Date: 1/29/18 8:00 am From: Joel Geier <joel.geier...> Subject: [obol] Pipits in mid-Willamette Valley
I notice there was plenty of discussion following Pepper Trail's posting on OBOL yesterday, regarding the frequency of large flock of American Pipits in the Willamette Valley.
The Airlie-Albany CBC on December 31st recorded a total of 556 pipits, including 145 in the sector that includes the SW part of Ankeny NWR where Pepper noted a flock of 75.
On the other side of the Willamette River near the small town of Buena Vista, I recorded a single flock of 180, mostly by luck as I happened to be turning around at the north edge of my sector, just as they decided to fly from one part of a fescue field to another.
I'd guess that we missed far more pipits than we found, as they're nearly invisible from the road when they're feeding out in grass fields. There could easily be 5000 to 10,000 pipits in the Airlie-Albany CBC circle. They're one of the most abundant wintering songbirds in open fields of this area, right behind starlings, blackbirds, and robins.
Pipits are always cool to see, whether in their high alpine or Arctic tundra nesting situations, or here in agricultural fields. Wet weather can be a good time to look for them as they tend to congregate around the edges of water that spills out of overflowing ditches, floating up all kinds of good things to eat. In older bird guides they were called "Water Pipits" (before American Pipit was split off as a separate species from their Eurasian relatives), which is a good clue to their foraging habits.
In fall shortly after wintering pipit flocks arrive, and again in early spring (late February/early March) as they're starting to get restless, you can sometimes see flocks perching on wires and small trees along fencelines, or up on utility wires.