Posted by: atowhee | June 25, 2008

Great bird, pathetic photo effort, but lifer nonetheless

I pulled into the parking just as the bird folded his wings and stuck onto the wide of a large ponderosa.  I’d failed to a find a Great Gray Owl after looking over several promising mountain meadows.  I’d concluded this would be a beautiful morning but given over to the ordinary birds of the Howard Prairie circuit: Green-tailed Towhee, Lazuli Bunting, Raven, Osprey, et al.

This is the bird I hoped for without any real HOPE at this stop.Others have seen him, but not I:

It really is a male Williamson’s Sapsucker and I got fine views through my binoculars.  It was a new Oregon bird for me, #207.  Made memorable not just because he was clearly seen, or that he chose the perfect moment to appear.  But that he stayed around long enough for me to get two crummy pics. Here’s the best.  Then he moved off, and as I tried to follow him through the tall trees, a female, presumably his mate, flew right in front of me and landed thirty feet away.  My camera was on the car seat but she mercifully didn’t rub it in. Three seconds and she was gone, with a couple of gurgling cries. 

It is easy to see how early naturalists thought the male and female were different species.  They have only shape and a little yellow on the belly in common.  He is mostly black with white bold wing and face marks, yellow on the belly.  She is basically brown with black back bars like a Gila Woodpecker or even Flicker.  Also a dark throat and yellow on lower belly.

Williamson’s Sapsucker join’s Townsend’s Warbler as one of the birds first discovered by science from an Oregon specimen in the 19th century.


If you are driving Hyatt Prairie Road along the western shore of Hyatt Lake resevoir, watch for this sign.  It’s for real.  It marks a small pull-out on the lakeshore. Has a tiny paved parking lot and a toilet, not abundant along this circuit. Unnamed but remarkable place to stop.  Almosy any visitor in warm weather will immediately notice the large dark birds perched on a tree about fifty feet from the lake’s present edge. They are Double-crested Cormorants that have a nesting colony in this tree.  They are like large ornamental scultures, wings [partially open, emitting those guttural and gargling sounds.  Ornamental cormorants, arboreal “cormaments.”

Besides the cormorants if you look north along the lakeshore you will spot another dead tree with the telltale tangle of sticks at the top.  That’s a nest perennially used by Osprey.  Here is a really good Osprey picture taken at neighboring Howard Prairie Lake.  By my daughter, copyright, all rights reserved by Julia Talcott-Fuller [too bad she wasn;t present for the sapsucker]:

She took this picture earlier this spring as we stood on the boat docks at Howard Prairie resort. 

Meanwhile, back at the binocular-marked pull-out: a pair of Yellow-rumped Warblers, unseen calling Mountain Chickadees, American Robin, Brewer’s Blackbird, a Flicker, and this guy came along the walkway, catching bugs:

 Spotted Sandpiper, a common nesting bird near lakes and streams in the Cascades.










Earlier in the morning at Milepost Ten on Dead Indian MEMORIAL Road I stopped, a narrow stream slips down a narrow gully right next to the road.  On the north-facing slope is a dense evergreen forest which has its secret thrushes and warblers, no doubt. Up in the bright sun, facing south, was this heat-seeking songster:

Green-tailed Towhee.  Pipilo cholrurus.  A migrant member of the Pipilo family and a summer breeder hereabouts.

At the Howard Prairie priaire, a lone Sandhill Crane:

Thisd adultbird was a quarter-mile out in this field full of summer wildflowers.  The crane stretched its neck to get a better view of the observing biped standing by the car.  The crane was, indeed, craning to watch me.  That rust color is from the crane rubbing iron-containing soil onto its feathers which are then stained by the iron compounds.  It is a breeding season behavior common among Sandhills.  LIjkely this is one-half of a breeding pair that has anest in some nearby, but more heavily weedy, meadow…unless they are nesting out here among the wildflowers.

Another bird I saw and h4eazrd at Howard Prairie: Vesper Sparrow which is at its western range limit here in the Cascades.  Again I defer to superior pics taken by my daughter in this area recently:

This psecies is found all across the northern US and southern Canada wherever grass grows tall and trees not at all.  A pale little bird and a fence post is a common perch, as it is for the Western Meadowlarks I saw in the grasslands downslope.

A good trip on the Howard Prairie loop: from Scrub-jays and oak to Steller’s Jays and ponderosa.  And a sapsucker for keeps.  And here’s my mammal picture for the day.  Pint-sized Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel up a tree over my presence.  I earlier missed shot at a Douglas squirrel on a Douglas-fir. I was too slow.  That David Douglas sure got around back in the 1820s, leaving namesakes all across the Pacific Coast biota.  He apparently took little notice of birds, collecting mostly plants and mamals for rich folks back in England.

 Location:     Howard Prairie Circuit
Observation date:     6/25/08
Number of species:     48

Canada Goose     300
Mallard     10
California Quail     4
American White Pelican     40
Double-crested Cormorant     12
Turkey Vulture     4
Osprey     2
Bald Eagle     1
Red-tailed Hawk     3
American Kestrel     1
Sandhill Crane     1
Spotted Sandpiper     6
Ring-billed Gull     50
Caspian Tern     2
Mourning Dove     1
Acorn Woodpecker     6
Williamson’s Sapsucker     2
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     1
Western Wood-Pewee     1
Western Kingbird     8

Olive-sided Flycatcher    1
Steller’s Jay     4
Western Scrub-Jay     10
American Crow     2
Common Raven     4
Tree Swallow     8
Violet-green Swallow     4
Cliff Swallow     6
Barn Swallow     2
Mountain Chickadee     1
Bushtit     1
Red-breasted Nuthatch     3
American Robin     4
European Starling     10
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)     2
Western Tanager     3
Green-tailed Towhee     2
Spotted Towhee     3
Vesper Sparrow     8
Lark Sparrow     2
Savannah Sparrow     4
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)     3
Black-headed Grosbeak     2
Lazuli Bunting     2
Western Meadowlark     4
Brewer’s Blackbird     15
Brown-headed Cowbird     2
Bullock’s Oriole     7
Lesser Goldfinch     8

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(


  1. I agreed with you

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