Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Woodpeckers Part Two

I live fairly close to a cinder cone named Bessie Butte. Besides being a great vantage point to view the Oregon Cascades, this area is a good place to look for woodpeckers. Not because of the volcanic origin, but because of the 18 Fire that swept through here years ago.

That fire burned through the ponderosa forest surrounding the butte. Many of the snags became perforated with woodpecker cavities, and today, as the shrubby vegetation returns, there is a good diversity of "woodies" pounding away for insects.

Black-backs, hairies, downies, Lewis's and northern flickers are the more common woodpeckers to be seen. There are even some nest boxes out for the Lewis's - a project under the auspices of the East Cascades Audubon Society.

So, early last week I drove out to the burn, watched the activity level of the woodpeckers present, then stationed myself near a cavity that some Lewis's were using. Or at least considering to occupy. A pair of adults kept appearing at the hole, but without any prey. I deduced the nest was not yet active. A third Lewis's sent the first two into a tizzy; the posturing and calling increased until the unwanted quest departed.

I was after some woodpecker images to send in with my monthly Nature Happenings article in the Moab Happenings magazine. So after shooting some pictures of the Lewis's, I hunted around for some hairy woodpeckers, as well. I found some cooperative subjects and now look forward to returning to the burn to search for their nest site. Maybe I'll pound out an article on the hairies...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Out to Bird

The past few weeks have been great for birdwatching here in Central Oregon. Since I'm teaching a Beginning Birdwatching course through the Central Oregon Community College's Community Learning program, I've been scouting locations, taking field trips and birdwatching a lot more.

Most notable have been the woodpeckers. I've been able to locate quite a few of our resident woodies and have observed nest site activity that I'll check during the season. One tree had Williamson sapsuckers, mountain bluebirds and pygmy nuthatches competing for spots. At Shevlin Park here in Bend, the class located a pair of red-breasted sapsuckers working on a nest cavity while a Lewis's woodpecker "churred" in the distance. Then there were the hairies and white-headed woodpeckers we observed while picking morels in a middle-aged burn up near Camp Sherman on Mother's Day. And, of course, I can't forget the black-backed, downy and numerous flickers that were out near Bessie Butte.

I've also had great success with the evening grosbeaks finally visiting my platform feeder. All winter they taunted me from the treetops, but now they are regulars at the feeder. Almost too regular; the 25 pound bag of unshelled sunflower seeds is quickly draining. With over 100 birds in the vicinity this morning, I'd better get another bag....

Another grosbeak, the black-headed, also put on a show for the birding class at Shevlin Park. Though I had just started to hear them at my house the day before the field trip, it was nice to see several pairs working over the willows at Shevlin.

Throw in some warblers, gray flycatchers, unknown Epidonax ones and a bunch of the "regulars," this has been a great week for birds. The class and birdwatching time has also prompted me to write some articles on the subject - a nice end to a great week.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Woodpecker Wonderland

I live in the land of woodpeckers. Recent trips out into nearby burnt forests have revealed several different species: Lewis', black-backed, hairy, downy, and northern flicker. In another section of the same woodlands that has not been burned in the past fifty years, I came across Williamson sapsuckers dueling with Western bluebirds and pygmy nuthatches over nest cavities. If I headed north to Sisters and the GW Burn, I could add white-headeds, American three-toeds and others to this list. All within a 40-mile radius of home.

For those of you unfamiliar with Central Oregon, visit the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail Web site for a copy of the birding trail map. There is a lot of information regarding birding locations, species and directions. To compliment the map, also check out the Birding Locations In Oregon section on the East Cascades Audubon Society's site. There is a wealth of information on local birding spots to peruse.

Best birding to you!