Posted by: atowhee | January 20, 2022


First, Dick Aten’s pristine images of three wintering ocean birds at Newport:


“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” –Folk wisdom in the Age of Plastic
“Looking at art is like, ‘Here are the answers. What were the questions?’ I think of it like espionage…why did that happen, and that?–until eventually you come to a point of irreducible mystery.” –Peter Schjeldahl, art critic supreme

Posted by: atowhee | January 20, 2022


This morning a representative of the Polk Soil & Water Conservation District showed us around a property covers over 150 acres of mature oak woodland, grasslands, a small creek, some juvenile Doug-firs and land occupied by elk. There is hope we can begin offering occasioanl bird walks on this land northeast of Baskett Slough NWR. Most of the oak forest is on slopes and ridge tops. It was especially good to see the pair (definitely together as they coursed up the tree trunks and limbs) of Brown Creepers together on the large oaks. BTW–there did not seem tobe a single acorn left among the fallen oak leaves.

Smithfield Oaks–Polk SWCD, Polk, Oregon, US
Jan 20, 2022
Checklist Comments:     Includes entrance road off Smithfield–mature oaks, grasslands, pond, creek, young doug-firs
15 species

Cackling Goose  X
American Wigeon  1
Mallard  2
Ring-necked Duck  X
Killdeer  25
Bald Eagle  1
Northern Flicker  3
Steller’s Jay  3
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Brown Creeper  2
Bewick’s Wren  1
Dark-eyed Junco  20
Spotted Towhee  6

Posted by: atowhee | January 18, 2022


Salem Audubon will be getting a grant from Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission to put up the first motus receiver between Eugene and Washington State. It will be used to track the movement of birds with tiny transmitters on their plumage. The Willamette Valley is rich with resident and migratory species and this receiver will overlook Pintail and Eagle Marshes, among several hotspots.

Go to to learn more about this state-of-science technology that will be so important as we try to trace the effects of climate change, habitat and conservation efforts on the birds. Our motus station and its resulting data will be part of a global effort already well developed in many regions.

Klamath Bird Observatiory (KBO) has two motus stations operating in Jackson County. Right now they are gathering data on Lewis’s Woodpeckers and Vesper Sparrows. To learn how this aids research and understanding of our feathery neighbors, watch the February birders’ night program for Salem Audubon–Feb. 8. The speaker will be a research biologist from KBO who is in charge of those motus projects, Dr. Sarah Rockwell. In early February you can find details on how to Zoom, or attend in person, on the Salem Audubon website in the Feb. newsletter.

Posted by: atowhee | January 17, 2022


New photos from correspondent Mike Lund back in North Carolina:

Here are pictures from six months ago:

Click here for blog with pic of this bird taken last winter!

Posted by: atowhee | January 17, 2022


Look who was in our garden and the neighbors’ roof this morning…strutting his stuff:


About 3pm, six hours after the above incidents, a single immature female turkley came charging up our garden from the street below. She marched right into the rose garden and p[icked up stray sunflower chips, then ran back down the garden to the street. Was she a loner? I wenty after her. There was the rest of the flock. She jad just fondly recalled the morning sunflower treats at our address.

This time it is the large tom turkey who’s drawing attention…and I was happy to give it.

Posted by: atowhee | January 16, 2022


JANUARY 16, 2022

735am  I hear the first crowing of the day, from far off.  Almost immediately the first wave of sparrow family members appear in the front garden.  Mostly juncos but also fox, song and two golden-crowns.  They feed on seed among the rose bushes.  Temp: 36, overcast.

745   Official time of sunrise, sky grows lighter, but remains gray.  Twenty or more juncos clutter the back garden on feeders and rocks where seed is scattered.

750  Sky is much lighter now, no visible birds, has accipiter arrived?

753  Small flocks of sparrow family in front, numerous juncos and the single White-throated Sparrow that is wintering here.

8   Put out peanuts and re-filled bird baths.  Corvids and sparrows fill the morning.  Crows and both jay species (only a lone Steller’s who must fly two blocks to get here from nearest conifers), plus five sparrow sp.  Junco, song, fox, golden-crowned (2), white-throat.  So far no towhee.  Zero finches, unusual.

804   Jays on suet in front and back.  Peanuts all gone already.  Juncos in back, five males first, then one female shows up.  Juncos in front joined, finally, by resident female towhee.  She scuts in, grabs seeds, vanishes back into dense shrubbery.

806  First squirrels seen.  They’ve left their leafy bower and begun the morning scratching.  Imagine how itchy to spend the night in dry leaf sac.  No linen, no cushion but lots of itch.

815  Squirrels all about.  One loves to hang from upper branches of fifteen-foot ash sapling.  Another prefers top of utility pole.

825  Whole garden given over to several squirrels and the two crows with resident ownership.  They  hardly fear me and certainly care little for accipiter or squirrel.

827   In front the Fox Sparrow races around beneath the roses.
828   Foxy is joined by two bold juncos.

830  In back Juncos, finally a quintet of finches—siskins all.  Chestnut-backed Chickadee zips on and off hanging tray.  The seedeaters can crush the sunflower chips,  while the chickadee’s beak, evolved for spider eggs and small caterpillars, cannot.  So this bird flies off with a single chip to a safe perch and holds it between toes, then uses his sharp beak to break off tinier chips to swallow.

833  While inside I hear a crow remonstrating about something it disapproves of.  They are fine journalists, facts observed, then vehemently described and a strong commentary appended to each report.  All the other birds subscribe to crow dispatches.

850   Pair of crows stride around the front garden.

920   I see a speeding dark form pass the front window.  I suspect Sharp-shinned Hawk.  That will later be confirmed.

950   I do some small tasks in front garden.  A towhee snarls at me from the dense English laurel hedge.  It makes an ideal hide-out, a thick coat of those leathery leaves surrounding a mostly open, hollow interior.

10  I  go into back yard for a chore,  alarming the sharpie who’s there and  it flies south deep into a neighbor’s suburban forest.  The present squirrels care nought for him but they chatter at me.  I am glad I cannot translate their comments.  I am proud of my tolerance, which they vociferously do not share.

10:10   I scatter peanuts in the shell on the drive again.  Four crows arrive almost simultaneously.  Each goes away with a pair of nuts to cache.  At the same time juncos move along the hedge edge, dropping down beneath the protective overhang to pick seeds.  Temp still 36.
Out the back window I spot a lone Yellow-rumped Warbler.  The bird is on and off the suet feeder, apparently confident it can out-fly the accipiter.

10:40  Dog takes me for walk at Deepwood Garden.  While there we see a hummer out In the cold, a flock of Tundra Swans (30) call as their V-formation flies eastward, a kinglet, a robin.

11:30  Back home I scatter more sunflower chips.  The temp is all the way up to 37, no sun, no break in the gray overcast.  A downy arrives on the back garden suet block, dines, departs.

1245PM   Feeders replenished.  No small birds.  One squirrel cleaning out hanging trays in back.  Out front one crow on the same pole top the squirrels use.  Crows calling off in the distance.  Could be a legislative debate,

110   A pair of bright yellow birds appear—male and female Lesser Goldfinch.  They signal a frenzy of bird activity in front of the house.  They are clearly a pair, staying close together.  He has an especially dark back with more than usual amount of black feathers there.  I believe he’s the same bird I noticed with a blackish back last autumn.  Our first House Finch of the day drives the goldfinches off the cylinder feeder. Juncos are around.  Now the warbler and the two chickadees are busy in front. The chickadees run back and forth: feeder to bush to feeder to bush, one kernel per beak per cycle.  The Fox Sparrow splashes down at the birdbath for a good wash.  Temp is now a balmy 43.  Bath time.

150   Sunshine!   Squirrels seem elated.

230   With no rain to protect me I am compelled to do some garden work.  Sun.  45
The juncos flit about, pretending to be out of sight.  Three Mourning Doves arrive and perch high in a neighbor’s bare walnut, waiting for me to go back inside.  They are legally hunted here in September and October so they have good reason to stay away from bipeds with big front paws and little fur.

3  Back inside I note four sparrows in the front garden birdbath.  There’s that bathing beauty, the Fox Sparrow, and three of his cousins, golden-crowns all.  A crow is atop our deodar, surveying all his surroundings.  Nearly all day there is some crowing within earshot.  More crowing than even leaf blowing.

Sharpie pics–these all taken yesterday, including the crow pursuit:

Deepwood Museum & Gardens, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 16, 2022
6 species

Tundra Swan  30     fly over
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Northern Flicker  1
American Crow  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  1

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 16, 2022
17 species

Mourning Dove  5
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  5
American Crow  10
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  2
House Finch  1
Pine Siskin  5
Lesser Goldfinch  2
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  25
Golden-crowned Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1     myrtle

Posted by: atowhee | January 15, 2022


Tim Johnson took this great photo of a staring friend along Blueberry Road near Halsey yesterday–that’s between Albany and Eugene.

Burrowing Owls are not known to nest west of the Cascades…now. There is some evidence that the birds bred in the Willamette Valley as recently as early 1900s. Of course intensive and/or modern agriculture is their scourge. Plows and poisons do them in. They also once bred in the Rogue Valley of Jackson County. When Oregon’s oaks forests were managed by the Native Americans using fire even the rainy Willamette Valley would have been ideal habitat. No longer. The same has happened in California–wipe out. In the late 19th Century much of the Central Valley was used to grow wheat. Every ranch then had its colonies of Burrowing Owls that lived on the rodents that lived on the wheat. Growers loved their owls…then. Modern ag industry has just about wiped out Burrowing Owls over much of their former range. Most californians have never seen nor heard of them. Once the most abundant bird in California–by some old estmates–Burrowing Owls are going the way of the Passenger Pigeon.

In 1923 William Dawson wrote in BIRDS OF CALIFORNIA: “Billy Owl’ is the humorous and half affectionate name bestowed by all good Californians upon this familiar sprite of the roadside, this authentic genius of open spaces. Like an elfin sentry the bird challenges from his earthen mound, denouces us valorously as trespassers, and then either dives ignominiously below or flees to some distant sage top…
Soberly regarding the special claims of the hay rancher and grain grower, I should say that, save the Barn Owl only, the Burrowing Owl is his best ally among birds, and that he who wantonly destroys one should be classed with the man who trsmples a field of grain or sets fire to a haystack…
Squirrel poison claims occasional victims, especially the bisulphide variety; and the Owls will disappear from sections where poison is persistently used.

So a century ago Dawson understood what people were already starting to do to this species, among many. But then think of the fortunes made over the century by selling ag chemicals round the globe. Nobody makes money off a meer Burrowing Owl.

Click here for report on how one organic grower is HELPING these guys.

Burrowing Owl is one species we expect to see on our trips in Malheur Basin. Thsi spring I have birding trips set for May and June., Contact Malheur Field Station by phone for details. Click here for images from a JUne Malheur trip…Burrowing Owl inthe cow pasture.

Here is some advice shared on an email group about not disturbonig these guys: “People need to use their heads when birding and coming across these little guys.  After seeing one for multiple years, I made the mistake of mentioning an owl location on OBOL and have never seen one back at that location since.  After that I left OBOL and stopped using Ebird.  We went to the Blueberry location recently (we’ve known about it for years) and now you almost need traffic control.  I have since found out the location was posted on Ebird.  The owl is much more skittish now than in years past.  I fear it will, actually I hope it finds another location where we may chance upon it again someday.

“We drive Linn County most every weekend searching for raptors to photograph.  It is nice that folks are out birding but there is more traffic out over the last year than we have ever seen.  Everyone should remember that the best blind is your vehicle and a scope or proper camera lens are as close as you should get to these fragile little owls.”

Posted by: atowhee | January 14, 2022


Ever been to Boiler Bay when the wind didn’t blow, no white caps, sunshine? Well, we timed our Salem Audubon birding trip on such a day–Jan. 14, 2022!

What I at first thought would be a Common Murre, I now realize was the Ancient Murrelet, close to shore on north side of the point. Much nearer than the Pacific Loon diving through the ribbons of green foam much further out. There was a pair of mature eagles, oystercatchers giving us their customary calls, a turnstone fly-by and a sharpie in the forest canopy east of the road.
Siletz Bay was rich with birds, and some of us did the Alder Island Trail to end the expedition. Red-breasted and Hooded Mergansers, Westerns and one Horned Grebe, Common Goldeneyes, Golden-crowns (kinglets and sparrows), Pacific and Red-throated Loons.
At D River we looked the gulls in the eye and they did the same to us. Two of our group saw the Sanderlings as they departed. The local crow syndicate mobbed a perched red-tail next to Devil’s Lake, giving the big guy a devil of a time.

A quick survey of Baskett Slough turned up a quartet of swans, thousands of geese and ducks. Eagles, red-tails, kestrel, harrier. We didn’t see a raven until we neared Grande Ronde.


The two bays–marshy Siletz and then rocky, wave-washed Boiler. Siletz protected from opwen ocean by long sand spit with its dozens of lounging harbor seals. Boiler Bay open directly the the west and the incoming winds and waves, beloved by Pelagic Cormorants. The Golden-crowned Sparrow was in a flock at Alder Island where one was eating fresh blackberries, perched on a cane that bore white flowers. Blackberry season must be year-round in Lincoln City.

Lincoln County roadsides, Lincoln, Oregon, US–includes D River
Jan 14, 2022
16 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  X
Mallard  X
Surf Scoter  X
Western Grebe  X
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  X
Western Gull  X
California Gull  X
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  X
Double-crested Cormorant  X
Great Blue Heron  X
American Kestrel  X
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Common Raven  X
European Starling  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Siletz Bay NWR, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Jan 14, 2022
22 species (+1 other taxa)

Surf Scoter  X
Bufflehead  X
Common Goldeneye  5
Hooded Merganser  3
Red-breasted Merganser  6
Horned Grebe  1
Western Grebe  2
Western Gull  X
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  X
Red-throated Loon  2
Pacific Loon  1
Double-crested Cormorant  6
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret 1
Belted Kingfisher  1
American Kestrel  1
American Crow  X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  X
Golden-crowned Kinglet  4
Marsh Wren  X–seen by one of our group
Golden-crowned Sparrow  12
Song Sparrow  X

Boiler Bay State Wayside, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Jan 14, 2022
13 species

Surf Scoter  X
Western Grebe  X
Black Oystercatcher  3
Black Turnstone  3
Ancient Murrelet  1
Western Gull  X
Glaucous-winged Gull  X
Pacific Loon  1
Pelagic Cormorant  15
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1     acrossd the highway to the east
Bald Eagle  2
American Crow  20
Brewer’s Blackbird  15

Posted by: atowhee | January 13, 2022


Comes a day without rain and wind, comes the time to do all the postponed garden chores, well, a few of them at least. Also, subconsciously, do a survey of the birds about, and their behavior.
First, those nervous, never-still Bushtits. Rather than hope one will perch for three seconds or longer, I now use the projected-path theory. The Bushtits are a socially tight-bound flock. One or two will lead in a certain direction and then pulses of one to four more ‘tits will follow on almost the same path. After watching a few hundred Bushtit flocks your eyes and brain will be able to project where they’re likely to go next, from this ceanothus across a six foot gap to the bare lilac, then over the hedge to the nandina.
So discern the general flow, then find a finely-lighted location about ten seconds beyond their present location. They rarely hesitate for long. Aim the camera about eye level (Bushtits rarely go above 20 feet, hardly ever to the ground). Get your camera focused on the plant’s front limbs and twigs, leafless just adds to your odds of success. Await the arrival and begin shooting without let up. Bursts, baby, bursts.
Here’s my example for a rainless day this week:

Trying to keep feeders clean and siskins healthy is a job in wet weather. Then there are the accipiters. Here are two feathers out of a small clump found in our garden. The dark line between the two is exactly one inch long. It was likely a healthy meal for hawk and not disease for finch that placed these bird-less feathers in a tiny pile:


Click on any image for full screen.

The chest pattern–not a uniform dark gray–means this is a first year bird.

I even know many tolerant, kind-hearted bird lovers who wish him ill. I can only say that he didn’t ask to be born an accipiter, and all we animals kill to live, from potatoes to pronghorn, all are on the menu. Even this accipiter will end up in the gullet of a Great Horned Owl, or hundreds of maggots and beetles.


Click here to see most recent birder’s night for Salem Audubon…in includes four photo-sharing segments, including one I narrated with fine photos from Albert Ryckman, taken mostly at Bodega Bay in October. Stars include both pelicans, Snowy Egrets, Snowy Plovers and accompanying shorebirds, numerous other shorebirds. The Bodega Bay segment begins around 51 minutes in. Wait until you the oystercatcher who foundf underwater snails on the bay bottom with his toes!

Posted by: atowhee | January 12, 2022


Twice today my eye caught a flash of yellow. First, it was right outside our front window around 9AM. At least a quartet of yellow-rumps, myrtle warblers all, flitting around the roses and evergreen shrubs.

Then around 330PM in the northernmost willow marsh at Minto-Brown, maybe 200 yards south of the Riverfront Park footbridge. This time it was an Orange-crowned Warbler. Same thicket had a Lincoln’s Sparrow as well.

Most unexpected sighting this week–yesterday two Cooper’s Hawks briefly perched next to one another in a tree overlooking some of our feeders. One left after a minute of togetherness.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 11, 2022
15 species

Mourning Dove  5
Great Blue Heron  1     fly over
Cooper’s Hawk  2     perched side by side
Steller’s Jay  X
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Bushtit  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
Pine Siskin  X
American Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 12, 2022
11 species

Mourning Dove  X
California Scrub-Jay  5
American Crow  X
Bushtit  20
Bewick’s Wren  1
Pine Siskin  X
American Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4     first of year in this location

Minto-Brown Island Park, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 12, 2022
12 species

Mallard  10
Bufflehead  2
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Great Blue Heron  1
Bald Eagle  1
American Crow  1
European Starling  1
American Robin  6
Song Sparrow  1
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  1

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