[Tweeters] Black Rosyfinches (Steens Mountain, Oregon) PHOTOS...

khanh tran khanhbatran at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 15 00:25:50 PDT 2008



Hi Tweeters:

For those who are interested in visiting the Malheur NWR (Southeastern Oregon) this time of year for Eastern rarities and the reliable but rare, BLACK ROSYFINCH population near the Steens Mountain (Frenchglen, Oregon), you can read my trip report below.

Unfortunately, this weekend was a bust for rarities but things can still show up at least until the middle of October. You do not need a high clearance vehicle to drive the scenic 26 mile gravel road to the Rosyfinches. The road usually closes around the end of October to November depending on snow. This is a great time to see the flocks of Black Rosies.

This area is my top two favorite birding sites in Oregon. Fall is especially beautiful with all the aspen colors and you can drive your car up to the highest road in Oregon--9500 ft!! If you are lucky, the Black Rosies can be a few hundred feet from the parking lot. If not they require a moderately easy hike with almost no elevation gain but on slightly uneven ground.

Let me know if you have any questions......

Here is the PHOTO LINK for other birds, pronghorns, and some scenery shots of my Malheur trip.

http://www.pbase.com/spruce_grouse/recent_photos&page=all

TRIP REPORT:

This weekend with the nice warm weather, Malheur NWR was extremely quiet for rarities. I spent a little more than one hour at Headquarters and a couple hours at the Fields "Oasis" (Fields, Oregon) with some nice OFO birders and friends.

I focused my trip on the Steens Mountains the entire weekend and was not disappointed. The aspen are starting to change and it made a nice contrast to the dry, austere landscape. Birding was surprisingly good near the East Rim.

Last August, Stefan Schlick and I saw a few BLACK ROSY FINCHES near Kiger Gorge and I was left in a trance and forgot to click the shutter button. This year, things were different. With a bit of patience, persistence, and a hike, I was able to find a flock of 50 BLACK ROSY FINCHES near the East Rim on both mornings.

The group of birds was not seen Saturday afternoon when Paul Sullivan's group showed up. I advised John Thomas to try the next morning as rosyfinches tend to stick to their "schedule" and favored feeding sites (based on my personal experiences). On both mornings like clockwork the birds showed up at 8:30 AM almost right on the nose!

I had a great time watching the lovely birds feed, fly, fan their wings in the sun, and flee several times from the many raptors. On Sunday, I spent one hour watching them and was rewarded with several birds approaching me within 10 feet. Some of the birds hid in the crevices and cracks of the rocks for a while as several raptors patrolled the area. They can blend in real well with their surroundings so carefully searching is needed if they don't call or fly about.

Amazing birds and always worth the trip to the Steens even if you miss them. I was lucky to get a couple of decent shots consisting of both winter plumaged, late breeding plumaged and immature birds. The birds look ratty this time of year and the harsh light did not do the birds justice as it diluted them out. Of course, I am not a true photographer either.

I also managed to find one male BROAD TAILED HUMMINGBIRD while watching the Black Rosies on the East Rim. The male hummer was busy trying to get nectar or whatever was inside the teazle. SAGE GROUSE were seen both days between the Kiger Gorge and East Rim; they are rather secretive this time of year. A NORTHERN GOSHAWK adult was near Fish Lake on Sunday. Other raptors include Golden Eagles, Cooper's and Sharp shinned Hawks, Peregrine and Prairie Falcon. Lots of Horned Larks, Rock Wrens, Northern Flickers, and White crowned sparrows as well.

There were also three GRAY CROWNED ROSYFINCHES near Kiger Gorge on Sunday morning. They are of the interior form.

Best bird at Fields was a NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH found earlier by Dave Smith. I am sure someone will give a more detailed report of other sightings this past weekend.

I had a nice stay at the Frenchglen Hotel and goobled on the delicious homemade Chocolate Chip Pecan cookies since I skipped on the the heavy but famous Fields milkshakes. I think this was one of my most enjoyable trips just enjoying the expected birds and the scenery rather than focusing on finding something rare.

Good birding,

Khanh Tran (Portland, Oregon)


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