Recent birds.

One time when we were kids, my brother got himself wedged in a tree in our front yard in a most uncomfortable manner.  There were tears.  My dad, of course, ran inside to get the camera before helping him get unstuck.

I was reminded of this fine April day in 1979 (okay, I was reminded of the photo, I was 8 months old at the time) when I found a Gadwall in a similarly stuck situation yesterday at Shillapoo Wildlife Area.

How this happened I can only guess.  I took that lesson from my dad and shot off some photos before figuring out how to help this struggling duck.  The problem was that the tree was in water and I had no idea how deep it was.  I put my assistant Jake back in the car along with my camera and wallet, and returned to the scene ready to get wet. This is what the area looks like:

 I was standing at the very edge, about to put my foot in the water when the duck finally gained the motivation to try harder.  He wriggled and flapped and boom, shot the heck out of there and into the sky.  My cellphone was on the ground so I quickly tried to get a shot of it flying away.  It's in the dead center of the next photo, just above the distant tree line.

If only it had been that easy to get my brother out of that tree.

Along the same trail at Shillapoo I watched a Great Blue Heron eat a snake.  It took over ten minutes of wrestling and was hard to watch at some points.  I wish photos were better, but here are a couple anyway:

When the snake was finally contained to the insides of the heron, I could see the neck bulging in snake-filled spots.  I can't imagine having a live snake wriggling around my throat.

Along the trail there's a decent sparrow spot and I finally got my year Fox Sparrow.

Stoked on the Fox Sparrow

Goose swarm

My reason for taking Jake for a walk here was to lessen the guilt I felt for taking Ralph for a hike up Larch Mountain in the morning.  I wasn't sure Jake would be up for the hike and would at best slow us down.  I could have left both at home, but Larch Mountain can feel spooky scary and I knew Ralph would make it less so.

The road past milepost 10 is gated in the winter, so the last four or so miles you must walk up if you want to hear a grouse.  Around MP 12 we came upon a couple of ravens.  One was picking clean some rib bones, and the other just flying.  That latter raven decided to hike with us for the next mile which was totally awesome.

 A couple times it sat and made these sounds when we caught up:

 Once when I was going slow, trying to find the source of a sound, the raven started calling loudly, seeming impatient with our pace.  The raven finally lost interest in us around MP 13.  It was another 3/4 of a mile to where I finally heard the sound I had been waiting for:  a booming Sooty Grouse!  This is a bird I kept missing in the county so I was stoked to finally hear one.

The fog and mist gave way to actual rain around this time, so we turned around and walked back down.  

Despite appearances, Ralph stays on leash at all times.  He does "stay" very well for photos though.

We were about half a mile from the gate when I heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl hooting.  I tried to record it but the dripping of the trees and the nearby stream did not help.  The easier ones to hear start at :11, :14, :17, :20, :22, :25.  It requires the volume to be at 100% and even then it's faint.

In other news, my motorless list is getting back up to snuff even though I totally slacked for a month or two.  Last week I was doing yard work when I caught sight of bird #80,  a pair of Common Ravens soaring overhead.  I ran to grab my camera and returned in time to snap a few photos and hear one croaking.

This was fantastic not only because it was a new yard bird (#59), but also because this could be a tough motorless bird. 

I spent Monday forcing myself to do yard work, moving the ridiculous amount of dirt I had delivered from the front yard to the back.  The morning fog had cleared up and I was checking the sky regularly hoping for a Turkey Vulture finally.  Instead a pair of Bald Eagles came soaring from the north.

I know, Bald Eagles are old news.  I know, I have more posts with Bald Eagles than any other bird.  I know.  But still.   

This adult and a sub-adult were cruising around when a third (adult) joined in.  I was stoked.  Bald Eagles make me so freakin happy, especially when they're hanging out together right over my yard.  The adults began what appeared to be some mild courting.

Around this time a FOURTH (sub-adult) Bald Eagle showed up, like they had all decided earlier, "Let's meet at Jen's house."

They soared together into the sun where I lost sight of this awesome family reunion.  I returned to my dirt for a few hours until I was again distracted by birds in the sky.  This time a couple of Red-tailed Hawks were soaring together, looking playful.

I recently noticed a pair of Red-tailed Hawks at a nest about half a mile from me, so perhaps these are the same hawks.  Fun stuff.

I'm up to 88 motorless birds for the year with #88 herself being a Rufous Hummingbird along the Columbia Slough:

Yay spring!  Good times!!


  1. Yeah, Bald Eagles take on a whole new significance from the yard, but it's okay to celebrate their ubiquity. After all, let us not forget that right around the time your brother was stuck in that tree, Bald Eagles weren't doing so hot.

    Such a wise dad you have. Classic photo.

    1. I am so glad I was able to find the photo for this post! Good point about Bald Eagles.

  2. I remember when you bought your house and you asked me how I find time to work in my garden and go birding. Well, there you have don't have to leave home. It's all happening right over your yard! I regret not getting an update today on your garden projects.

    1. True, sometimes you don't have to leave home for good birds. My garden projects are not very interesting at the moment- just piling up dirt on top of cardboard in the back making bigger garden beds and less grass.

  3. I too once had a duck rescue situation. I found a female Wood Duck snared on fishing line in a pond (the minutes-on-end distress call of that bird is one of the worst things I have ever heard). Right around the time I found a stick long enough to try and sweep under her, she disappeared under water and didn't come back up. I can only assume the final culprit was a snapping turtle, but the initial one was some lazy asshole. I am glad your duck's situation turned out better.

    1. Ugh, that's terrible. Fishing line is the worst.

  4. I miss living places where there are actually birds in the neighborhood....a lot of my field jobs had amazing birding where we were living, but most (not all) of my California homes have been poor poor poor poor for wildlife. West Oakland is particularly depressing, although it is my only California home where I have seen bats from the backyard.

  5. Lol your brother in the tree...but poor duck! Glad he got out of that predict--
    I love Eagles, never got a great shot of one anywhere let alone in my yeah we love it!
    The heron with snake, yuk...what a mouth full---
    Jake and Ralph both look girls are sisters so they are in the same place physically...they will be 7 this yr so they have developed some joint issues and Annie has one joint that's been bad her whole life so she is a little less fit. Moving dirt is hard work...I need to do so much yard work...maybe next yr!

    1. At least you're getting a ton done on the inside of that house! Yard work can wait.

  6. Raptor Whisperer whispers again.

    Pygmy Owls and Sooty Grouse in an erie forest--sounds perfect.

  7. That last shot of RThawks makes me think of doubles ice skating.

    1. Ha!! I just need to improve my photoshop skills and I think I have next year's holiday card...

  8. Amazing captures and descriptions! I initially noticed your "heron vs snake" shots. So was the heron really able to get that whole (it looked pretty big!) snake entirely down its long neck okay? Was the unlucky prey still desperately wriggling inside the birds stomach I'm guessing as well?!




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