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Passerines | Scuff Productions

NATURE 130% in June / Portland, OR.

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds,Nature,Oregon,Pacific Northwest,Passerines by mark Monday June 4, 2012

I can’t imagine how brilliant writers have the day I had today and not make a complete NOVEL out of what tiny little nature things that walked/flew around this house.

1) Squirrels. Have born young, the young are no longer nursing, and are out in the “community of squirrels” (Eastern Fox, Eastern Gray Fox, Douglas **native)… They only localize off our rear deck because of the 8 bird feeding stations where seeds drop to the ground.

But ONCE in June when the young are no longer allowed to nurse, and are brought TO this feeding station, to learn the science of what their diet IS, they are so soon spurned and turned away, and chased away by vocalizing parents (and others)………that it’s a bit sad, but they learn they must go off and find their own “territory”….not uncommon in nature. **At least I’m happy they’re eating most of the dropped seed….to keep any mice/rats at bay.

2) DEER. ONCE A YEAR, Doe give birth to fawns…and just AS they do, they give their yearlings eviction notices. Only Once a year, the deer seem to disappear, then while Mom and baby are quietly hiding/nursing, the yearlings appear alone, seemingly a bit lost, and HUNGRY. Today! That happened a yearling buck walked right by our windows to the seed/log we just got……and relished in that find for about 5 minutes…when MAC realized there was an alien who he KNEW was going to destroy our civilization. The barking spooked the dear, but he was back soon SO hungry. It was a fabulous watch for 5 minutes….then he ambled up the side of the house toward the vegetable garden. WOOPS! I have NOT put that deer fence that goes up EVERY year June 1………….. I finally had to let him know I WAS in this “pasture”….and opened the window….he pranced quickly away.

***and of course NO photos……when I simply turned my shoulder, this askeered little deer immediately looked my direction……quiet and NO movement allowed this to happen. I had a great time.

BUT……..TONIGHT, JUST NOW, I spent 30 minutes watching him return to the SEED BLOCK 20 ft from the window…..dine to his hearts content….then amble to the front of the house for salad, aka, apple tree leaves….and I think he ate too much for MY comfort, and then graze in the pasture. THIS was a NATURE MOMENT of a lifetime……..beautiful young sleek native DEER!. Ah, Yes.

3) FLYING SQUIRRELS: After not seeing them for a couple weeks, was SO happy to see -4- of them at once last night in the feeder….seems like THEIR young are ALSO not nursed to completion, and, NO, we hadn’t love them, they’re back! HURRAY. AND it was FUN to see them comfortable 15′ from my chair dining at length.

4) OWLS. Yes, it’s their time too. JUST Thursday, on the dog hike, I was a bit ahead of the group, and SAW a barred owl, very close, FLY in front of me, turn and land on a branch not 100′ away……she watched us…until the group got close and flew further……. End of story? NO! On the weekend, group member Arnie ran into the scientist doing the wildlife count this month for Forest Park, fabulous John Deshler (google him)….. and John not only showed him that very NEST that I was SO close to) but sent him photos of the chicks his nature photog Scott Carpenter had taken.

I am SO thrilled to NOW be able to not just walk the dog, but go check on the progress of the 4 little owlets………….

5) Oregon Juncos. These poor little bottom of the food chain birds NEST IN THE LAWN or on the ground…..SO defenseless…..almost EVERY year we get ONE….we found one, she had five eggs. NOW, 2 are hatched doing well (today), one egg/young disappeared, and should be 2 more tomorrow or……. AND yes, we protect them by putting a tomato cage around that lawn spot…..that is not touched or mowed until the young are fledged:

6) RAIN. Yep, it’s becoming the Junuary I hate……….I HAD to put sluggo on the borders of the garden near the lettuce…..who knows…….and snow levels will get down to 3500′ tonight…… We will know Wednesday……..

What an exciting 2012 THIS is starting out to be…………I had a nature day I’ll never forget.

HIGH Summer – some are leaving us

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds,Passerines by mark Sunday July 25, 2010

High summer is a fabulous time, no argument. It’s also the time some of our loved short-timer songbirds already LEAVE us to begin heading back to So. Ca., or MX.

Our beloved Evening Grosbeaks just fledged their 2nd nest youngsters this week.

They are, by nature birds that live in flocks and they nomadically travel in flocks…sometimes up to 20-30 . . . . . . . IT IS ONLY during the nesting season that they split up. At first sight of them this spring, we counted 15 at the feeder….within a week they’d split up into pairs, most leaving this neighborhood. We had about 3-4 pair nest here.

Last Monday, that very nesting “group” began a rather new “chortling” whistle call between themselves, a call to “gather the flock, it’s time to leave“… . . . . . . it got more active by Tuesday when I NO longer even saw them appearing at our feeders. By Wednesday morning? NOT a peep and not one since. They have gone! I’m a bit saddened when THIS cheerful, confident, beauty of nature departs us until next late April.

Most robins have departed.

The Black-Headed Grosbeaks, the other favorite, are just NOW fledging their 2nd batch-o-kids, and I expect to see them disappear in the next week or two….THEY will be going all the way to Mexico, so need a good start.

ALL our Adult Rufous Hummingbirds have been gone a bit, and very FEW juveniles are even here. Feeding volume has dropped from 2 1/2 quarts a day to about a 1/2 now……..and will reduce even more when most of our Anna’s will leave for the valley as soon as summer’s over.

Goldfinches are just finishing their 2nd nesting…… and although they’ll stick around until it begins cooling, they’ll begin to lose their colors.

Oh well………I will miss the Grosbeaks.

Birds now feeding at 9336

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds,Pacific Northwest,Passerines by mark Tuesday May 4, 2010

THIS morning, I’m happy…. so far, I’ve seen these guys at the feeders (DISCLAIMER: Except for Rodger’s close-up shots of the two hummers near the end of this post, the bird pics ARE NOT ours… time to set up portraits for everybody….I’m just wanting to note who’s here early in May):
* Both white and red breasted nuthatches….cute, little, but not shy birds!
**above, red, below, white:

* Oregon Juncos, and not just the black headed ones.

* Mourning Dove

….yes, one of the most peaceful birds around.
* Band tailed pidgeon
…..big clumsy oafs…..silly birds.
* Stellar Jays

* Evening Grosbeak….written about last week here….

* Black headed Grosbeak — who seems to be moving in, YES!

……absolutely one of the most beautiful calls we see in the spring is the Black Headed Grosbeak song..(click on “listen)..inviting the girls over.

* One Golden Crowned Kinglet…only passing through…he didn’t stay.

*American Goldfinches….all pairing up now for the season

* Littlest Woodpecker, the “Downy”:

* The medium sized Hairy Woodpecker:

* Black capped Chicadees….lovely little families of these in summer:

*And year round beauty, The Spotted Towhee:

We LOVE the songbird season!

Now………….on to the real reason I had to make a diary note.
*** Annas & Rufous Hummingbirds. **

It is near record breaking cold for May…we were in the 30’s last night. WHEN THAT happens, hummingbirds, who have NO fat stored, crowd the feeders evening and morning… was pretty fabulous to watch that last night at dusk.

More-so was the little trick we learned to get closer to them….
(THESE two pics ARE OURS….taken just as close as it looks like it was!!!)….One quart feeder is about one foot from a maple tree trunk….we’ve learned to get just in front of the trunk, do NOT move, no sound, and very quickly, the little hummers came in to feed…(yes, the camera “click” would scare them)…but here’s the example…..these are TWO female hummingbirds, first is the Rufous (note she’s smaller, and a bit more tan shade):

NEXT, the female Anna’s, almost all shades of lovely green, and larger:

Rodger captured these beauties….so we could show JUST how close we WERE to the birds. I think he’ll be perfecting some by w/e. …it was a new test for all of us…including the birds!

and PS:
**Last friday, I was lucky to see a large flock (about 15) Yellow-Rumped Warblers move through the tree tops digging for insects in the branches….just slowly moved across the panorama….in their little beauty, and their Yellow-Rumped Calls weren’t bad either. THEN, this morning, a PAIR has returned…looking over the feeding space, and just “maybe” we’ll get a breeding pair close to home.

A new update about Evening Grosbeaks:
**A couple weeks ago, I noted the migrating Evening Grosbeaks passing through….I should have linked to a site where there chirping sounds exactly as it does in nature: Evening Grosbeaks Calling . SINCE that time, we just MAY have lucked out once again! Today, 2 matched pair returned to feed….**WILL we get to see them raise a family?

Little Hints Winter is coming to an end

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds,Passerines by mark Thursday February 26, 2009

There’s NO ignoring it, little slight things are happening dropping hints the season is in change…………….

I suppose though, after being here 13 years, I am more tuned to the little things that are telling me winter’s about over than I was when we arrived in ’96.

*Robins are in the yard.
*Male Robins are calling at dusk already setting up territory.

*A band-tailed pigeon was at the feeder Tuesday.

*The first Mourning Dove came in the same day.

*More Anna’s Hummingbirds are showing up at feeders.

*A flock of bushtits covered the suet log last weekend….first time since fall.

*The Black Capped Chickadee family(s?) are still intact and flying in as a group to dine.

*The Nuthatches are showing up more and more too. I know they’re here all winter, but seems there’s more of them now:

*The towhees are here year round as well, but they are now pairing off. We watched a beautiful pair of these birds flirting in the bushes, flying off in tandem, returning to play just on the deck:

*The first House Finch flew into the deck feeder…… a male scouting for a place to begin singing?

*All the woodpeckers are returning to the suet: Northern Flickers, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers. We still see or at least hear the big Pileated when we walk near his bird feeing stump….an old cedar still standing about 70 ft tall.

*Saw the first Red Breasted Sapsucker flying around the yard trees looking for little bugs.

*Northern Flickers….seems we have more than 2 visit daily now…..getting ready to set up house?

*Seems that more Stellar’s Jays are showing up uninvited wanting to gobble up enough for storing somewhere.

*I saw my first Yellow-Rumped Warbler of the year

*The Great Horned Owls have already concluded mate calling at night and are no doubt waiting for hatchlings soon, or already feeding young

*We both saw a Bald Eagle land on a big branch and enjoy his meal.

*The Lawn doesn’t look happy, but it no longer looks dead.

*Canadian Geese are just barely beginning to show up flying over the hilltop on their way to Sauvie Island……..for a short rest before moving on north.

*Sandhill Cranes! On a dog walk, I heard the unmistakable calls of a flock of these magnificent birds flying north over the hilltop! We MUST go to Sauvie Island this w/e and see all the buzz of spring there and not miss the Tundra Swans & Snow Geese before they leave again for the arctic.

*House sparrows are beginning calling spring songs.

*Oregon Birders On Line...the daily digest is reporting sightings of Rufous Hummingbirds from Astoria down to Waldport over the weekend. They’re on the way.

*Select early deciduous bushes and trees show buds reaching out on stems.

*Pussy willow branches are getting that “look”. Reminder, Mark: The Big Curly Trees have branches split in the ice storm, and MUST be CUT OFF. WHO wants a huge arrangement of fresh curly willow you can sprout in the house? They look terrific.

*The varied Thrushes seem bent on feeding. They’ll be leaving for the north in a couple weeks.

*The thick insulated underwear, heaviest sweatshirts are sitting idle more and more.

*Night temperatures are moderating just a bit.

*Moles! Damn Moles! They’re coming up, digging new tunnels, pushing up peaks of dirt that becomes mud.

*The Columbia River is no longer so muddy. MAC has begun getting his swims again!

*Cooking moods are moving away from heavy casserole dishes to lighter bean soups, and sandwiches are in the loop.

A few of the birds mentioned winter here, a few are year round, but some are being seen for the first time since last fall. They are the fore-runners of the northern migration that will pass through OUR little place, or maybe some of the few that stay with our little corner for a few months every year. The beautiful songbirds, now that the House Finch has arrived will slowly filter in. By April 1, the trees around this little house will be LOUD in song morning and evening for 4 months. A BIG cheerful noise.
And another fun note, our NEW favorite dog at this year’s Westminster show was the GLEN of IMAAL Irish Terrier. Doesn’t look like we’ll get one though since they start around $1500…….. but hey sure are cute:

***Disclaimer: On THIS post, I took NONE of the pictures. I grabbed them off the web since weather conditions haven’t been permitting the best camera poses.

Bird Watching – a love / hate bird

Bloged in birding,Nature,Pacific Northwest,Passerines by mark Sunday April 27, 2008



When we first arrived in 1996 and saw these I expressed my fascination with this intelligent, aggressive, beautifully shaded bird and a few neighbors said, “Well, uh, just wait a while, and see if you still feel the same……….” Twelve years later, I know what they were feeling.

They are here year round. Even more successfully than squirrels, these birds are known to found their stashed nuts/seeds at about a 75-80% recovery rate. Their vocabulary is quite remarkable….loud screeching to call in their family members, low caws to warn of a predator, hawk-call imitations sometimes known to clear out bird feeders so they have it to themselves when they arrive, and even MORE behaviors showing a smart animal is here. They can empty a feeder by getting jowls full before they leave, then storing the captured seed in nesting sites, and any other tree irregularity. So, yes, you have to LOVE the beauty and intelligence you’re watching at work.

But I said Love/Hate relationship. Just by its behavior of emptying feeders, they can be annoying but really they have evolved enough to nest, get the young fledged just about the time the fabulous songbirds are arriving for summer nesting. By the time songbirds are laying eggs, the Jays are now a full flock family of 3-5 or more birds that predate on the songbird nests. They can eat the eggs OR the live young…………. SO, involuntarily, I feel a little resentment when they are filling up out there on the deck, hauling food of to chicks just WAITING for my pals, the grosbreaks, finches, warblers, etc.

Whew! If you think nature is boring, you’re not looking closely enough.

The birds I REALLY dislike are the cowbirds that fly up here from the pastures / fields below just long enough to lay their own eggs in other birds nests. They’re entirely parasitic, so much so, that sometimes they’ll return to the nest they laid the egg in, and if they find the poor bird they invaded has gotten rid of their egg, they may destroy the other eggs to this bird will lay again…and hopefully raise the cowbird young. You can read more here: “The Cowbird

When I see THESE guys coming to feed, I can’t help but get up and get rid of them…………

On a higher note: SONGBIRDS ARE still arriving. House finches are here in big numbers now filling morning air with melodious trilling, rolling, musical calls. American Goldfinches are arriving in breeding color:

I know we’re not up to the numbers we will be in just 2-3 weeks yet, but we’re getting there. So, all in all, our bird population consists of:

Cooper’s Hawk –
**The last sighting was spectacular. He/She perched high in the cedar tree near the feeders instead of down at feeder level for the first time that WE noticed. A little junco got fooled, didn’t see the hawk, and landed on the deck. That hawk so masterfully, silently, and quickly was diving at that bird, grabbed, and turned in flight to coast off into the forest. Whew!

Band-Tailed Pidgeons (two pair)
**These clumsy big birds land on the feeders that are too small for them….flailing wings and all, they’ll feed a while. Our “local” gang count is now up to three.

Mourning Doves (two pair at least)
Anna’s Hummingbirds
**Confirmed now: We do have some fledgling Anna’s. Yeah!
Rufous Hummingbirds
**Feeding volume has grown from .1 quart daily to about .7 now, so they’re still arriving (also, the cold temps encourage more feeding too)

American Goldfinches – Have had a few males showing up, but the first joined pair were together feeding just last night.
Red-Breasted Sapsuckers
Downy Woodpeckers
Hairy Woodpeckers
Pileated Woodpeckers
Northern Flickers
**latest: TWO of them argued at the suet feeder….these are simply gorgeous spectacularly colored birds.
Stellar Jays – Yep, sometimes in a gang of 5-6.
Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Varied Thrush
**Is it the cold that is making us see them longer than usual, or are we just seeing northern migrants passing through?
American Robin
**A behavior we haven’t seen is happening….A Robin has begun feeding underneath the feeders…. .he/she is acting completely indifferent to everyone feeding down there except the Mourning Doves. The robin is aggressively going after the doves when they’re around. I gotta Google that behavior.
Pine Siskins
Black-capped Chicadee
Chestnut-backed Chicadee
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
American Crow
**They’re so much bigger than all the other birds, it’s startling when they’re on the deck.
House Finches
**As noted, gorgeous calling songs.
Purple Finches
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
**They’re finishing up the first batch of young, and doing mating dance/flights again where the white sidebards under the wings look quite nice.
And we await:
Evening Grosbeaks
Black Headed Grosbeaks * favorite….the most fabulous mate calling aroundblckhdedbrsbk
Hermit Thrushes

And I KNOW there will be others……………………….I haven’t learned them all yet, especially all the sparrow types.

Oh well………………………..

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