Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bald Eagles at Lower Klamath NWR

Today at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on the Oregon/California border, most of the lakes were frozen over. Geese and ducks were forced to use these open areas, and that made it easy for the wintering Bald Eagles to keep an eye on them. I counted 30 eagles in the area, along with dozens of other hawks and falcons. Snow-covered Mt. Shasta provided the backdrop for the life-and-death drama unfolding on center stage. (Remember to click on the photos for a larger view.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hooded Merganser in Central Oregon

The ice was still thick along the edge of the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon, today, but that did not seem to bother the ducks that were swimming and diving there, including this male Hooded Merganser that was showing off to the female with him.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lincoln's Sparrow in snow

Lincoln's Sparrow can be found in high mountain meadows during the spring and summer, and spends the winter months in the brushy tangles of the Willamette Valley, where it is a difficult-to-see skulker. But during the recent cold spell, with record-setting snow fall, many of them have apparently been forced to move into town where food is being served at numerous backyard feeders. I have enjoyed the rare opportunity to get some closeup looks at this visitor, and have been surprised at how small and energetic it is compared to the Song Sparrow that also joined the flock in my yard.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Warblers in cold weather

Yellow-rumped Warblers (above)

Orange-crowned Warbler (
Warblers, in general, might justifiably be considered tropical birds who spend a few months of the year "visiting" our northern region for the breeding season, and then return "home" far south of here. One species that varies from this schedule is the Yellow-rumped Warbler, and we can usually find them here in western Oregon on any winter day. But, when the weather is so extremely snowy and cold, as it is here right now, it still amazes me to see them doing so well. Today I found a flock of about 10 of them foraging in a large Douglas fir tree in my neighborhood. They must have been finding plenty of insect food, and were noisy and energetic. I found another flock eating some kind of small fruit from a clump of shrubbery. The one shown here appears to be swallowing some snow and a berry at the same time. The Orange-crowned Warbler is much less likely to be found here in winter, so this one at my neighbor's suet block was quite a surprise. If he stays close to the suet, he might have a chance of surviving this cold spell.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Birds and ice

Osprey (Photos by Marty)

Anna's Hummingbird

American Robin

Ice presents a very difficult natural condition for birds to cope with. Today my nephews rescued an Osprey that had spent last night perched somewhere in freezing rain. This morning it was not able to open its wings to fly, and was standing along a city street. If it could wish, it would probably be wishing it had flown with its fellow Ospreys to Mexico or Brazil, instead of choosing to spend the winter here in Oregon.

At my house I was amazed to see that the Anna's Hummingbird had survived the rainy, freezing night, and seemed not to be bothered by having to perch on ice-covered twigs. The Robins have been busy today stripping my hawthorne tree of its few remaining berries.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow birds

Wilson's Snipe

Dark-eyed Junco

Song Sparrow

A day of falling snow always makes backyard birding more interesting. And when I went for a drive I found the Snipe in a narrow ditch with open water. As long as the worms keep moving he will probably be happy to stay right there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wild birds for sale

There is currently a conversation going on among Oregon birders about whether or not wild birds are likely to be caught in Mexico and carried across the border into the U.S., such as the Cardinals that have been showing up in Oregon in the past year or so. That reminded me of the time I bought a Northern Mockingbird from a seller beside a highway in northern Mexico, and then released it a few miles farther along my way. I should have done the same for this Harris's Hawk that was also for sale there, but at the time I thought I couldn't afford it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cold day for Oregon birds

Anna's Hummingbird

Spotted Towhee

American Robin

Western Scrub-Jay

The Anna's Hummingbird did survive the 20 degree temperature last night, and spent this sunny, cold day in my yard, visiting the feeder several times every hour. But he provided only a small part of the action. Dozens of birds of several other species were constantly coming and going. There is very little unfrozen open water in this neighborhood right now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Anna's Hummingbird in snow

I know that Anna's Hummingbirds have been surviving winter weather in Oregon for the past decade or more, but now for the first time I have a chance to see it happening in my own backyard. At least two of them were coming to my feeder this evening as snow and darkness were falling at the same time.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Brant at Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Today I drove to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, which is the long spit of land on the south side of the opening to New York harbor. I'm sure this is probably the slowest birding time of the year there, but it was still well-worth the two-hour drive to get there. These Brant drinking from a puddle at historic Fort Hancock were handsome and entertaining, but a female Baltimore Oriole and this Eastern Phoebe were much more surprising on December 3.