Thursday, February 28, 2008

European Starling (not in Europe)

You know my birding opportunities must be extremely limited when I resort to playing with photos of European Starlings that found my unprotected suet feeder. But I'll use the excuse that it's at least a chance to get a close-up look at this one's iridescent feathers, and also a chance to practice something new with photoshop. I really do think I'm overdue for an expedition outside my backyard. :-(

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

Watching tonight's total lunar eclipse, as watching birds and other natural wonders often does, provoked thoughts and speculations about the universe and our place in it. A major event happened, and we had nothing to do with it, but at least we got to watch it. Thomas Hardy, watching almost a century ago, expressed some thoughts that seem to fit our time, also.

Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon's meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.

How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?

And can immense Mortality but throw
So small a shade, and Heaven's high human scheme
Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?

Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?

By Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers in winter plumage are being reported by many birders who are offering suet at their feeders. It seemed that two or three were in my yard all day today. Some of them are fairly easy to identify as either the "Audubon's" or "Myrtle" form, but this one has me puzzled. According to the Nat'l Geographic guide, the lack of a whitish line over the eye makes it an Audubon. According to Sibley, the prominent streaks on the breast make it a Myrtle. Maybe it's half-and-half.

This one seems to have more of an eyeline, and the wite of the throat extends farther back on the side of the neck, so that indicates that it is likely a Myrtle.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Face to face with a Varied Thrush

Today the BirdCam captured an eye-level view of the Varied Thrush that has decided that my yard is his yard. It's ok with me, but since the weather has turned very spring-like, and the daffodils are about to bloom, I don't expect him to stay much longer. As soon as the snow melts in the high hills, he will be off to reclaim his territory in the quiet, cool, green spaces under the tall firs.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Varied Thrush in the Willamette Valley

The Varied Thrush that has been making himself at home in my yard for about a month finally paused for a few seconds in front of my remote BirdCam. Today he was getting in the springtime mood along with all the other birds that are starting to sing, and from a distance of only 20 ft. that strange harmonic song is even more striking. A good recording can be heard at

Monday, February 11, 2008

Surf Scoter female

Looking back at my photos from the weekend at Yaquina Bay in Newport, I find this one of a female Surf Scoter especially interesting. I had never been close enough to a female to see so clearly the white patch on the back of the head. That patch on a male, of course, is easily visible from half a mile away.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Yaquina Bay birding

Also, yesterday, while hunkered down out of the wind on the jetty at Newport, I entertained myself by trying to photograph birds in flight, such as this Red-throated Loon as it headed for the open ocean.

The photo of the Mew Gull (below) offers a good opportunity to study the wingtip pattern that distinguishes "our" subspecies (brachyrhynchus) from the European and East Asian subspecies. Our bird, according to the illustration in the National Geographic field guide, shows much less black. It also shows more white in the primary feathers than the slightly larger Ring-billed Gull, and a much smaller bill.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Surfbirds and Black Turnstones

On the north jetty at Yaquina Bay today a few Surfbirds and Black Turnstones were dodging waves to search for food among the barnacles on the boulders.

Black Oytstercatchers

I found another excuse to get out to the coast today, and could have been satisfied just to watch the huge waves crashing against the cliffs. But as usual, there were plenty of birds about to serve as "icing on the cake." At Depoe Bay 18 Black Oystercatchers were high and dry, snoozing and preening during the high tide. One of them must have been getting hungry; it repeatedly went back to probing in a small rainwater pool, but never appeared to find anything to eat. These birds were silent as I was watching them, but a good recording of the Black Oystercatcher's distinctive voice can be heard at

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sanderling on an Oregon beach

Precious little time for birding these days, but fortunately I sometimes manage to snap a photo here and there that I can go back to, and play around with, on cold rainy evenings. This flock of Sanderling touched down for half a minute on the beach where I was walking with my kids back in mid-January. Sanderling seem to be always on the move. Maybe that's because the edge of the ocean, where they find their food, is also always in motion.