Vultures work no harder than necessary

Vultures work no harder than necessary

A large bird soars in the distance off toward the horizon. It’s too far to see clearly. You might wonder if it’s a red-tailed hawk, a turkey vulture or even a golden eagle. Keep watching. Is it rock steady on the wing or does it rock and roll, tipping a bit back and forth as the unstable air disturbs its flight? If it wobbles, it is undoubtedly a turkey vulture.

A vulture doesn’t hold its wings perfectly flat. Rather the wings are raised a bit above the body...

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Kiwi visitors on the coast

Kiwi visitors on the coast

A fresh wind blows off the Oregon Coast. A Kiwi rises above the crest of a wave, banks and drops into the trough, wingtip almost skimming the backside of the wave.

The New Zealander to which I refer is a sooty shearwater. I trust you weren’t thinking I was referring to the flightless Kiwi.

Each summer and fall we are visited by a variety of Kiwis, Aussies and Chileans. They make incredible journeys from the waters near Antarctica to Japan, Alaska and the West Coast on...

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The fall and rise of white-tailed kites

The fall and rise of white-tailed kites

In 1966, a young birder looked through the air disturbed by heat rising over the agricultural fields in Monterey, California. It was difficult to make out the shimmering form of the white bird sitting on the ground, but it belonged to a white-tailed kite.

It wasn’t a great look, but it was the first I had ever seen. I recorded the sighting in my growing life list in less than tidy handwriting. I still have that list.

The white-tailed kite is a small, elegant bird of prey...

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Swallows sing while the stars shine

Swallows sing while the stars shine

For early risers this spring, there is a treat waiting for you in the dark hours before dawn. The constellation Scorpio is shining bright in the southern skies. Antares, the giant star, glows red in the tail of the scorpion. More than that, it is currently joined by two planets, Mars and Saturn.

If you manage to roll out of bed and secure a cup of coffee, you will find this show has a musical accompaniment. Well before the dawn chorus of black-headed grosbeaks, tanagers, house finches,....

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Steller's jays are good liars

Steller's jays are good liars

Nature has liars? No, lying is not a uniquely human trait.

Male fireflies of one species mimic the flashing pattern of the female of another species to lure in the male of the second species ... and eat them.

A harmless gopher snake will shake its tail in dried leaves or gravel when threatened, sounding exactly like a rattlesnake.

This discovery on my part was accompanied by a wildly accelerated heart rate. If you spend time in the forests in the region, you have probably...

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The mystery of our black-billed magpies

The mystery of our black-billed magpies

My first ecology text in college had the subtitle “Distribution and Abundance.” And if you think about it, that covers much of what we study in the field of ecology. Why is this species common here but rare somewhere else? What limits the distribution of a species? Is it climate, competitors, predators, disease, food or something else entirely?

We have one of those interesting little puzzles here in the valley. Black-billed magpies with their bold black and white plumage.....

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End of aerial surveys leave Klamath birders in the dark

Spring migration is underway in the Klamath Basin wildlife refuges, but refuge biologists don’t know how many waterfowl are in the area because aerial surveys stopped in January.

Paula Fanning, office manager at Macy’s Flying Service, confirmed that Macy’s, based in Tulelake, Calif., did not renew a contract that allowed a private pilot and retired biologist to conduct aerial surveys above the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Fanning said the...

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Common loons show there is always something to learn

Common loons show there is always something to learn

I don’t know how many times I have traveled to the beach in winter, but the number is not small.

Regardless of the purpose of the trip, the binoculars and spotting scope will be in the car. I can always find a little time to check out the birds on the ocean. And there is always a reason (or excuse) to pull out the glassware.

Oystercatchers with over-sized red bills pry limpets off the rocks at low tide. A blizzard of winter gulls of a half dozen species or more present a...

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Some birds never learn to play nicely with others

Some birds never learn to play nicely with others

Spring brings returning travelers, nests in apple trees, abundant song … and feistiness.
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Winter birding in the forest is a party

Winter birding in the forest is a party

In education circles these days, there is much discussion about the Common Core. To a naturalist with an interest in birds, the common core means something very different.

Take a walk in the forest on a chilly winter day, and you will probably see and hear little. The summer birds are long gone; riotous song will have to wait until April.

But if you are patient and keep a sharp ear out, you may hear a few very high-pitched call notes. Sometimes they are so faint you wonder if you....

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Winner of 2015 Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest is a quick study

Winner of 2015 Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest is a quick study

ASHLAND — A great gray owl was just as curious about Melvin Clements as Clements was of it on one soft-lit August morning in a mountain meadow east of Ashland.

The large and somewhat rare bird showed no signs of wariness of Clements and his tripod as it flew counter-clockwise in the meadow.
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Wild Bird Photo Contest entries

Wild Bird Photo Contest entries

These four photos were among this week's entries to the 2015 Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest. To vote for your favorites or enter your own, go to www.mailtribune.com/birdcontest. The entry deadline is Friday, Dec. 4, and the winners will be published in Oregon Outdoors Friday, Dec. 11.

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Black phoebe is no longer a local stranger

Black phoebe is no longer a local stranger

There are some birds you just don’t expect to see in winter.

Bullock’s orioles should be comfortably sipping orange juice to the dismay of orange growers in western Mexico. Lazuli buntings will be nearby in hedgerows bothering no one. Western tanagers and many of our warblers should all have joined the mountain trogons and tufted jays in the pine forests in the mountains above Mazatlan with only a few durable yellow-rumped warblers remaining locally to tough it out. If...

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Wild Bird Photo Contest entries

Wild Bird Photo Contest entries

These four photos are among this week's entries to the 2015 Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest. To vote for your favorites or enter your own, go to www.mailtribune.com/birdcontest. The entry deadline is Friday, Dec. 4, and the winners will be published in Oregon Outdoors Friday, Dec. 11.

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Wild Bird Photo Contest entries

Wild Bird Photo Contest entries

These four photos are among this week's entries to the 2015 Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest. To vote for your favorites or enter your own, go to www.mailtribune.com/birdcontest. The entry deadline is Friday, Dec. 4, and the winners will be published in Oregon Outdoors Friday, Dec. 11.

 
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How to enter the Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest

To enter the 16th annual Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest, go to www.mailtribune.com/birdcontest, fill out a registration form and upload your photos.

Entries must be received by 5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. Online voting ends at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.

Mail Tribune judges will pick the five photos they like best and publish them in the Friday, Dec. 11, issue of Oregon Outdoors. A Readers' Choice photo, decided by the most votes from registered site users, will also.....

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Egrets seem to break the rules for survival

Egrets seem to break the rules for survival

White is a beautiful color. It’s bright and showy, and therein lies the problem.

In nature, brazenness like “bright and showy” is usually dealt with harshly. If you're potential prey, white is a predator magnet. If you're a predator, bright and showy can mean an empty stomach, because potential prey can stay safely out of your way.

Yet, there is a visitor in the valley that is immaculate white — the great egret.

Every summer about July, great...

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Wild Bird Photo Contest is underway, and Medford's Randy Shipley is the reigning People's Choice winner

Wild Bird Photo Contest is underway, and Medford's Randy Shipley is the reigning People's Choice winner

Amateur shutterbug Randy Shipley of Medford can't seem to capture images that turn the judges' heads, but he sure knows how to win the crowd.

Shipley's pics haven't placed in the top five among judges in the Oregon Outdoors Wild Bird Photo Contest. But he's won the People's Choice award two years in a row, and not because he and his friends are stuffing the ballot box.

"I don't have a lot of artistic sensibility," says Shipley, a 53-year-old phys-ed and health teacher at Phoenix.....

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Canada geese are back on the wing

Canada geese are back on the wing

Did you miss them? Well, they’re back. The Canada geese, that is.

The last week of August brings a nearly forgotten sound to the skies overhead. All summer long you might have seen Canada geese lounging about golf course fairways or farm ponds, but the skies have belonged to the swallows and vultures. The geese have been grounded, all the other waterfowl, too. It’s molting time.

Where the hummingbirds, chickadees, finches and doves in your backyard, and even the...

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Agate Lake is a birding hotspot

Agate Lake is a birding hotspot

Bird watchers gather on this first Wednesday in September as the pastel-washed dawn fades into dingy gray.
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