Sunday, September 8, 2019

Labor Day in Harney and Lake Counties

Over Labor Day weekend I went down into Harney and Lake counties to explore some rarely birded areas. Below is a map of areas visited.  I left Portland Thursday at noon and headed straight for Jackman Park CG up on the north loop of Steens Mtn.

Friday morning I drove in the access road to Nye's Place.  Not a bad road, my Subaru had no issues getting to the trailhead above Grove Creek.  I pulled off the road at that point and walked the remaining road down to Nye's Place, driving down might need a higher clearance vehicle. The walk is worth it, there were lots of birds flying around in the bushes. Vast majority were Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows and Green-tailed Towhees.

Below is the view going down road to the cabins at Nye's Place. Beautiful aspen woods.

The meadow at Nye's Place.  I was surprised I could not find any Red-naped Sapsuckers remaining n the area. In spring they are very common.  A Common Poorwill was in the woods trying to relax for the day.

I walked out to take in the Blitzen Gorge, A number of first-year sparrows and Green-tailed Towhees were in the area.  

Hiking down to the meadows around Little Fish Creek proved productive.  Some water was in area over by that darker brush in photo below.

Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  6
Western Wood-Pewee  1
Pacific-slope/Cordilleran Flycatcher (Western Flycatcher)  1
Cassin's Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  1
Mountain Chickadee  4
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
House Wren  4
American Robin  3
Cassin's Finch  1
American Goldfinch  5
Chipping Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  4
White-crowned Sparrow  8
Song Sparrow  3
Green-tailed Towhee  4
Yellow Warbler  3

A Song Sparrow typical of Steens Mtn.

Lots of these butterflies were around.

I also birded Grove Creek, it was later in day and only saw N Flickers, House Wrens, White-crowned and Vesper Sparrows.

Green-tailed Towhee was also common  in all areas.

Same with House Wren.

Friday night I spent at South Steens CG, the next morning I went out to bird to Mud Creek.  You need to cross Indian Creek first.  I took my shoes and socks off and enjoyed the refreshing crossing

The same crossing in spring.  Now that I know the creek bottom is smooth pebbles with no hidden holes, I might be more tempted to try it in spring.

A flock of California Quail were down in the creek bottoms, also Warbling Vireo and a MacGillivray's Warbler.

Looking back at Indian Creek after crossing and birding along the stream edges.

After Indian Creek you cross up and through some juniper, passing a dried spring, and enter Ankle Creek drainage.  Ankle Creek was dry but the grassy meadow was stocked full of sparrows.  A large flock of White-crowned, Chipping and Vesper Sparrows were in the grass  Mostly first-year birds as far as I could tell.

Black line through eye, gray rump, lack of streaking, brown head with black streaks and a gray middle stripe.  Hatch-year Chipping Sparrow.

Many birds had white outer tail feathers, based on that and face pattern, I called this one a young Vesper Sparrow.

I ran into a flock of young Mountain Bluebirds, the amount of rufous in this one made me think a Western was mixed in, but I think the long tail leaves it as a Mountain Bluebird.

Leaving Ankle Creek you walk up an open area full of blooming brush, no hummingbirds detected.  Another walk through the junipers leaves you up above Mud Creek. the photo below shows the walk down to the meadow.  Mud Creek was flowing nicely.

The willows had House Wren, WC Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Warbling Vireos.

Eventually you get to a spot where the road crosses Mud Creek.  Many Cedar Waxwings and Robins were eating berries. An Olive-sided Flycatcher made a brief appearance.

After the creek crossing is a small area where horseback riders use as a lunch spot.  I wandered into the brush to try and pish out some birds, all quiet except for House Wrens and Song Sparrow.  This area looked very much like Fields or Page Springs, except this is at 5900 feet in elevation and Page Sp and Fields are at about 4200 feet. Plus you can drive to the other two, this spot is a 4.5 mi one way hike.

Lots of the purple flowers were out along with some sagebrush.

After Mud Creek I headed down to Fields for lunch.  A Great Horned Owl was the only bird found in the oasis, except for Red-breasted Nuthatch.

I left Fields and headed over to the Guano Valley.  I drove up the 12 mile dirt road to Shirk Ranch.  It is an abandoned ranch that is slowly falling apart in the desert.

Home now to Barn Swallows.

About a mile north of Shirk is a small patch f grass at the mouth of Guano Creek, I set up my tent for the night.  At the crack of dawn I stuck my head out to get ready for the day's birding.  I flushed up 5 Short-eared Owls that then flew about like moths.  I had to duck my head from having them hit me.  Of course by the time I remembered I had a camera, most had left. I waited around and sure enough one returned.

The Shirk Lake and ranch area had a family of Loggerhead Shrikes.

I was hoping Shirk Lake had water, it did.  I was hoping Shirk Lake would be like the ponds near Adel, they were not.  Too many cattle were in area for me to go out close to lake.  I asked the BLM, cattle should be out of here by mid-Sept.

A scene I was hoping to find at Shirk Lake, this was taken at the ponds near Adel.

I did flush a Red-shouldered Hawk up out of yard near the ranch.

The lower portion of Guano Creek passes through sagebrush and grassy meadows.  Many Vesper Sparrows and Brewer Sparrows in area.  Western Meadowlark had left the area up in the Steens, but were common down here. The same with Sage Thrasher, none seen on the Steens, many still down here. 

Soon you pass through a canyon, no birds in here except a Gray Flycatcher and a hummer dived bomb my red backpack but vanished before I could find it.

For all of you amazed at the diverse habitats Red-breasted Nuthatch can use, there is one in this isolated juniper up above Guano Lake.

This bluff had a few nests in it, Golden Eagle and Prairie Falcon were in area.  I flushed a Golden Eagle up out of the brush as I walked by, one huge bird when it is right next to you.  I took a peek at what it had killed and eaten, coyote.

Sagebrush Sparrows were common in the dry drainage.

I went with Vesper Sparrow on the next three.

More Sagebrush Sparrows.

Brewer Sparrow, not sure on age.  Plumage looked fresh so was going with hatch-year.

The creek was dry, and often the easiest place to hike, but there are pools.  Sparrows were everywhere at these spots,  Supposedly a rare fish survives here.  All I saw were big beetles swimming around. and frogs.

My destination was Clover Swale, a grouse lek is nearby.  I was hoping to find Juniper Titmouse, none there this time.  Warbling Vireo, Sage Thrasher, Rock Wren, Turkey Vulture and the sparrow flocks of Vesper, Brewer White-crowned and Sage.

Sunday afternoon I went into Lakeview and then up into the Fremont NF.  Forest Road 28 is closed up where I wanted to go, so it required a long loop back to Paisley then up FR 29 to FR 2901 and a camp spot near MP 23.  In the morning, I recorded the following, I also heard wolf howls.

I happened to pick a very birdy camp spot. I managed to pish in a curious young Northern Goshawk,

A Sharp-shinned Hawk was also in area.  It was being chased by Steller's Jays and at times all would stand together on the road.  Sharpies are indeed jay sized birds.

My ebird report for camp area:

Common Poorwill  3
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Northern Goshawk  1
Lewis's Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  5
Western Wood-Pewee  1
Warbling Vireo  1
Canada Jay  3
Steller's Jay  3
Mountain Chickadee  6
Golden-crowned Kinglet  3
Red-breasted Nuthatch  4
Brown Creeper  2
House Wren  3
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  4
Cassin's Finch  2
Chipping Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco  8
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Townsend's Warbler  1

Thanks much for the visit.