[Tweeters] Central Oregon (Sisters and Middle Deschutes River) Trip

johntubbs at comcast.net johntubbs at comcast.net
Sun Aug 8 23:33:14 PDT 2010

Hi everyone,

This post relates to Oregon birding, but I know there are some Tweeters folks who float the Deschutes River and/or go to central Oregon during the summer.

I did not bird intensively on this trip, as I was focused on doing landscape painting, but did spend some time birding near Sisters, Oregon (Cold Springs Campground, Indian Ford Campground, Indian Ford Meadow Preserve and Camp Polk Meadow Preserve) and was on the lookout for birds on the six-day Deschutes River float from Trout Creek to Maupin.  (For those who know the river and are puzzled by why we take six days for what is typically a three-day float, we set up and stay in one camp for four days for fishing, birding and painting.)

Nothing particularly rare was seen, but the birds were a great change of pace from what I usually see in the home territory.  For one example, in the yard of the friends in Sisters who  I stayed with before the trip, I had CLARK'S NUTCRACKER, PYGMY NUTHATCH and MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE as regular visitors even though their only bird feeder was a hummingbird feeder (which hosted two constantly dueling RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS). 

Raptors were plentiful, and included at least seven RED-TAILED HAWKS in a short stretch of Highway 97 between Madras and Redmond.  This area always has so many of these birds when I'm there that I refer to it as Red-tail Alley.  On the river, I had a BALD EAGLE near White Horse Rapids - there is a resident bird or pair in that area based on sightings on each of the last four or five float trips we've done there.  My theory as to why the eagles are in that area is that it is a part of the river hemmed in closely by towering basalt cliffs and osprey nest locations are not available.  OSPREY are everywhere on the river and on the one occasion I saw one of the Bald Eagles venture out of the White Horse area (one or two years ago) it came under constant attack from the Osprey which nest in abundance along the river.  We saw multiple dozens of Ospreys - more every year - and most of the nests contained young that appeared not to have fledged yet.  (We rafted past a screaming youngster on the first day of the float that appeared to have fledged and flown to the other side of the river and was badgering mom and dad for food, or perhaps advice on how to get back to the nest.  The apparent nest from which it came contained two other youngsters and mom and dad (presumably) were flanking the vociferous young bird probably wishing it would shut up for awhile.  A PRAIRIE FALCON was observed hunting on two different days.  Later on in the trip, two GOLDEN EAGLES flew by relatively low overhead, and one was being vigorously dive-bombed by one of a pair of AMERICAN KESTREL that had been observed perched on the cliff top nearby.  The probable location of the Golden Eagles' eyrie was located as well.  No Peregrine Falcons were seen on this trip - a disappointment after having found a recently-fledged bird being fed by an adult on this trip two years ago.  To add to the raptor highlights, a great look was had at a SWAINSON'S HAWK that flew over the car on Highway 197 between Madras and Maupin. 

The areas around Sisters yielded several ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER and scads of Western Wood-Pewees.  Several TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES were seen, including a juvenile that landed in a berry bush about five feet from where I was painting along the Metolius River.  Other nice birds in the area included a singing CASSIN'S VIREO and a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE male that came charging out of the sage and landed about ten feet away to scold and check me out after one quick play of that species' song on my iPhone. 

Spotted Sandpiper and Belted Kingfisher were very frequent on the river float, as were ROCK WREN and CANYON WREN.  What a treat to hear that wonderful Canyon Wren song off and on all day long.  The area around Whiskey Dick Flat held a number of LARK SPARROWS again this year, after missing them last year, and a large covey of California Quail that kept startling my two buddies and me when they flushed as we walked along the river.  LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS are regular in the canyon now for the last several years, as there are scattered stands of Garry Oak along the river.  Dusk always reliably brought out COMMON NIGHTHAWK, always a treat to see now that they are essentially absent from the Seattle area.  There were also some AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS mixed in with the gulls at the mouth of the Deschutes when I drove by on the way home. 

It was an excellent trip, as always.

John Tubbs

Snoqualmie, WA

johntubbs at comcast.net

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