors have certainly come to appreciate these oaks, our neighbors with four legs or with feathers.

This is one of four locations I know in McMinnville with an Acorn Woodpecker colony. Mature oaks are necessary to maintain these birds.  Thus I compare intersection with its mature oaks to a spot at the north end of Pinot Noir Drive. There landowners are proposing to build over a hundred new homes and clear-cut a similar oak grove that once shaded an Elks Club camping ground.  That grove, too, houses Acorn Woodpckers.  Cutting the oaks there will destroy that colony.

It’s not just Acorn Woodpeckers that live around 13th and Michelbook.  Here are pictures of some of our other neighbors that I noticed during a fifteen minute visit this morning. First the acorn birds themselves:

Click on any image for full screen view.  There was a pair of flickers on one roof.  A fledgling with a parent.  The parent hid behind the peak of the roof and peeked back at me.  The youngster was typically oblivious.  This kid stayed on the roof even after the adult flew across Thomsen and landed in the sheltering oaks.  Later the baby called loudly, the typical KA-KA-KA series of its kind.  No response.  Then there was some preening before the immature flicker also flew across the street and into the trees.

As I neared the oaks, the first bird I noticed was a Red-tailed Hawk, sitting on top of one of the few Doug-firs in the grove.  Later I saw a wood-pewee flycatching in the canopy.

Trees aren’t just good for birds, click here for summary of forest bathing.PW HIGHRTH-DARKMichelbook & 13th Street, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Aug 12, 2018 10:30 AM. 15 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  2
Anna’s Hummingbird   1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  3
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  2
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  X
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  X
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

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Responses

  1. I love the acorn woodpeckers, and worry about the impact of development on the colony at Pinot Noir also. The woodpeckers in that area, the woodpeckers near me (a couple of blocks away) and the woodpeckers at 13th & Michelbook, as you describe, just need the oak trees. They seem to be fine with people living under them. It would be good if we could convince the developers that the mature oak trees are assets, instead of obstacles. If they could leave half, or even a quarter, of the mature oaks standing during development, I expect the woodpeckers would do pretty well. There are already a lot of mature oaks in folks’ yards in the vicinity. Perhaps if homeowners that have them on their properties (many in each of these places) would vouch for their value (provided they agree)?


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