Posts Tagged ‘towhee’

My husband and I sat around our little outdoor firepit tonight, discussing gardening, weeding, and animals I counted at least 22 ducklings in the community pond this morning, and at least five mama ducks. One hen had one duckling. The hen I have been following still had nine (hers are the oldest, hatched Thursday of last week). Three pairs of Rufous-sided Towhees flitted around us, emboldened by the absence of dogs, perhaps. Never have we observed the elusive towhee behaving as boldly as tonight, the three pair!

The sun set, the sky darkened, and the first bat of the season flitted – briefly – overhead. A large bat, at least 8″ wingspan. We both have fond summer memories of bats diving in while we played out our last evening games, and horror stories of bats entangling in hair (my parents discouraged such hysteria). We both tossed rocks to bats in those dusky summer evenings to see if they would catch them: they always did.

Last night, as I took my husband on a tour of the front yard and the weeding/edging I had done on this first absolutely gorgeous Spring day in the Pacific Northwest, we nearly stepped on a small gray animal. It was deep in the moss and grass of the lawn, just a slight movement, followed by a naked pink half-tail. It was oblivious of us standing above it, watching. I forbade my husband from pulling it out by the tail just to see what it looked like: we both know what moles look like. It just wanted earthworms or crane fly grubs.

Burr hurr aye. (A la Brian Jacques and the Redwall series of books. Read them. They are magical.)

I have been in a funk since Christmas. I haven’t created anything new artistically. I haven’t written. I feel dead inside, creatively. My day job is just another place to go to, and make money, but not a place of passion or exciting change. I’ve felt “dead”.

I don’t know what I am going to do with this blog: keep it, practice writing, or… Family history, gardening, grandchildren? I feel as dull as the grey clouds that hover over the earth, promising only rain, and cold rain at that.

It is good to feel Spring is finally here, and that life might be awakening. I spent yesterday working with my hands in the loam, hoping to rekindle a little life in my heart.


The giant rhododendron on the north… And the broken rain barrel. 😦



The stark differnece between last year’s black-cap raspberry vines and this year’s canes. I need to cut out last year’s canes – nest year’s will go there in less that six months from now, and this year’s canes will be pruned out next spring.

I was going to move this ceramic “bird” house, but there’s a paper-wasp nest inside. I bought the bird house at a farmer’s market… love that the paper-wasps have taken over it. (Mud-daubers, paper wasps).

Finally, tonight we watched towhees – at least three pair – buzz about the yard, gathering sticks and nesting material. Rufous-sided towhees are elusive and secretive birds, more often heard than seen. To have three pair flitting about around us, unafraid, was amazing.

I do not know what I am going to do with my blog. Perhaps it had worn out its welcome and is a thing of the past, and I need to move on. But what if I do not record these seemingly mundane experiences? What if you never learn if the towhees nested and raised young, or the paper-wasps hatched, or the ducklings survived… Or the mole lived happily ever after because we are the gardeners who do not set mole traps or spray pesticides/herbicides?

I don’t know.

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I would have bird-watched anyway. Having no Internet only impeded in the posting of photos, vignettes, and uploading my feeder counts for Project Feeder Watch.

I have four weekends of feeder counts to turn in, but it’s all right. I can do that in less than an hour’s time.

For fun, however, here’s a sample of my bird sightings for the past 4 weekends:

European Starlings. It hasn’t been cold enough to send the pests south. Ironically, what we consider a pestilence and a nuisance bird in the Americas is a bird in serious decline in its Native habitat.


There are two of them in the suet. They are striking birds in the winter, but I still dislike them. Not to worry: the size of the male Pileated Woodpecker on the other side of our little Lodgepole Pine Tree is enough to shoo the starlings off.


Pileated Woodpecker. We have at least three that come to the feeder on a regular basis: one female and two males. One male has more white on the “shoulders” of its wings and we think it is the offspring of the mated pair. It’s guess work.

Anna’s Hummingbird. I have succeeded in keeping a pair nearby this winter! It has been a mild winter so far, but Anna’s Hummingbirds overwinter in the Willamette Valley regardless. This is the first time I have had regular hummingbird visitors over the winter.


Black-capped and chestnut-backed chickadees.(That’s a territorial Pine Siskin in between the chickadees. The one on the left is a Black-capped and the tiny one on the right is a chestnut-backed)

Dark-eyed juncos.


Red-breasted nuthatch.

Steller’s Jay – the western version of the Eastern Blue Jay.

Western Scrub Jay – a striking bird that is not nearly as blue as the Steller’s or the Eastern, but is still very pretty. And very animated.

House finch.

Purple finch.

Northern Flicker (used to be known as the red-shafted Flicker in the west or the yellow-shafted in the east, but is now considered a single bird with color variations).

One female Ruby-crowned Kinglet. She over-wintered here last winter, too.

One Townsend’s Warbler, most likely the same one that has been here for two winters in a row.

A bazillion Bushtits.

013Band-tailed Pigeons, the only Native North American Pigeon and not to be confused with the common “Rock Dove” you see sitting on statues in parks. (They’re waiting for the Squirrel Family to get out of the feeder.)

003Rufous-sided Towhee.

American Crow.

A pair of Downy Woodpeckers, but never at the same time. One male and one female.

Fox Sparrow.

American Goldfinch.

001 (2)Varied Thrush which is a mountain bird but will show up in my yard when the snows come low.

The Squirrels. I think we have five or six regulars now. This year, we have a pregnant female coming to the feeder. I haven’t seen Captain Jack (the one-eyed squirrel) in a long time.

014 (2)

And we have a family unit: parent and two siblings. All are invasive Eastern Fox Squirrels although we used to have a Native Douglas Squirrel that came. I think the neighborhood cats got it. 😦


And the Pine Siskin, which is an irruptive bird. That means you never know when they will visit your feeders, stay for the winter, or disappear altogether from the area.

One morning, I noticed a Pine Siskin that would not budge from the feeder and did not attempt to chase any other birds. I finally took a step ladder out and climbed up to check on it. I wore gloves (my mother’s voice was booming in the back of my head: “Birds carry lice and disease! Do not pick up dead birds!” She usually said this when we had a funeral for a dead bird we picked up on the side of the road).


The Siskin didn’t even flutter against my hand, but it looked up at me with pain-filled eyes. I told it that it could not die in my feeder, but I had a nice dry spot on the porch, in a flower basket.


It huddled there and died there.


They are such tiny birds. My heart broke. I cry when anything dies and this was no exception. Experience told me that I could not save it and experience told me that it would prefer to die in the wild.

A couple days later, on Christmas, I noticed a second failing bird in the feeder. This one fluttered half-heartedly against my glove. I put it in the same planter, but it fluttered to the base of the steps.

016 (2)

My Christmas guests did not notice it there, gasping for air. But I kept an eye on it and I knew when it passed from this life to the next.

017 (2)

Tomorrow I am taking down the feeder and cleaning out the area around the feeder. I stumbled onto an article about Salmonella and Pine Siskin deaths.

The article is from a 2008-09 irruption of the active little birds, but I recognized that I have a problem. For starters, we have an irruption of the fickle little birds and then I have two die in a week. I am concerned about the other bird species that come to my feeder, especially the Band-tailed Pigeon.

I foresee a lot of bleach and cleaning over the weekend so we can start 2013 free of bird disease. I hope.

Meanwhile, I buried both bird under a fern. They died free, not inside a cardboard box. And that is how it should be.

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