Posted by: atowhee | December 29, 2021


Roshana Schockley and I birded the northwest quadrant of the McMinnville Christmas Bird Count yesterday. Snow the day’s theme. Some roads were too icy for my Prius. Some ponds frozen, others not. Plowed roads turned out to have a special attraction for certain ground-feeding species–I have pics to prove it. This area is along Baker Creek Road–farms, fields, forest, a tiny splash of suburbia. Most of the ground, even under the tree canopy was covered with snow still.
Of Note: more Varied Thrush than robins! Few starlings–they’d moved into town where the parking lots have been plowed or salted. Zero gulls or shorebirds or warblers. Exactly one finch. No House Sparrow and one collared-dove. The only quail was heard.

By 830AM we had seen our best bird of the day–a Merlin, atop the tallest bare tree in a row along a lane off Baker Creek Road. From his perch he could survey the ground and creekside thickets for hundreds of yards, for 360-degrees. Fog prevented good images:

By afternoon the air temp had risen above freezing, lines and sheets of softened snow began falling from power lines and trees. Twice we heard sharp cracks of breaking wood and looking toward the source saw large limbs crashing through the forest, ripped off the trunk by the weight of the moist snow and ice. Not just limbs, but in some cases entire tree trunks were fallen, shattered if the fall was great enough. Along Baker Creek some mature trees had finally succumbed to root erosion. In the forested hills we could look im any direction at any time after noon and see showers of snow falling–tiny arboreal avalanches. When heavy clusters of wet snow hit the road they made like a soft thunk like a wet towel thrown onto a hard floor.

The best discovery of the day–how helpful the snow-plowing is to some ground-feeding species, to thrushes and sparrows. A few small bare patches had opened on pasture slopes, where water came to the surfacer and melted the snow from beneath, but those were few though populated with hungry birds–juncos, towhee, Varied and Hermit Thrush. But the snow plow had inadvertently produced a avian gourmet threat, an elongated cafeteria line. While scraping the snow from the road and pushing in to the side, the plowing had also lifted long-rotting leaves of last summer with their content of humous and worms and sowbugs and such. Then the plow distributed this leaf compost along the road edge, often on top of the snow. Oh yum! You could drive along, count the sparrows and thrushes and not even get out of the car.

In the lower right image a pair of Fox Sparrows are feeding, just below the brown dots. Click on image to enlarge it.

Below: Bewick’s Wren on tree trunk, Song Sparrow on cleared sidewalk, Varied Thrush gallery:

This is as close as we got to seeing Dipper, last spring’s nest:

MAMMALS: 11 deer, 1 tree squirrel.



McMinnville CBC-NW quadrant, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Dec 28, 2021
32 species

Canada Goose  8
Wood Duck  4     on small pond along High Heaven Rd
Hooded Merganser  3
Common Merganser  1
California Quail  1
Pied-billed Grebe  3
Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
Mourning Dove  1
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
Northern Flicker  3
American Kestrel  3
Merlin  1–at 13425 Baker Creek Road
Steller’s Jay  7
California Scrub-Jay  13
American Crow  1
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Bewick’s Wren  2
European Starling  36
Varied Thrush  27
Hermit Thrush  3
American Robin  9
Pine Siskin  1
Fox Sparrow  13
Dark-eyed Junco  138
Golden-crowned Sparrow  39
Song Sparrow  10
Spotted Towhee  19
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Brewer’s Blackbird  1


  1. […] December–Two Christmas Bird counts. Click here for Salem. Click here for McMinnville. […]

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