Posted by: atowhee | January 26, 2021

SNOW, JUNCOS AND PUBLICITY

We weren’t going anywhere today anyway. All those covid-related worries until vaccine is bestowed. Then it snowed. The juncos partied around the sunflower seeds–no social distancers, they. Then it rained publicity. Friends in Yamhill County I hadn’t heard from in over a year, called. Hey, did you see that piece in the News-Register? [McMinnville newspaper]

I’ve seen it now, and here it is if you are interested:

Stopping by: Pecking order

Edges are the best places to view birds — where the edge of a city meets the edge of a forest or where the water meets the land, according to master birdwatcher Harry Fuller. Edges contain a diet of bugs and plants, he said, so it’s easy to find a variety of birds browsing and dining. Edges also offer the shelter birds need to protect them from predators and the weather. “So little guys can hide quickly, ” he said. One of Fuller’s favorite birdwatching spots is on the edge of Yamhill. Birders can walk down a short trail to the sewer pond at the south end of the city. There they’ll see Northern Shovelers feeding on daphnia, tiny crustaceans that make a tasty snack for the ducks with shovel-shaped bills. Rotary Nature Park and Joe Dancer Park in McMinnville, Ed Grenfell Park west of the city and Wennerberg Park in Carlton also are on Fuller’s list of favorite locations to birdwatch. So is Baskett Slough near Dallas. He likes to visit with his best birdwatching buddy, Nora, a black and white boxer/lab mix named for an elegant character in “The Thin Man” TV series[no, black & white movies of yore]. The large dog revels in the scents of birds, squirrels, nutria and other wildlife, but doesn’t chase them, Fuller said. “If I stop, Nora will stand still and smell while I take pictures, ” he said. “Little birds ignore her, but ducks are wary — any species that’s been hunted is wary of dogs.” Home isn’t bad for birdwatching, either, especially for anyone who plants a variety of species, keeps bird feeders clean and filled in winter and refrains from using pesticides, Fuller said. Putting feeders in the right place — near an evergreen shrub at the edge of the lawn, rather than in the middle — helps, too. And adding a water feature is important, since birds need water year-round. “With water, you will always get birds, ” he said. A birdwatcher might see four or five species if he takes a walk in the forest, or none at all if he visits a field planted in a single crop, Fuller said. But at home, he might see 20. “Some species don’t like people, ” he said, “but a lot of species do. They know how to use us to meet their needs.” Birds have taught humans to feed them and give them the environment they prefer, he said. In other words, he said, “they’ve taken us under their wing.” Fuller, who recently relocated to Salem, is making his yard as friendly to birds as possible. He has fruit trees, holly, hawthorns, thistle and a variety of other evergreen and deciduous plants. A creek nearby provides a water source. During his interview, he watched the birds come and go. A Cooper’s hawk was visiting his yard that day. He said he still spends a lot of time in McMinnville, where he had lived since 2015. He was in Ashland previously. He moved to Oregon in 2007 soon after retiring from a career in TV journalism — he worked in San Francisco for 30 years and for CNBC in London for four years. He is the author of “Great Gray Owl in California, Oregon and Washington” and “Natural History, Sand Dunes to Streetcars.” He contributed a chapter on common nighthawks at the Malheur Field Station for an anthology published by Oregon State University Press in 2019, “Edge of Awe.” He writes a birding journal, which can be found online at atowhee.blog. He also leads birdwatching excursions to Malheur and acts as a private guide. Fuller teaches classes through the McMinnville Parks and Recreation Department. Usually, classes are in person, with accompanying field trips.

His next class, though, will be virtual: “Birds and Climate in the Willamette Valley, ” which focuses on birds that visit Northwest Oregon during the cold months, and where and how to see them, as well as on the effect of climate change on birds. It will meet from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays, Feb. 1 to 15, via Zoom. The registration deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 27. Cost is $25 per person for McMinnville residents or $30 for non-residents. More information and registration is available by calling 503- 434-7310. During Oregon winters, about half of all birds are visiting for the season and the other half are native to this area. With colder weather and fewer flowers, berries and insects available, winter makes birds work harder, Fuller said. They spend about 85% of their time finding food and 15% saving calories, keeping warm and dry. Some birds look for specific types of food, turning to a different kind of berry or bug if they can’t find their preferred meal. Others, such as crows, “are like us — if it’s edible, they’ll eat it, ” Fuller said. Some ducks and geese also “eat almost anything: grass, slugs…” he said. But diving ducks need proteins that are free-swimming, such as little fish, insects or frogs. That’s why the Yamhill sewer pond is such a haven for Shovelers: the daphnia are added to eat the sewage and render it harmless, so the ducks can always count on finding plenty of daphnia. Fuller has been a birder since 1991. He turned to birds out of frustration with his previous hobby, living and breathing baseball. “They went on strike. It ruined my life, ” he said. “I needed something else.” Birds lured him outdoors, and he quickly realized they had an advantage over not just ball players, but most humans. “They are honest, beautiful, smart … real, ” he said. He came to value them as individuals, too. Each robin behaves a bit differently, although they also exhibit behaviors unique to their species. While he’s willing to travel to see birds, and sometimes seeks out rare species, he said, he’s not a fanatic about marking the number he’s spotted. “I like normal birds, ” he said. “I like what they’re doing every day, finding food and good shelter.” He’s intrigued in seeing what they do at night or in windy weather. They may hide in holes in trees or build shelters from twigs or hunker down in a sticker bush. Bushtits share a hole, 25 or 30 at a time, and depend on accumulated body heat to keep them from freezing. “They don’t social distance, ” he quipped. Fuller is looking forward to spring, when resident birds and new arrivals will decide where to nest next. Some species, such as owls and woodpeckers, find safety in holes in trees. Others try hard to build nests hidden from predators — especially squirrels, whose agility makes them fearsome robbers of eggs or chicks. Squirrels inspire some small birds to nest near hawks or herons. “No squirrel in its right mind would dare challenge them, ” Fuller said. Crows often roost in Douglas fir trees, where the dense foliage shelters them from Great Horned Owls or other birds of prey. Smaller birds generally have better eyesight and hearing than predators during the daytime, Fuller said. Their size also works to their advantage during in-air chases; they can twist and turn in the air to avoid birds with larger wingspans. “They’re not faster, but they can maneuver, ” he said. “Maneuverability is one of their strategies.” Fuller admires those zig-zagging birds and the larger ones, too. And owls, which he studied for one of his books. And waterfowl. And Sandhill Cranes, the tallest bird native to Oregon. And bushtits, so small “you could mail 12 for the price of a First Class stamp.” And hummingbirds, finches, starlings, juncos … and everything else with wings and feathers. “I’m fascinated by birds, ” he said. “They’re so alive, so active, so social. I’m fascinated by their migration patterns, how they fly together in patterns that are complex, but not chaotic. “There’s never an end to what you can learn from birds.”

Written by Starla (I am not kidding!) Pointer. I know, birdy first name, hunting dog second name. What that old-time columnist, Herb Caen, would have called a “name-freak!” Hell, one past president of the National Audubon Society was named…Flicker.

Here are the photos in the article:

If you want to see the online version, here’s the link, subscription may be required.


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