Posted by: atowhee | October 15, 2020


Nora the dog and I had to run an errand in McMinnville…afterwards we went to the places where you can overlook the Sheridan Sewer Ponds, then wound through back roads to Polk County’s Livermore Road which once again welcomed us with open fields. Saw two tractors and no other traffic. Later, homeward we drove Coville Road–seeing not one starling, but yesterday that road through Baskett Slough had murmuration happening.

Early yesterday morning the fog was dense and these birds would appear and whirl away into invisibility, or suddenly crowd onto roadside power lines.

Later in the morning the fog had thinned, visibility was sharper, but the flocks were unchanged. The flocks were restless even when landed. Inside the birds would swirl through the air, on the edges the group would seem to furl. It was flag-like, fluid, erratic without being jerky. The motion and emotion was some complex of frenzy, excitement (yet almost no vocal sound, just the wing whirring in the thick air), fluid mechanics and quantum physics. It was artful performance that no human dance group or swim ballet or basketball pros could hope to rival. Even if any of them could fly…

Click here for look at Welsh murmuration and then summary of the science of how these starlings track and follow and lead one another in these fluid crowds.

The first three images were from the cemetery south of the ponds. The volcano shot came from the small city park between the ponds and prison. In the first image it’s a real flock-up–caused by two birders scoping the ponds inside the fence. A majority of the ducks I saw on the ponds were shoveler, indicating there is a healthy population of


Then a smallish birds flapped across the pond and landed on the bank. I have to ask–eh wouldn’t answer–do you know what month this is? Don’t you have an appointment along the Sacramento River?

Later, along Livermore Road, there was action galore. A meadowlark landed near the road, so I stopped the car in middle of the empty gravel road, got out with camera turned on…the bird lifted up and flew parallel to me and I actually got to follow the uplift, flutter ahead, hover, drop down…I have seen this a zillion times as we had meadowlarks (those eastern kind) on Midwest our farm when I was a kid…but I never hoped to get any still pictures. (As far as I am concerned this sequence confirms my little Canon is a far better photographer than I am, never doubted it. I was just shooting in the general direction, no time to sight or focus.)

Then just down the road, a dog out hunting. I stopped less than forty yards away but this pooch was focused, concentrating. You might say, or I might, he was “coycentrating” on what was in the grass before him.

The Livermore Road fields are greening, in many shades. Do you wonder if the harriers ever look beyond the next meal, murmur to themselves–wow, that’s a pretty view, vole or no…

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