Sunday, November 29, 2015

Early winter in the White River WMA

On Saturday, Nov. 28,  I decided to go back to the east side of Mt Hood for one last trip this year before the forest roads are closed. There has been snow out there already, but the past few days have been nice and sunny.  Forest Road 48 will be closed anytime now, it is not plowed.  The drive out FR 48 had its share of icy stretches and frozen clumps of slush.  It was 14 degrees when I arrived at my parking area.  I doubt it got much above 20.  My purpose was to see if I could detect any Pine Grosbeak in the woods that line the creeks in the Wildlife Management Area.  

I decided to try to find a nice loop through the western side of the WMA.  I found just that by starting off on a road I went down in June (June Trip)  and simply kept turning left when I had the option.  I started off at the lower star on the map and went counter-clockwise.  I found myself back on the paved FR 27 at the top star.  From there back to the car down the left side of my loop is all paved.  7 miles in all.

There is a lack of variety of birds in these woods this time of year, but the birds you do see are in groups that are fun to discover and hunt through. The birds all seem to be in fresh plumage.

For a more general map of the White River WMA, try this one.  I have updated it with other bird hikes I have done on area.

Woodpeckers were a common species seen.  This Williamson's Sapsucker triggered a rare bird alert in eBird, I found it right before I returned to my car along FR 27.  I would assume only due to lack of effort, but eBird has only two records of this species in this area of the  county between Sept-Mar, 8 records for the entire county during this period.

Hairy Woodpeckers were the most common woodpecker found.

This Black-backed Woodpecker was up near where the dirt road I hiked hooked up with FR 27.

Not all Mountain Chickadees are in Western Oregon now.  Beautiful birds.

I have tried to pay more attention to the subspecies of White-breasted Nuthatch. These were all chattering with a rapid call.  A feature of the tenuissima subspecies (lumped with nelsoni in Sibley's  Interior West bird), the subspecies which should be found in Eastern Oregon. 

Interior West birds have narrower black crowns than the Pacific group,  and they lack a black mark behind the eye which can sometimes be found on the Pacific group.

Compared to the Pacific group the Interior West birds have darker but not black centers to the greater coverts, they are shown here as the dark dashes on the gray background.  The Pacific group supposedly has paler, less contrasting centers on the greater coverts.

The flanks are supposedly darker gray, rarely suffused with buff, the Pacific birds are paler on the flanks and can be suffused with buff.

Taken with my iphone, most of the hike was on bare ground or patchy snow.  This dark canyon is where Tygh Creek crosses FR 27. It was 2 pm, the area was still dark and cold, no winter sun reaches this area.

This is Tygh Creek down in the WMA, just as dark and cold.  I spent some time searching the grove for owls.  

This Mule Deer ( I think)  was on FR 27, it was a beautiful beast, it just stood there and watched me walk towards it. Black-tailed Deer are subspecies of the Mule Deer.  Mule Deer are larger and have big mule-like ears. They also have a larger white rump and a smaller black tipped tail compared to smaller white rumped and larger, solid black (dorsal surface) tail on the Black-tailed.   Black-tailed Deer are a western Oregon species but I understand they do occur on eastside of Mt Hood.

This print in the snow was the size of my hand.  Tons of animal tracks were seen, of all sizes and shapes.

Gobble gobble

Mt Hood glowing in the late afternoon sun.

eBird list:

White River WMA Loop, Wasco, Oregon, US
Nov 28, 2015 9:15 AM - 1:15 PM
Protocol: Traveling
7.0 mile(s)
Comments:     temps 14-22 degrees F, no wind clear skies.  Went to see if any Pine Grosbeak or Redpolls had shown up in area.  No juncos.
16 species

Wild Turkey  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Williamson's Sapsucker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  5
Black-backed Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  4
Steller's Jay  8
Common Raven  4
Mountain Chickadee  23
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  14
Red-breasted Nuthatch  6
White-breasted Nuthatch  6
Pacific Wren  4
Golden-crowned Kinglet  30
Varied Thrush  5
Red Crossbill  9

Thanks for the visit