Who times two is a portrait of two burrowing owls, Athene cunicularia. Observed at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.
A fluttering of wings: Townsend’s solitaire
A fluttering of wings draws my attention.
Looking out of my window, I see a Townsend’s solitaire beating its wings and attacking its reflection in the side mirror of my parked car. It has been there for hours. Long strokes of white droppings adorn the side of my car. At first I assume the bird must be a male defending its territory.
Alike in appearance
Townsend’s solitaires are a drab gray relative of the American robin that most people wouldn’t even notice. They are not showy.
Male birds are usually the ones with colorful plumage but that is not the case with solitaires; the male and female look almost identical. I guess they decided not to follow the theory that a male is more brightly colored to attract females and the female has duller colors so she can sit undetected on a nest.Continue reading
Stronger than the Wind: A poem of resilience
Sometimes you will be happily flying along in life when – WHAM!
A gust of wind comes out of nowhere and hurtles you to the ground.
Pick yourself up, preen those damaged wings, and remind yourself
You are stronger than the wind.
Birding Around Bend
A fluttering of wings draws my eyes. An unknown call turns my head. Finding birds and figuring out what they are is like working as an investigative detective. You notice things that don’t fit into the puzzle that forms the background environment. I’m no expert but I look for clues such as the silhouette, size, markings, behavior, and sound. Apps such as iBird and various field guides help you narrow down the list of possible suspects when you are out birding. Sometimes you know what something is right away; other times you need to confer with others. There are times when you have only a fleeting glimpse so then you might refer to the bird as an LBJ – Little Brown Jobbie.
Birding in the High Desert
Though Bend is located in a desert environment, there is no shortage in the number and variety of birds that live here. We are fortunate that there are so many organizations involved in educating visitors and residents about the wealth of feathered creatures in the area. I have been on birding walks with the High Desert Museum, East Cascades Audubon Society, Sunriver Nature Center, and Deschutes Land Trust. People who go on the walks range from novice to very experienced birders.
Many of the guided walks have one thing in common – water. Even in my own yard a water feature attracts birds like some super powerful magnet. Lakes, rivers, ponds, and even small backyard water features, draw birds in.
I see a rainbow of birds in my backyard from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy recliner. The constant flurry of activity includes the brilliant blue of mountain bluebirds, yellow of lesser goldfinches, red of Cassin’s finch, impossibly smooth tannish-brown and butter yellow of cedar waxwings, and soft gray of mourning and Eurasian collared-doves. A sharp-shinned hawk occasionally comes in for a quick meal. I also get to see unusual visitors such as leucistic American robins and dark-eyed juncos. Leucistic birds have plumage that is partially white and they really catch your eye.
Deschutes County has a wide variety of habitats ranging from high elevation mountains with alpine plant communities to lower elevation sagebrush steppe. You might see gray-crowned rosy finches on the way up South Sister or sage grouse on a lek at lower elevations near Millican. Several websites list birds you are likely to see at various locations. The Birding Oregon site has some detailed information on where to go. Here is the Deschutes County link http://birdingoregon.info/Home/DeschutesCounty/tabid/168/Default.aspx .
Teenage Birds: Big, but are they invincible?
I have been seeing a lot of teenage birds lately. You can tell they’re teenagers because they appear to be nearly adult size and act like they’re invincible.
Cedar waxwings – Smooth, elegant birds
I moved to the high desert a couple of years ago and thought I left some of my favorite friends behind. One of my favorite birds where I lived before were the cedar waxwings. I felt lucky when I saw one.
If I could use one word to describe cedar waxwings it would be “smooth”. Whenever I see one I have an urge to reach out and touch it. Its tawny feathers ombre into a creamy yellow on its underparts and gray near its tail. The feathers connect together so tightly that they give it a silky smooth appearance.
Facts about cedar waxwings
Cedar waxwings get their name by a unique feature on the tips of their wings and tail. They look as if they got too close to a craft project that involved melting crayons. Their tail are tipped in Sunshine Yellow. Small waxy droplets of Sizzling Red tip the wings.
They seem to wear a disguise on their faces. Black masks bordered with white frame their eyes. They raise a small crest of feathers on the tops of their heads as part of their communication. It alters their appearance so that they look like someone else.
Their voices are a wispy series of notes. I always recognize it even if I don’t see the bird. It is very high pitched, making them sound smaller than they actually are. One time I saw a grosbeak feeding one and thought it might be because it mistook the call for one of its young.
At some times of the year, waxwings flock together. I see specks flying high across the sky announcing their identity with their distinctive calls. Where I lived before, I was happy to see one or two waxwing birds at a time. Now I see flocks in my yard.
I left behind people I had grown close to to move here, but now I flock with different crowds. Sometimes they remind me so much of someone I knew before. Are they wearing disguises or did a special piece of my past follow me to my present?
Black and white and full of chatter. No, it’s not a newspaper; it’s a bird.
Distinctive black and white plumage and raucous calls make this bird easy to identify. Its unusually long tail gives it a unique silhouette. A magpie.
Their loud calls are often heard in the wild places they live in. They are also master imitators. Is that hawk you hear or is just a magpie?
From a distance they just look like a black and white bird. Look a little closer. Their plumage catches every little bit of light and reflects it back in an iridescent glow.
Some see them as smart opportunists while others see them as pests. Are they using their voice and brains to get ahead or get under your skin?
Not everything you see in black and white should be taken at face value. Look for colorful reflections. Listen beyond the chatter. Forgive those who use what they think will get them ahead to their advantage.