Monday, May 25, 2015

Ochoco National Forest

I had never been to the Ochoco National Forest, it is east of Prineville , OR.    I fixed that serious omission this past weekend.  The Ochoco is easy to spot on the map, it is the large green rectangle shaped forest with a distinct white spot in the middle, that is the Big Summit Prairie, a large cattle ranch that reminds me of the Catlow Valley.

Here is a google map of my trip.  My basic route was a  jaunt up Mill Creek Road, then over to the Ochoco Ranger Station, then a big loop up around Mt Pisgah,  down to Big Summit Prairie, then a trip out to the eastern portion of forest to the Bear Mountain area and then back to the ranger station and home.  My original plan was to do a two-night trip but it turned into a one-night trip.


The purpose of my trip was to track down a Dusky Grouse and make my 4th attempt for Boreal Owl in 2015.  A Dusky Grouse was reported from this forest the week before I went, rather than relocate that bird, I wanted to wander areas in hopes of finding more.

This dark shot is of Slide Mountain, I wandered many open areas looking for sites good for owls.  I was searching for areas with lots of rodents. The papers I have read say Boreal Owls prefer dry meadows  and hunt rodents.  Most of the areas I found seemed to be very rocky with no rodent holes though lots of small chipmunks were in the forest edges. So I had high hopes of owls.  In the higher elevations singing Ruby-crowned Kinglets were the loudest birds.  Lots of Chipping Sparrows at all spots.

Another open prairie on north side of Mt Pisgah.  Mallards and Lincoln Sparrows were here. 

I decided to spend the first night on the only non-rocky spot I could find on west side of Mt Pisgah.  (by the way, there is a Mt Pisgah down near Eugene, not the same).  I was near a spot called Indian Prairie (below).  It is a beautiful prairie, lots of singing Hermit Thrush in the area.  Picture taken just before dark.

My camp spot in the trees near the prairie.  As I was resting at about 8 pm, I heard a very short snipe like winnow call, I was very excited.  It was so brief and I never heard it again, I decided it was a Hermit Thrush making a short burst of sound, but it sure sounded owlish, I also heard one short very deep hoot  sound, maybe Great Gray or Flammulated?  In any case I never heard any other owl except one Great Horned in the very early morning. 

Sunset on western flank of Mt Pisgah.

Early the next day I was up trying to hear some owls.  This MacGillivray's Warbler was singing  away next to the road.  When I heard it up the road  I thought it sounded very Mourning Warblerish.  I think a Mourning would be a bit lower pitched, but they can come very close in song. I have tried to use Raven to get a spectrograph of this bird, no success.  Maybe an old Windows computer just doesn't work.  Anyone know how to get a spectrograph from a Youtube video?  Seems to me there would be some program available on the cloud for that.

Another one with songster closer to me.

The forest is home to some wild horses.  This trough was near my camp, the water must be from an artesian well.  This picture was taken at dusk, some critter must have recently visited the water hole, Huck had caught its scent.

The road that cuts across the north side of Mt Pisgah can be a challenge.  I did notice most of the roads on the forest are in great shape. FR 2630 from where it touches the Bridge Creek Wilderness heading east to FR 22 is not one of them.  My Subaru did fine, but some areas were rocky and others were ice slick with mud.  There is a burned area on the north eastern portion of Mt Pisgah, maybe I drove through there too early but all I saw were Hairy Woodpeckers.  The trees look good for Black-backed based on my experience on Mt Hood.

Burn on Mt Pisgah.

The prior evening I had driven half the rough road to search for owl spots, too much water I decided.  But I decided to return in the morning to look for woodpeckers and also to get to the top of the mountain, I was thinking it would be a blast to discover some Rosy-Finch up there .  None there but nice views of butter-butts, Brewer Sparrows and Mountain Bluebirds.

Sunrise while I worked my way along a rough muddy road.

Lookout on top of Mt Pisgah at sunrise, Wheeler County.  No Rosy-Finch.  Mt Pisgah is 6,816 feet in elevation.

Big Summit Prairie from top of Mt Pisgah.

Heading down the eastern flank of Mt Pisgah I would stop and search for Dusky Grouse, I was thinking being on the road this early would improve my chances of seeing one on the road itself, no luck.  I read Dusky Grouse's call travels a very short distance, unlike the Sooty which can boom across an entire canyon.  You need to be as close as 100 yds to hear the Dusky.

After getting back to a descent road  I headed down to Big Summit Prairie. 

Once you hit the eastern, drier side of Ochoco National Forest, Cassin's Finch and Chipping Sparrows rule the day.

Typical view of a Cassin's.

And your typical Chipping Sparrow buried in a pine tree just a few feet off the ground.

Mountain Bluebird were not hard to find.

View of Big Summit Prairie.  I heard snipe and curlew calling out in this field, darned if I could spot them.  Lots of birds were in this area, Tree Swallows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, WIlson's Warbler.  White-headed Woodpeckers.  Looked for Red-naped Sapsuckers , struck out.  At most of the spots I stopped for grouse, woodpeckers were in area, some drumming in the distance, some calling but they proved elusive as to the seeing.

Heading east it gets drier and looks much like the Steen's Mountain to me: juniper, sage , a few more pines perhaps.  Lots of cattle.

Below is a typical spot I stopped and walked hoping to find grouse.

Dusky Flycatcher were everywhere on eastern side.  Their chip note says duh - SKI  to my ear.

Of course with all the Chipping Sparrows and  Cassin's Finch,  Mountain Chickadees are all around you as well.  No bird really wanted to have its picture taken except that Dusky Flycatcher...  

I finally made it all the way past Bear Mountain to a spot that needs a new name , Squaw Prairie.  I thought this place looked great for owls, dry meadow with lots of rodents.

A Mountain Quail was calling at far end of this prairie.  I can tell there are rodents here, Huck quickly found many holes to sniff.

So what is this little fellow trying to drive off a Red-tailed Hawk over Squaw Prairie?

The longer tail and large head made me decide it was a Cooper's Hawk

Growing thunder storms, a tired dog that I was afraid had some bad water (he is fine) and me being burned out and wanting to be rested for Malheur next weekend caused me to stop my trip a day short. 

I managed to get confused between Townsend's Warblers and Hermit Warbler songs, they sure do vary by region's in Oregon.  I thought I was hearing mostly Hermit in the far eastern reaches?

Birds seen in forest ( I might have had a larger list, just spent most time listening for grouse):

Canada Goose  
Mountain Quail  
Cooper's Hawk  
Bald Eagle  
Red-tailed Hawk  
Long-billed Curlew  
Wilson's Snipe  
Mourning Dove  
Great Horned Owl  
Black-chinned Hummingbird       
Williamson's Sapsucker  
Hairy Woodpecker  
White-headed Woodpecker  
Northern Flicker  
Pileated Woodpecker  
Hammond's Flycatcher  
Gray Flycatcher  
Dusky Flycatcher  
Cassin's Vireo  
Warbling Vireo  
Gray Jay  
Steller's Jay  
Black-billed Magpie  
American Crow  
Common Raven  
Tree Swallow  
Cliff Swallow  
Mountain Chickadee  
Red-breasted Nuthatch  
Golden-crowned Kinglet  
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  
Mountain Bluebird  
Townsend's Solitaire  
Hermit Thrush  
American Robin  
MacGillivray's Warbler  
Common Yellowthroat  
Yellow Warbler  
Yellow-rumped Warbler 
Townsend's Warbler 
Hermit Warbler  
Wilson's Warbler  
Chipping Sparrow  
Brewer's Sparrow  
Vesper Sparrow  
Song Sparrow  
Lincoln's Sparrow  
Dark-eyed Junco  
Western Tanager  
Black-headed Grosbeak  
Lazuli Bunting  
Red-winged Blackbird  
Western Meadowlark  
Brewer's Blackbird  
Brown-headed Cowbird  
Cassin's Finch  

North Fork of Crooked River along FR 42.  Lots of campers kept me from looking for American Dipper. 

 This is a beautiful forest, I'll be back and will try the eastern side for owls.  Thanks to Joel, Russ and Chuck for suggestions and info.

Thanks for visiting.

For a few more Huck pictures, try this.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Westport Pelagic May 16, 2015

 I was hoping to go on a petrel hunt out of Newport, OR on May 17th, but that trip did not work out so I managed to get on the May 16th trip out of Westport, WA.   I had never been to Westport so I was looking forward to the trip. So a non-Oregon blog but close enough.

The Westport pelagic trips are the oldest continuous seabird survey in the world, very cool to know.  I think they said it has been going since the early 70's. 

The weather was very gray and some mist when we left the dock at 5:30 am.  The goal was to head straight offshore about 40 miles to see what was out there. I went looking for petrel.  The first great bird we saw was in the early morning light, a skua just outside the channel.  As we headed offshore we started seeing Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and Sooty Shearwater.  At about 24 miles out we stopped near a fishing boat that had attracted a few birds.

Black-footed Albatross on the water.  These were waiting for food, but the winds were light as well.  There are studies showing how much wind is needed to give these birds the advantage of dynamic soaring.  It is about 7-10 knots of wind.  Otherwise they might just as well sit on the surface and wait for the wind to kick up a bit.  Lack of wind makes for a nice trip but you need some wind to get the birds up and flying so you can spot them.  Still it is nice to get so close to great birds.

Another Black-footed.

The calm conditions are great for studying storm-petrels.  There were a few pure flocks of the birds out on the water.  If I am seeing this bird correctly and those are worn flight feathers since it is May, this is probably a first-summer bird?  I had a tough time checking the wings out on the birds since the kept fanning them and it was hard to see if feathers were worn or just spread out.  Problem is I would think a first summer bird would be more brown with wear than this one, so I am not sure.  I always  try to concentrate on relative bill sizes, flight styles and structure on these buggers.  Sometimes best to just put the binos down and watch the birds.

UPDATE: I decided this shows little wear and is in fresh plumage, I looked at my photos and I did not get a photo of any in worn plumage, maybe all these were past their first summer. 

I think since this bird looks fresh, it is not a first summer bird.

Storm-Petrels pattering on the surface on a peaceful ocean away from those  pesky shearwaters.

When we were 40 miles out we found more storm-petrels.  We were watching a flock of Fork-tailed when we saw a small group of Leach's Storm-Petrels fly into the chum slick.

Fork-tailed on left Leach's on the right.  You can see the small dark bar up middle of white rump.

Blurry picture but was trying to get the rumps on all the Leach's present and also compare them to Fork-tailed in shape.

After seeing Leach's flying with Fork-tailed yesterday and Wilson's flying with Fork-tailed off Newport last year, I will make the bold statement that I will not confuse the two species again.  Wilson's wing shape is more tri-angular than the long winged Leach's.

No dark band on this nicely forked tailed, long narrow winged Leach's.

Leach's Storm-Petrel

We we also had a large group of shearwater and gulls at a fishing boat; we threw out or own supply of suet and all the birds rushed over to us.  Adult Sooty Shearwater and Pink-footed Shearwater are under heavy molt now.  The clean fresh looking Sooty Shearwaters are thus birds that were hatched this nesting season.  I assumed this one was a young bird.  Not sure if it hatched in late 2014 or early 2015, so is it first-year or second-year :).

 I think this is the wing of an ASY Sooty Shearwater.  Looks to me that it is molting secondary coverts and primaries.  By the way, feel free to correct any errors!

Not a first year bird.


Recently fledged Sooty Shearwater.


Wing of a recently fledged Sooty, no signs of molt.


All the photos I have show molting Pink-footed Shearwater,  I thought I had a few fresh birds, rats.

Sometimes I wonder how they manage to fly, this was not as ratty as some.

Well if you had looked a second sooner you would have seen a Cassin's Auklet.

There were many Red-necked Phalarope on the ocean , a few Red Phalarope as well.  Red-necked show very dark upperparts with a narrow but bold white stripe. The Red Phalarope seem to show more white but not as contrasting a pattern.

We saw lots of Common Tern in the channel and a few flying out in the near shore waters.

The wider black tips to the primaries of a Common Tern are seen here.  We saw one Arctic Tern offshore, where they usually hang out.  

White-winged Scoter in the channel

Rhinoceros Auklet were everywhere.

Coming into the channel we  encountered a huge mixed flock of birds (terns gulls and loon).  I was in the stern hoping for some decent pictures, the folks in the bow saw a Manx Shearwater in the flock, I missed it.  But I was on the bow out on the ocean when I saw but missed a picture of a Black-legged Kittiwake that flew in over the stern, so I could not win.

Tattler on the rocks.

I was hoping to get a nice shot of a Steller Sea Lion (Northern Sea Lion), but they dove off the can as the boat passed.  This one tried to get back on. It would wait for a wave then take a leap up on can. In the calm seas it took a few efforts, it failed on this one.

More Steller's, you can see the more pushed in bear like face compared to California Sea Lions.

Narrow face and bump on head of a full on male California Sea Lion.  We had a few Harbor Porpoise and some Humpback Whales on the trip.

Here is a list of the birds seen as provided by Bruce through ebird.  Comments are by Bruce and I'll need to delete the Manx, otherwise I managed to see all birds.

Westport pelagic, inshore, Grays Harbor, US-WA
May 16, 2015 5:54 AM - 6:20 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Westport pelagic deep water trip. cloudy, 52 degrees
19 species (+1 other taxa)

Surf Scoter  26
White-winged Scoter  18
Red-throated Loon  4
Pacific Loon  4
Common Loon  1
Sooty Shearwater  5
Brandt's Cormorant  9
Double-crested Cormorant  50
Pelagic Cormorant  6
Brown Pelican  1
Red-necked Phalarope  8
South Polar Skua  1     incrediable sighting as we headed out. 1 mile past jetty before offshore leg. closest I've ever seen to shore. Good looks by many including leaders and Phil.
Common Murre  20
Pigeon Guillemot  25
Marbled Murrelet  1
Rhinoceros Auklet  5
Bonaparte's Gull  2
California Gull  1
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  14
Common Tern  12

Westport--Offshore waters, Grays Harbor, US-WA
May 16, 2015 6:55 AM - 10:55 AM
Protocol: Traveling
40.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Westport seabirds deep water trip. cloudy, 55 degrees. Mammal highlight- 2 Humpback Whales
14 species (+1 other taxa)

Pacific Loon  2
Black-footed Albatross  114     Large number behind a long liner boat
Northern Fulmar  5
Pink-footed Shearwater  55
Sooty Shearwater  193
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  103
Leach's Storm-Petrel  1
Red-necked Phalarope  43
Common Murre  64
Cassin's Auklet  5
Rhinoceros Auklet  56
Sabine's Gull  29
California Gull  15
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  71
Arctic Tern  1

Westport--Offshore waters, Grays Harbor, US-WAMay 16, 2015 11:30 AM - 3:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
40.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Westport seabird deep water trip, return leg.
21 species (+1 other taxa)

White-winged Scoter  58
Pacific Loon  2
Black-footed Albatross  25
Northern Fulmar  6
Pink-footed Shearwater  212     many at boats
Sooty Shearwater  780
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  157
Leach's Storm-Petrel  5
Brandt's Cormorant  4
Red-necked Phalarope  382
Red Phalarope  6
Parasitic Jaeger  2
Common Murre  17
Cassin's Auklet  18
Rhinoceros Auklet  51
Tufted Puffin  2
Black-legged Kittiwake  1
Sabine's Gull  28
California Gull  35
Herring Gull  1
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  180
Common Tern  28

Westport pelagic, inshore, Grays Harbor, US-WAMay 16, 2015 3:15 PM - 3:45 PM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 mile(s)
Comments:     return inshore leg.
19 species (+1 other taxa)Surf Scoter  41
Red-throated Loon  3
Pacific Loon  210
Common Loon  4
Western Grebe  2
Manx Shearwater  1     on water, just taking off when spotted by several of us up front. excellent looks, black and white, small shearwater.
Brandt's Cormorant  90
Double-crested Cormorant  5
Pelagic Cormorant  45
Brown Pelican  5
Wandering Tattler  3
Ruddy Turnstone  2
Surfbird  1
Common Murre  3
Pigeon Guillemot  8
Rhinoceros Auklet  20
Black-legged Kittiwake  1
Bonaparte's Gull  10
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  50
Common Tern  410     huge migrating flock near jetty.

Finally I would like to thank the Monte Carlo, its crew, skipper and the guides, Bill, Bruce and Mike.  

I have enjoyed pelagic trips out of both Newport and Westport.  Try these links for more info:


Thanks for visiting.