Thursday, May 31, 2007

Barn Swallow nests

In the same barn with the Barn Owls there were more Barn Swallow nests than I've ever seen in such a small space. At least ten within a 20-ft. diameter circle were occupied, including these two that were back-to-back on a joist above the goat pens.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Barn Owl babies

A pleasant walk through the woods and pastures on a friend's 30-acre farm on this sunny Memorial Day found us about 40 species of birds. A special feature was a close encounter with these young Barn Owls in the barn. All five hissing bundles of fuzz appear to be thriving, so there must be plenty of rodents available for their parents to catch.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cinnabar Moth

On recent walks in overgrown grassy areas I've been seeing Cinnabar Moths, the introduced insect brought here to kill the invasive introduced Ragwort plant. This strikingly patterned insect seems to be one of the few successfull introductions of creatures from other continents -- doing its job well, and not harmful to any native species.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Yellow-headed Blackbird

In the cattail marshes of eastern Oregon the Yellow-headed Blackbirds provide much of the sound and color. This one at Frenchglen in Harney Co. was not in his usual habitat, and seemed to have trouble deciding which picket to perch on. I guess we could say he was "on the fence."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wilson's Snipe nest

There were, as usual, many memorable encounters during my recent trip to eastern Oregon, but one that will remain clear in memory longer than most others was my chance discovery of the nest and eggs of a Wilson's Snipe. It was on marshy ground in a patch of last year's cattails where the new sprouts were just coming up. The bird tried to draw me away by pretending to be crippled, but I stayed just long enough to find the nest and snap a few photos. The eggs blended in well with the greens and browns of new and old leaves and stems.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Steens Mountain, Harney Co., Oregon

Tomorrow morning I'm off for a few days to one of my favorite places: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge at the base of Steens Mountain. Of course there are birds and mammals and reptiles and flowers to see, but there is a special feeling about the place that is difficult for me to express. Some of it is captured in the words of John C. Van Dyke in his book, *The Desert*:
"And what air one breathes on these plains -- what wonderful air! It is exhilarating to the whole body; it brightens the senses and sweetens the mind and quiets the nerves. And how clear it is! Leagues away needle and spine and mountain-ridge still come out clear cut against the sky. Is it the air alone that makes possible such far-away visions, or has the light somewhat to do with it? What penetrating, all-pervading, wide-spread light! How silently it falls and how like a great mirror the plain reflects it back to heaven!"

Monday, May 07, 2007

Solitary Sandpiper, take 2

I enjoyed this bird so much, I've decided to post a second photo of him.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Solitary Sandpiper

A Solitary Sandpiper on its way north was finding a lot to eat at a wet spot in a field near the Willamette River today. According to Dennis Paulson's book, *Shorebirds of North America*, this individual is of the cinnamomea subspecies, which is the one expected here in the west. Its coloration is a bit more olive-brown than the solitaria subspecies. Presumably it will end its northward travel at a breeding area somewhere between Alaska and Hudson Bay.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Western Bluebird nest and eggs

A nest and eggs -- like a precious (and usually hidden) treasure. So much effort on the part of the parents; so much life in these fragile containers -- and so easily lost. These Western Bluebird eggs (21 x 16 mm) were abandoned when a different species of bird moved into the same nestbox and began to build a nest on top of them.