Posted by: atowhee | January 27, 2023

ISN’T THIS SUPPOSED TO BE A BIRD BLOG?

Yes, but…I do sometime verge off into the tree, or a frog or snake. I even occasionally deign to recognize some fellow mammal. Sadly, around my house, it is usually a squirrel or nutria. The latter an invasive water-rat, brought here against its will, so furriers could make higher profits.

If a bobcat would finally pose on my front porch, I’d take a scad of pictures and write for hours. Sigh.

I have done reasonably well with North American mammals though I haven’t been to the Arctic so I’m missing all those fur-bearers. Half dozen whale species including blue and melon-headed. Both western sealions, our harbor seal, Europe’s gray seal. Dolphins and orcas. Lots of river and sea otters–great creatures as long as you are bigger than they are. Both Oregon weasels. At least four species of ground squirrel. American tree squirrels, and Europe’s including all the American invasives there. Our elk and moose–first in Estonia, later Yellowstone. Our elk and deer and bison and bighorn and pronghorn and feral horses. In Europe fallow and red deer. Hedgehog. But the real hog, the warthog, I will save for later. Bats in many sizes and nations–the ultimate being the upside down hanging fruit bats of East Africa. Mink, and monkeys, and mice and voles and moles, though never a live shrew. Beaver and muskrat and groundhog and marmot. Skunk, raccoon, possum (awake and asleep), various rabbits and hare, badger and bobcat, capybara and manatee, chipmunks and porcupine, flying squirrel, coyote and red fox and kit fox…many mammals, marvels all.

In East Africa we saw nearly all big ones except giraffe. Lions ambled by our vehicle. Baboons watched and quietly called us names. Leopard sleeping. Elephants en masse–female herd head looking down her long trunk at us in our cage–“You will use this road when I am done.” Hippos in the river, larger than our puny boat. Crocs on shore not pestering a hippo–one bite would likely sever the croc’s long and exposed spine. Zebras stunned me. They’re in every zoo and wild animal park. They’re just sorta harlequin horses, right? Yes, but so much more. In a land with lions and cheetah, they are the most alert, electric-edged creature I have ever seen. They make hummingbirds seem stolid. The ears are constantly in motion, each on its own pivot. The nostrils flare and every faint scent is analyzed and identified. Nothing I have ever seen more encapsulates intensity, enthusiasm and explosive awareness. Any other creature grazing near zebras can relax. There will be a mob eruption if anything untoward happens, appears, is smelled or even imagined. Zero to 60 in no time. Only Merlins have ever matched zebra acceleration in my view.

We saw numerous antelope, all mesmerizing. But the impala! Surely the most lithe and elegant and bouyant animal in the real world. Seen in animation you would say it is preposterous, no wingless creature can fly like that.

But of all the African mammals we met, here is my favorite:

Aplomb, self-assurance, self-confidence, selfhood incarnate. Warthogs were common around the eco-lodge where we stayed near Lake George. They loved the critters living in the neatly clipped lawns and most other large animals stayed away, wanting to avoid the scents and dangers of being near our species. Most other mammals know that people stink, literally. Small monkeys might try to steal a meal, but the warthogs were focused. One might kneel next to the sidewalk, down on his front knees, snuffling in the grass and ground for goodies. As you walked past you might get a grunt or get ignored completely. Grunt and ground-work continued. One night, half-asleep, I imagined I had heard one mumble in low tones–“thanks for putting in all this grass, not move along.”

OK. I have saved the very best for very last. Click below for video of a night-talker in Ashland. The raccoon’s more secretive cousin, the ringtail. This animal does not range as far north as the Willamette Valley. Watch closely, right off the left edge of the birdbath–quick and gone.

Video by Lee French’s trailcam at his home. In eight years in Ashland I saw one ringtail, late at night. It ran across the street in front of my headlights and scurried down a storm drain.
Here is a daytime photo of one treeing in Ashland.

Photo by Kent Patrick-Riley near Ashland Creek, February, 2018. Click here for the detailed ring-tail blog I wrote back then.

Posted by: atowhee | January 27, 2023

BLUE SKY, BLUEBIRDS

Not something you can count on every January day around here. Yet along Wintel Road this morning, at Ankeny, there was a loose flock of bluebirds and yellow-rumps moving across the water-pocked field full of shorn grass hummocks. This is west of the railroad tracks. At home the brightest blue I can find comes on the backs of our two jay species. And a peek at the sky once in awhile.

Any Willamette day with more Bald Eagles than red-tails–notable.

Ankeny NWR, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 27, 2023 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Protocol: Traveling
10.0 mile(s)
33 species

Snow Goose  85
Cackling Goose  300
Canada Goose  56
Northern Shoveler  100
Gadwall  60
American Wigeon  300
Mallard  500
Northern Pintail  1200
Green-winged Teal  1000
Bufflehead  1
Ruddy Duck  50
American Coot  X
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Great Blue Heron  1
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  12
Red-tailed Hawk  4
Northern Flicker  1
American Kestrel  3
Peregrine Falcon  1
California Scrub-Jay  7
American Crow  X
European Starling  1000
Western Bluebird  10
American Robin  500
Dark-eyed Junco  20
White-crowned Sparrow  40
Golden-crowned Sparrow  15
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  4
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  8

Posted by: atowhee | January 26, 2023

TURKEY TEMPERS AND TENOR OF THE TIMES

BEGIN WITH BEAUTY

The turkeys are feeling the longer days, carrying livelier, lascivious hormones. The males’ wattles are wagging beneath those masculine chins. Hens will whirl in small, tight circles around a bush. Three or as many as eight will chase around each with its neck toward a temporary enemy within the swirl. As if each is saying, “You don’t run, I’ll bite.” Then suddenly the motion stops, though it may quickly reverse and whirl back in the opposite direction. Also, there are duels, face-offs. Two turkeys with necks stretched as high as they’ll reach. Each beak pointedly pointed at the opponent. “I am taller and sharper than you.” So far, this is all show and theater, no feathers lost, no blood drawn. There are also occasional outbursts of wing-flapping pursuits. Could this be precursor to a feather-brained slug-fest? Nobody caught, nobody pecked ignobly.

I can’t go outside when the non-myrtle is around, it would vamoose. So, I must shoot through a less than pristine window. Note one shot shows the pale yellow on this bird’s throat. Could it be a hybrid of the two sub-species, or perhaps a molting kiddo?

A little more:

TASSEL TIME Then at Clark Creek Park today, the hazelnut is draped with its pre-leafing tassels, passels of tassels. Along the creek a Song Sparrow was in song, telling all the nearby juncos that he and his mate would be nesting here, thank you very much. The juncos could care less. Most will be heading up to conifers at 5000 feet, the few locals will cruise away from these scruffy little willows, ending up in the nearest stand of Doug-firs.

FENCE TOP FLARE-UP Click on any image for full screen.

Dolphin fans (animals, not football team), click here and enjoy!

Clark Creek Park, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 26, 2023
6 species

Steller’s Jay  2
Common Raven  4
Black-capped Chickadee  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
American Robin  30
Song Sparrow  1     singing

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 26, 2023. 21 species

Wild Turkey  21
Mourning Dove  14
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  5
American Crow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bushtit  20
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  2
Varied Thrush  2
American Robin  1
House Finch  2
Lesser Goldfinch  1
American Goldfinch  20
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1     

Posted by: atowhee | January 26, 2023

CRAFTY CROWS, GARDEN HAWK AND MOTUS ROBIN UPDATE

Our species has evolved from Cro-Magnon to Crow Magnet:
” We suggest that crows and ravens have culture and that cultural evolution is an important reason why they live so successfully with humans… Our closeness to many crow species causes us to continually shape crow culture. Indeed, the speed with which we change the environment and the dangers we pose gives cultural evolution an edge over genetic evolution.”
–IN THE COMPANY OF CROWS AND RAVENS. By John Marzluff and Tony Angell

Last summer a man brought his lunch to our local park on his lunch-hour. He had small fold-up table where he laid his wrapped sandwich, large cylinder of cold drink and bag of chips. The n he went for a brisk pre-prandial walk. As soon as he was fifty feet away, a pair of crows fly down, checked out the menu, air-lifted the chips bag and flew off to tear it open and have their own lunch-hour celebration.

Un-persecuted, not shot, urban crows do well around our species. Quick, smart, adaptable, spreading information among their own species, crows thrive. In some parts of Portland, Oregon, they seem to out-number people. Portland has turned to other birds to help disperse some of the crows gathered in the downtown area–click here.
—————————————–

In Bill Madison’s San Francisco back garden:

ANKENY’S MOTUS ROBIN

So we now know this bird–tagged near Vancouver, BC, last fall, was around Ankeny Nature Center (within ten miles or so) for eight straight days earlier this month. Last picked up on Jan. 18th our time. This chart is in international time so it is seven hours ahead of Pacific Daylight where we are now. 3:00 on 19th is thus 8 PM Pacific DT, Jan. 18th.

Posted by: atowhee | January 25, 2023

ROUND RIVERFRONT PARK

A shot visit this afternoon to Riverfront.
Two adult Bald Eagles near the established nest across the channel west of the riverboat.
Snipe hiding near mouth of Pringle Creek. Nearby I heard, but could not spot, California Quail.
Flock of Red-winged Blackbirds, all female.
West of footbridge in marshy pool: shovelers and teal.

In our garden today the turkeys (21 in the flock still) were back for the first time since the 20th. The young ones are staring to do a lot of wing-flapping chases. Pre-spring ebullience?
The weather was grim and gray, all day. But the bouncy beauties busy in our garden lightened the mood. About 330PM as the oncoming glum evening began to be felt, the Bushtits arrived energetic and effervescent as always, then our Myrtle Warbler and a single Townsend’s showed up simultaneously. Coincidence, or warbler togetherness? In the Bay Area wintering warbler flocks were usually tens or dozens of yellow-rumps (nearly all Audubon’s) laced with a lone, or few, Townsend’s. Often there would be chickadees, a downy, some Pygmy Nuthatches and maybe a Hutton’s Vireo or creeper tagging along. The resident Black Phoebes found these flocks anathema.

Around 4PM a quartet of Golden-crowned Sparrows–including one glowing bright male–showed up with the wintering White-throated Sparrow. Hungry enough even the few loitering turkeys didn’t scare them off. L:ay on the calories, iut’s gonna be another cold night, friends.

GARDEN BIRDING
Includes my best Townsend’s warbler shot in many moons. Click on any image for full screen view. Near the bottom, those birds up a tree are Mourning Doves waiting for the turkeys to leave.

RIVERFRONT
Male mergansers–common, hoodie. The small lump behind the limb at water-s edge is the hiding snipe. Lords of the lawn. One eagle-eyed watcher.

This is duck season in the Willamette–click here to read my short piece on Salem Reporter website.

Cattle Egrets are not native to North America. Native in Africa, they reached Latin America, then spread north to the U.S., nesting here for the first time in 1953. They have recently spread into Britain where cattle farmers are happy to see them.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 25, 2023
23 species

Wild Turkey  21
Mourning Dove  18
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  5
American Crow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  1
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  2
Varied Thrush  1
House Finch  2
Lesser Goldfinch  1
American Goldfinch  30
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  4
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Townsend’s Warbler  1

Clark Creek Park, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 25, 2023
7 species

Steller’s Jay  1
American Crow  6
Black-capped Chickadee  X
Bewick’s Wren  1
Varied Thrush  1
American Robin  40
Dark-eyed Junco  8

Salem Riverfront Park, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 25, 2023
18 species

Canada Goose  140
Northern Shoveler  4
Mallard  35
Green-winged Teal  16
Hooded Merganser  2
Common Merganser  5
California Quail  X
Pied-billed Grebe  3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  30
Killdeer  1
Wilson’s Snipe  1
Glaucous-winged Gull  35     they are common here in winter
Double-crested Cormorant  3
Great Blue Heron  1
Bald Eagle  2     adults near nest opposite the paddle-wheel boat
American Crow  X
American Robin  1
Red-winged Blackbird  30

Posted by: atowhee | January 24, 2023

HAPPY BIRTHDAY–YOU BETCHA

Today  Nature gave me the best possible birthday present.  Perfect weather on Sauvie Island.  With my wife and our daughter we drove some of the roads.  Cormorants lounging along the waterways.  Geese in dense flocks across the sky.  Bald Eagles observing the lives and lands fifty feet or more below their perch.  Fields with standing water.  Fields with standing cranes.  And there it was, the finest birthday gift a birder could want—hundreds, even a couple thousand cranes.  A few even stood by as large mammals got out of the car and stared.

Here’s a typical family trio, except they didn’t move too far from the road:

Left to right: dad, mom, junior. Note Dad still has a lot of the self-applied rusty stain. Mom has a teeny amount. Junior will apply that make-up for the first time this summer after hopefully surviving the northward migration later this year. Also, junior’s reddish skullcap is not yet as dark as the parents’.

There was one crane that stood out–paler than the rest. In the top image, far right bird io middle row. In second image the middle bird among seven in the middle row. In third image it is third from left in middle row.

Others: female Common Merganser, young eagle standing alone in an otherwise empty field.

Mammals: two doe in a front yard, family of four nturia feeding with the two young about Size 7 female person’s shoe. Dad nutria about ten times larger.

Sauvie Island–Multnomah, Multnomah, Oregon, US
Jan 24, 2023
28 species

Cackling Goose  4000
Canada Goose  X
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  X
Mourning Dove  1
American Coot  X
Short-billed Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  15
Glaucous-winged Gull  2
Double-crested Cormorant  20
Great Egret  2
Sandhill Crane 2500?
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  5
Red-tailed Hawk  4
Northern Flicker  3
American Kestrel  6
Peregrine Falcon  1
California Scrub-Jay  7
Common Raven  15
European Starling  X
American Robin  X
Dark-eyed Junco  30
White-crowned Sparrow  50
Golden-crowned Sparrow  40
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Sauvie’s Island Lower–Columbia Cty, Columbia, Oregon, US
Jan 24, 2023 1
21 species

Cackling Goose  X
Gadwall  X
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Common Merganser  6
American Coot  X
Sandhill Crane  X
Ring-billed Gull  X
Double-crested Cormorant  30
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1
American Kestrel  3
California Scrub-Jay  X
Common Raven  1
European Starling  X
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | January 23, 2023

FAIRVIEW UNDER THE SUN

From out of the sky:

MORE AT FAIREVIEW: Shovelers, pintails, towhee take-off, kinglet in conifer

Robins on the lawn, Clark Creek Park:

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 23, 2023
Checklist Comments:     third straight turkeyless day
18 species

Mourning Dove  21
Northern Flicker  2
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  4
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  1
Bushtit  20
|Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  5
Varied Thrush  1
House Finch  2
Lesser Goldfinch  1
American Goldfinch  30
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1

Clark Creek Park, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 23, 2023. 5 species

Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
American Crow  X
American Robin  50
Dark-eyed Junco  10
Spotted Towhee  1

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 23, 2023. 16 species

Cackling Goose  200
Northern Shoveler  20
Gadwall  2
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  35
Green-winged Teal  50
Ring-necked Duck  6
Bufflehead  4
Ruddy Duck  1
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
American Robin  5
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1

Posted by: atowhee | January 22, 2023

A RAINLESS SUNDAY & A SUNLESS SUNDAY

The warblers were after suet today. So were the Bushtits and the flicker (as always). I have seen each of them go for sunflower chips but likely on warmer days. Fat=heat. Varied Thrush. Myrtle Warbler after suet chunks fallen from, feeder.

I have been enjoying a book on collective nouns for birds. So I can report that in a quarry lake off McGilchrist there was a small swim of cormorants. In the large lake at Gateway Park a commotion of coots. On wires next to the airport was a large dole of doves (Rock Pigeon, to you). In every water I visited there was a paddling of ducks. However, the lake south of Kelly’s had few. On the Christmas Count over a month ago there were hundreds of birds…not today. Gateway did have a sord of Mallards.

A real Mallard:

Maybe collect feathers for some DNA testing?

Cormorant gets into the swim:

Scaup before tiny fraction of a real commotion:

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 22, 2023 7:30 AM
Protocol: Incidental
20 species

Mourning Dove  16
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  4
American Crow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  1
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  1
Varied Thrush  2
American Robin  1
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  30
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Townsend’s Warbler  1

SALEM CBC AREA #1, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 22, 2023
19 species (+2 other taxa)

Domestic goose sp. (Domestic type)  4
Cackling Goose  300
Canada Goose  25
Northern Shoveler  3
Gadwall  2
Mallard  40
Mallard (Domestic type)  12
Lesser Scaup  1
Bufflehead  14
Hooded Merganser  4
Ruddy Duck  1
Pied-billed Grebe  10
Mourning Dove  1
American Coot  50
Glaucous-winged Gull  2
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Belted Kingfisher  2
Brewer’s Blackbird  1

Posted by: atowhee | January 21, 2023

THEY LIKE IT

I out up a multiple suet-block feeder that is new to our garden. First users? The Bushtits who arrived about 410PM. Even the squirrels wouldn’t go near the strange thing in an unexpected place.

WOODPECKERS–Flicker in our garden; sapsucker at Clark Creek Park:

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 21, 2023
18 species

Mourning Dove  28     record high count for this location
Ring-billed Gull  30     fly over
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  5
American Crow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bushtit  20
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  2
Varied Thrush  1
House Finch  1
Lesser Goldfinch  1
American Goldfinch  30
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Song Sparrow  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Clark Creek Park, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 21, 2023
8 species

Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  2
Black-capped Chickadee  1
American Robin  20
Dark-eyed Junco  6

Eighteen squirrels in our garden today, like the doves it’s an all-time high.

Antarctic glacier, a roaming elephant seal and data-driven robots–climate research, click here.

Posted by: atowhee | January 20, 2023

BOLD AND BRIGHT

In our garden this morning, well-sueted, a first Townsend’s Warbler for 2023. It seems to be a female but that facial stripe may be tinting toward black, perhaps a juvie male? Whatever, it is my most glamorous bird of the year, so far. Maybe that’s because pintails are so easy to find by the hundreds at Ankeny. Most of most colorful songbirds come later–Evening and Black-headed Grosbeaks, tanager, Wilson’s Warbler, lazuli. Here is this glowing creature during the shortest, darkest days of the year. Thanks, towny!

Ankeny’s Motus robin must’ve flown . No sensing of the bird in almost 72 hours.

One of my dozens of local goldfinches:

Speaking of goldfinches! Peter Thiemann shares this image from Medford:

It’s a Lawrence’s Goldfinch. It does breed about 150 miles south in Northern California, liking dry scrubland. Maybe he’s come up to check out the Jackson County drought?

Here is Peter’s report: “ABA code 2 and endemic to California the LG can be seen around feeders during winter in SW Oregon. This years sighting is in an ideal backyard in Medford near the Manor where many people maintain bird feeders. Very large oak trees and much shrubbery with open space are great winter habitat. We counted some 30 bird species while waiting for the LG to show. Large flocks of Lesser Goldfinches come to the many feeders some of which have thistle seeds exclusively. Visiting birders at the stakeout bring seeds. The Lawrence’s Goldfinch appears to be quite independent and is not always associated with the other Goldfinch species. So, the many comings and goings of Goldfinches at the feeders is not an indication the LG will show up. I and others have waited hours for one short show a day. But that is the price to pay: Patience and cold.”

PORCH POULTRY
The turks have decided they are the owners. I’d better never leave the front door open…

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 20, 2023
17 species

Wild Turkey  21
Mourning Dove  16
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  4
American Crow  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 2
House Finch  1
Lesser Goldfinch  1
American Goldfinch  30
Dark-eyed Junco  20
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1     myrtle
Townsend’s Warbler  1     first of year

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