Posted by: atowhee | September 23, 2020


Fall. Fall in, fall out, fall-oh the birdie. Our Wednesday Salem Audubon bird walk found a couple of very birdy spots at Willamette Mission State Park. Not a large number of species but some impressive concentrations.

Along the weedy riparian corridor south of the park headquarters we found some migrant sparrows–for me my first Golden-crowns and Lincoln’s of the season. There were also large, dark Song Sparrows of the sort that winter here, far from their more northerly rainforest breeding grounds. As we sparrowed, one glance up brought circling swallows into view. Dozens of Barn Swallows, some high enough they were just seen through binoculars. This was in chilly morning weather, before 930AM. Over two hours later as I left the park I noted some were feeding knee-high over the pastures, more normal Barnie behavior.

A walk along the north edge of Mission Slough gave us good looks at a Downy, and we heard the calls of another. A Bewick’s Wren teased us and hid. Sone Sparrows checked us out and found us uninteresting. The began to hear a chorus of robins…

At the end of our morning we stood delighted and entertained on the easterly fishing dock along Mission Slough. This is the dock further from the entrance road and with no boat launch. Here we first encountered a swarm of robins and starling eating from the local menu–main course was ripe, pale fruit of the abundant red-osier dogwood along the slough. There were so many singing and chortling robins that I was forced to comment “a slew of robins at the slough”. No apology granted. They serenaded us with whinnies and songs of a thrush satiated with berries.
The berriers were flying back and forth across the water, and never silent. As we began to look around the slough itself: Mallards, check. Green Herons–two, check. Red-tail moving about the shoreline, check. Wood Ducks, check. A trio. They are now in full breeding plumage having completed their late-summer flightless molt. Then four, then another handful. Final count: 11 Wood Ducks. How much wood could a Wood Duck duck if….

Hey, a Black Phoebe! Feeding on mud islands and from edge of the water. Later, hey, another phoebe around the nearest heron. A quick fly-over the far end of the water by a kingfisher, silent even on the wing. Not re-found. Then, for no apparent reason, a Great Horned Owl flew along the forest edge right across the water from us (about thirty yards away), then glided ghostfully back into the forest dark. Jays had mobbed him? Scrub-jays were all about and never shy nor silent. Then, the nearest and younger heron jumped a few inches up, grabbed a small frog on its own leap and proceeded to swallow the snack head-first. OK, we have just had some quality birding time, standing on this little wooden dock sticking out into Mission Slough.
On the morning, missing but not missed: crows, coots, Pied-billed Grebe, blue heron. Here green over blue based on precious uncommonality alone. Plus the blues will be around all winter, both muscially and heronically. This may be our last view of the greens until 2021.

We paid our respects to the largest black cottonwood–later flickers and waxwings used its height and branches.


Downy in walnut, trying to look like an upright branch:

Fat part of branch has beak, is downy.


In the first image can you find the robin peeking at us? Moments before I watched him swallowing the dogwood fruit like small candies. Then he was staring at us, staring at him, the enticing pale dogwood berries hanging all around. A robin in a candy store:

Willamette Mission SP, Marion, Oregon, US
Sep 23, 2020
Checklist Comments:     Salem Audubon bird walk
21 species

Wood Duck  11
Mallard  8
Green Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  2
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Belted Kingfisher  1
Downy Woodpecker  3
Northern Flicker  5
American Kestrel  4
California Scrub-Jay  15
Barn Swallow  100
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  150
Cedar Waxwing  30
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  20
Golden-crowned Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  5
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1

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