Monday, April 13, 2015

Eastern Edge of Mt Hood National Forest

My third attempt to find owls in the Cascades was on the night of April 11th and the morning of April 12th. I searched the Cold Springs Road area.  This road connects Dufur Mill Road (Forest Road 44-FR 44) to the North-South Road (FR 27).  There are a few spur roads that you can take to up over 5000 feet in elevation.  

Just getting there required a careful drive, Hwy 26 and Hwy 35 were an icy mess after the snow had moved through.  The winds were gusty until after 9:30 pm or so.  Temperatures were about 26 degrees.  Skies clear.  I stopped every quarter mile or so in areas I thought would be good for my target, Boreal Owls.

A sample of the roads:

I started my hunt near a few dry meadows I knew of north of Eightmile Creek.  I think I heard one toot of a Great Horned Owl and maybe one of a Northern Saw-whet Owl.  Both vocalized only once.  My night went by fast and silent, by 12:30 I was tired and decided to head down Cold Springs Road towards FR 27.  The snow had not reached down that far and it was 30 degrees rather than 25.  As I entered the Ponderosa Pines I heard my first owl , a Northern Saw-whet.

My dog , Huck, and I spent the cold night in the car.  Not sure if he was cold, I threw my jacket over him.  He wagged his tail in thanks.  My sleeping bag was fine and by 4:45 I was awake and ready to move on.  I decided to backtrack and cover much of the same area I hit earlier that night.

. At around 6:30 or so I heard two Great Horned Owls.  I also heard a Northern Spotted Owl.  All owls were at a great distance, none were able to be recorded. A mixed Larch and true fir forest at sunrise:

I was hoping to find more owls, but a fun adventure all the same.

Once the sun was up I decided to go over to FR 27 and hike the School Canyon Trail to see what birds were there.  It is one of my favorite hikes in the Mt Hood Forest. I posted a Birdfellow report on it last May.  Here is the link if you want to know how to reach the area from Portland: School Canyon.

The drive in the Ponderosa Pine/Oak Forest can be good for birds.  Birds seen along the way:

Wild Turkey  
Northern Flicker  
Steller's Jay  
Common Raven  
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  
Red-breasted Nuthatch  
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  
Townsend's Solitaire  
Yellow-rumped Warbler  
Cassin's Finch  

View of Jefferson from School Canyon Trail.

Three Sisters:

A deer kept its eyes on us as Huck and I climbed up to the saddle on an opposite ridge.  This area is usually packed with Lewis's Woodpeckers in the spring.  I heard or saw none.  The same with Mountain Bluebirds, they have yet to arrive.  Nashville Warblers will be here soon as well.

The area will have pockets of birds all along the trail.  Birds found:

Sooty Grouse  6
Turkey Vulture  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  2
Bald Eagle  1
Williamson's Sapsucker  2
Downy Woodpecker  3
Hairy Woodpecker  4
Northern Flicker  12
Steller's Jay  8
Common Raven  2
Mountain Chickadee  4
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  12
Red-breasted Nuthatch  19
Brown Creeper  3
Golden-crowned Kinglet  12
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  10
Western Bluebird  10
Townsend's Solitaire  4
American Robin  3
Yellow-rumped Warbler  19
Song Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  30
Cassin's Finch  7

Very beautiful area.

Huckleberry blooms were out everywhere...I think.

Sure you can drive along a road until you happen to see a Sooty Grouse on the side of the road, get out of car, take picture and move on.  But it is a whole bunch more fun to quietly stalk a hooting grouse until you see it under a tree before it sees you.

After this picture I put my camera down to see it through my binoculars, it was about 30 feet away. It saw me and got into an alert position. I tried to reach back for my camera, but it had enough and  walked away.  Very cool time, and my wonderful dog cooperated, he realized I was stalking something so he sat quietly back under a tree.

Funny that Eastern Bluebirds were mentioned on OBOL yesterday.  The first moment I saw this Western Bluebird I  saw a bright clean white belly.  Something you see on an Eastern , but once it landed I saw it was a Western with the blue under chin and orange on the back.  There is blue on the belly, just not very obvious.

The canyon to the left was full of Sooty Grouse booming , Townsend's Solitaire singing,  and Cassin's Finch calling.

Fumbled with my camera trying to get the turkey in focus before it vanished.  Failed.


  1. What a great trip you had! Roads like that are bad enough during the day. It all sounds fun, except for the freezing temps. Probably part of the Boreal Owl hunt.


    1. Yes, it certainly helps to have confidence in your car on these trips.

  2. I thought Huck was a bear for a second! Very nice trip report, I'm impressed you were able to find the grouse. I've never had any luck with seeing them that way.

    1. Not the bear-dog beast again! He is about to get his spring trim down to a Lab looking beast, he will be much happier and comfy come the warm weather. Though the first few days he will look like a shaved rat to me, half of him vanishes.

    2. Ha! I did wonder if you set this fellow loose in front of my camera trap...