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.
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):
Great Horned Owl
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.