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Category Archives: birds

This female Western Bluebird stopped by here recently. She probably raised a batch or two of youngsters in one of our nest boxes this summer.

Lots of birds have successfully nested on our hillside this year – American Robins, Say’s Phoebes, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, House Wrens, Tree and Violet-green Swallows, Bullock’s Orioles and more. The biggest highlight has been our Nice Nests kestrel box hosting its first successful nest of American Kestrels. Four birds were raised and got out of the box and were standing around on branches up until a few days ago. That is the branchling stage. Now they are out doing flying and hunting lessons. I hope they stay here and work on our rodent population. And I hope they return next year. We have another kestrel box that hasn’t been used yet!

Yesterday a friend and I ventured out to the dryland wheat country south of here, across the Columbia and River and up on the plateau in search of Snowy Owls. It was a lovely sunny day. We saw quite a few interesting birds including numerous Rough-legged Hawks, a Prairie Falcon, Snow Buntings, American Kestrels and others. The landscape in that area is criss-crossed with a grid of roads every mile. The north/south roads have letter names – A, B, C, etc. And the east/west roads nave number names. That seems easy enough but often roads don’t go through or are not maintained so navigation can be a challenge. And don’t even think about using a phone app to navigate. No doubt, you will be sent down a road that has not been maintained in many years.

We were sticking to the rougher roads, thinking the owls would be off the beaten path but we were not finding them. We turned down a good paved county road and shortly my friend was slapping the door and saying STOP! There it was, maybe 20 meters off the road perched on the side of big rock outcropping. What a view! We were delighted. For my friend it was a lifer – the first time she had ever seen this species.

We watched it for a while and it seemed pretty unconcerned with our presence and when we left, it was still taking in the warm sun. Snowy Owls nest in the far north on the tundra. They eat lemmings and when there is a shortage of food they migrate farther south in the winter. This year there have been a few of them reported around Washington. It’s always such a treat to see these magnificent wild animals.

Following that we returned down to the big river and watched a variety of water birds and then we went to a park where she had seen  Northern Saw-whet Owls recently. We located the white wash on the ground and looking straight up we could see the tiny owl looking down at us.

It was a good day.

 

This is a male American Kestrel approaching a female on a delicate branch.

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Feeder Birds

American Kestrel gives me a look

 

Northern Pygmy-owl strikes terror in the hearts of the finches.

 

Common Redpoll. It is in the same family as American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins. This is an irruptive species, showing up in big flocks some winters and other years they stay farther north if the food is plentiful. This year I have been seeing a flock of 100 or more some mornings.

Despite the heat and the valley full of smoke, animals are abundant. There is a mule deer with twin fawns that we see around our hill pretty often. All the young birds have fledged and are learning to forage with help from their parents. Ken’s bees are still out collecting pollen and nectar from our garden flowers. I do wonder how the smoke affects these animals and if they have shortened life spans because of it.

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