Posted by: atowhee | September 8, 2020


Late Update: By 350pm it was clear, no smokey, that we would have no sunset because sunlight was barely visible. By 418Pm the crows were complaining about the darkness. Here is western sky where the sun was NOT to be seen, 350PM:

I took these pictures from our garden
Here is my wife’s description of the air and light around us: “

This is just a quick update from our backyard. Yesterday at noon Harry and I ate lunch on our leafy back patio. Blue skies, bird song, light breeze—but by the time we finished, the breeze was wind. Around 3 pm smoke came down out of the skies, visibility contracted as if we were in a heavy fog, but a strong warm wind shook the trees around us hard and it didn’t let up. The sudden smell of smoke was powerful. We stayed in for the rest of the day.   Very early — 4 am — I got up to let Nora out, and when I opened the sliding door to the backyard, smoky air billowed into the room. Nora was quite upset so I stayed up with her and so got to see the Halloween colored dawn. Orange windy skies smudged with charcoal, trees in black silhouette thrashing dementedly, and the unmistakable smell of destruction by fire. The wind was and is coming out of the east, bringing soot and spent cinders from wildfires 30 miles and more east of Salem. This morning the air is a bit lighter and the wind less fierce, but it’s still pressing down out of the firestorms in the Cascade Mountains, fouling light and air all over the Willamette, from the Columbia River gorge down into poor incinerated California, all the way to the ocean shores. We’re looking at a week of this, at the very least.       I just went out to wash out the birdbath and spray down lower tree branches and plants.  Harry set a sprinkler going out in he front in hopes of making things tolerable for the birds. Pix attached kind of capture the eerie orange color of the sky. The light should have been much brighter, as the clock was pushing toward 9 am, but the air is thick. We’re ok, plenty of groceries and lots of boxes to unpack, and we might even get our kitchen stove today (I wish it were the clothes washer instead!).  We are coming and going through  the garage, using it  as a kind of air lock, trying to keep the smoke and smell outside. Also trying to fend off the dread of feeling that Mother Nature has about had it with our species.”

It is scary to see our air the color of a Presidential complexion. Each breath outside is a lie as you get oxygen but also ash and soot and cinder. The ill wind blows, limbs fall, leaves disconnect and more exhalations from the fires circulate all around us.

Click here for news report on the smoke and fires in western Oregon. Both MacKenzie and Santiam River Valleys are hard hit–evacuations of our species on-going. Birds are on their own, as usual.

Here is passing Turkey Vulture this morning.

A blur in the air below the black dot

With his keen sight and sense of smell this atmosphere must be as bad as possible for his food search. Even if he should decide to migrate south early he will only encounter even more smoke and fire but i burned-over areas there will be plenty of cooked meat lying around. Fast spreading fires can kill more than just ground dwellers and insects. There are likely to be many baked mammals on the menu. Deer and elk are not likely to be among the victims, according to this account. This late in the year fawns are probably about as fast as mom.

This blog contains information on smoke situation in Oregon. Click here for summary of fires across the three Pacific Slope states.

Both the Cascades and the Coast Range have fires, smoke covers much of the Northwest, makes migrating difficult for some species as stars and moon cannot be seen unless you are above the smoke. Here’s what one site says about bird altitude: “Most of the year, they stay under 500 feet. During migration, though, birds gain altitude, and many species fly at 2,000 to 5,000 feet or higher, using prevailing winds to assist them. A bird may begin migration at about 5,000 feet and slowly climb to 20,000 feet.”
I have not found any reliable info on how high up the smoke goes above our terrestrial habitat but do know of past fires and the columns can rise thousands of feet into the atmosphere, forcing planes to re-route.
Here’s is a brief summary of science from NASA.
So far the current anti-science regime in Washington DC has not had this deleted as a patent hoax against what holy writ tells us about smoke and fire. Surely this is a QAnon posting somewhere saying that these fires are all virtual reality games put out by crooked firefighters just wanting more work. Then far-right news sites will stop covering the hoax fires altogether, never mentioning the orange air we are breathing hereabouts.
Anyway, real or hoax, we are living in the new normal of climate change. Do you suppose smoke impinges on the spread of covid virus? Could be a new avenue of research.


Once upon a time that phrase might have had something to do with pot, or “joint” of the same. Today it was merely nature preparing a corvid for an unpleasant future on this planet:

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Sep 8, 2020
Checklist Comments:     smoke made it dark by 415PM
5 species

Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  X

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