Gilchrist Crossing

Located about 45 miles south of Bend, OR, Gilchrist Crossing (the eBird hotspot name) is best known as one of the few sites to reliably find Northern Waterthrush in Oregon. It is a brushy site along the Little Deschutes River at the edge of the forest.

On my recent visit, one of the more common species was Yellow Warbler. Many of the birds at this site, including the Northern Waterthrush, were deep in heavy cover, so being able to recognize songs is essential.

Looking west on the gravel road, with thick brush and water on both sides. To the east is a nice stand of forest.

This is “the bridge,” the farthest you can safely walk to the west. On the other side of the river is a large sawmill operation.

Song Sparrow singing from the top of a small pine

Yellow Pine Chipmunks are common along this stretch of road.

Getting there: Do not trust the directions that your navigation system may give you. Phone service is fine, so you can see where you are on your phone and follow the road that way.

From US 97 in Gilchrist, turn east onto Mountain View Drive (at the liquor store). Turn right onto Hillcrest Street and follow it to its end at a gravel road. Turn left onto the gravel road (Gilchrist Haul Road on some maps, but there are no signs) and follow it north for about 1.4 miles, where it curves left to go under the highway. Follow the road through the forest for less than half a mile. When the gravel turns from gray to red, park you car and walk in the rest of the way.

Mosquitos can be pretty brutal at this site, so be prepared. The gravel road was in very good shape, as of July 2022, and fine for a passenger car. While Northern Waterthrush is the star of this site, don’t neglect the dry forest habitat nearby.

Yellow(ish) Warbler

This Yellow Warbler caught me off guard recently. He shows patches of gray, green, and off-white, but no actual yellow. Occasionally, it is good to be reminded about individual variation. Some birds are just outside the norm.

Structurally, we can tell this is a Yellow Warbler by the plain face with the beady eye and the hefty bill. There is a just a hint of streaking on the breast, indicating that this is a male.

Northern races of Yellow Warbler tend to be duller than our local nesters, and this individual seems to be molting into his first adult plumage, so he provides two important lessons.

First: Look at every bird. The more birds you actually observe, the more you learn about individual variation.

Second: When you see a bird that is “different,” don’t automatically assume you have something rare. Every bird is unique, and the vast majority do not look exactly like the picture in you field guide.

Happy Spring