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Volume 9, Issue 1
January 2011

The Nature of Cedar Mill
With the leaves off the trees…
by Lauretta Young

I can certainly see the birds a whole lot better! As I was out in my back yard at dusk, preparing to barbeque dinner on a dry October evening, I was rewarded with seeing a Great Horned owl fly into my cherry tree. He was so quiet that if I had not been looking out at that moment I wouldn't have spotted him at all. And there were just enough leaves that I wouldn't have necessarily seen his shape after he landed, either.

As winter approaches some of our common winter backyard birds make another appearance. I always marvel at the "oh dear me" call of the yellow crowned sparrows who arrive here in the fall after breeding further north. They call from all around the yard as they scamper in the underbrush feeding. They do seem to like to scavenge under the bird feeders where I can get a glimpse of them with their striking yellow striped heads. Some of the juvenile birds are not as brightly colored in their head stripe. I used to find all these sparrows to be very similar but with repeated practice I find they are more recognizable now. Sparrows tend to be a very inclusive group, so often there are many varieties all mixed together apparently getting along just fine.

acorn woodpecker
Acorn woodpecker, photo by Jeff Young

As the trees lose their leaves we gain access to sightings of more of our woodpeckers as they climb up and down the trees eating insects. One of my favorite woodpeckers is the Acorn woodpecker. I like them since they are such "show offs" and love to pose for whoever wants to admire their magnificent coloring. They are not found in Cedar Mill but they are a short distance away. Dawson Creek Corporate center behind the Hillsboro library has several ponds with a good variety of migratory ducks and even generally some wood ducks. The star of that area is the Acorn woodpecker!

To the south of the Dawson ponds is a wetlands area with several dead oak trees. There are live oak trees to the south of the library also full of woodpeckers gathering acorns. The birds then fly to the dead trees, where they deposit these treasures in previously drilled out holes. The trees are riddled with holes and last week when I was there the noisy flock was busily filling the holes for their winter stash. Back and forth, calling to each other loudly—you can't miss them. If the sun shines on their heads the yellow and red almost glow. They are attention grabbers for sure. Our area is usually the northern most spot in the US where you can see these gorgeous woodpeckers.

Of course in my yard and all around Cedar Mill we have many woodpeckers, including the Hairy and the smaller Downy and Flickers and occasionally Sapsuckers and Pileateds. The Downys are the most common at suet feeders and in trees but it's worth the short trip to Hillsboro to see the Acorn woodpeckers and take a stroll on the very nice paved paths to see the ducks and then maybe stop in to the library and read the magazines while looking out onto the ponds from the large picture windows—very nice winter day!

Lauretta Young is a retired physician who now leads birding tours in Cedar Mill and beyond. Check out her website at or her husband's photos at



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Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291