Posted by: atowhee | March 30, 2021


My new owling friend, Brenna, lives in rural southeast Clackamas County, Sometime ago her brother used his cell phone to get these pictures of a Great Gray Owl hunting on her land there.

Here is Brenna’s email about the images: “Here are the pictures of the GGO that was seen on our property. They are not the greatest quality because they were taken on a cell phone. There is a small meadow about 100 feet away from here that he/she was probably hunting in. The red building behind him… is a barn that is usually filled with hay (and mice I am assuming). Do you think this is a young bird? According to the date on the pictures, it looks like the sighting was further back than I remember (November of 2018). Nonetheless, it was amazing to have one on our property and I am hopeful another will show up soon.”

This late in the season it is not easy to tell young from adult. Each juvenile would be largely on its own and fully feathered to the meet the coming winter. This recorded sighting does likely mean that GGOs are nesting somewhere within twenty miles of this property, even within Clackamas County and thus within Portland Metro area. Not many real cities can make that claim!

EBird contains at least five previous GGO sightings listed for Clackamas County–the database doe snot allow specific sites for this species to protect potential nest sites. All sightings in eBird have been in January, February, May and late October. That timing does not necessarily indicate nesting rather than simply hunting in Clackamas. By May mated pairs of GGO are generally on nesting territory but a single immature bird would be hunting solo.

Posted by: atowhee | March 29, 2021


I know I am not the only birder who admires the many members of the corvid family. One fellow corvidophile is Dick Ashford, of Ashland, raptor expert and bird man extraordinaire. Here is email he sent after I posted my own corvid summary.

“Your corvid post reminded me of one of my favorite Corvid encounters in Switzerland a few years ago  – an Alpine Chough luncheon guest at the Wildstrubel Restaurant, at the top of the Gemmi Wall in the Berner Oberland. That’s the town of Leukerbad down below.”

Then Dick added more details: “…this one came with a view . I think we were at approx 3000 meters, so it was truly living up to its alpine name. Added tidbit: while we were eating lunch, two (lifer) Lammergeiers soared low over the dining terrace, AND, we actually watched one dropping bones on the rocks…”

Both birds Dick mentions, I have never seen. Though we spent four years in Europe, we never did get into the higher mountains–neither the Alps or the Pyrenes.

Posted by: atowhee | March 29, 2021


Today brought three small parcels of migratory evidence into our garden. One White-crowned Sparrow and two Audubon’s Warblers. This was our first white-crown since last September. It was our first Audubon’s of the year though we do randomly get a wintering myrtle. The Audubon’s are the warblers that will nest in the nearby mountains. Myrtle’s are wintering only hereabouts. The white-crown could be headed back to the Arctic.

Even more exciting, I saw a pair of Red-breasted Sapsuckers flying together through our garden this morning. I am hoping they nest nearby. Lots of large deciduous trees in our neighborhood.

There was a half dozen Bushtits in the bushes today–remnants of a folk being depopulated as pairs break off and go-a-nesting. By late summer there’ll be those flocks of two dozen or more. Male flicker taking his pound of suet.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Mar 29, 2021
14 species

Red-breasted Sapsucker  2
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bushtit  6
Bewick’s Wren  2
European Starling  X
Pine Siskin  50
Dark-eyed Junco  20
White-crowned Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2     first time I’ve seen a pair in our garden, have not heard any singing
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2

Posted by: atowhee | March 28, 2021


The corvids are good animal trainers. Given time they can get people to do their bidding. “Feed me peanuts, you careless caretaker!” That’s how they’ve trained me. Every home we’ve had occupied or visited had with it a different mix of corvids. In San Francisco we were near the Cliff House and Pacific Ocean. That meant ravens ruled. They nested annually in the park two blocks from our front door. On stormy days the young ravens would go into the wind and perform for one another. All lesser avians were hunkered down, protecting wing and plumage, Not so the ravens. The only times I saw them defeated was when they went after a small raptor. One pair tried to bully a Merlin into giving up his House Finch lunch. The Merlin drove off each with a frontal attack–talons toward the chest, despite being about one-third the size of his tormentors. Another raven pair attacked a migrating Cooper’s Hawk, driving him from the sky into a Monterey cypress. The two ravens sat on top of the tree croaking victoriously. The cypress is very dense and the Coop used that cover to sneak around and then he attacked one of the unaware ravens from behind–feathers knocked off. The two ravens beat a hasty retreat. I suspect the Coop enjoyed his last laugh. That same park was home to scrub-jays.

In Ashland we would get up to 14 Steller’s Jays at our feeders and usually a pair of bullying scrub-jays. Rarely a crow or raven would pass overhead, never landing. The Stellers elected one of their young males to come up onto our garden porch and dance a jig until I got up and gave them peanuts! There the Wild Turkeys would go onto the roof of the garage and look in the kitchen window, gobbling loudly until I fed them. They only came around the houses when the young could fly to escape the local dogs.

In McMinnville we heard crows, rarely saw ravens near our house and got only scrub-jays at our feeders. They fled the minute were outside.

Now in Salem there are usually five scrub-jays, two Steller’s and at least three crows at our feeders daily. The crows sit on the power line to the house and demand peanuts onto our driveway though most of them get taken by the bolder, quicker jays. When I go out to obey their command, they sit watching, no flying away, just impatience until I go back inside.

One of our garden crows, carefully selecting only the finest sunflower seeds.

When we lived in London we often saw magpies and Carrion Crows. The very shy Eurasian Jay was in larger, forested parks like Dulwich, Kew Gardens and Hampstead Heath, and usually hard to photograph. To get Jackdaws or Rooks you had to get into the countryside and smaller cities. Chough were in very limited range down in Cornwall or parts of Ireland. and the only ravens near London were captives in the The Tower. In Paris you could easily find magpies and crows in the parks. In rural Tuscany we saw the hooded version of the Carrion Crow, and jays. In Rome we saw the magpie and crow, of course, and around the many stone ruins we found Jackdaw colonies. Jackdaws nest in the stones at Stonehenge and on most of the large cathedrals and castles across England. On Lesvos we saw four corvid species–raven, crow, jackdaw and Eurasian Jay.

Posted by: atowhee | March 28, 2021


So here is more on those big winged survivors (with a lot of help from their friends). Click here to see Ventana Wilderness Society’s nest cam in Big Sur area. Redwood Queen (Condor #190) is on an egg right now.

Ventana Wilderness does much of the field monitoring of these birds free along the Central California Coast.


Golden Eagle nest near Sisters, OR.

Bald Eagle nest on Catalina Island.

Osprey nest in Montana.

Cornell Lab has this fruit feeder in Panama.

Peregrine nest in Minnesota.

Light is not too good but I suspect this is a female Allen’s Hummer on her nest, Orange County.

Great Gray Owl nest in Montana, too early in the season for it to be in use.

Posted by: atowhee | March 27, 2021


As birding almost anywhere in Oregon will confirm, the Bald Eagle is thriving in the western U.S. Thank you, Rachel Carson. Next year is the 60th anniversary of her Silent Spring which first nudged many Americans into facing the dangers of man-made toxins in the environment.

And now bee-lovers are trying to keep the buzz in spring–endangered status for the bumblebee?

Can feral pigs be the four-footed version of domestic, natural terrorists?

OH NO! Bad news for all creatures west of the Sierra and Cascades–the kelp forests along the coast are dying!

There are scientists who say the desert CAN bloom, and provide food. Is this a good thing? Does it simply encourage further over-population?

E. O. Wilson in his book Half-Earth calls for setting aside half the planet to help preserve other life forms and the biodiversity that makes out own lives possible. He then speculates that robotics and artificial intelligence could lead to a much ore efficient planet, even if controlled by our species..

But technology alone will not save us if our ethical choices do not improve. We know how often corporations or nations and their shills will lie to cover up dangerous behavior–pollution, radiation, habitat destruction. Here’s one man’s take on how capitalism’s focus on profit leads toward destruction of the biosphere and us with it.

I CUDDA TOLD ‘EM THAT… here’s a decade-old, pre-pandemic study that found bird diversity made PEOPLE happier, not to mention what it did for Sparrowhawks and Merlin.

Posted by: atowhee | March 27, 2021


Here is email from a friend, Roger Rigterink, who’s spent most of his life in the upper Midwest–where we went to college together. Now he’s a fellow birder and it’s pulling him afield…as it does most of us. He and his wife were recently in Florida.
“Attached is the photo that I am most excited about. It is near impossible to spot a Barred Owl in a swampy forest. This owl was about 150 to 200 feet into a cypress forest. Someone had pointed the owl out to us the day before but I did not have my camera with me. It had moved about 30 feet the next day. Amidst the trees that did not make it all that easy to spot even though we had a general idea of its location.”


Posted by: atowhee | March 26, 2021


A friend just sent this image of Evening Grosbeaks at her feeder in rural Washougal, WA. Makes for grosbeak alert between Portland and Hood River, yes?

Posted by: atowhee | March 26, 2021


Some things are looking up. We birders shall be looking up as well.

The Yurok Tribe has succeeded in its campaign to get California Condors back into Northern California. The first releases will hopefully take place later this year. If all goes well it is only a matter of time until some living birders get this largest wingspan American onto an Oregon life-list. It is over 200 years since the Lewis & Clark Expedition shot at a California Condor along the Columbia River.

I would bet that Frank Lospalluto or Vince Zauskey or Jim Harper or some other highly acutely observant Ashland birder will get the first Oregon sighting in modern times. The last recorded sighting in this state was in 1904. I would venture the Siskiyou Pass on a sunny spring day, 2022, would be a good spot to begin watching. There are no confirmed records of the specIes breeding this far north, but an immature condor with no nest to tend…a few hundreds miles of northward soaring would need only a few sunny days in July. 150 miles of flight in a day is just condor cool.

Nearly a decade ago I got to meet some of the Yurok officials and biologists who were pushing this effort. They had already begun a campaign to rid their land of lead shot as lead-laced corpses are often fatal to even these great birds. The Yuroks are not wanting condors to lure tourists or publicize casinos. They want the condor back overhead because their traditional culture is rife with condor-related images, folklore and songs. It is a sacred animal. The Yuroks will welcome any donation to their Condor Program.

There are now over 440 living Cal. Condors, over half of them in the wild. We’ve come a long way since there were less than two dozen left. At that time I assumed I’d never see one alive. Now I have hope to add one to my Oregon list.

The condor is a curious, social animal, interested in much of the world around it.

This is exactly what it appears to be. A condor messing with a towel on the edge of a resort hot tub in Big Sur. The bird had sorted through the stack and then pulled the chosen towel from near the bottom of the tilting towel tower.

To see the full sequence that led up to this and a description by my awed friend who hurried his camera to the bot tub to catch this action, click here.

I once saw a pair of condors soaring up US 1 near Big Sur. A local condor expert red their plastic wing tags…of that is a grandfather and his favorite grandson, they often hunt together. A Turkey Vulture soared nearby looking more like a Purple Martin that a major raptor. Ready for the awe?

Posted by: atowhee | March 24, 2021


I saw my first flock of Violet-green Swallows today, after noting a singleton some weeks back. They were feeding over the lake near the Toyota dealership that was caring for my Prius. I felt sorry for the warbler, coping with rain sprizzles and a frigid north wind.

Lake Capitol, Marion, Oregon, US
Mar 24, 2021
12 species

Northern Shoveler  1
Mallard  12
Bufflehead  3
Common Merganser  2
Ruddy Duck  8
Pied-billed Grebe  1
American Coot  5
Northern Flicker  2
American Crow  X
Violet-green Swallow  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

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