Random Rodents

I have run across some photogenic rodents this year. While they don’t qualify as “charismatic mega-fauna,” some of them are quite stunning.

This is either a Yellow-pine Chipmunk or a Least Chipmunk. Apparently, you can only differentiate the two by measuring their skulls. I am leaning toward Yellow-pine on this one, as some sources say that Yellow-Pine Chipmunk tends to be more colorful than Least, and this individual was found in a grove of Yellow (Ponderosa) Pines.

As you can see, this individual has a lot more gray, with just a touch of rufous on the sides. The habitat was open sage steppe, so maybe Least Chipmunk?

It is slightly out of focus, but I love this image of a Belding’s Ground Squirrel peeking over a rock.

Here is a better view of a Belding’s Ground Squirrel.

Belding’s Ground Squirrel portrait

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel in the morning sun

Yellow-bellied Marmot, high up on Mount Hood

Back on the west side of the state, this Douglas’s Squirrel make a brief appearance in the back yard.

Here is a California Ground Squirrel up in an Oregon White Oak. So, two of the three words in his name are incorrect in this case.

Yes, I know that rabbits are not rodents, but I can’t resist a cute bunny, in this case, a Mountain Cottontail.

Back to birds next time, unless something more interesting comes up.

Happy Summer

Fort Rock State Park

Fort Rock (Birding Oregon p. 27) is a wonderful open ring of rock rising out of the flat sage steppe of Lake County. The remnant of a lava eruption, worn down by the waves of an immense lake, the high rock walls are home to White-throated Swifts, Rock and Canyon Wrens, and various raptors. The sage flats inside and surrounding the structure attract Sage Sparrows and Green-tailed Towhees.

The rock is filled with bubbles, the result of lava erupting into a lake.

The moon over the western wall. There is a pair of Prairie Falcons in this photo, the male is on top of the ridge and the female is down and to the left near the whitewash.

Here’s a closer look at the Prairie Falcons.

A view of the west wall from inside the crater.

Rock Wren, blending in well with his surroundings

This Mountain Cottontail was soaking up a little sun on this cold windy morning.

The outside of the eastern wall near the parking area. This area seems to be best for White-throated Swifts and Canyon Wrens.

The vegetation near the parking lot attracts both migrant and resident birds. Brewer’s Blackbirds are common here.

Green-tailed Towhee being buffeted by the wind

Western Tanager

Cold temperature and high winds forced this Western Wood-Pewee to hunt from  the ground.

BLM Wilderness Study Area, Adel

Near the town of Adel, the BLM Wilderness Study Area is probably the best place in Oregon to find a Juniper Titmouse. While this species was the main goal of my hike in this area, there were many other species to enjoy, along with the great views. To reach this site, park in the wide pullout off the westbound lane of Hwy 140 near milepost 25. Just a few yards west of the pullout, a dirt road leads up the hill toward the top of Fish Creek Rim. Walk up this road to its terminus at the communication towers at the top of the rim. (Because of these towers, you actually have good cell phone reception throughout the hike, an unusual occurrence in this part of Oregon.)

This blurry Chipping Sparrow was part of a small flock of sparrows near the start of the hike. A Black-throated Sparrow was a nice surprise.

Rock Wrens were common on the way up the hill, perching in junipers, sage, and occasionally on rocks.

The view from about half-way up the hill, looking down toward the highway and Deep Creek

Farther up the hill

The view from the top, looking down on the Warner Valley. The wetlands in the valley are the source of the Ring-billed Gulls and American White Pelicans which can be seen soaring over the juniper woodlands.

The top of the rim is more tundra-like, with a few trees and short grasses. Mountain Bluebirds and Western Meadowlarks are common in this area.

Variable Checkerspots were clinging to the road to avoid the strong winds.

Mountain Lion tracks

Mountain Cottontail

On the way back down the hill, three and a half hours into the four-hour hike, I did find a Juniper Titmouse. I try not to put too much emphasis on “target birds,” but it is nice when you actually find them.