Posted by: atowhee | November 13, 2022

LAST TIME YOU CRANKED A CAR WINDOW?

November 13

Heavy fog.  Cold and damp.
I went to the grocery store early this morning.  Store shopping.  It’s an archaic activity like listening to a plugged-in radio, cranking a car window up or down, using a dial phone.  As I left the parking lot, I passed the store’s dumpster enclosure.  Some clever crows (redundant, I know) had found some hardened bread-like material.  Two discs of it were on the ground.  One was being shattered by a Glaucous-winged Gull.  If our species doesn’t starve, they won’t starve, having adapted to our urban living.

Then I went to Mill Creek Wetlands.  Once again water has filled the impoundments.  I found three seasonal firsts, all part of the annual pattern of birdlife there.  First pintails, first coot, first Buffleheads.  I expect all three species to still be there until early spring.  So do they.

I walked the berm-top transect trail.  A towhee snarled at me from some low-down hideout.  I stopped.  Suddenly the willow thicket was alive with activity—sparrows and then other sparrows.  As they realized a gigantic predator was watching, they skittered through the willows—still leafed—and moved away.  After a couple minutes the only visibly active bird left was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet to whom I was just another disinteresting tree trunk.  I did manage to shoot without aiming and capture the Lincoln’s Sparrow before the usual vanishing act.  I find this species as hard to photograph as a warbler or Hutton’s Vireo.  “One glance, buddy, and I’m outta here.”

Kingfishers also hate having any lens pointed at them, but are so large and vocal that you rarely miss them.  They see your binocs or camera and most kingfishers will scream at you and depart.  One time I found a tame one on Whidbey Island.  He’d been fed regularly off fishing boats in Coupeville Harbor. “Got any fish, there, cameraman?”

Of course, the one bird I rarely see until it zig-zags out of sight–a Wilson’s Snipe, heard my approach, or saw me, and jetted away from its hiding place in the flooded grassy marsh margin.

I approached the end of the trail–a fine mix of habitats with edges abounding. Marsh. Running stream. Grass. Willows. Weeds topped with seed heads. Not a single sparrow. Then I saw why:

A large Cackling Geese flock sounded off from their flight overhead.  Some then appeared as blurred dark shapes amidst the dense fog droplets overhead.  I heard them long after those shapes disappeared behind the drippy gray curtain.

As I left there were four crows working the topless dumpster at a warehouse next to the wetlands. Anything worth eating or hiding was going to be found. Speaking of hiding, our squirrels are now burying walnuts in our garden. I think all their arboreal storage units are full–huge walnut crop where we live.

Robins on the ODFW lawn:

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Nov 13, 2022 10:00 AM – 10:40 AM
Protocol: Traveling
0.4 mile(s)
22 species

Cackling Goose  200
Canada Goose  6
Northern Shoveler  20
Gadwall  X
American Wigeon  X
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  6     first of season
Green-winged Teal  15
Ring-necked Duck  9
Bufflehead  4     first of season
American Coot  1     first of season here
Wilson’s Snipe  1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
American Crow  4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  35
Golden-crowned Sparrow  8
Song Sparrow  2
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  2
Red-winged Blackbird  X


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