Date: 6/27/20 4:33 pm From: <clearwater...> Subject: [obol] Scio area birds (Linn/Marion county) and belated Umpqua report
The Breeding Bird Survey was officially cancelled this year due to covid-19, but I ran a couple of routes that sample Willamette/Umpqua Valley grassland, to maintain continuity of data for some declining grassland species. Both of these routes are on mostly paved roads (so not much risk of flat tires) and easy to cover with our Prius, without any need to stop for gas outside our local community.
Last Sunday I ran the Umpqua route (near Sutherlin and Oakland in Douglas Co.). I sent a full report to Umpqua Birds but not sure if it went through. A brief summary is that there were plenty of Western Kingbirds, Western Meadowlarks, Lazuli Buntings, and a few Ash-throated Flycatchers here and there. I found two GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS a little west of the town/hamlet of Umpqua, and a couple more after I finished the route at Mildred Kanipe County Park (a regular location in most recent years). But I didn't detect any VESPER SPARROWS -- normally I find 3 or 4 along the route.
This morning I ran the Scio route which starts near Scio, goes through Lyons and then up into the Waldo Hills area, west of Silver Falls State Park. Once again I didn't find any Vesper Sparrows (the long-term average is about two). I also didn't find any Horned Larks, which average a bit less than one detection per year, nor Western Meadowlarks which seem to have disappeared entirely from the area (I think this is in the district represented by Frank Girod, the legislator who made it his mission to remove Western Meadowlark as our state bird). Even Savannah Sparrows seemed kind of scarce, but I found good numbers of WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS. The latter seem to have more variation in their songs in that area, compared to the west side of the valley -- I noticed three fairly distinct types of song, one of which had me confused at the first stop where I heard it.
At Union Hill Cemetery where the Scio route ends, a male AUDUBON'S WARBLER was singing from the top of one of the big old Douglas-firs. I seem to recall that Jeff Harding found a family group of this species in the same location about a decade ago when he was running this route. The only other real surprise was an ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD at a stop out in the middle of grass fields, nearly a quarter mile from the closest trees at a rural residence. It perched briefly on a telephone wire, then zipped off in the direction of that house.
I didn't see any WESTERN KINGBIRDS along the route, but as I started on my way home, I saw one flying along the south side of Waldo Hills Rd. over a pasture, maybe 2 miles west of Union Hill.
My plans to maintain social distancing while running this route were not entirely successful. At the busiest stop, just south of Hwy 22 in Mehama, I saw a down-on-his-luck-looking guy standing with a 1-gallon gas jug, trying to flag down passing motorists. I did not really want to get involved in a detour from the route, but after I saw drivers in two vehicles talk to the guy, then pull away, he started heading my way. It turned out, he lived in Mehama and was out of money and ran out of gas while he was driving to a site a couple miles west of there where he had found temporary work for a contractor who was rebuilding a house where there had been a fire. So it turned out not to be too much of a detour -- just a half mile out of the way. We got him some gas, then drove to his vehicle which turned out to be just half mile down the road. I left him in good spirits, still in time to get to work on his job site, and with high hopes of getting paid today.
I only remembered about the covid-19 pandemic after I was back on the route. Nothing to be done about that now. But I'm reminded that there are a lot of people really living on the edge, in these areas where we go to see birds.