Monday, September 27, 2010

Quail Invasion

Our backyard is haven to many birds. Siskins, nuthatches, chickadees, great horned owls, western scrub jays, evening grosbeaks, red crossbills, and hairy woodpeckers are just some of the more recent regulars showing up at the feeders. But the real stars are the California quail.

They come in small family groups of 8 to 12 birds. Several adults accompany their broods; the males act as sentries while the rest feed. Some groups have different ages of juveniles, a testament to the covey mentality of the species.

The birds appear any time of the day, although early mornings and mid-afternoons seem the best. Attracted by the dove and quail feed that we spread on the ground and in some platform feeders, the quail keep their heads down and rapid-fire peck at the seeds.

California quail nest in our backyard

The sentry male

Another backyard male

Different aged fledglings

Up and over the fence
If we startle the covey, they burst for cover in the nearby junipers or clear the fences and descend into a neighbor's yard. But I know they will be back for another foraging round.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Return of the Vaux's...

...swifts. Named "swifts" for good reason. These aerial acrobats zip about the sky snagging insects on the fly and, amazingly, not colliding with each other.
Vaux's swifts getting ready to roost in the chimney.

During spring and fall migration these swifts make a stopover here in Bend, roosting in the Christmas Presence house on Harriman Avenue. It is great fun to sit in the back of the pickup and watch as they birds cruise, swoop, dart, then descend into the chimney to roost.

The other night we counted 75 birds entering the chimney within about 25 minutes. Unfortunately, we had to depart before the show was over; another 25 or so birds were circling. I found out through COBOL (Central Oregon Birders On-Line) that the next night over 225 birds crammed into the chimney. And more may have entered in the early dusk.

Vaux's swifts in Bend, Oregon

Although I haven't been to some of the larger sites in the Willamette Valley, I am starting work on some articles about these creatures. Here are some photos, shot at very high speed, showing these aerialists.