Posted by: atowhee | January 2, 2023


Our team of four intrepid (afraid of no cold) birders did the Baker Creek Road sector in the Yamhill Valley Christmas Count. Birder Tim Wilson was one of us and the cold reminded him of a previously freezing cold count, in another part of the Werst. With equally cold fingers, on that long ago count he’d had his first and only view of a bird that tends to stick to its favored habitat–western mountains and high elevation steppe with junipers. He told us of his brief recollection of that only time he’d seen a Townsend’s Solitaire.

We had just been watching a male House Finch sitting atop a nearby bare shrub. Almost as Tim stopped speaking a larger bird flew in and sent off the finch. Solitaire. Right before our gazing eyes, gaping grins. At less than 500 foot elevation! Tim’s lifetime #2 solitaire.

Tim’s bird karma magic accomplished one other bit of…what, subtle spectacle? The Yamhill Valley count, headed by ace birder Paul Sullivan, began in 2013. Today we provided its first-ever solitaire sighting, with above evidence. 144 species had been accumulated through the previous count. Townsend (named after a brilliant bird-man who spent time in Oregon in 1830s) is now NUMBER 145.

Where was this? Right along Hidden Hills Road which parallels Baker Creek on the south side for a few hundred yards…just east of Grenfell County Park.

Robin Ricker is a birding friend whom lives in McMinnville, within the count circle. here are two pictures she got in her garden on Dec. 22:

If this is “our” solitaire it’s been waiting for the CBC for over ten days. It is also possible a small flock of solitaires have come to the Willamette Valley. The drought ion eastern Oregon and harsh winter weather could mean there is not enough food for these birds east of the Cascades where they would generally be found. TS’s welcome to all the hawthorn fruit he can find.

American Robin (260) beat out starling for our most abundant species. Starling 174. Junco 98. Ring-necked Duck 57, all in a single large farm pond. Band-tailed Pigeon 45, a single flock heading eastbound from Coast Range foothills at dawn. We had 43 species altogether in a sector with no marsh, no gulls, no shorebirds. Songbirds were most abundant near homes, especially those with feeders. The temp never got above 41F.

For complete checklist and other CBC images, click here.


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