Posted by: atowhee | October 29, 2022



“There’s a garden, what a garden
Only happy faces bloom there
And there’s never any room there
For a worry or a gloom there…

“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun
Roll out the barrel, we’ve got the blues on the run
Zing boom tararrel, ring out a song of good cheer
Now’s the time to roll the barrel, for the gang’s all here…”
Beer Barrel Polka

The gang WAS all there. Our McMinnville birding class. Saturday, Oct. 29. The waxwings and robins, the sparrows and yellow-rumps. It was Waxwing Wonderland as the hawthorns were freighted with fruit, heavy with haws. And there were plenty of seed heads on smaller plants, a zillion seeds hanging high in the ash trees. Where? The Yamhill City sewer ponds property. It was such a party we heard bird song–Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrows sang, and robins. But some robins were slurring their notes. I am not sure what the drinking age is for waxwings and robins but some were clearly on their first migration, and maybe their first alcohol-laced fruit fandango.

It was an eventful two-hour walk. At one point we watched a mixed flock of sparrows that included at least three Lincoln’s. There were dozens of shovelers sucking down daphnia from the sewer ponds. Two ravens croaked past. Kestrel. Red-tail. A single white-fronted goose with migratory Canada Geese in a cowless pasture. A Black Phoebe hunted from the fence along the sewer ponds. Goldfinches that barely cared to stay beyond arm’s length [had they been hitting the fruit, too?]. A softly drumming downy. There was so much action we hardly noticed the scrub-jays that would usually have been the loudest and most obvious land birds.

It was the waxwings that none of us will ever forget. Flocks filling the hawthorn hedge on the west edge of the property. More flocks in the riparian trees along the creek marking the property’s east edge. And then constant back-and-forth across a narrow grassy field in between. When first saw the waxwings from 100 yards away. I worried that our approach might frighten them off. I am used to them becoming alarmed and forming a feathery tornado that rises into the sky and departs. That didn’t happen this time. As we neared the waxwings seemed curious, stunned, half-conscious, but not worried. Groups perched in treetops, in the open, looking around. Did I hear soft guttural belches? Some were still eating, many looked like they’d just finished an eight-course banquet.

We stood for awhile between the two fruited treelines. Waxwings flew past us at their top speed, some at eye-level–our eyes. One came so close I could feel the air draft as he passed my hat. Some at waist level–our waists. They were intoxicated with life, haws, a bit of hard stuff. We had stumbled onto their fall harvest party. They had rolled out the barrel and were having their barrel of fun.

Look at this shot:

The image above is about half of the crown of one of several dozen hawthorns at Yamhill Sewer Ponds. Many of them were occupied like this. I counted 66 birds in this frame. This single tree would have held well over 100 birds. Yet, eBird queries my estimate of 600. That is a conservative total for what we were seeing. One tree alive with waxwings was a sixty foot tall ash tree. not just another twenty-five foot hawthorn.

Want to know what the waxwings were tasting, click here for recipe for making young hawthorn wine.


One of our Lincoln's Sparrows.  Photo by Alex Johnson--she uses a real camera, real well.


The middle goose in front of the cows was the white-front; the finches in the pine-top were Lesser Goldfinch. The unfocused sapsucker and stilt were at Ankeny where I had a Salem Audubon event in the early afternoon. I also saw Western Sandpipers there at Pin tail Marsh for the first time this fall. Still lots of dowitcher and yellowlegs.

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 29, 2022
29 species

Greater White-fronted Goose  1
Canada Goose  60     all were fly-overs except two
Northern Shoveler  150
Mallard  25
Eurasian Collared-Dove  5
Killdeer  X
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
American Kestrel  2
Black Phoebe  1
California Scrub-Jay  3
American Crow  X
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  X
European Starling  X
American Robin  50
Cedar Waxwing  600     huge flocks drunk on hawthorn fruit [ebird did not like that number!]
House Sparrow  20
Lesser Goldfinch  10
American Goldfinch  8
Dark-eyed Junco  1
White-crowned Sparrow  25
Golden-crowned Sparrow  40
Song Sparrow  6
Lincoln’s Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  5
Brewer’s Blackbird  20
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4

Ankeny NWR, Marion, Oregon, US
Oct 29, 2022 12:30 PM
Protocol: Incidental
20 species (+1 other taxa)

Cackling Goose  2000
Northern Shoveler  X
Mallard  X
Mallard (Domestic type)  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Black-necked Stilt  1–eBird considers this an unusual sighting
Western Sandpiper  X
Long-billed Dowitcher  X
Greater Yellowlegs  15
Northern Harrier  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
American Kestrel  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Song Sparrow  1
Western Meadowlark  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X


  1. […] Saturday my McMinnville bird class field trip was at Yamhill municipal sewer ponds. We happened upon a band of hard-drinking (eating, actually) hawthorn wine lovers–hundreds of Cedar Waxwings. Click here for that blog. […]

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