Posted by: atowhee | February 26, 2020


There was a lot of bird action mid-day at the Yamhill Sewer Ponds. Sunshine.  No wind.  Mild day of over 50 degrees F.  Grass growing.  Trees blooming.  Seasonal ponds with open water.  Daphnia aplenty in the sewer ponds themselves.  Even an occasional spring song from the local Song Sparrows.  But the surprise activity was at the far south end of the property.  I approached a large, mature willow, thirty feet high, couple dozen trunks at least. WILO4 The sound I heard–intense, steady whirring of buzzing bees.  I looked around the base of the tree for bees…or a nest site or hole.  Finally I looked up into the sun. The tree was blooming and the bees there-up buzzing.  In the third picture each bee has its own back dot.  Click on image to enlarge.

The flowers not yet opened were still in their pussy-willow stage, silvery fuzz on closed capsule-shaped buds.  Here’s some botanical info on the willow blooms from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (click here for whole explanation):  [Pussy willows are] actually flowers just before they fully bloom. The soft coating of hairs acts as insulation to protect these early bloomers from cold temperatures. The species most commonly called pussy willow in the Northeast, Salix discolor, is a small, shrubby species of willow that can be found dotting wetlands and moist woods throughout much of North America. Most other willows make similar flowers, and since they’re among the very first to bloom, they’re especially delightful—they signal the last throes of winter and the brink of spring.

The bees were dark and less than half-inch long.  They were multitudinous.Click here for guide to the 500 bee species native to Oregon, plus info on the honey bee.  The PDF takes a few seconds to download.  BTW: the  buzzing sound comes from the tiny, stiff wings hitting the air molecules.  The small pockets of turbulence those wings create also tends to life some pollen off the flower.

Let’s not get too excited about this mild weather…here, two photos taken in McMinnville, late February, 2018:

It was one of the birdiest visits I’ve ever made to these sewer ponds.  Seasonal ponds had water, and ducks.  Songbirds were busy on a pleasant day.  Flickers were calling.  Then an eagle went overhead and all the geese rose as honking, rackety, liquid formation moving through the air in circles and waves.

The only other raptor of the morning was a lone red-tail.  “Oklahoma” had it right–“Lazy circles in the sky”.  Then later the same bird was loafing in a Doug-fir across the highway from the parking lot:RT TREED (2)

Ducks–white dots locate Green-winged Teal in third shot:

Last duck in this sequence is female Lesser Scaup:

Best song bird of the day:

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 26, 2020
27 species

Cackling Goose  120
Canada Goose  X
Northern Shoveler  200
American Wigeon  16
Mallard  25
Green-winged Teal  6
Lesser Scaup  30
Bufflehead  40
Ruddy Duck  1
Mourning Dove  8
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Killdeer  5
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  5
California Scrub-Jay  4
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Golden-crowned Kinglet  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  20
Lesser Goldfinch  6
American Goldfinch  3
Dark-eyed Junco  11
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  4
Spotted Towhee  1

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