Posted by: atowhee | January 11, 2021

SNIPES A-PLENTY

It was just dog walk while we also ran an errand in northeast Salem this morning. Small creek and corridor of open space on the west side of the McKay High School campus. Sakes alive, snipes alive–sat least twenty. Single or in loose groups they would rise from the grassy hide-outs along the creek, do their typical zig-zag erratic flight at top speed and then land far behind or in front us in the same creek gully. A couple times there would be the alarm call, a screechy “wreeek!” as they lifted off. Some of the birds the dog and I must’ve roused at least five or six times. I never once managed to see one before it took flight. That’s camouflage. And they were often less than thirty feet away when they reacted to the two nearby predators. So I some marginal shots of something moving through the air. Each time there was a fly-out, I tried to track their tricky and unpredictable aerial maneuvers. Each speck is a snipe, I promise.

Yet among the many dozens of frames, were two that revealed a bit more. One showed the impressive proboscis that helps define snipe-ness. The second shows the bird in a sharp turn, its wings perpendicular to the earth–the physics of that would make an entrancing formula for sure.

The biggest surprise was a fleeting look at Virginia Rail, a low flight from it first dense grass hide-out to one across the creek from the dog and me. Of course, he didn’t reappear as the snipe did repeatedly by flying around and then returning to the creek.

Here are two shots of a tiny fraction of the passing gaggle of Cacklers:

South from the school is an access street that goes south to Sunnyview. ON one side is the creek and its narrow corridor of grass and trees, on the other are back gardens of private homes. The second one south of the school, west of this access street is sparrow-world. There us a dense edge of blackberries intertwined with arbor vita, and feeders. There were at least a half dozen well-stocked feeders, mostly suet. While there I saw nuthatch, chickadee, starling, scrub-jay and three sparrow species. It hosted the largest flock of House Sparrows I have ever seen in Oregon. And I was spying across the fence for less than ten minutes.

Here is shot of the creek corridor on campus and then a look at a scarce digital-fir, which may actually be, not tree, but cell tower:

Wolverine riparian corridor, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 11, 2021
Checklist Comments:     short riparian corridor on the west side of the McKay High School Campus between Wolverine and Sunnyview Streets
20 species

Cackling Goose  500     in the air above the high school
Green-winged Teal  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
Mourning Dove  4
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Wilson’s Snipe  20
Glaucous-winged Gull  2     fly overs
Northern Flicker  3
California Scrub-Jay  4
American Crow  5
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  3
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  X
House Sparrow  50
White-crowned Sparrow  4
Golden-crowned Sparrow  8
Song Sparrow  3

Posted by: atowhee | January 10, 2021

WITHIN THE PALE

The fine hatching on the top of the head seems to indicate a juvenile which means you wouldn’t have seen this bird before last April. TWI ITHER BIRDERS, BOTH FAMILIAR WITH OUR LOCALS, TELL ME THIS LOOKS LIKE A GOLDEN-CROWNED. CERTAINLY THE CHEST MARKINGS ARE NOT STREAKY ENOUGH FOR SONG…MY ERROR.

How common is such plumage aberration? Here’s one answer I found: “Cornell’s Project FeederWatch collected data on plumage variations from the years 2000 to 2007, and only 1,605 unusual-looking birds were reported. This may sound like a high number, but given that FeederWatchers reports on 5.5 million birds each winter, this is a small percentage.” IT IS ALMOST INFINITESIMAL.

Posted by: atowhee | January 10, 2021

WHERE’S THE ROUGH?

Here are great images from Kirk Gooding of Rough-legged Hawk in Lower Klamath NWR–check out those pantaloons:

After posting these shots I got this “calm down” message from my raptorial guru, Dick Ashford, in Ashland:
“Wonderful images, but hawk geeks will be quick to point out that pantaloons do not a roughie make.😀 In fact, RTHA’s often show pantaloons AND, the roughie’s feathering on its tibiatarsus is indeed smooth, as one can see in Kirk’s images.
So there.😁😁

Other photos from Klamath, by Kirk:

That last image appears to be a House Finch? Not right coloring for siskin and too plump, but then it was very cold outside…

Posted by: atowhee | January 10, 2021

FEATHERED FRIENDS AT FAIRVIEW

I happened on two other birders and we did the marsh together. Lots of birds–bird flock of robin/starling/flickers feeding on the ground. Red-wings back, ring-necks gone, no phoebe to be seen. Very good day for flushing Wilson’s Snipe. The Purple Finch flock was my first sighting of that species there–not surprising as I think of them normally associated with conifer groves, not alder and cattails. But all our finches are more or less nomadic in this season. Also saw chickadees there for the first time this year.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 9, 2021
25 species

Cackling Goose  5
Canada Goose  14
Northern Shoveler  60
Gadwall  6
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  2
Green-winged Teal  80
Bufflehead  8
American Coot  10
Wilson’s Snipe  8     all at east end of the marsh, east of transverse trail
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  20
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  3
European Starling  X
American Robin  100
Purple Finch  14
Lesser Goldfinch  2
Golden-crowned Sparrow  20
Song Sparrow  8
Lincoln’s Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  2
Red-winged Blackbird  40

Posted by: atowhee | January 9, 2021

HAWKS TO WRENS

Red-shouldered Hawks, photographed by our correspondent in southern Virginia. There has been speculation that the disjunct RSH populations will eventually be split into two species–western and eastern in range. The are not found in Colorado or its neighbors.

Here is a gallery of recent shots from Albany’s Talking Waters:

The little tykes are Lincoln’s Sparrow, R-C Kinglet, Bewick’s Wren action shots. Wait a minute, look closely. The one shot is a Bewick’s with plain back and wings. These are all of the elusive Marsh Wren, see that almost subtle zebra-stripping on wing and back? And coloring on the side of the breat, not the Bewick’s dull gray. Marshers have that! Nice shots, Albert.
Did you know that mama shoveler would have a freckled beak?

Then Albert sent me this image of an immature Red-tail with his soft juvie feathers tattered (try to ignore that passing blackbird):

Time for a molt. Those tail feathers should begin to be replaced in March/April.
Posted by: atowhee | January 9, 2021

CHILLY SATURDAY

Two irregulars in our garden today–first House Finch of the year here…and a White-breasted Nuthatch, not a usual visitor. The crows swooped into the gum tree and drove off the Coop about 330PM. Perhaps, that’s our treaty. I give them peanuts, they vanquish the Coop, saving the finches and sparrows and starlings and flicker.

Female flicker. Is that a possible nest hole beneath the roof of our neighbor’s garage?

At Fairview Wetlands this afternoon there was a flock of Ring-necked Ducks, most I’ve seen there. Saw the sleepy Cinnamon Teal again, head tucked beneath wing, balance on a log in the marsh. No red-wings again today. Perhaps they have gotten bored with the dead-looking cattail leaves.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 9, 2021
12 species

Cooper’s Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  6
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bushtit  25
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  X
House Finch  1
Pine Siskin  75
Lesser Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  30

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 9, 2021
16 species

Cackling Goose  60     1 in marsh, the rest were fly-overs
Cinnamon Teal  1
Northern Shoveler  50
Gadwall  2
Mallard  X
Green-winged Teal  80
Ring-necked Duck  6
Bufflehead  10
American Coot  12
Glaucous-winged Gull  2     fly overs
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  3     at far north edge of the wetlands
American Crow  X
American Robin  6
Song Sparrow  3
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1

Posted by: atowhee | January 8, 2021

BACK TO THE REAL WORLD

The dog and I were outdoors a lot today. Trees, clouds, a patch of blue sky occasionally, sprouting violets, budding roses, budded magnolia and camellia, birds. And once again I realize why I love birds–honest, busy, beautiful. I don’t romanticize birds. We get a Cooper’s Hawk in our garden almost daily. He won’t commit mass murder–just kill and eat. Birds can be cruel but there is always a reason–food, territory, defense. None of them tries to be the richest, the toughest, the leader of all other birds of his kind. They work to survive and have a mate and chicks and a nest. Some males–hummers–have nothing to do with nesting but at least they add some flash and dash. Many male birds from robin to Canada Goose are great parents. In all but a few species the female does the majority of brooding and other nest work. When crows mob it is against a predator–owl, falcon, hawk, raven. None of true nature is ever sweetly pacific and welcoming but it is never full of lies and greed. No Osprey wants all the fish, just enough. Even bullies like Bald Eagles may steal what they want to eat, but neither do they kill for sport or steal what they don’t need. A jay may be loud and aggressive and even steal an egg occasionally but he is not bent on killing all wrens or warblers. Birds. If there were a choice for re-incarnation I could almost imagine being a crane–flying with my mate and offspring in a migrating flock a thousand feet above the earth, wind through my stout but flexing flight feathers, and then to bugle my reverberating call through six feet of trachea wound through my neck and chest. The ultimate bird for sixty million years.

A Townsend’s Warbler was in our garden this afternoon. First I’ve seen this year. Here are my only two, lousy pics of the warbler in motion:

I got a nice look at a pair of Bushtits on the feeder, part of the usual big flock. The female has the pale eye.

Then I got to hear and see a pair of Bewick’s Wrens, that turned out to be paired. They were moving through the bushes in tandem. One sang a sweet, soft toodle to the other. It was the bird’s conversational voice, not his announcer’s voice used for the territorial song or a scold. It was meant only to be heard by the other wren. Most songbirds have the soft voice they use for one-to-one communication but we rarely are close enough to hear it.

Early in this week I was at Minto-Brown. Fields now partially converted to shallow lakes. Saw a Spotted Sandpiper at one, not a bird I see often in winter. Today we faced south and the sun was low in the sky. The nearby bare sapling grove was aight with glittering diamonds. The brightness came from bright sunlight as it hit myriad drops of dew clinging to the thin branches.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 8, 2021
13 species

Cooper’s Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bushtit  30
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Bewick’s Wren  2–pair forging together around 4PM at sun was setting, one was gurgling softly to the other
Pine Siskin  X
Lesser Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Spotted Towhee  1
Townsend’s Warbler  1

Minto-Brown Island Park, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 5, 2021
22 species

Cackling Goose  40
Canada Goose  30
Gadwall  2
Mallard  60
Bufflehead  8
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Spotted Sandpiper  1
California Gull  1
Glaucous-winged Gull  7
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1     heard its spring call for first time this season
Steller’s Jay  3
American Crow  110
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Pacific Wren  1
American Robin  24
Dark-eyed Junco  1
Song Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  1

Posted by: atowhee | January 7, 2021

THIS WAS NOT ON TV TODAY

Fairview Wetlands, Salem–Black Phoebe perched; three of the dozens of shovelers wintering there.

Early in this century Birds of Oregon described the Black Phoebe as established in southwest Oregon and expanding its range northward. More than a decade later this species is now regular if uncommon here in the Willamette Valley. It and its cousin, the Say’s, are our only regularly over-wintering flycatchers this far north.

Another recent arrival at the wetlands is this lone Ruddy:

Fairview Wetlands, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 7, 2021
14 species

Northern Shoveler  60
Gadwall  1
Mallard  X
Northern Pintail  1
Green-winged Teal  75
Bufflehead  5
Ruddy Duck  1
American Coot  8
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Black Phoebe  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow  5
Song Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  1

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Jan 7, 2021
12 species

Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  2
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Bushtit  X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
Pine Siskin  X
Lesser Goldfinch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Spotted Towhee  1

Posted by: atowhee | January 6, 2021

HAND FEEDING

Here is wonderful posting with several videos of eastern birds being hand fed.

Posted by: atowhee | January 4, 2021

HOT, GETTING HOTTER

So all those pollyanna comments that we can stop this thing? They rank right up there with covid is just a flu, or a hoax. That last hilltop we zipped past may have been the infamous tipping point for global warming. Future highs will only get higher, hotter, worser and worser. These are the Good Old Days.

Wait, there’s hope. We could stave off 2 degree Celsius temp rise average…if we get to zero carbon soon. That’s coming from Polly somebody or other.

This on a planet where many countries could not stand to shut down economies for several months to stop covid? Now we expect charcoal burning in the African poverty belt, cutting of rainforests for profitable ag products, China’s coal plants, Americans’ SUVs and its trucking industry that delivers Amazon orders, fracking and oil drilling, bar-b-ques in suburbia, cruddy smoke from ocean freighters, forest fires and drought, airplanes burning fossil fuels…we expect all that to get to zero carbon…like how soon? Covid–it seems to me–has been a test case for how our species and our nations react to existential threat. With an over-populated planet and billions of lives in play, we can afford years of a D-minus grade on dealing with a disease that kills a small percentage of its victims. With global warming, the stakes are far higher, and could be terminal.

Here’s Bill McKibben’s site which says we are already past safe level of atmospheric CO2.

People are neither inevitable, nor necessary. Just ask your local coyote or possum.

If you want to keep trying, here’s link to EDF’s climate section where they outline what can and should be done, and how.

Greta (just shuffle the letters for “great”) just turned eighteen and she’s not done yet.

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