I had a chance to visit Crooked River Wetlands near Prineville. Like Fernhill Wetlands, this site was constructed as part of a wastewater treatment system. But Crooked River Wetlands was designed from the beginning to accommodate both birds and birders. The parking lot has a covered picnic area (the only shade on the property) and a restroom. Paved and gravel paths provide easy viewing of the wetlands.
There are 15 bodies of water in the complex, which is right next to the Crooked River. Water levels vary with the seasons, so there is a variety of water depths which attract different species.
Shorebird migration is getting underway. Here are some Western Sandpipers.
One of the deeper ponds held this pair of Ruddy Ducks.
Eared Grebe with baby
Between the river, the ponds, and the adjacent wastewater plant, this site attracts swarms of swallows. Tree Swallows use the many nest boxes.
This is one of the easiest places I know to see Bank Swallows.
Brewer’s Blackbird was one of five blackbird species I saw on this visit.
Tricolored Blackbirds can be hard to find in Oregon, but this site is pretty reliable.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds are common here. The males tended to hide in the reeds, but this female and youngster posed nicely.
This is one of two Say’s Phoebes that were working the fence line at the edge of the property.
Crooked River Wetlands is one of the best birding sites in central Oregon, providing access to a great variety of wetland species in a very dry part of the state. It provides a nice pocket of avian diversity at a time of year when birding can be pretty slow.
I went out to Smith and Bybee Wetlands and Vanport Wetlands to check for migrants. The Smith and Bybee area was pretty slow. Water levels were high so some of the trails were inaccessible. Vanport had some really interesting birds, including several Redheads and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, both hard to find in the Portland area.
The small colony of Cliff Swallows at Smith and Bybee was active with nest building.
This House Sparrow had moved into an old Cliff Swallow nest.
American Bullfrogs were enjoying the spring weather.
Brush Rabbit scratching an itch
At Vanport, most birds were pretty far away, like this Yellow-headed Blackbird. His song was easily heard, even from across the lake.
This Ruddy Duck was doing his motorboat impression to impress the ladies.
This Cooper’s Hawk was atop a tall tree overlooking the racetrack. The loud engines did not seem to bother him. I can’t say the same for me.
A few birds, like this Cedar Waxwing, were down in the small trees along the near shore of the lake.
Bullock’s Orioles are often obscured by foliage in the treetops. This individual was low enough for a brief glimpse among the blossoms.
Just north of the little town of Plush, OR, is Hart Bar, a small interpretive site at the southern end of the Warner Wetlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern (Birding Oregon p. 21). A short trail leads through the marsh, providing views of shorebirds and waterfowl. The parking area has a primitive toilet and several interpretive signs. On the day of my recent visit, the wind was quite strong, making it difficult to hold optics steady but also protecting me from the clouds of mosquitoes that can be a problem here.
White-faced Ibis feed in the grassy areas near the water. I think the tall grasses provided them with shelter from the wind.
American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts are two common nesting species in this area. Willets are also common, but proved to be a little shy.
Blue-winged Teal is always a good find in Oregon. Gadwall and Cinnamon Teal are more plentiful here.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds share the marsh with Brewer’s Blackbirds.
There are gravel roads running through the Warner Valley. But Hart Bar is easily accessed from paved Hogback Road, and provides a nice variety of wetland species. It is definitely worth a stop on your way to Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge.
Vanport Wetlands, in north Portland, is an unassuming little site next to an off-leash dog park. A chain-link fence surrounds the property, so most views of birds are distant. Despite the small size and limited access, Vanport almost always hosts some interesting birds.
The Ruddy Ducks are sporting their breeding plumage.
Vanport is the only reliable site in Portland that I am aware of that hosts Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
Nala, the Swamp Thing. The water currently extends beyond the fence, providing a place for dogs to play without disturbing the birds swimming nearby.
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most popular birding destinations in Oregon, not just for the abundant expected species, but also for the eastern vagrants that turn up there every year. Our Birdathon team from the Audubon Society of Portland visited the area June 7-9.
The trees and shrubs around the refuge headquarters are very attractive to birds.
Western Tanagers were abundant in the trees and in the sagebrush.
The lawn at headquarters hosts a large colony of Merriam’s Ground Squirrels.
The view from Buena Vista, with Steens Mountain in the background
In warmer weather, this part of the state is great for herps, like this Western Fence Lizard.
Northern Flicker, nesting in the town of Frenchglen, near the southern end of the refuge
While not nearly as scenic as Logan Valley, Bear Valley (Birding Oregon p. 33), west of Seneca, has its share of birds. It is the only site where birders have reported Upland Sandpipers this spring. My recent attempt to find these birds was unsuccessful, but the pastures hosted plenty of Long-billed Curlews, Willets, Wilson’s Phalaropes, and more Wislon’s Snipes than I have ever heard in one place.
As you would expect in a county that has only one stoplight, car traffic is pretty light. Traffic is delayed occasionally by herds of cattle crossing the highway.
Yellow-headed Blackbird, showing off for the ladies
Mule Deer, displaying the enormous ears that give the species its name.