Friday, January 29, 2016

Working Upside Down

Meet the Brown Creeper.  Here is a bird that has a unique tool bag of qualifications that enables it to work upside down with ease. A pair of widely spread sharp claws allow good grip, long stiff pointed tail feathers provide stabilization, and then notice the uniquely curved bill that allows it to search the cracks and crevices for bugs. Brown Creepers have the habit of working an old oak or fir tree from the bottom up, but once it comes to a limb, then it seems to prefer hanging upside down as it works back and forth on the limb.  Because of their camouflaging colors, they are almost impossible to see as they work their way up a trunk, that is until they move.  The attending story is I spotted two of these guys busy working in a group of oak trees at the Audubon Nature Reserve during a brief sunny period this morning.  Much to my surprise as I was busy photographing, a Sharp Shinned Hawk suddenly made a fast strike, only to pull up fast when he noticed me.  After a quick stop on a nearby limb he took his frustration out by chasing off a cluster of three Northern Flickers.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Inspiring Volunteers

These are three Willamette University students that I worked with yesterday at the Audubon Nature Reserve in West Salem.  They were part of a group of almost twenty Willamette University students that spent the afternoon volunteering their time at the Reserve.  They worked on a variety of tasks, spreading wood chips on the trail, cutting back English Ivy, moving and placing logs along the trail, and digging up new flower beds to plant milk weed to be able to attract butterflies.  Their upbeat attitudes were a stark contrast to the bitter dissension of the continuing Republican Party circus, and the discouraging militant take over of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. I saw no smoking, or tattoos, or piercing.  These were wholesome, upbeat young persons, curious about nature and the community, positive about life, and confident in their ability to complete their education and move forward. It was a wonderful respite from the above mentioned concerns that seem to currently consume my thoughts both day and night.  A thank you to this group of kids. They provided a glimmer of hope for the future.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


This adult owl and insert chick photo were taken in June of 2004 during a visit Jeanette and I took with a group of birders to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon.  The owls were in the huge cottonwood trees in the yard of the refuge headquarters.  The very yard were armed protesters now have their unwelcome campfires burning. All the smoke and commotion  I'm sure has turned this serene setting into an ugly place for any wildlife that has called the refuge headquarters home. A large pond circled with cattails and tules used by resident and migratory water fowl sets in view of these cottonwood trees.  The refuge headquarters office and visitor's center sits just above the trees and pond. The beautiful stone building was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's, yet today it is occupied illegally  by people who broke into the facility, have helped themselves to offices, computers, and the private files of employees. They have helped themselves to equipment, cut fences, and even constructed a road.  They plan to live there rent free, until the refuge is given over to some undisclosed ranchers. I don't expect they will pay for their electricity bill, they have a record of not even paying their grazing fees. I feel terribly upset about this. I wrestle daily with feelings of anger and resentment towards the persons who lack any respect for law and order.  I know I speak for thousands of birders when I say, we want our refuge back.  And I speak for the voiceless once abundant wildlife--WE WANT OUR REFUGE BACK!  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Marathon Birding Day

Tundra Swan
We have sort of prided ourselves in our rather relaxed birding style.  After all, our trips are focused on taking Buster for a walk, a leisure stroll, and counting and photographing any birds we happen up on.  We are not the type to "chase" after birds, driving miles and miles to seek out an unusual species, or spending dawn to dusk in search of our prey, or attempting to identify owls in the dark of night.  But yesterday we might have crossed over to the dark side, --- we birding in three different counties,  through two rainstorms and turned in six different observation lists. The weather forecast for a dry day sent us out the door early around eight o'clock, by 8:28 we had spotted a Northern Harrier on Bethel road en route to a couple of ponds in Yamhill County. Despite a dry weather forecast we were forced to venture out of the car in rain at Sheridan South Side Park to check out the pond for water fowl, 15 species there. After thirty minutes we fled to the car and ventured on to Willamina to note the birds at Huddleston Pond, again walking in the rain, we tallied 17 species. We were wet and cold, but warming up in the car we decided on going south to Arlie Road in Polk County to see if we could find some recently reported swans.  Although a flock of 40 had been reported we only found one lonely Tundra Swan.  We were so close to Camp Adair at that point we decided to make a stop at the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife office and check out Adair Pond.  The volunteer site which we occupied for a couple of summer overlooks this pond. We made a circle of the pond and some of the surrounding trails for a bird count of 18 species, our first of the year for Benton County. It seemed like a productive, but long day for us.  Oh, I almost for got, my day actually started at 3:22 AM when I identified from my bed two Great Horned Owls doing a duet out in the dark. Perhaps we are more addicted than we would like to admit.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A walk in the woods and the promise of more.

This morning I made a trip to Darrow Bar, a small Oregon State Park on the Willamette River only a couple of miles from my home. It was my first trip of the new year to this favorite birding location, and place that I also volunteer.  I have been holding off on going to the the park recently, waiting for the high water and snow and ice to pass. I went today to check-out the trails and of course count birds.  I was rewarded with a sense that the worst of weather was past, and the promise of spring was, well like some light at the end of the winter tunnel. Click here to see my bird list for the morning.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Cold Winter's Day

We woke up to snow on the ground this morning, and it has continue to snow a little all day.  We elected to stay inside and observe the birds in our back yard from the comfort of our living room.  In total we had 21 different species show up to sample the seed, juice and suet offerings. Below are photos of some of the birds we enjoyed watching.

Dark-eyed Junco

female Anna's Hummingbird

Pine Siskin

Golden-crowned Sparrow

male Lesser Goldfinch

European Startling


male Downey Woodpecker

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Start of the New Year

Western Scrub Jay - - Audubon Nature Reserve

My former daughter-in-law starts the year with a word that will be her focus for the year.  I like the concept, it seems a little more manageable than a New Year's Resolution. I read about her word for this year on Facebook this morning.  Nothing came to mind immediately that I might use, so I knew I would have to mull it over for a while.  The sun came out bright, and despite the temperature still lingering in the 20s, I knew I needed to get out and get in my first bird-walk of the year.  A cold wind out of the north made it seem even colder, so I decided to go to a protected site, the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve, to check out the birds and try for some photos. I have recently created a Facebook page for it,, and needed some fresh material. It's a small park that I, and others, have invested volunteer time to rid the area of invasive plants, particularly English Ivy. When I pulled into the parking lot I was immediately rewarded with four different bird species before I even left the area near my truck. As I stood there entering each bird into my iPhone, I was struck by how grateful I felt to have this wonderful resource close to visit so easily.  And here I was on a bright sunny morning with birds aplenty. That is my word for this new year I realized---Grateful. At my age it is dangerously easy to fall into the trap of resenting the many things I can no longer do because of the aging process.  Hopefully my year will be focused on the many many things I am grateful for. On my way back home I noticed a Great Egret swoop in and land in the pond on the 9th hole of the Salemtowne Golf Course.  I parked and walked down to the pond and in a matter of minutes had counted an additional 13 species and got some more photos. Yes, my word is Grateful.

 Northern Shoveler & Mallards - 9th hole pond

Greater Yellowlegs - 9th hole pond