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Posted by: atowhee | January 5, 2019

WORM SEASON AND FAMILY WARFARE

I’ll get to the worms in a bit…first, some crowing (there’ll be plenty of crow-ing, later).  In two days I’ve added two species to my Yamhill County life list.  I’m still down at seventh on the eBird rankings for the county…long way to go to even approach the totals of those few who are well over 200 species, and I’ve seen almost all the easy ones.  Yesterday on the CBC was my first Ruffed Grouse here.  Today there was a Say’s Phoebe hunting along the Yamhill Sewer Ponds. Add one more…saph at ysp

WORM SEASON

It is worm season for those who dine on such delicacies. Earthworms are at or near the surface because of the recent rains. Takers? Robins, of course, and blackbirds.  Starlings.  But I have seen Red-tailed Hawk dining al fresco on golf course wigglers.  Now in one family this is cause for animosity, yea, even jealously and threats of violence.  Crows vs. ravens  It played out along Westside Road this morning.  A pair of ravens walked unmolested across one grass field, dining at each step.  Just a little down the road robins flew in and out of another grass field.  Then was an aerial combat scene.  Ten or more–a true murder–crows after a single raven, driving him from their chosen worm patch.  At last the crows tired and some flew off, most landed to catch their breath.  That left raven with a single crom combatant nearby in flight.  The raven then dispatched the smaller bird with a deft attack from above.  That crow fled for safer air.
The still pissed-off raven circled back and landed amidst the ground crows and attacked them, wings out, beak agape, sending them hustling across the grass.  I took it as a perfect example of natural capitalism, the brutal competition, with no set rules, to control a limited resource.  Even earthworms can be precious if the market so deems.

At Yamhill Sewer Ponds there was an invertebrate delicacy of another order.  There the waste from town feeds zillions of tiny daphnia.  They in turn, today, feed dozens of ducks, primarily shovelers shoveling them in.  The giant daphnia are one-fifth of an inch long.  Most are much smaller yet.  Takes a mouthful to make a worthwhile gullet filler.  Think duck caviar.  The ducks certainly think that way.

At the sewer ponds the over-amped earthworming crows were loudly proclaiming their fury.  Then I heard ravens.  I expected another skirmish.  Instead I found the cousins this time were allies.  They were disapproving of a third-year Bald Eagle, eagerly eyeing all those ducks in the nearby pond.  In nature every day is open for duck hunting.  Not far off a more secretive Cooper’s Hawk perched high in a barren tree, trying very much to look like a lingering cluster of dead leaves.  Or perhaps the crows preferred to gang up on a larger, slower opponent who would never be able to strike back in stealth as a Coop so effectively can do.

Fed up with me and the corvids, the young eagle departed:egl up at yspYamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 5, 2019.  18 species

Cackling Goose  2
Canada Goose  30
Northern Shoveler  200
Lesser Scaup  25
Bufflehead  40
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  1     third year bird
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Kestrel  1
Say’s Phoebe  1
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  15
Common Raven  2
American Robin  2
European Starling  X
Dark-eyed Junco  14
White-crowned Sparrow  10
Red-winged Blackbird  30

Westside Road, Yamhill County, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 5, 2019 10:55 8 species

Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Kestrel  1
Steller’s Jay  1;  Scrub-jay  2
American Crow  12
Common Raven  3
American Robin  20
European Starling  X

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