Monday, May 23, 2011

Hiking La Pine State Park

Located about 15 miles south of Bend, Oregon is La Pine State Park. Better known as the home of "Big Red," a monster and Oregon Heritage Tree ponderosa pine, the park also offers some great hiking trails.

Spent a beautiful morning hiking both the Deschutes trail and the Cougar Woods trail through the park this past Friday. Today's purpose was to link one of these trails to the McGregor trail, a 4.5 mile loop along the Deschutes and Fall rivers, as well as to look for new County birds.

The Deschutes trail starts at the McGregor Viewpoint and cuts past the campground and along the Deschutes river back to the viewpoint. The 3.4 mile loop is relatively level and a nice addition to the McGregor loop. Though the trail passes a significant burn, the area is rife with woodpeckers. I located Lewis's and hairy woodpeckers, Williamson's sapsuckers, and northern flicers.In addition to the woodpeckers, I located a pair of northern pygmy owls that were tooting away near the viewpoint, then meet up together on a tree limb.

For the Cougar Woods trail, I started at the Day Use area and hiked the south trails towards Big Red. At the large tree parking area, I opted for the small loop trail instead of the asphalt trail to the tree. The loop trail passes through a forest of ponderosa and lodgepole pine, before toping out for a great viewpoint of the river and Mt. Bachelor in the distance.

From Big Red, there is an unmaintained trail that follows the edge of a large oxbow along the river back up to the main trail. This trail continues to another day use parking area before crossing the main park road and back to the day use area. Though this is a nice route, I'd hike the Deschutes trail over the Cougar Woods one.

Though I didn't add any birds to my County Year list, there was a great diversity of birds observed along these trails. Later on, I added ash-throated flycatcher (Little Deschutes River) to the list. Total County List: 156.

Birds observed in La Pine State Park
Canada goose           Wood duck                            Mallard
Turkey vulture         Osprey                                   Red-tailed hawk
Killdeer                    Spotted sandpiper                 Northern pygmy owl
Belted kingfisher     Lewis's woodpecker              Williamson's sapsucker 
Hairy woodpecker   Western wood-pewee            Dusky flycatcher
Steller's jay              Common raven                      Tree swallow
Violet-green swallow                                             Northern rough-winged swallow
Mountain chickadee (nesting in stump cavity)      Red-breasted nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatch  Pygmy nuthatch            Brown creeper
House wren             Townsend's solitaire              Hermit thrush
American robin       Yellow-rumped warbler        Wilson's warbler
Green-tailed towhee  Chipping sparrow               Dark-eyed junco
Red-winged blackbird   House finch

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mid-May Migration

A snapshot of mid-May in central Oregon. Rain today. Snow last week. Sometime in between the mercury hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The proverbial "wait ten minutes for the weather to change" applies to this location.

But even with the ups and downs of the temperatures and the variety of precipitation, spring migration is underway.

My last few weeks have been a blur of classes, hikes and birding outings. The Tuesday morning Birding by Ear program with the East Cascades Audubon Society has been a great look at the seasonal changes in bird composition at Sawyer Park. Warblers, swallows, flycatchers, finches, sparrows - each week seems to bring a new member to the park.

The backyard has also produced some great moments of evening and black-headed grosbeaks, Cassin's finches, American goldfinches, California quail, pine siskins and rufous hummingbirds. Gone are the juncos and the golden-crowned sparrows. Pygmy nuthatches have taken over two nest boxes and nest building by house finches continues in the backyard.

Backyard action
Now that hiking classes are done for the season, I hope to spend some time in my photography blind, as well as out birding while the migration is on and the weather is wacky.

Deschutes County Big Year to date: 150 species.