Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oregon Birding I: Owyhee Canyon

I am in Oregon for a few days visiting my parents; what a great opportunity to see if I can find some different birds! After quick look or two at eBird and remembering what birds I used to see when I lived here, I figured I could probably add to my list. There would be pheasants and quail, perhaps some shore birds, and who knows maybe I would see a Chukar or some other exotic desert bird? I figured I could probably see 20 or, if I were lucky, 30 new bird species.

Well, my first day here was Tuesday and, after pouring my first cup of coffee, I noticed some weird looking doves feeding in my parent's driveway. I had to refer to my book to find out that they were Eurasian Collared Doves (1). Weird, I didn't know they were even here. Then a California Quail (2) came sauntering through the yard and a Black-chinned Hummingbird (3) buzzed by. I hadn't even taken my pj's off yet!

My first bird trip was up the Owhyee River canyon with my niece and nephews. They are out of school for the summer and bored and were really excited about the prospect of spending an afternoon with their uncle and learning about the local bird fauna. We headed off and, a few miles into our drive, I saw a Western Kingbird (4) and a Brewer's Blackbird (5); both extremely common but new to my list for the year. We forged on and saw lot of birds: there were Turkey Vultures, hoards of Cliff Swallows, Red-winged Blackbirds everywhere, Bufflehead,  Gadwall, and Mallards. Of course, I had already seen all of these birds before but it was still fun pointing them out to the kids.

We briefly stopped to look around a rest-stop/wildlife viewing location and I saw flits of yellow and black in the tree. Unfamiliar bird for sure! Was it a chat or some type of strange western warbler? I had to carefully leaf through the bird book to figure out it was a juvenile Bullock's Oriole (6). Cool. We then kept driving and saw at least another dozen of them.

Our next stop was Snively hot springs. There were other people there so we kept our visit short, but long enough for my niece to burn her toes on the hot springs water and for all of us to get a good sniff of sulfur. 

We drove on and saw a merganser with her baby chicks in the part of the canyon where there are lots of fishermen and the canyon walls narrow. Below the Owhyee Dam, we took a look around the little picnic area and saw a Northern Flicker, a Yellow Warbler, and a small grey bird. It took me a while to figure out it was a Western Wood Pewee (7). Of course at first I thought it was an Ash-sided Flycatcher but after listening to it song, it was definitely not that. 

On our way home, I took a detour through Cow Hollow and we saw a Western Meadowlark (8) singing in an alfalfa field. Eight new birds and good times in the first afternoon of Eastern Oregon birding. This trip was really off to a good start!

Owyhee Canyon Birding

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