Fink Family Farm Bird List

Fink Family Farm Bird List

The only list I faithfully keep is a list of all the birds seen on our farm since we moved here in 1977. I thought it would be fun to ad...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Lately, I've spent quite a bit of time in the woods keying out wildflowers (or trying to). Yesterday, while off-trail staring down at some plant or other, I heard a peck peck nearby. Looking up, I saw this Red-breasted Sapsucker very close to me on a big old maple. He was working on his sap wells and paid me no attention as I snapped photos. What a handsome bird!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Nine Barn Owl Eggs!

Nine eggs is definitely a new record for the Fink Family Farm Barn Owls. Here is the update I sent to my Barn Owl fledging notification email list tonight:

"This is definitely a new record for the Fink Family Farm barn owls. The most they've had in the past was 7 eggs. Most clutches over the years have been 6 or 7 eggs. But the voles are plentiful this year and that must have something to do with their faith that they can raise more babies... or else the more food they eat, the more eggs they lay. Or something.

I know there are lots of voles still out there because today, while I was taking a break from planting more trees in the arboretum, a vole worked at cleaning out its hole not far from me. Cheeky little brat.

This is the first time I've seen the owl fly out of the nest box since my last update. I confess I shone my spotlight up on the ledge tonight (not into the box) for a second and she fled. I was concerned that she had deserted the nest since Johnny has been working diligently with a chainsaw and lots of noise right outside her window for weeks (still tearing down the old barn). So I shone the light for a second in case that would get her off the nest, if she were there, long enough for me to scurry up the ladder and fire off one quick and blurry photo. And it worked. But I'll bet she's annoyed with me. She did not scream over my head as I left the barn, though, which always happens when I sneak up to peak at owlets after the mama no longer stays with them at night. So I suspect she was back on the nest before I was out of the barn.

I was also concerned because last night, after many nights of none or few barn owl calls at night, there were many screeches and hisses from several different directions and I wondered if a predator was in the vicinity. None can get into the loft (unless they can fly) but the owls would not know that. Our livestock guardian dog did tear after something by the creek last night so there well could have been a raccoon or two or three prowling which might concern the owls since coons can certainly climb trees and enter nest cavities. But even a raccoon would be hard pressed to reach and open our barn doors... or get past our livestock guardian dog.

I will not check again until I suspect, by a parent flying in at night with food and then back out again, that some eggs have hatched. Or, more likely, when I hear the little begging calls the owlets make... or their dragon hisses when I go up into the loft to throw hay down for the goats."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Eight Barn Owl Eggs!

Tonight I took my camera and a flashlight with me when I climbed up into the loft. I saw an owl fly out of the nest box so I scurried up the viewing ladder, turned on my flashlight and took a quick photo of the eight eggs. How they stay that white in that mess is a mystery to me.

There were several dead voles in the box... hard to tell how many since some may be mixed in with the mess. After reading about the Snowy Owl irruption on the east coast this year being triggered by a population explosion of lemmings last year and seeing a photo of a 2013 nest with seventeen lemmings ringing it, I realized that our owls are simply catching whatever they find and right now, our fields are riddled with vole holes. I walked through a field today while putting up more swallow nest gourds and it looks like the voles are going through one of their periodic population explosions. You can't walk without stepping on a runway or hole. So that is likely why we are seeing so many more stashed dead things in the nest box than usual.

Snowy Owls apparently laid more eggs last year than usual and fledged more owlets because of the abundant food supply. I did not realize that owls lay more eggs in years of plentiful food. Our Barn Owls usually lay six or seven eggs, but fewer some years. I'll check my records tomorrow but I think eight is a new record. And who knows if she's done laying!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Confessions of a Closet Lister

The only bird list I have kept for years is of the birds I see on our farm. Until Paul Sullivan of the Oregon Bird Association started hounding birders for their lists to publish, I didn't publicize my one meager list. It was just for me. Now Paul has created so many categories that my one list of 146 birds I've seen on this farm since we moved here in 1977 fits into four of his categories: life list for Yamhill county, for a favorite birding spot, for a 15 mile diameter circle and for a nonmotorized list. I told him it is going to look suspicious that the number of species beside my name will be exactly the same on all four lists.

I used to keep a life list but got tired of the constant combining and separating of species with the consequent reduction and increase in life list numbers. Besides, I believe in improving habitat, citizen science, and observing and learning about birds, rather than just running around the countryside for the sole purpose of lengthening a list. But I have a confession to make: I have started a list solely for the purpose of running around the countryside to lengthen that list... and it's all my friend Dawn's fault.

Dawn is a relatively new birder... and a lister... which means she doesn't have a huge long life list yet. It's fun to bird with Dawn and after the first time we saw a bird together that she had never seen before and I saw how excited she got, I was hooked. So my new list is: Dawn's life birds that I've helped her find.

Last night we added Short-eared Owl to her life list. She said that was the sixth life bird I'd led her to. How fun! But, since I don't bother to write anything down, I didn't remember the others. So she sent me a list, complete with dates and places where we saw them. Dawn is organized. I've added photos of the ones I took photos of more or less successfully.

Ferruginous Hawk - 4 Nov 2012 (field in Yamhill Cnty)


Prairie Falcon - 23 Jan 2014 (Baskett Slough, Polk Cnty)
Yellow-throated Warbler - 29 Jan 2014 (Charlotte's house, Marion Cnty)
Lewis's Woodpecker - 29 Jan 2014 (near Ankeny NWR, Marion Cnty)
Horned Lark - 28 Feb 2014 (Livermore Rd, Polk Cnty)

Short-eared Owl - 8 Mar 2014 (McLagan Rd, Linn Cnty)

Besides the above, Dawn says I helped her id, over the phone, her very first Rough-legged Hawk  26 Oct 2012 (Salmon River, Lincoln Cnty)

We still have some relatively easy birds to find for Dawn, but soon it's going to get tougher to find life birds for her, especially since she's fully capable of finding them without my help. But it gives us a good excuse to go birding together. Which is, I now realize, why many of those listers I've disparaged in the past keep lists. It's a good excuse to do what we love to do: watch birds. And do it with a friend who gets excited about seeing a new one.

Update, Sept. 2014: Dawn has been finding life birds on her own since I wrote the above. But we just went to Bandon together for the Oregon Birding Association annual meeting and she picked up two more, Pacific Golden Plover and Blackpoll Warbler. Since I drove, she says I get credit for helping her get them, although I never even saw her Blackpoll Warbler.

That trip made me decide to keep yet another list: all the birds I have photographed and identified on my own. I'm afraid that one will be a very short list.

Update, Oct. 2015: I drove Dawn to Yachats where we found a bird neither of us had ever seen before: Common Ground Dove. To tell the truth, I'd never even heard of it. It is the size of a sparrow.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tree Swallows!

The vanguard of Tree Swallows has arrived. There will be many more later, plus Violet-green Swallows, vying for the nest gourds. Sometimes I wait until the big group arrives before putting out the gourds, but these early birds swooped and chattered for days around the bamboo poles where their gourds were last year until I finally gave in and put up four today. I'll hang about twenty eventually.

I love watching the swallows vie for nests. When the first gourd went up, all eight newcomers circled and eyed it and soon were trying to land on it and push others off. (Thanks to Johnny for the photos!)

 The swallows never come to blows, but they certainly work at intimidating... along with constant excited chatter.

The best way to claim ownership is to squeeze inside and then look out.

When the females arrive, the house searching will reach new levels of frenzy. It seems as though every gourd has to be tested for suitability by every pair of swallows. Later will come nest building and then my favorite part of nest building: lining the nest. I have a huge bag of white feathers that my friend Velta saved from her geese specifically for my swallows. I throw them up in the air and the swallows catch them mid-flight. The feather-carrying swallow tries to stuff the prize into his nest gourd before another swallow steals it.

I love when the summer birds start coming back. I know, then, that spring is on its way.