Sunday, June 3, 2018

Lake County and Harney County May 2018

My plan this year was to loop through Lake and Harney County. Below is a map of all points mentioned.

As I left the Cabin Lake Blinds (lots of Pinyon Jays and a thunderstorm) , I saw this Ferruginous Hawk.  Nice way to enter southeastern Oregon.

A short stop at Summer Lake resulted in lots of Avocets and another rain shower.

Favorite bird seen was this very pink Franklin's Gull. Photo does not show just how pink it was, beautiful bird.

I made it down to Goose Lake State Park for the night.  I wanted to go up Kelly Creek Road, but it appears to be blocked by houses now, not sure. In any case, Tree Swallows were out in force, even the common birds are worth a nice look.

Western Wood-Pewee looking nice as well.

On the way east, I took a quick spin past the Lakeview Sewage Ponds, they have easy access and good views of all the ducks.  Lots of Wilson Phalarope were swimming about.

My first major stop was a brush spot I know up in the Warner Mountains.  I was looking for Fox Sparrows.  I found four of them, one was close enough for a photo.

Spotted breast and a thick bill, Thick-billed Fox Sparrow.

Same bird singing, no chip notes heard.  My link on-line to convert this video to an audio file seems to be a virus haven, so looking for new system to put into Raven for a spectrogram.

Dusky Flycatcher were also in area.

Heading east on 140, I stopped at a few Juniper Titmouse spots, none seen.  This Bushtit seemed to have a black mask on it, but upon inspection, I think it has dark lores not a mask.

I tried to head up a dirt road to Shirk Lake, but a large mud puddle had me concerned about its depth and the sticky mess it could be hiding.  I bailed on Guano Valley.  I still want to see Shirk Lake and hike up Guano Creek, not sure how to do it early in year.

I made it to Cottonwood Creek where this pronghorn was keeping an eye on me for most of the evening.

Next day, Friday, I went to Fields, a Black and White Warbler, Catbird and possible Bay-breasted were in the oasis.  Never got good look at the Bay-breasted but one was spotted a few days later.

Western Kingbirds were around the parking lot.

Bullock's Oriole are a constant noise.

Fields was rather quiet towards 10 am so I decided to head to Arizona Creek to see if I could get to the Gray-headed Junco.  I parked at the top of the creek and left car at 10:45.

Brewer's Blackbirds are very common up there.  This one was at Stergen Meadow.

The weather was partly sunny, but the past few days had thunderstorms in the afternoon.  I was aware of the sky and kept my eye on it.  Some mule deer were wondering what fool was trying to hike up in the mountains under these circumstances.

Once at Stergen Meadow I took a pause and carefully evaluated my situation.  I could see the junco spot about a mile away, but the sky was changing.  I saw thunderheads building south of me.  After staring at clouds for about 5 minutes, my feet turned around and headed back to the car.

A Chukar was cheering me on as I, at some points, was running back to car.

I did snap a photo of the lone tree near the parking spot, it did not seem to survive the fire that swept through the area a few years ago.  Thunder was rumbling around me.

They graded the once horrible road to Arizona Creek so they could put up fencing around the fire. This is a shot of where the road crosses the creek.  Some trees survived others did not.  The trees at right were packed with siskins and one Red-breasted Nuthatch.

A look up the creek.

The graded road to the right and the huge storm building right over where I was an hour before.  Good thing I turned when I did, this is about 20 minutes after getting to my car.

When I got back to Fields, it was like The Wizard of Oz, right before the tornado hits, folks running around getting things secure, shutting off gas pumps.  I got gas right before everything shut down. I was inside having a burger as the storm went by.  Burns was clobbered, Fields missed the full force.

After the storm I headed to South Steens Campground.  Saturday dawned as a misty, foggy day up on the mountain.  I walked down the side road to Indian Creek to look for migrants and more Fox Sparrows.  It was too misty and cool for any great birding.  Indian Creek is a short walk and even shorter drive if road is dry.

There was a Fox Sparrow singing over there, could not get close enough for good audio and no visual.  I was expecting Slate-colored down in this area.

Still MacGillivray's, Wilson, Yellow-rump, Yellow Warblers were all singing despite the gloom.

I decided to bag the higher elevations and head to Page Springs.  The weather was much nicer down there, chats were singing.

Eastern Kingbirds were chasing around swallows.

On the East Canal Road, Bobolinks were out singing as well.

House Wrens were everywhere and at all elevations.

After chow at Frenchglen, I went up to Jackman Park for Saturday night.  Sunday was to be nice and sunny.  A Red-naped Sapsucker was working the woods Sunday morning.

My plan was to hike up past the closed Jackman gate and over to Nye's Place on the edge of the Blitzen Gorge

I had to cross two snow fields, no issues, the roads were a pleasant hike. Horned Lark and Vesper Sparrows were in the sage.

Finally spotted my target, the aspen groves near the edge of the gorge.

Mountain White-crowned Sparrows were in every small group of aspen I walked past.

Green-tailed Towhee was the most common bird out in the open areas.

Lots of tracks were seen on the road, deer, pronghorn, some larger (sheep?)  I made noise walking through areas like this to alert all the claws I was in area.

Nye's Place consists of a meadow and two small cabins used by hikers.  This one is rather run down.

A look across the meadow towards the larger cabin.

Inside the big one. 

Rules posted on the entrance door, first come first served and keep it clean.

A short trail leads to the edge of the gorge. I stayed here for a bit hoping to hear Virginia's  Warblers in the trees, nothing exciting.

Looking out the gorge toward Page Springs.

Turkey Vultures quietly soaring over such an enormous open space had me mesmerized.

I found four more Red-naped Sapsuckers in the aspens, Downy and Northern Flicker were also in the woods, a nice collection.

A trail through the woods leads to the top of Little Fish Creek.  It was too wet to explore for birds.

I heard junco and was hoping for Gray-headed, no such luck.

Cassin's Finch and American Robins were all busy gathering nesting material.

In a brush clump at 7640 feet elevation, was this guy.

It appears to have wing-bars.

Sometimes it looked like it had streaks on breast, very dull in color.

Other times it looked spotted.

Same bird singing.

Chip note of same bird, it happens in first second of tape.  I need to find system to get audio into Raven for a visual of song. Looked big billed so I thought Thick-billed.

I also went down Grove Creek, here you can see an old growth aspen grove and a brush clump great for Fox Sparrows.

I had lunch here, I was hoping for a migrant trap.  Wilson's Warblers and Yellow Warbler were here. The brush patch held a Sharpie, so all birds were quiet.  I did hear one Fox Sparrow sing after Sharpie left, but could not locate or hear again.

On the way out of the Steens the next day, I saw some curlew.

Fun trip despite the early weather issues and muddy roads.  Thanks for the visit.


  1. What type of noises do you make to scare off the mountain ions etc?

  2. Thanks for sharing your fun trip! It's been a while since I've been in that area. Several places I've never been, too.