Sunday, March 28, 2010

Corvid Country

Corvids (crows and jays) seem to be the dominant birds in our new neighborhood.

Our house lies in the center of a Western Scrub Jay territory. The pair are regular visitors to our feeder and they frequently pass over the yard while carrying material to their nest site.

Their nest, under construction for several weeks now, is hidden somewhere under the arrow in this wall of shrubs and trees above. We see occasional Steller's Jays as well, but I have not noticed any nesting behavior yet.

We have plenty of American Crows in our neighborhood and two of their nests are visible from our yard.

One nest is under construction in a redcedar behind the house.

The other is being built on the branch of a large Douglas fir. It will be easy to monitor the activities of these nests since the trees are so tall. If they are interested, the crows can keep an eye on us as well.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


While reading a biography of John Adams several years ago, I was impressed by the fact that he used kelp as a an organic fertilizer on his Massachusetts farm. Our gardening books recommend composting with kelp because it accumulates many important elements that are washed out of our soil and into the Pacific Ocean.

For many months now, I have been looking forward to collecting kelp so I could return nutrients to our soil, Founding Father-style.

On Sunday, I found several strands of bull kelp on the beach at Pacific City.

I cut the strands into manageable chunks and filled a 5 gallon bucket.

I rinsed the sand and salt off the pieces and cut them in to smaller bits that will break down in the composter.

The kelp is a sort of "green matter" which also includes kitchen scraps and grass clippings. We try to balance green matter by adding twice as much "brown matter," such as dried, shredded leaves.

We do not have a large deciduous tree in our yard, so we get most of our leaves from a horse chestnut in a vacant lot on our block.

Its large leaf and flower buds are now breaking. Next year's brown matter crop is well on its way and we look forward to a productive, kelp-fed garden.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Welcoming Spring

Sarah and I spent the last afternoon of winter birding the Tillamook area on the Oregon Coast. We rounded out our winter bird list with sightings of three migrant species: Turkey Vulture, Tree Swallow, and Violet-green Swallow.

We have now started our spring bird list with an Osprey being the first species unique to the season. It will be interesting to see which season produces the most birds in 2010.

Complete winter bird list:

1.Cackling Goose
2.Canada Goose
3.Pie-billed Grebe
4.Double-crested Cormorant
5.Great-blue Heron
7.American Wigeon
8.Ring-necked Duck
10.Wood Duck
11.Bald Eagle
12.American Coot
13.Glaucous-winged Gull
14.Mourning Dove
15.Anna's Hummingbird
16.Acorn Woodpecker
17.Western Scrub Jay
18.American Robin
19.American Goldfinch
20.Red-winged Blackbird
21.American Crow
22.Dark-eyed junco
23.Lesser Scaup
24.Black-capped Chickadee
26.Red-breasted Sapsucker
27.Green-winged Teal
28.Spotted Towhee
29.Brown Creeper
30.Golden-crowned Kinglet
31.Red-tailed Hawk
32.Song Sparrow
33.Varied Thrush
34.Chestnut-backed Chickadee
35.Rock Dove
36.Hairy Woodpecker
37.American Kestrel
39.Golden-crowned Sparrow
40.House Finch
41.Northern Flicker
42.Tundra Swan
43.Northern Shoveler
44.Hooded Merganser
45.Cooper's Hawk
46.Red-breasted Nuthatch
47.Bewick's Wren
48.Common Merganser
49.Peregrine Falcon
50.Northern Pintail
52.Wilson's Snipe
53.Steller's Jay
54.Brewer's Blackbird
55.Common Loon
56.Horned Grebe
57.Eared Grebe
58.Brown Pelican
59.Pelagic Cormorant
60.Great Egret
61.Greater Scaup
62.Surf Scoter
63.Common Goldeneye
64.Red-breasted Merganser
65.Mew Gull
66.California Gull
67.Thayer's Gull
68.Western Gull
69.Common Raven
70.Winter Wren
71.White-breasted Nuthatch
72.Snow Goose
73.Northern Harrier
74.Sandhill Crane
76.Belted Kingfisher
77.Downy Woodpecker
79.Black Turnstone
80.White-tailed Kite
81.Ruddy Duck
82.Western Grebe
83.Black Oystercatcher
84.Hermit Thrush
85.Pine Siskin
86.Lesser Goldfinch
87.Ring-billed Gull
88.Western Meadowlark
89.Eurasian Collared Dove
90.Fox Sparrow
92.Harlequin Duck
93.Red-throated Loon
94.Red-necked Grebe
96.Yellow-rumped Warbler
97.Marsh Wren
99.Townsend's Warbler
100. European Starling
101. House Sparrow
102. Clark's Grebe
103. American Dipper
104. Cedar Waxwing
105. Great-horned Owl
106. Rufous Hummingbird
107. White-crowned Sparrow
108. Turkey Vulture
109. Tree Swallow
110. Violet-green Swallow

Monday, March 15, 2010

Party Favors

This weekend, we had a big housewarming party that left us with many bottles of wine and several potted plants. After cleaning the house on Sunday, we went to work putting the plants in the ground.

We planted this shade-loving bleeding heart in the front yard, which does not see much sun.

I hope this rosemary grows into a shrub as large as those in my neighbors' yards.

The house's previous occupants left us a nice terraced herb garden in the back yard. We added some thyme, sage, and parsley. We still have a few things to plant and plenty of wine to drink.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Activites in the Yard

Last week, a Black-capped Chickadee started excavating a cavity in a broken branch of our flowering plum tree. I'm not sure if it is getting an early start on the nesting season or carving out a place to roost. I will keep an eye on the tree to see what develops.

On Sunday, we took a trip to the Hillsdale Farmer's market and picked up, along with some produce, a few hardy starts to plant in the garden. Of course, temperatures dropped as soon as the onions, peas, and kale were in the ground. For now, at least, they seem to be holding up well.

After tending the garden, we resumed our battle against the south side noxious weeds. We cut down the knotweed canes from last year and bagged as many as we could.
These persistent plants are now sending up this year's asparagus-looking shoots, which I have been lopping off on-sight.

We had hoped to plant some native species here and mechanically control the knotweed until it gives in, but some have suggested we call in the City for some herbicidal help. Whatever happens, we will be sure that the canes do not grow and produce seeds as they did last year.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Raptor Nests

The bird of prey nesting season is now underway in western Oregon.

Last weekend, Sarah and I revisited Dawson Creek Park, near our old apartment. We checked on the snag, pictured above in 2008, which has housed a Great-horned Owl nest during the last two years. Sure enough, an adult was sitting in the nest while another was perched in a nearby tree.

Downtown Portland's Red-tailed Hawks have begun their breeding behavior as well. As usual, they can be seen on Audubon Society of Portland/KGW's Raptor Cam.

Anna's Hummingbirds are probably nesting now too, though I have not found any nests yet. Bushtits should begin building later in the month, followed by American Robins. I will keep my eyes on the neighborhood trees to see what develops.