[Tweeters] Off-Topic - Central Oregon Birds (long)

johntubbs at comcast.net johntubbs at comcast.net
Wed Jun 19 23:16:57 PDT 2013

Hi everyone,


I just finished my 28th annual float trip on the Deschutes River in central Oregon, and spent a few days before and after the actual float trip in the area, with some of that time devoted to birding.  Some good birds were found and photographed. 


Probably the best bird of the trip was WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER, found near Sisters, OR.  I first found a female working on an obviously very fresh and active well tree (a Ponderosa Pine).  A return visit to the well tree a couple days later yielded good looks at the male of the apparent pair.  Later, thanks to a birding group that showed up while I was there (the group was national in nature - birders from Missouri, Texas and the east coast), I got to observe an active nest tree.  Photographs of the male, female and the male leaving the nest hole carrying fecal sacs can be found at:


Female - note the numerous sap wells - http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=13943006&cat=38983


Male - the photo clearly ID's the bird, but is backlit, so not of great quality - http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=13943007&cat=38983


Male exiting nest cavity - http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=13943008&cat=38983


Also near Sisters I found several GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES and was able to get a couple pix of one singing male - one of the few times I've been able to capture even a mediocre photo of this species.  There are two photos at (click next after the first one) - http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=13943004&cat=38992


The Deschutes River itself had the best birding on a float trip that I can remember, probably because this year we went in early June, where in recent years it has been mid to late July.  Highlights included three falcons in the canyon - AMERICAN KESTREL, PRAIRIE FALCON (several) and an adult PEREGRINE FALCON.  The Peregrine caused interesting behavior of the colony of Cliff Swallows at the first cliff downriver from Whiskey Dick Flat.  There were swarms of swallows working the river and adjacent areas when I walked down to the cliff area.  I saw the falcon soaring in, about cliff high, and apparently the swallows did as well because quite quickly there was not a swallow to be seen anywhere.  The falcon soared on updrafts for a few minutes, gaining altitude, and then drifted off into the distance and out of sight.  A few minutes after the falcon was out of sight, waves of swallows emerged from the cliff face and started feeding again.  So many of the swallows appeared at once that there must have been some kind of communication that the coast was clear, unless it is a similar phenomenon to the clouds of starlings moving in concert - one bird makes a move and adjacent birds immediately trigger off that bird and the flock appears to have amazing communication.


A new species in the river canyon (for me) this trip was ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER.  I'm used to finding them in Klickitat County around oak groves, and while there are a couple of isolated oak patches in the Deschutes Canyon, that habitat is minimal compared to high desert habitat.  Maybe they (I saw at least three, two in one area, and one in a completely different area) were later migrants still moving through.  Photos of two of the birds can be found at the following link (click next after the first photo) - http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=13943001&cat=38984 .


Another satisfying photo was of a CANYON WREN.  In my experience, these are quite common in the Deschutes, but most of them are heard only, with their beautiful song cascading down to the river from far above on the canyon side.  The few glimpses I've had of them have usually been through a scope.  On this trip I found a bird apparently feeding young - and the apparent nest location was located close to my level behind two huge boulders in the talus pile at the base of the cliff.  The bird was so actively feeding in crevices in the rocks that the photos I got were pretty marginal, but I was glad to get any at all.  One of the wren photos is at - http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=13943002&cat=38988 .


Other nice species along the river included COMMON NIGHTHAWK (always there, and nice to see given their scarcity in the Puget Trough), at least three highly vocal YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, tons of LEWIS'S WOODPECKER (seemingly more common each year, almost always found around the scattered patches of oaks in the canyon). 


A nice picture of one of the Lewis's Woodpeckers is at - http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=13943029&cat=38983 .  The Deschutes canyon is world-famous for its trout and steelhead fishing and a big part of why the river is so productive is the huge number of aquatic insect species (and quantities thereof) that the river produces.  In the summer, it seems that the Lewis's Woodpeckers feed mostly on bugs, actively flycatching.  Here is a picture of one of the woodpeckers with a bill full of the rewards of its flycatching efforts - http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?LID=&photoID=13943030&cat=38983


It was a very nice trip from a birding perspective.


John Tubbs

johntubbs at comcast.net

Snoqualmie, WA





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