Posted by: atowhee | December 4, 2021

RIDING THE WIND

Everything else I wrote earlier was accurate, but urged by local experts to re-consider, I have realized those swans were likely all Tundra…the young we saw through a scope were a pale gray, not dark enough to be Trumpeter young, and the distance and perfect views of the face and beak impossible. None were ever closer than a quarter-mile.

A Salem Audubon bird walk began at the Baskett Slough parking lot along Coville Road. It was cold at 930AM, a stiff, steady wind came out of the south. Hands numbed. West of us, over the south-facing shoulder of Baskett Butte we first saw one young Bald Eagle. He was riding the breeze, wings full out, tail and wing tips altering rapidly to adjust for each gust or slight wind whim. Then a second youngster came into, eventually a third. There was no need for flapping as each faced into the wind. Occasionally wings would fold and re-open but it was all to keep position, speed, balance…perhaps the shear joy of shearing wind. Close look ervealed that two were splotched first-year eagles, the third was a second-year bird with some white on its face. Later we saw two speeding adults moving in unison before the wind, speeding south over the butte toward Morgan Lake.

The eagles’ presence meant nervous geese. Numerous times the sky would fill with the usual cackler cacophony. Birds in V-formation, in flat out waves, in bunched chaos, circling, moving linearly, confused, determined, in cooked goose panic. Such power to move a crowd must make young eagles very self-assured.

Beauty highlight of the day: our white Trumpeter Swans flying gracefully high against the pewter sky, wind of no notice, directions taken casually, quietly, gradually. Pure white against brooding darkness. Like an elegant wine tasting. Each turn savored, each marsh below judged for quality. Later we saw over 30 in the north-most lake in Taverner’s Marsh, viewable from Smithfield as it runs along the ridge at the west edge of the refuge. Click here for good map of Baskett Slough,

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Dec 4, 2021. 24 species

Cackling Goose  X
Canada Goose  X
Tundra Swan  31     at north end of Taverner’s Marsh in  two adjacent ponds visible from Smithfield Road
Northern Shoveler  X
Gadwall  X
American Wigeon  X
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Ring-necked Duck  X
Lesser Scaup  X     in private pont along Smithfield Road near Van Duzen Winery’s lane
Bufflehead  X
American Coot  X
Northern Harrier  4
Bald Eagle  5
Red-tailed Hawk  4
Northern Flicker  2
American Kestrel  5
European Starling  X
House Finch  X
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1
Western Meadowlark  30     in fields along Covillle Road
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X


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