Posted by: atowhee | March 22, 2020


A day away…from people…and naturally birds are quite good at social distancing.

Away from people and pronouncements, coronavirus is trivial.  Mammals come and mammals go, giant sloth, mammoth, saber-tooth tiger, Irish elk, Tasmanian tiger, Steller’s sea cow*, bluebuck, Guam fruit bat, Japanese sea lion, Neanderthal, australopithecus.  Nature is a harsh judge of species and their shortcomings. Click here for one list of modern extinctions.

Trees are at their most exuberant right now.  No, they aren’t dancing or even making unusual noises, but they are pushing out into the air and sun (when there is any).  Most ebullient here in western Oregon must be the bigleaf maple.  Its buds are living candles, the flames the pale, curled leaves inside, now bursting forth from inside their pliable green coveralls.  The maples’ bud shape shameful in a Victorian parlor–it’s tumescent, priapic, erect.  Blooming trees like willow and cherry now are aswarm with wakened insects, and that draws in the small insectivores—kinglet, Bushtit, chickadee, warbler.  This week I’ve begun to see bumblebees buzz past. Many of the flowers Nora the dog ignored and I noted are invasives now—dandelions, English daisies, mustard, henbit.  But there was one bold native—Oregon grape, its stabbing leaves shining dark green and its buttery blooms in dense, comely clusters.

We birded the perimeter of McMinnville’s Airport Park, avoiding all other mammals.  The meeting point of forest and field was alive, as edges are often the best place for birding.  From there we went to Grand Island. No Osprey yet but plenty of woodpecker noise and action.  Wood Ducks in pairs, Mallards as well.  I got my first Violet-green Swallows pics of the year, a couple on the wire.  Speaking of coupledom, the two Red-breasted Nuthatches now come to our feeders together, the female’s breast much paler than his.  Bushtits now go about mostly in pairs.

Singers today include Pacific Wren, Song Sparrow, the calling of Pileated and flicker, robins, and a Purple Finch who was up in the canopy as ever so heard but not seen.  At Grand Island the flicker and pileated called loudly and repeatedly.  The flicker and sapsucker were drumming as well.

Ravens at the airport were discussing something emphatically.  They seem observant and opinionated birds.  They were soaring high above the conifer canopy.  I wondered if they were discussing real estate for possible nesting?

AT AIRPORT PARK: Fox Sparrow and Pacific Wren.

ON GRAND ISLAND: Wood Duck sneaking away, White-crowned in an open field.

McMinnville Airport Park & Airport Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Mar 22, 2020
18 species

Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Steller’s Jay  4
American Crow  1
Common Raven  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Pacific Wren  1
European Starling  X
Varied Thrush  1
American Robin  20
Purple Finch  1     singing
Lesser Goldfinch  1
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Song Sparrow  3
Spotted Towhee  1
Brewer’s Blackbird  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Grand Island Loop, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Mar 22, 2020
30 species–no Cliff Swallows yet at Keiser’s old barn

Canada Goose  X–fly overs
Wood Duck  4–I saw several Wood Duck nest boxes on the island
Mallard  6
Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
Killdeer  1
Great Egret  1
Turkey Vulture  3
Red-tailed Hawk  5
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  4
American Kestrel  2
Steller’s Jay  4
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Common Raven  X
Violet-green Swallow  2
Bushtit  5
Brown Creeper  1
European Starling  X
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  20
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  1
Lesser Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  12
White-crowned Sparrow  8
Song Sparrow  X
Spotted Towhee  X

*George Steller of jay fame was the only scientist to ever see this species alive…he recorded it in Alaska in early 18th Century and soon after the Russian fur hunters drove it extinct.  It was our only known cold water manatee.

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