Date: 8/6/17 4:55 pm From: Joel Geier <joel.geier...> Subject: [obol] A few surprising oak savanna birds in recent days
Even though "Oregon" Vesper Sparrows seem to be done nesting now (fledglings left the last known nest around July 25th), I've still been out to monitoring sites in northern Benton Co. most mornings, to try to get follow-up sightings of color-banded juveniles.
Along with Vesper Sparrows I'm still seeing lots of juvenile sparrows in these oak savanna habitats, in particular CHIPPING SPARROWS which seem to have had a good nesting year.
For most of the season I've mostly been seeing Chipping Sparrows mainly close to woodland edges, with just occasional forays out into more open areas. But now numerous family groups are foraging out in the middle of upland prairie/pasture areas where there are just a few widely scattered hawthorns or small oaks -- basically, the same habitats that Vesper Sparrows are using.
On Friday morning, at one point I wound up watching close to 30 Chipping Sparrows that flushed from areas of short grasses and were sitting up in a couple of small clumps of trees. "Sitting" is the wrong word because Chipping Sparrows don't like to sit still. They're constantly bickering and chasing each other around in the upper branches of whatever tree or shrub they're perched in. I've learned to look for sparrows that are sitting still, just occasionally ducking as squabbling Chipping Sparrows fly by. Those will often be the VESPER SPARROWS.
OK, Chipping Sparrows aren't so surprising for oak savanna/prairie habitat, nor are LAZULI BUNTINGS which have also been thick lately. But I've been surprised by how regularly WILSON'S WARBLERS venture out into isolated trees, 150 m or more from the closest forest edge.
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS are also pretty regular out in these open habitats. Today I watched one being persecuted by House Wrens and a whole assortment of juvenile sparrows -- White-crowned, Song, and Chipping Sparrow plus Oregon Junco -- when it tried to forage among the branches of a big old oak that fell down this past winter.
Yesterday a couple of HUTTON'S VIREOS also ventured out into this area, following a line of oaks. Even more surprising was an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER that perched atop a snag, about 80 m out from the forest edge.
But the bird that really prompted this posting was a juvenile BROWN CREEPER, preening as it clung to the trunk of an oak, way out in the middle of the savanna. It even casually lifted up one leg to scratch the back of its head, while it held onto the vertical trunk with the other foot. I have some friends who are avid and impressive rock-climbers, but I doubt if any of them would ever attempt that maneuver!