I had the chance to visit Fort Rock State Park recently. This is a U-shaped rock formation (formerly a volcanic island in the middle of a huge lake) surrounded by sage steppe. This site is a lovely sample of high rimrock and sagebrush habitats, attractive to a nice selection of birds and other wildlife.
Loggerhead Shrikes were some of the more frequently encountered birds within the crater.
Sagebrush Sparrow is reliable here, as is Brewer’s Sparrow, although the Brewer’s did not let me get close enough for a photo.
Green-tailed Towhees were surprisingly shy, only allowing distant views.
This California Quail was hanging out in the parking lot.
Here are four of the TWENTY-SEVEN baby California Quail I saw along a narrow trail. Baby quail can fly, and were flushing all around me.
I was really hoping to find some herps on this trip, but my luck with reptiles has been terrible this year. I did manage to find four Northern Scorpions, which is pretty neat, but I would have much preferred a few snakes and lizards.
I made a couple of trips out to Sauvie Island for my Little Brown Birds class. The weather was freakishly nice for late March, although the mild winter has not been conducive to large sparrow flocks.
One highlight of the trip on Saturday was a large flock of California Quail. This species has become more difficult to find in recent years. Wapato Access Greenway State Park is a great place for herps on Sauvie Island. This is a large Common Garter Snake. The subspecies found in this area is Red-spotted Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalisconcinnus)
Pacific Chorus Frogs (also known as Pacific Tree Frogs) were common in the grassy areas. Their call is surprisingly loud for such a small frog.
Sauvie Island (Birding Oregon p.55) is best known for wintering waterfowl and raptors. While the summer birding seems quiet compared to the multiple thousands of geese and Sandhill Cranes seen on winter visits, there is always something to see.
Ospreys nest on platforms provided for them, as well as on utility poles and dead trees.
This California Quail was surveying his domain from a fence.
It seemed odd to see this Black-headed Grosbeak feeding in weeds along the roadside, a considerable distance from the nearest tree.
I did a point count at Oak Island on Sauvie Island today, then birded several other areas. Migration is starting to pick up with large numbers of Purple Martins and several warblers and shorebirds on the move. I also saw four Sanhill Cranes, which seemed a bit early.
Western Wood-Pewees are everywhere, and still very vocal.
This California Quail spent some time on top of a corral fence, before disappearing into the blackberry brambles.
Here is a very distant shot of two Red-necked Phalaropes in front of a Cinnamon Teal. Notice the big blue patch on the extended wing of the teal.
A Brush Rabbit, not a bird, nor uncommon, but still cute.
Pacific Treefrog. It is amazing how such a tiny animal (about 1 inch from snout to vent) can have such a loud call.
Last Friday I went to Sauvie Island to scout out locations for my class field trip on Saturday. The birding was great, not only for sparrows (which was the topic of the class) but for other birds as well. Along Rentenaar Road I found large flocks of White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, several Lincoln’s Sparrows and a Fox Sparrow. More unusual were three Common Ravens, a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk, and a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers flying over the farm fields. California Quail were calling from the blackberry thickets along the road.
The following morning, with my class in tow, I walked the same stretch of road. The White-crowned flock was much smaller. We saw only one distant Lincoln’s. The ravens, Rough-legged, and Pileateds were nowhere to be seen, and the California Quail called from way back in the fields. But we did find a White-throated Sparrow, a Peregrine Falcon, and a Red-breasted Sapsucker, which I hadn’t seen the day before.
This brings up an obvious, but often forgotten tenet of birding: Those who find the greatest diversity of species and the most rarities are those that spend the most time in the field. If it seems like other birders are finding a lot more birds than you are, take a look at how often you actually go birding. Successful birding is not entirely dependent on skill and experience. Sometimes it is just a matter of getting out to where the birds are.