Oh, Happy Day

There are two birds whose presence, to me, would signify that we have attracted the holy grail of bird residents: the Acorn Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch.

I looked out the window, and LO and BEHOLD! There was a White-Breasted Nuthatch!!

What these species have in common is their fidelity to, or requirement for, a vanishing Willamette Valley habitat – open oak woodland and savanna. The nuthatch will go for mixed conifer/hardwoods which is exactly what we have. They are not the only species of concern here, just a couple I particularly like. A brand new publication online in two parts [ here and here ] called the Land Manager’s Guide To Bird Habitat and Populations in Oak Ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest provides a larger list:

Oak-associated bird species designated as being of conservation concern by the primary wildlife natural resource agencies in the Pacific Northwest…

  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Vesper Sparrow (Oregon)
  • Lewis’s Woodpecker
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Western Bluebird
  • Western Meadowlark

As I noted, to my delight, a White-breasted Nuthatch arrived recently at our feeder and on the trees by our house. Because I don’t currently have the proper camera or skills, here is a nice photo swiped from the above publication.

wbn

White-breasted Nuthatch. Photo credit Tom Grey. Published in Landowner’s Guide to Bird Habitat and Populations in Oak Ecosystems of the PNW. 2012

Our species – the slender-billed subspecies – resides west of the Cascades. Fat white belly, an impression of upcurved bill because the lower bill curves toward the straight, sharp upper; used for hacking or ‘hatching’ open nuts and seeds it wedges in tree bark – a fun fact learned from my new Christmas book, the Sibley Guide to Bird Behavior. Oh, so cute and spunky. I hope they find lots of holes in our old trees to make nests.

Endangered Species

Well, this is not one of them. However, this Silvery Blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) looks very similar to the endangered Fender’s Blue (Icaricia icarioides fenderi).  But Fender’s blue has a row of faint markings, at the edge of the hindwing, like ghosts of the dark spots.

I was ecstatic the first time I saw a Silvery Blue until I learned about the second row of spots. I still am very enamored of these guys though. You have to wonder why the flamboyant STRIPED antennae? Such wonderful details!

Our oak savanna and woodland project probably would not have been supported were it not for the Fender’s Blue. Support for habitat improvement often comes in the form of money for the management of endangered species. Once a species is on the endangered list, the agencies responsible for watching out for them are required to come up with a plan to bulk up the population – plant or animal – and try to make it possible for them to reproduce and expand on their own (the official term is “recovery”).

Our project is providing more habitat close to existing Fender’s Blue populations, and I have planted the preferred food plant of the larvae – Kincaid’s Lupine. Kincaid’s Lupine is a plant that needs an upland prairie or savanna habitat, and is one of those species that is disappearing with the oak habitat – it is designated as threatened in some areas, endangered in others. My lupines are still small, but here are some of the current crop I am still trying to establish (not as fantastic looking as the butterfly, I know).