Today I hiked through our arboretum and woods to Agency Creek. I did not find the hoped-for American Dipper. But on the walk back, I flushed a Ruffed Grouse. This is not an unusual happening, but what was unusual was that it landed in a tree and stayed there long enough for me to get a photo.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
A Bald Eagle landed on our big snag while I was doing chores this morning. I ran for the house to get the camera. (Someday I'll remember to keep it with me.) The eagle stayed for quite some time. I went ahead and milked goats. Johnny continued to watch and said that, at one point, a Red-tailed Hawk flew toward the snag (one sits there most mornings) but made a U-turn when it saw the eagle and left. Johnny watched the eagle take off and fly downstream along the creek, likely hunting for fish. Such beautiful birds. I lightened the last photo to show off that white head better.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Abby Jaworski in Oregon City has this female Yellow-shafted variety of Northern Flicker coming to her feeder. The first three photos were taken by Abby's husband. The last one I cropped and lightened.
Pretty cool since we normally get Red-shafted here or occasionally a hybrid. I've not seen a yellow-shafted since I left the midwest, although I'm told they are sometimes seen east of the Cascades.
Since these photos were posted, the experts on OBOL (Oregon Birders On LIne) told us that maybe 1% of the wintering Northern Flickers west of the Cascades are pure Yellow-shafted. They are pretty site specific, like most wintering birds... that is, they return each year to the same sites, which may be why I've never seen one. None has picked my farm yet. Thanks to Abby for sharing!
Friday, December 13, 2013
|Red-tailed Hawk on frozen fir|
|Great Blue Heron in the goat pasture|
|California Quail looking for food|
|Song Sparrow and Spotted Towhee|
|Fox Sparrow and Towhee|
|We must have had twenty or more Fox Sparrows here during the cold snap.|
|Fox Sparrow from the front|
|Fox Sparrow back|
|Varied Thrushes were everywhere|
|As always this time of year, many Golden-crowned Sparrows, most not very golden crowned yet.|
|There were so many birds, like these American Robins, working on fallen apples below the back yard apple trees that they cleared out even the snow.|
|I call these two unusually colored robins The White Brothers. They seemed to hang out together.|
|Captured in an unusual moment of getting along together were these four species: Varied Thrush, one of the White Brother robins, Spotted Towhee, and Fox Sparrow|
Monday, December 9, 2013
Circumstantial evidence points to our resident Barn Owls, who I thought only ate rodents. The feathers were found under the beam where they sit nightly in Johnny's shop. The absence of any but a couple down feathers makes me think it was not the Cooper's hawk who hunts birds here daily.
Keying out the feathers with the feather id guide online led me here: http://www.fws.gov/lab/featheratlas/feather.php?Bird=RBSA_wing_adult We do have a (or did have) a resident Red-breasted Sapsucker. Perhaps it was too cold to find a proper place to hang out for the night and fell prey to a hungry Barn Owl.
I wait for the experts to weigh in on this sad story. Temperature overnight was 12 degrees F (warmer than the 2 degrees of the night before) and has not been above freezing (or even above 20) for days. We still have the four inches of snow that fell five days ago, except now it is mostly ice. Tough times for birds.
The word is in. Wildlife Biologist Cathy Nowak writes:
I have seen many instances of bird remains in Barn Owl pellets here in NE Oregon. They seem especially prone to eating birds when the rodent populations are low. As you said, it is tough out there for birds right now, including barn owls.
It can be especially hard on the owls, as well as hawks, if the snow takes on a hard crust.
A quick look at my feather references leads me to think you are right on with the ID of your Re-breasted. M. Cathy Nowak Certified Wildlife Biologist(r) Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area
The plot thickens... The above was posted before I dissected the most recent owl pellets near these feathers... and found 4 rodent skulls and bones, no birds. I think I accused the Barn Owl unjustly. True, they occasionally take birds, but the fact that only some of the wing feathers and no others were under the beam makes me suspect the Cooper's Hawk who hunts birds here daily. I am told that Coops and Sharpies often take a bird and pluck some flight feathers, then fly off to another perch to finish plucking and devour their meal. I suspect that is what happened to my unfortunate Red-breasted Sapsucker. This is what comes of jumping to conclusions without adequate proof.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Once a month from November through March, Johnny and I drive a raptor route more or less bordering the North Santiam River. We start on the Marion County side, switch to the Linn County side at Mehama, then cross back over at Gates to Marion county and return to our starting point via various back roads. Although we are always fairly close to the river, we seldom catch a glimpse of it. Ours is one of hundreds of routes throughout Oregon that monitor wintering raptors.
To our surprise last raptor route season, we found a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks hanging out in the Lyons City Park/John Neal Park area bordering the North Santiam River on the Linn County side. These lovely hawks, more common in California and southern Oregon, seem to be moving steadily northward.
On our November trek this fall, I hiked around the parks looking for the hawks while Johnny kept vigil by the ponds at the road. I did find one Red-shoulder, but it flew before I could get a photo. A cell phone call from Johnny shortly after told me that it had landed with another in his view across the pond. He took photos. Here is the habitat. They were perched in a tree directly across the water in about the center of the photo (but good look seeing them).
And here are the hawks as Johnny photographed them from his vantage point.
This month, December, we were hopeful of finding these lovely birds again. But they were elusive. I hiked all the way around the many ponds and paths before seeing one perched in the shadows.
I had a very short window to zoom it in before it flew.
Although the Red-shoulders seem to be regulars on our route now, we saw another raptor this December that is not a regular during the winter months. In fact, we were quite surprised to see it sitting in a tall tree in the middle of a field at least a mile from the river. This osprey should have been way south by now, but there it was far from water on a cold day in northern Oregon.
Before we continued on our route, the bird flew over and past us, heading more or less in the direction of the North Santiam River. We did not expect to see it again.
But we did. Four hours later, on our return trip, there it was, perched in the same tree in the middle of the field near Stayton. This time, it was munching a fish.
If it stays all winter, I hope it finds enough open water with enough fish. The temperature dropped into the teens that night. The North Santiam River does not freeze over, so maybe this bird has a chance.
Although we do not see the hordes of raptors on this canyon route that flatlanders see, we never know what surprises will be thrown our way.