Thursday, February 27, 2014

Maintenance Responsibilities

My involvement in the design and construction of artificial nesting cavities, or "subsidized bird housing", as Lee Slattum calls it, has evidently obligated me to some on-going maintenance responsibilities. I naively thought that once my work on the construction was completed, my job was done.  But there appears to be continuing issues of "implied warranties" or possibly "renter’s rights", that seem to cloud the issue. I am shown here yesterday replacing the front of a "housing unit", the result of storm damage or raccoon vandalism.  Bottom line; It looks like I will be staying on in some kind of a maintenance position here at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Persistence Pays Off

This morning persistence paid off, I got a photo of a Black-capped Chickadee checking out one of our nesting sites at the SalemAudubon Nature Reserve.  This was my sixth trip back since seeing the activity on Saturday, and I wanted photographic evidence.
The whole design of making an artificial cavity for a nesting site was something I came up with in the middle of the night.  Lots of ideas of mine don’t turn out so good when looked at in the light of day. They seem perfect as I roll and toss in a state of semi-consciousness all night long, but when examined closely the next morning after I’m wide awake, I often wonder, “what made me think that was a good idea”.  So understandably I have been a little anxious to see if this is one that turns out.
Now it’s a waiting game to see if the site passed inspection or they choose another one, then more waiting to see if the chickadees actually construct a nest in this cavity or another. And even more important and requiring even more waiting, that they are successful in raising some chicks. I think there is going to be a lot more patience and persistence involved in this project.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

White-breasted Nuthatch

Saturday while showing some friends around the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve, we noticed some Black-capped Chickadees paying attention to two different artificial nesting cavities that volunteers have erected. This really got me excited, and I have been back every day, sometimes twice a day, hoping to be able to see and photograph some activity at any of the sites. I was back again this morning and did not see any activity at any of our constructed sites, but I did spot this White-breasted Nuthatch checking out a natural cavity.  Actually from the photo it looks like he spotted me, watching him. I continue to be fascinated with how much can be learned just by simple observation, and in this case it was not what I was expecting, but it was something new. We have six logs in place with artificial cavities, and three more logs to erect. You can bet I will be keeping close tabs on all of them with my fingers crossed. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

California Gulls

Gulls, or “sea gulls” to the uninformed, are something you expect to see when you go to the beach.  They are always prolific along the sandy shore of our coast line, but not so common inland.  So, I was a little surprised to see a flock of 35 yesterday during a walk through Salem’s Waterfront Park floating on the flooded Willamette River. That’s one of things I enjoy about birding so much, every day seems to bring about something unexpected. If you look closely at this pair you will notice the black and red spots on the bill which is the diagnostic clue to determining that they are California Gulls

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Brown Creeper

Lee Slatum and my wife Jeanette have talked me into posting this photo.  I’m not especially proud of it, but then there is the fact that Brown Creepers are just plain hard to photograph. They are busy, busy, birds, up and down and around a tree, never still, constantly looking for bugs.  And their coloring camouflages them so well against the bark it makes them very hard to see let alone focus a camera.  This one shows up a little better because of the green moss. He is at a rather odd angle, but notice his stiff tail feathers that he uses to support his body as well as his legs. I had gone early yesterday to the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve in West Salem where I volunteer, to be able to spend some time looking for birds before starting to work. The sighting of this Brown Creeper was what I term the “gift of the day”.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Non-native Species

If you know anything about Eurasian Collared-doves as shown above, you may wonder what I find photo worthy about this bird. They are a non­­-native species that has spread across the United States in the last thirty years at an alarming rate.  But what caught my attention was that this was the first time I have actually seen this bird in Salemtowne since moving here over three months ago.  We have been enjoying watching the native Mourning Doves daily at our feeder and were somewhat surprised when a pair of Eurasian Collared-doves swept in and took control of the feeder area.  This reminded me of what took place at our home in Elkton several years ago.  The more Eurasian Collared-doves we saw the fewer native Mourning Doves we saw, until we rarely saw any Mourning Doves.  And here is another interesting example. While birding at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge yesterday, we saw a group of 22 Eurasian Collared-doves at Pintail Marsh. I’ve usually only seen them in urban areas, so was surprised to see this large number in a rather natural area. The Eurasian Collared-dove, as well as the Eastern Fox Squirrel that I have posted about the last two days, are both non-native species that are spreading rapidly, and in my opinion are crowding out native species.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Size Does Matter

When it comes to identifying tree squirrels, size does matter.  This is another photo I took of the Eastern Fox Squirrel yesterday.  In this photo he is stretched out along the top of the chain-link fence. I later measured the squares in the fence and they are three inches across. Counting the squares of the squirrel’s length I can safely say he is over seven links long, so 3x7=21 inches. This narrows down the choices.  The closest squirrel in color is the Douglas Squirrel which is definitely smaller. Squirrels are measured from head to tip of tail.  Douglas Squirrels range from 11-14 inches.  Eastern Fox Squirrels measure from 18-28 inches, making them the largest tree squirrel in North America. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Eastern Fox Squirrel?

The best bird photo I could come up with from my morning bird walk was this squirrel photo.  I assumed it was an Eastern Fox Squirrel until I got home and started checking other photos which made me start to wonder.  I Googled “eastern fox squirrel” and selected the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s web site, which says that “The ears are short, rounded, and without tufts.” Now clearly this guy does not have small rounded ears, and the ears do have tufts. So, I am rather stumped.  But checking on all the other squirrel options, I am pretty much stuck with Eastern Fox Squirrel, just one that has big ears! If anyone has a better idea let me know.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stealthful Staulker

A few day back Jeanette thought she saw a Great Egret fly in to the willows of Glen Creek that runs between the golf course and a field next door, but in trying for a second look she could not find it.  We finally concluded that it was just some of the fluttering white plastic pieces the famer uses to keep the Canada Geese out of his grass fields. But yesterday while birding in the rain by myself I spotted it and after some hide and seek with the willows I got this photo. The Great Egret despite its size is a very stealthful stalker as its sneaks-up on its prey be it field or stream.  Its ability to stand dead cold still also allows it to blend into the scenery despite its bright white color.  They can be seen here in the Willamette Valley year a round, but are especially prevalent in the winter.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Finding the Bewick's Wren

To take advantage of the dry weather yesterday we selected Minto-Brown Island Park for a dog/bird walk.  We discovered the park was essentially flooded, so only got in a short walk and only saw a few birds, of which this Bewick's Wren was our favorite.  I am surprised at how often we now see Bewick's Wrens. Once you learn to identify the Bewick’s Wren with its prominent white eye-brow, like most other birds, you see them all the time. We spotted this guy at a distance, but he was so busy flittering around in the bushes it was hard to catch him in a pose long enough for a photo.  Jeanette finally got out her iPhone and played his song which immediately brought him out into the open where he stood and sang his heart out.  Much to our surprise the female began scolding us behind our backs on the other side of the trail.   After some quick photos we left them to their territory.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Salton Sea Bicycle Tour – March 2000

Another bicycle tour has been added to the Trip Journal of Cascade Ramblings, this one from the spring of 2000.  It’s been fun to go back and relive these tours, and it’s given me something to do while snow bound. To see the rest of the photos and all click here. Read them bottom to top for chronological order.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Saint Francis of the Bird Bath

Jeanette is shown yesterday adding hot water to the bird bath to keep it from freezing over.  She has approached this challenge with an almost religious fervor, having to repeat this process many times a day. We have been snow bound for several days now and our most important tasks seem to be keeping the bird feeders full and the bird bath filled and thawed. We have shoveled out a path to the feeder and the bird bath, and have shoveled out the drive way.  Now we await the great thaw. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feeding Frenzy

Shown here is a male and four female Red-winged Blackbirds ganged up on one of our feeders. We don’t normally have Red-winged Blackbirds in our yard, but for the last two days a flock of 30 have taken advantage of the free hand outs.  Yesterday was a real feeding frenzy, we counted 23 different species of birds, and I took over 100 photos.

European Starlings at the suet feeder

American Robins at the bird bath

Golden-crowned Sparrow at the seed plate

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Our Closest Friend

This is our sweet little female Ann’s Hummingbird taken early this morning right outside our living room window. She is the first to arrive in the gray dawn to feed at the juice feeder, and the last to visit just before dark.  She has our complete sympathy as she attempts to cope with the extreme cold and snow.  We watch as she shivers on her perch and then makes a mad dash to the feeder to gulp down more juice, and then returns to this perch. She repeats this process all day long, interrupted only when the juice freezes and Jeanette has to bring in the feeder to thaw. At night we bring in the feeder to keep from freezing solid. Of course we have many more birds visiting our feeders especially now with the heavy snow, but I think this little hummer is our favorite, and with our being snowed in, maybe our closest friend.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Warmer Days From The Past

A snow storm hitting the Willamette Valley has forced us to hunker down and take on “rainy day” activities.  I have gone back and scanned old photos of a bicycle tour that Jeanette and I took fifteen years ago down in Southern California in the Imperial Valley in March of 1999. I have added them to the Trip Journal in Cascade Ramblings. Reviewing the photos, notes, and maps has provided us with lots of good memories. You can look at the selected days at this link. Note: to view the trip in the right order, start at the bottom.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

First Bird Apartment Ready!

Every Wednesday I volunteer at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve in West Salem.  In recent weeks I have been involved in the process of constructing artificial nesting cavities in salvaged oak logs.  Lee Slattum, who heads up the volunteers at the Reserve, points out the entrance to the first installed unit. We have six  or seven more to complete and install, and then begins the waiting game to see if any birds find our work acceptable and move in.    

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Pair of Flickers

This pair of Northern Red-shafted Flickers spent a good amount of time hanging out in the birch tree yesterday.  I got the impression they were waiting, waiting for it to warm up, waiting for spring, waiting for what happens in spring, I don’t know, but they seem to be waiting. It’s easy to tell the male and female apart on flickers, the male has the red mustache. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why Raptors Rule

This is an immature Cooper’s Hawk we spotted on the far side of the 8th fairway here at Salemtowne yesterday.  We had already seen a Merlin, and after this Cooper’s Hawk, we saw two Red-tailed Hawks. I remember when we first moved here that I was surprised to hear people say that we have a lot of hawks here, because it seems like a pretty urban setting.  I now think the reason we see so many raptors is that a good percentage of the residents have bird feeders in their back yards.  So, we put out the seed, the little birds eat the seed, and then the big birds eat the little birds.  Quite a good system, and makes for lots of interesting bird watching.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Consolation Prize

I’ve become increasingly fascinated with the little falcon that I posted yesterday, the Merlin.  Its normal perch is on the drooping top of a Deodar Cedar about a block away, which means because of the distance I have to use the spotting scope to clearly identify any kind of bird. This in turn means the spotting scope now has a permanent location by the big living room windows.   This morning when I glanced out the living room window I saw a lump on the distant tree and I confirmed it in the spotting scope as the Merlin. That led me to a hurried exit from the house to get to a closer location for a photo. Finding the Merlin gone, I turned around to return to the house when I spotted this Red-breasted Sapsucker. Odd that I should consider this brightly colored sapsucker against the white birch trees a consolation prize.   

Sunday, February 2, 2014


This Merlin is one of the birds that I have enjoyed watching the most these past few months from our home in Salemtowne. From our living room we frequently see it perched in the very top of a distant tree, and in fact we have seen it fly off from there and chase after small birds.  I reported my first sighting in Salemtowne in November¸ but I haven’t seen it for a few weeks now.  Knowing it is a winter visitor I was hoping it had not left for the far north yet.  Then this morning as I gazed out the living room window I spotted it on its familiar perch.  When I looked at it closer with the scope I realized it was tearing apart a small bird it had griped in its talons. About this time Buster decided it was time for a walk, and I thought what the heck perhaps we could get a closer look at the Merlin. By the time we had our shoes, coats, and hats on, and walked the four block route it takes to get closer in better light I was sure it would be gone.  It was still there but most of the evidence was missing.  It takes a real close look to see some of the remaining feathers in its talons.    

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Peregrine Falcon

The surprise sighting of this Peregrine Falcon overshadows my hesitancy to post such a poor photo. I stopped yesterday to check out the very small Pioneer Park in Independence.  When I got out of the car the first thing I heard where a couple of Crows.  Then I spotted three European Starlings high in a tree, and heard a Steller’s Jay.  As I walked down to Ash Creek I picked up the insistent cooing of a Eurasian Collard-dove.  All these bird are ones that I would expect to find in such an urban setting.  At the creek I added a Black-capped Chickadee, a Western Scrub Jay, and a signing Ruby-crowned Kinglet, all nice birds but not unexpected.  Across the creek, high in a distant tree I spotted the silhouette of a bird. Looking at it closer with my binoculars I could not make an identification, but it did look like some kind of hawk.  Out came my trusty camera with the 50x zoom, and after several photos I checked the review screen and zoomed in even closer,   VoilĂ ---a Peregrine Falcon, not at all what I was expecting in this wooded urban area. Afterwards I put together the fact the Monmouth-Independence Sewage Ponds with a large supply of wintering ducks was not that far to the west of the park.  Peregrine Falcons are known to take advantage of such locations.