Saturday, November 30, 2013

...and don't forget the Hummers

Hummingbirds are another bird we see daily, specifically the Anna’s Hummingbird.  They wiz across our back yard searching for flowers or feeders would be my guess. Many people take down their feeders in the winter, presuming the hummingbirds have gone south.  This is true for some species, like the Rufus Hummingbird, but the Anna’s, which is the primary species here in the Willamette Valley, are year around residents, which means that in winter they have an extra need for nectar, natural or artificial, to keep warm.  We just got up juice feeder hung this past week and already we are seeing more hummers like this female Anna’s Hummingbird in the above photo. So my words of wisdom for the day are; if you feed hummingbirds in the summer don’t neglect to continue feeding in the winter.    

Friday, November 29, 2013

Consistent Juncos

The most common birds that visit our back yard are juncos.  They are one of the easier birds to spot and identify and come consistently every day to scrounge the ground at the base of our feeder and drink and bathe in our bird bath.  As I think back, they are one of the more consistent birds in my birding life too.  Last winter I posted on Juncos in the Snow, which was about one of my earliest recollections and must have happened when I was around six years old.  I have enjoyed them through the years on mountain trails as well as suburban neighborhoods.  I usually refer to them simply as Juncos, although technically they are now called Dark-eyed Juncos, and this one to be most specific is an Oregon Dark-eyed Junco. I do not need to travel to some distant location to find them, they are consistently available for me to observe and enjoy and consistently bring a smile of recognition to my face. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Northern Flicker

This morning while I was outside on the patio putting up some Christmas Lights I noticed a pair of Northern Flickers in my neighbor’s tree.  We hear flickers daily, but don’t always get a chance to see them.  This photo reveals several things, the red “moustache” indicates it is a male, and also that it belongs to the Red-shafted race of Northern Flickers.  Of course the red-shafted tail feathers would be another indicator of its race. The other race of Northern Flickers is the Yellow-shafted, which is predominantly on the East Coast, but some are seen in Oregon, and just to complicate matters, from what I had read they do inter breed. Anyway, I love their bright colors which today reminded me of Christmas, and although this is Thanksgiving, we are all on our way to Christmas for sure starting tomorrow.   

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Greater Yellowlegs

One of the most productive birding spots for me in Salemtowne is turning out to be a pond on the ninth hole of the golf course.  I’ve gotten some nice shots of a Great Blue Heron there, have seen a King Fisher several times, and I can always see some Mallards.  In fact, a small Green-winged Teal is currently hanging out with the Mallards. This small pond has been formed by damning up Gibson Creek, and recently the maintenance people have drained the pond for winter I presume. The shallow water level has produced some good wading area which has attracted three to four Greater Yellowlegs.  These are interesting birds, and from what I have read for the most part they are not residents, but migrants passing through Oregon in the spring for breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska, and passing back in the fall to winter in California and Mexico. It will be interesting to see how long these birds hang around. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Closer Second Look

Here is second closer look at the bird I posted yesterday. Turns out I miss-identified it as a Copper’s Hawk when it is actually a Merlin, which technically is not a hawk but a falcon.  Elva Paulson, a very talented nature artist and blogger, who lives in the Roseburg area, noticed my mistake and very graciously e-mailed me to clue me in.  Here is a link to her blog, , which I highly recommend.

It’s always encouraging to discover people read my blog, but it’s a double plus  to find they looked at it close enough to notice a mistake and then take the time and effort to let me know. I was thrilled to be wrong as it means a new Critter --- a Merlin, for my collection in Cascade Ramblings.  Thank you Elva.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Birding

One of the advantages of birding in winter is that birds are much easier to see once the trees have lost their leaves. I spotted this juvenile Cooper's Hawk perched in a Red Alder tree on Oakcrest Drive during my morning walk in Salemtowne yesterday.  If the tree had all it’s leaves I probably wouldn’t have noticed the hawk, but as you can see it was pretty obvious.  Seconds after I took this photo the hawk took off to confront a harassing American Crow.  The Cooper’s Hawk was totally unexpected as I walked along the busy street, and that’s another thing I enjoy about birding, pleasant surprises.
EDITING NOTE:  It has been pointed out to me that this is a Merlin, not a Cooper's Hawk.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trail at Spring Valley

I went searching for birding opportunities yesterday afternoon and discovered this gem of a trail, lined with fungi and ferns, literally minutes away from my home in Salemtowne.  Spring Valley is managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department as an access point on the Willamette River Greenway. But what caught my attention was this obscure trail that appears to be receiving attention and improvements by the Salem Area Trail Alliance. The area is thick with a variety of trees, oak, maple, ash and fir, and winds pleasantly through the flora giving me the impression of being deep in the woods. In fact it brought to mind a story I read years ago about “the near-by far-away”.  This describes this trail perfectly; less than six miles out Wallace Road from my home, yet far enough away to isolate me from cars, roads, and houses and allow only the sights of nature to fill my experience. The afternoon was quiet and birds where a little scarce, but a group of busy little Golden-crowned Kinglets topped off my time here, and I’m sure I will be back. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Improved Feeding Station

We had hung the previous owners’ bird feeder from the eve above the patio, but it has proven to be too close of a location to the patio which gets covered with sunflower seed shells.  I have wanted to get it mounted on a post further out in the yard, and today that was accomplished.  I would like to say that my brother-in-law Bill Dye helped me, but to be honest he actually did all the work.  With his post hole digger he dug the hole, put in an old fence post of his, mixed the concrete in his wheelbarrow and made sure the post was level.  One of the reasons we moved back to the Salem area was to be close to family, and it paid off big time today.  Now we will have a great feeding station to for our little song birds and based on Jeanette’s sighting of the Sharp-shinned Hawk again today, a good hunting spot for the hawk.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Hunter & The Hunted

This Sharp-shinned Hawk showed up in our neighborhood this morning in Salemtowne. Jeanette spotted it in a neighbors tree across the common area. Sharp-shinned Hawks are members of a group of hawks called Accipiters that feed on other birds.  This is a small group with only three species found in North America, the Sharp-shinned, the Cooper’s, and the Northern Goshawk.  This Sharp-shinned was not interested in the sunflower seeds in our feeder, but in the birds that would be at our feeder. This hawk is a hunter, and the pretty little song birds that I have written about of late, the Finches and the Juncos are the hunted. I believe this was a female, and she left after a short time as our yard was empty of any little song birds, and it was afternoon before any brave ones appeared.    

Friday, November 15, 2013

Brightness to the Day

It’s cold and overcast here in the Willamette Valley, a rather dreary winter day. But the bright red coloring of the male House Finch catches my attention, and lifts my spirits. The Finches are daily visitors to feed and bathe in our backyard here in Salemtowne.  They come to feed on black sunflower seeds I’ve put in a home crafted feeder I found in the garage left by Hans the former owner whose Swiss craftsmanship is apparent in the design of the wooden feeder. The Finches also bathe in the birdbath, another left over, that’s sits on the ground and is filled with rain water.  The crowd of little song birds grows; the Finches are joined by Oregon Dark-eyed Juncos, American Goldfinches, and a Song Sparrow or two. I no longer notice the oppressive grey skies; the world is alive with color and activity. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pic of the Day

We took a little time off this afternoon from all remodeling work on our “new-to-us” home in Salemtowne and went for a short bird walk.  Although short and not a big number of birds, we did have this one very interesting experience of watching a Great Blue Heron catch and eat a Bull Frog.  It happened at the pond on the 9th hole of the golf course. If you have ever watched Great Blue Herons standing still for long periods of time, and wondered what they were stalking, you can definitely add frogs to the list of possibilities. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Neighbors

The past four days have been jam-packed with all the details of moving, making decisions and arrangements on changes that need to be made on our new-to-us house in West Salem. It has been very taxing, but we are making progress, and today we paused long enough to meet some of our new neighbors. Mrs. Junco came around early this morning, checking out the back yard.  Juncos are the perfect bird to remind me of winter in Oregon.

In the afternoon we caught Mr. and Mrs. House Finch taking a bath. It seems cold for a bath to me, but they seemed to be enjoying it.

We like our new neighbors, the juncos and the finches, but then again they may have already been here for a while and consider us as the “new” neighbors.