Posted by: atowhee | June 19, 2020


This is the season of nesting, fledging, young birds learning about their world.  Adults incubating, roosting, carrying food, defending young.  We saw a lot of that on the Malheur Field Station birding trip this past week.  I have already blogged about the aeronautics of juvenile Prairie Falcons and some images of the young Great Horned Owls.  Here are more samples of avian domesticity, all about the next generation.

On the drive out to Malheur we birded Sawyer Park in Bend and there met the local House Wrens (even their name is domestic).   They were using a nest box so full of nesting material that they needed the slit beneath the roof to come and go.  As we stood near the box an adult wren kept watch over us.

Then five days later we made a second stop.  There, again, we found the House Wrens.  This time an adult and three fledglings were in the willows along the Deschutes River. The adult is the one with full-sized tail and there was fury and song in the air.  The adult bird was threatening a golden-mantled ground squirrel that was on the ground and around the rocks beneath the three clumsy, short-flight fledglings.  The ground squirrel seemed puzzled that he had drawn the ire of the aggressive “big” wren.  The befuddled mammal finally crawled under a protective rock and disappeared.  The young wrens still had their pale gapes and foreshortened tails:

Just for some perspective:  a House Wren will weight about .4 oz.  A golden-mantle adult can be as much as 10 ounces or even more as they fatten for winter.  It is likely the mammal was 25 times as heavy as the parent wren, but not nearly as fast and lacking a sharp beak.  The ground squirrel, like all this fuzzy-tailed cousins, is an omnivore, and given a bite of young wren would not have turned it down.  This day in Sawyer Park, however, wrenlet was definitely not on the menu.
In many places we saw House Wrens, sometimes young begging from adults.  At French Glen Hotel a pair were nesting again this year in the boot-house, still feeding nestlings inside:


It wasn’t only HOUSE wrens, from the top of a steep canyon wall we could look out from the narrow road over Big Indian Canyon in the Steens.  Below us the near-vertical slope was bouldered and thus inhabited by Canyon Rock  Wrens.  Three of the young birds found us interesting and slowly hopped from a boulder to the next one up the hill until they could get a better look.  We suspected that we were the first oblong, bipedal mammals they had ever seen.  It was over 6000 feet in elevation.  Here’s one of the uplookers:RW-STEEN24
While we traded stares with the Rock Wrens, one House Wren did leave the hillside brush and passed by with a small pause.  Juvenile birds were all around us:KD-BABYThis fledgling Killdeer with a single neck stripe was at Chickahominy.  Here is young robin we found at Sawyer Park, Bend.YNG ROBNAt the Malheur Field Station there were several nesting species: Bullock’s Oriole with their woven nest in a Russian olive, Say’s Phoebes using a small nest platform under the eave of a dorm, starlings using an old flicker hole in another dorm, quail and Willets likely nesting sagebrush around the edge of the campus, kestrels nesting in an old flicker hole in one wall of the shop building, Tree, Cliff and Barn Swallows.  The magpies were about but far too clever to give any hint of their nest.  Most obvious was the new flicker hole just north of the man entrance of Pelican Dorm.  The people inside said the birds inside their wall were pretty loud as soon as the sun came up (well before 6AM).  Here is a short sequence at the nest.  The male adult notices me and flies off, to return from the nearby utility pole and go inside.  The he exits with a stick in his beak.  “Daddy, I can’t sleep with that thing sticking me in the side.”  Attentive parents are all alike, trying to feed and comfort the young:

The return, and nest-cleaning:

Next–Cliff Swallow colony on cliffs along Hwy 205, around milepost 45.  Tree Swallows alternating the incubation duties in nest box at refuge headquarters; then Western Bluebird nest box at French Glen Hotel, juvenile seen peeking out of the box as adult male leaves.

Speaking of Cliff Swallows, here’s a resting juvie at The Narrows.  It had been feeding over the shallow water there with hundreds of other swallows, adult and young alike:cs-young

Out Harney Lake Road were some big birds.  One cliff had Golden Eagles, the next one Prairie Falcon.  In first pica juvie is on the left, parent on the right.  Then two young falcon on a cliff face, one watching, the other preening at sunset.GE NESTERSpfpair-cliffRuddy Duck family at Buena Vista:rud-fam

American Coot with cootlet in its wake, long Central Patrol Road:COOTLET3

Click here to see blog on Great Horned Owls at Malheur, young now flying well, being a few months old.

Click here for first blog on the amazing falcon follies as the young run through their wild-ass maneuvers, like kids on a skateboard.

Click here for second blog about the rambunctious young Prairie Falcons of Harney Lake Road.

Here’s the last Field Station birding trip for 2020:   Sept. 12(Sat)-Sept. 18(Fri)
This trip will allow us to spend a full day in the Steens where we will go to the peak at just under 10,000 feet elevation.  In the late summer we may get access to areas closed during breeding season.  There may be migrating raptors passing through the valley and mountains.  While many insectivorous birds will be gone there will also be songbirds on migration including huge numbers of White-crowned Sparrows and their cousins from several species.

Mammals possible on trips include: Belding’s ground squirrel, pronghorn, wild horses, mink, river otter, long-tailed weasel, badger, coyote, mule deer, yellow-bellied marmot, kit fox, Nuttall’s cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, bats, California ground squirrel. 

Arrive for dinner on the 12th, depart after breakfast on the 18th. To get more information or sign up for these trips, call the Malheur Field Station at (541) 493-2629.Summer Birds 2020

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