Sunday, December 31, 2006

Golden-crowned Sparrow

I usually have to go somewhere out of town to see Golden-crowned Sparrows, a winter visitor to Oregon. However, today this one showed up among the Junco's in my yard. In a few months he will be up north again, spending the breeding season somewhere in Alaska or western Canada. The question is: Is this bird an adult wearing the subdued winter plumage, or an immature bird still waiting for his first bright adult head pattern of gold and black?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Anna's Hummer resting

Between lengthy drinks at the feeder this afternoon, the Anna's Hummingbird spent a lot of time relaxing nearby, but kept a sharp eye on the neighborhood traffic. I just read in the National Geographic article about hummingbirds that they spend 80% of their time perched. Presumably that helps to conserve precious fuel.

Anna's Hummingbird at feeder

I'm still not completely adjusted to the fact that the Anna's Hummingbird is becoming almost common in western Oregon in winter, but now that this female or immature male has taken up residence in my own yard, maybe it will be easier to accept. Originally the northern limit of their range was in the bay area of California, but now they are found as far north as Anchorage, Alaska. A very tough bird, considering that it weighs only about one-sixth of an ounce.

Red-tailed Hawk and Starlings

One of the pleasures of birding in eastern Oregon (where I spent some time last weekend) is the peace and quiet, and relative lack of traffic on the roads. Actually, in the open country, when you are surrounded by thousands of acres of wheat stubble, there is also a relative lack of birds. But in the valleys the cattle ranches seem to attract many birds, such at this Red-tailed Hawk watching for a careless mouse. The Starlings sharing his tree appeared to be doing just as well as their city cousins.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Western Meadowlarks and ice

Today I was counting raptors (hawks, eagles and falcons) in the wheat country of north-central Oregon. Along the way I saw lots of other birds that were finding ways to survive the freezing weather over there. I can't remember ever seeing Western Meadowlarks perching in trees before, but somewhere near the town of Ione there was a whole flock in an ice-covered tree. They took off with a flurry when a Northern Harrier came too close, and the ice falling from the branches sounded like breaking glass.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

American Robin in frosty weather

When the weather turns cold at this time of year American Robins usually seek out the holly trees loaded with red berries in my neighborhood. Today this one was perched on frosty branches outside my office window probably digesting a crop-full of berries before disappearing again into the holly tree a few feet away.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mountain Bluebird

One of the pleasures of living in Oregon is the variety of climate, topography and bird life within easy driving distance. Spending the past 24 hours in Central Oregon on the east side of the Cascade Mts. reminded me again that winter is very different over there. For example, this Mountain Bluebird was 'breakfasting' on juniper berries in temperatures well below freezing. Nearby, a flock of ravens and magpies was busy cleaning off the bones of a dead elk.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Red-winged Blackbirds

At dusk this evening a large flock of Red-winged Blackbirds was swirling around a marshy area, occasionally perching on trees and powerlines nearby. They were wanting to go to their nighttime roost in the withered cattails standing in the water, but a Sharp-shinned Hawk was already there waiting for them. Eventually they all made it down and the marsh fell silent, but I suspect that one of the Redwings became dinner for the Sharpie.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Cooper's Hawk

It was a typical December day in the Coast Range hills of Yamhill County -- rainy and windy, with some snow still lingering at higher elevations. This Cooper's Hawk (assuming that the long, rounded tail is a good field mark) was watching for an unwary Junco or Robin along the edge of a clearcut.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

White-crowned Sparrow (immature)

Our relatively mild winter climate makes Oregon's Willamette Valley a good place for sparrow-watching at this time of the year. Today this immature White-crowned Sparrow found a sunny perch at the top of a blackberry tangle from which to look back at me. This individual might have been hatched nearby last summer, but he might also be one of those White-crowns that migrate south from Washington or Canada.