Posted by: atowhee | January 15, 2020


There was light snow here in McMinnville this morning.  The dog and I went for a late walk hoping for better times, and around 1030AM when we were out there just a few spits of tiny flakes.  But it was still only 32 degrees.  I was surprised to see an Anna’s Hummingbird sitting up in a bush at a neighbor’s home.  Fifteen feet away was his nectar feeder, apparently some liquid inside and presumably not frozen.  No torpor for this guy–alert to protect his food source.

I was heavily clothed.  The dog wore two layers.  We were cold and we each have a body temp well below that of a living hummingbird.  My temp was the ordinary 98.6 of our species.  A dog is usually from 100 to 102 degrees.  Mr. Hummer is running at around 107 or more!  So he was 75 degrees hotter than the air he was inhaling.  Imagine the energy he needs just to maintain that body temp.
Moral: if you’re gonna feed hummers in winter.  Do it, don’t be lackadaisical.

Posted by: atowhee | January 14, 2020


Snow just seemed to make every bird a little hungrier today.  The Lesser Goldfinches took about a week to realize I had hung a nyger feeder.

Posted by: atowhee | January 13, 2020


Today I was dealt a full thrush.  In fact, the birds were almost four aces, a straight thrush at least.  The fog and I were out in the rain–she can be insistent.  And such a scowl if I demur–a wrinkle on her graying forehead and I melt.  She’s a large dog and already eleven year old.  How can I ever say, “no” now?
As usual Nora’s birding instincts are better than mine.  After mudding around in one of the dog pens at Grenfell Park along Baker Creek Road, we walked to the back of the park way from the highway.  There birds were on the ground feasting on whatever soggy turf provides–earthworms?  Flickers, robins and a scad of Varied Thrush.  Thus my thrush flush.vath-three (2)_LIThere are three in this shot, each with a colored dot over its head–two males on the right, female to left.

We walked past one of the large cedars.  The tree’s needles are so closely packed that nearly all the rain falling was skirted out to the drip line.  Near the massive trunk the ground was damp but there was no perceptible precip falling. There was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet feeding among the cedar needles.  A creeper was hiking up the tree trunk.  The creeper went up into the dense limbs and vanished from sight.  The kinglet held ground.   He beheld man and dog, sized us up as slow dim-witted.  “Be gone you interlopers.  This is my bed of cedar duff.”

So I took some pics and we were gone as instructed.  After several minutes thrushing around at the far end of the park near the toilet buildings. we walked back past the cedar and Mr. Kinglet was still holding ground.  He refused to even look at us a second time. You will see that his colored crest is barely visible indicating a low level of agitation. Upper right picture will enlarge if you click on it. So you can see the KING’s crown on kinglet.

Baker Creek is running high and swirling around the alder tree trunks that line what is the usual edge of the stream.

Baker Creek Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 13, 2020.  9 species

Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  3
American Kestrel  1
American Crow  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Brown Creeper  1
European Starling  X
Varied Thrush  20
American Robin  2

Posted by: atowhee | January 13, 2020


There is no end to what we could learn, if we had time and attention enough.  In Indonesia field biologists have just found a host of birds new to science.  Pictures to prove it.

Posted by: atowhee | January 11, 2020


McMinnville:  I rarely step outside our house now without my camera in a pocket. Binocs are often clumsy or in danger, like when I’m chopping firewood or playing ball with Nora.  So this morning I step outside in the rain.  A rounded shape is about a block away.  Not quite right for collared-dive.  Tonight I look at the image.  My first merlin of the year.  He was at 18th and Michebook and will not be anywhere near tomorrow, most likely.merl - Copymerl

Posted by: atowhee | January 11, 2020


What is this s###  Ask those vultures up on the feds’ communications tower.

Posted by: atowhee | January 9, 2020


The dog and I did lots of chores this morning, then she (Nora) decided to go birding.  I then decided to tag along.  She let as long as I brought plenty of dog cookies. Of course.  We first went out to try to find some of Paul Sullivan’s friendly Wrentits.  Struck out.

I just felt like it might be a good day.  In the dense fog at Joe Dancer this morning we found the Lincoln’s Sparrow in the wetlands there. This is the best my camera could do:linc2 (2)And we had our FOY American Goldfinches at our feeders–three of them, And we added a fifth member to our CB Chickadee flock.  Turns out Nora was prescient, maybe she just smelled good birding.  ON PHeasant Hill Road a score of Common Mergansers were snoozing along the edge of the quarry pond.  When  they saw us they steamed to the far side, wheezing loudly as they went,  It was the most noise I have ever heard from that species.  Along Muddy Valley Road we had a Bald Eagle plenty of ducks, Acorn Woodpeckers.  There were red-tails and kestrels galore on every road we drove.  Heading north on Delashmutt Lane we first found a pair of harriers, one a  male being attacked (no feathers plucked) by the larger female.  A pair of mated red-tails sitting side-to-side on a utility pole crossbar.  And at the north end of the road, almost to Hwy 99, a 120 acres of gulls. Oyez, oyez.
I love these birds for more reasons than I have space to list.  Like most of Wall Street they are human in their greed.  They are quick, clever, relentless.  Given thumbs they could earn an MBA, launch a tech start- up, use backruptcy to become a president.  When I see gulls I see life in its toughest, its most taking, yet deeply wise.  They are too tolerant to stick to our prescribed, artificial species rules.  Gull sex is gull sex, come what or who may. To believe in species around these birds you have to be “gullible.”  That the other reason to love ’em, their name is imminently punacious.  It is gull-darn word-twisting.  Gullumphing.  Photo gulleries.  Art gulleries.  Gullden Globe Awards.  Good gully, Miss Molly.  If I blog about them do they become e-gulls?  They hang out in mixed flocks (by our species definition) making them egullitarian, right?
Most of the birds in the field were Glaucous-winged Gulls, either deliberately or accidentally.  They are our largest common gull anywhere in Oregon. They breed coastally but many wander short distances inland in winter. They are generally pale and “pure” GWs have no black feathers, ever.  They are four-year gulls, taking that long to work up to mature, adult plumage…going through molt after molt.

These are adults,  white chests, some smear of gray on the head…in winter.  Elongated head to allow for the muscles to work that big and strong beak.  Compare to image of a tiny, two-year Bonaparte’s with its woodpecker-like beak in your field guide. Then there come the complications:d-g (2)Just look at the front four, all juveniles…no white plumage yet.  All probably born along the Oregon Coast last spring. Newcomers to Yamhill.  Bird on far left has black in his wings.  He must be at least part Western, or maybe California I(much less likely as they tend to breed inland). Looks like it could be second year bird.  Front-most bird is pale and likely a “pure” Glaucous-winged.  I use the word “pure” not to denote anything positive or racist but simply to describe likely genetic content. The two right-hand gulls almost certainly are part Western and are first year, no black yet  but the furthest right is very dark, maybe all or mostly Western.

The front bird appears to be first-year Western, dark, elongated head.  In the back is a mature gull, pure white head but look closely. That head seems to be roundish.  I take this to be a third year or older California Gull which is often–in appearance–a trimmed down Western Gull with smaller beak and rounder head.  Breeds often inland here in the west.  Ok, ready to try to sort?d-g4 (2)
Left to right, front birds (those in background mostly GW though I think the middle one is California): Two first or second year Glaucous-winged. Third from left and the next two darks ones: likely first year California, note roundish head and how much smaller the middle one is compared to the nearby “big” gull.  Big gill, sideways to camera in center…should be a Glaucous-winged but for those dark wing feathers.  Seems to mature bird but at least one-quarter Western.  What birders up Port Townsend way call the “Olympic Gull.”  In the air and tail toward us: likely young GW.  Far right, dark plumage and black wing tips–an immature gull, likely two years or three old and at least part Western.  Elongated head means not California.  Keep in mind all this is based purely on visual evidence, no genetic testing being done to support or diss my guessimations.
d-g6 (2)Above, all GWs?  Wait, second from right bird turning away, black tail feathers thus some Western genes in the family lineage.  Below: three perfectly honest first-year GWs:d-g8 (2)Here we have two open-winged young GWs among some adults.  Note how some of their wing feathers are actually paler, not darker as in many gull species. Don’t ask about that dark character walking left to right in the background.  Even his mother may not know for sure.d-g9 (2)There was also at least one small, pale Ring-billed Gull…with black wing tips but it was far away and wouldn’t hold still.  Thank the birdign gods there a few birds out in the field that were exactly what they appeared to be:d-g7 (2)This gullerel (similar to doggerel) was sent to me by a reader:

The Sea Gull

Hark to the whimper of the sea-gull;

He weeps because he’s not an ea-gull.

Suppose you were, you silly sea-gull.

Could you explain it to your she-gull?

-Ogden Nash

Posted by: atowhee | January 8, 2020


Our wintering Audubon’s Warbler does not like the Chestnut-backed Chickadees.  He does not want to see them feeding.  They out-number three-to-one so he’s kept busy when they arrive at one time, as they often do.  Bad news, Auddy, my friend.  Today I counted FOUR after days of three chickadees at once.

That additional chickadee got me to thinking…not about how to help territorial Auddie…but about flocks.  What the flock?  I thought.  How and where did this new chickadee get into the flock.  Was there a vote?  A shrug and here’s the new guy?  We ambulatory mammals know very little about the sociology of flocks.  Who get in, who’s not in or can any bird join a flock simply by flying along?  Bushtit flocks surely cling to a confined territory…I guess.  What about more mobile flocks–say migrating thrushes or shorebirds?  Many flocks are seasonal.  Some, like gulls, seem to be continuous.

Here are some links to reports on flock flight.  How it works, why it’s helpful to flock members:

Flock flight resembles liquid helium.  Click here for second look at the same research.Click here for second look at the same research.

Shorebird flocking.

Jackdaws, a Eurasian corvid, finds pair bond more important than flock bond.

Flocks as survival behavior.

More feeder birds:

Note that white tailed junco, in midst of molt.
Roadkill in the rain:IMG_1924 (3)

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 8, 2020
13 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  2
California Scrub-Jay  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  4
Bushtit  25
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  10
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jan 7, 2020
12 species

Cackling Goose  40
Eurasian Collared-Dove  7
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  3
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
American Robin  1
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Posted by: atowhee | January 7, 2020


For the first time this decade I heard chorus frogs calling.  That was this morning.  They were unseen and well heard from within the wetlands at Joe Dancer Park.
Another FOY:  my first mushring of the year.  It has popped up from the cedar duff  beneatha row of fifty-foot cedars on the edge of the nearby golf course.  I see them there every winter.IMG_1591 (2)Not far away, up from the same cedar litter, came these two bright fellows:pink (2)There are many varieties of fungi fruiting now.  Under the firs at Wortman Park we saw creamy white mushrooms with flat, matte-finish tops.  Nearby were pure white dome-shaped ones as well.  And on a lawn near our house I saw dozens of brown, flat mushrooms.  They were pale on the outer edge and darkened toward the center where they resembled the sheen and color of a well-oiled old leather saddle.  The largest of the mushrooms I’ve been finding, these were only three inches across at most.

Posted by: atowhee | January 5, 2020


ch cuch cu2Those white feathers are standard issue for the under tail.  They can be fluffed downward to keep feet and legs warm in winter.  And they often puff out at the base of the tail in flight.  If you ever get to look down on a goshawk  in flight, the accipiter’s white puffs will look even more pronounced.  In this bird the feathers have gotten ruffled.  Thus bird, likely a female adult, was not in our garden too long, but posed nicely though all images taken through a window.  It’s the second straight day we’ve seen a Cooper’s Hawk in our tuftI did finally see two collared-doves in the afternoon…on the other side of the house, out of view of the feeders.

FOY–Anna’s Hummingbird, feeding at the mahonia in bloom.  We bought that bush specifically to feed our winter hummers.mahonia
Audubon’s Warbler logs on:IMG_1460 (2)slog4 (2)

Other garden birds: IMG_1286 (2)Left: Golden-crowned Sparrow, upper right-towhee, lower right male House Finch. Then juncos join:


There were 300 Ring-necked Ducks in the large pond on Pheasant Hill Road.  And I spent some time trying to lure a Varied Thrush into view…through the thickets of the abandoned apple orchard at Grenfell Park.

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US

Jan 5, 2020
16 species

Canada Goose  X
Eurasian Collared-Dove  2
Anna’s Hummingbird  1–FOY
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  3
Bushtit  25
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  10
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  3
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

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