Monday, November 7, 2016

Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Today (Sunday, 11-6-2016) was my first visit to Cottonwood Canyon State Park. It was a perfect choice for a sunny November hike.  I went in search of any stray migrants that might be hiding in this beautiful state park.  Below is a map of some of the points mentioned in this report.  The park is 132 miles from my SW Portland home, it took my 2 hours and 10 minutes to get there.

The John Day River cuts through the canyon.  I walked out the Lost Corral Road.  This road is on the Gilliam County side of the river, the other side is in Sherman County.  The first section of the road is closed to hunting, after about 2 miles you enter the hunting area.  I saw some pheasant hunters heading out on my way back, other than them and three horseback riders, I had the place to myself.

This is looking back upriver from where I came, there is a road right next to the hillside.

And here it is, I pished and "Screech-owl" whistled many times, each time Ruby-crowned Kinglets, juncos, and sparrows all popped up to chew me out.

Looking down river.  Getting the idea that this is a beautiful place?

Several spots had nice groups of trees, Hermit Thrush were found here. I am always hoping to find a rare thrush in these spots, so it is always fun when a thrush is spotted.

I climbed up the edge of a box canyon, my turn-around spot.  Looking down river..

And back upriver towards the parking lot.

A view right into the sun.

Several Canyon Wrens were letting me know they knew I was there.  Water coming off the cliff created a bog area, I was hoping for some birds, but it was quiet.

All Bushtits were the interior form.

There is a moving, slightly blurry Bushtit in this mess.

A junco looking for that darn Screech-Owl.

This flicker was one of the first birds I saw.  The bright yellow was eye-catching. I could not see the red on the nape.  Both sexes of Yellow-shafted could have the red nape. A young Yellow-shafted male can have the pale orange moustache,  which I think is shown here.  

Darn bird never raised its head for a nape shot.

The place was loaded with Ruby-crowned Kinglets, I could have found three times as many if I had pished all the willows.

Townsend's Solitaire

The wing-bars make this a hatch-year Hermit Thrush. I am hoping to stumble across a Gray-cheeked in Oregon one of these times. When I first saw this one, all I saw was what seemed like a partial eye ring and an all gray thrush.  Then I saw the contrasting flanks/wing , spot pattern and tail.

Bighorn Sheep, with their white butts, were an easy spot.

Update:  Nels just pointed out that the lower left ewe has a radio collar, good spotting!

I liked this heron and its choice of a perch.  The tallest tree around.   This bird also liked standing up on the edge of a cliff.

The White-crowned Sparrows appeared to be gambelii.

I looked for, but did not see any raptors in the canyon.  I did see Kestrel and a Prairie Falcon on the drive down 206, but no raptors was a surprise to me. After the canyon I drove down Starvation Road to a river access point. I was looking for sparrows, larks or longspurs.  I did see a Lark Sparrow, and a few of these Western Meadowlarks.

The river access if you go down Starvation Road.

My eBird list for the canyon:

Cottonwood Canyon (Gilliam side), Gilliam, Oregon, US
Nov 6, 2016 7:22 AM - 1:22 PM
Protocol: Traveling
7.5 mile(s)
Comments:     mostly sunny 40ish in the morning, up to 58 degrees by afternoon
25 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  4
Bufflehead  4
Chukar  1
Ring-necked Pheasant  1
Great Blue Heron  2
Belted Kingfisher  2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)  6
Common Raven  3
Bushtit (Interior)  24
Canyon Wren  7
Pacific Wren  1
Marsh Wren  2
Bewick's Wren  5
Golden-crowned Kinglet  5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  50
Townsend's Solitaire  4
Hermit Thrush  3
Dark-eyed Junco  50
White-crowned Sparrow  6
Golden-crowned Sparrow  9
Song Sparrow  19
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Western Meadowlark  3
House Finch  14
American Goldfinch  1

eBird list for Starvation Road:

Starvation Lane, Sherman, Oregon, US
Nov 6, 2016 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
20.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Drove road down to river and back, on return cut over to Baseline back to 206
7 species

Ring-necked Pheasant  2
American Crow  2
Common Raven  2
Horned Lark  9
Lark Sparrow  1     large sparrow with distinctive head pattern seen on sage brush. flew before photo was attempted
Western Meadowlark  6
House Finch  50

A great day birding in a beautiful state park.

Thanks for the visit.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  3. What wonderful images of the birds and that beautiful view into the sun reminds me of how unseasonably warm it has been - great for hiking and visiting the state parks.

  4. Good list for Cottonwood Canyon! I've never gone more than a mile down that trail so it's nice to see what I've been missing.

    1. Well worth the extra hike. Some rather nasty burs come off plants near the river, they get buried in dog fur and paws rather easily. So pick access points carefully.