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
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.
Larch Mountain (Birding Oregon p.71) is a great spot close to Portland to find birds of the forested west side of the Cascades. Mature forest covers the area near the summit and throughout much of the crater. Farther down the mountain are areas that have been logged.
At first glance, a recent clearcut seems a desolate place. While it is sad to think of the great trees that used to stand there, you may actually see more birds in a clearcut than you will in a mature forest. The two clearcuts described in Birding Oregon have grown up to the point where you can’t walk into them any more. Young trees, shrubs, old stumps, rocks, and uneven ground make walking impossible. An easily accessible recent clearcut is found just downhill of milepost 8. Walk past the blue gate through a thin buffer of trees to get to the open habitat. In the past week I have seen Western Tanager, Red Crossbill, Gray Jay, Band-tailed Pigeon, Western Bluebird, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Townsend’s Solitaire, Rufous Hummingbird, Violet-green Swallow, and White-crowned Sparrow in or along the edges of this clearcut.
Lupines, along with Foxglove and other flowers, are common in clearcuts.
Clearcuts attract Black-tailed Deer and Roosevelt Elk, which in turn attract Mountain Lions. This set of tracks was leading from the clearcut to the woods.
The Sept./Oct. issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest has my piece on Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge (Birding Oregon p.20). This is a great area to explore for birds, other wildlife, scenery, and native petroglyphs. The article didn’t use any of the photos I sent with it, opting instead for a rather dreary view of the mountain. So here are a few photos from the refuge. For more information, check the refuge website.
Most of the refuge consists of a quarter of a million acres of sage steppe. While I appreciate trees and water as much as the next person, I really love the vastness of this habitat (one of the most threatened in North America).
Sunrise over Hart Mountain, viewed from the Warner Valley
Blue Sky is an island of Ponderosa Pine surrounded by sage steppe. These trees attract migrant and nesting species not found elsewhere on the refuge.
Hart Mountain refuge was originally established to protect the dwindling population of Pronghorns.
Mountain Lions are another mammal species that live on the refuge.
Horned Lark singing from atop a small rock
Many of the rocky outcroppings on the refuge contain native petroglyphs. Were these images drawn by shamans, artists, or just kids who liked to doodle?