Posted by: atowhee | September 11, 2022

TO THE GORGEOUS GORGE, AND BACK

Sept. 10, Harney County.

Bright sun and mild temp.  Little wind and a very blue sky.  Migration is a-wing (the avian version of being afoot).  Sparrows on the move were especially obvious today.  We also saw Bushtits at Page Springs, an ordinary occurrence, to go with our unexpected sighting of a flock near the intersection of Central Patrol Road and Krumbo Lane two days ago.

Page Springs was lively in late morning: California Quail, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, wood-pewee, Marsh Wren, Sora and Virginia Rail, Western Tanager.  Topper in bird division was a Sharp-shinned Hawk who flew in and perched on post in clear view at top of the rim rock over the springs along eastern cliff face.  Overall prize for performance went to a quartet of mammals—family of river otter performing dolphin arcs and tail slitherings in pool just below the dam on the Blitzen River—clearly viewed from the  bridge downstream.

We began our day along Harney Lake Road with nothing of note.  At Buena Vista we overlooked a landscape of dry places.  A group of Rock Wrens did come out onto some rim rock and dance around for us.  Here we saw no other new species but get to watch TV.  These Turkey Vultures were kittling at the face of the cliff, using the updrafts from  the morning sun heating the black rocks.  To warm on a chill morning, some of the TVs would turn opened wings to the sun.  There were at least forty of the big birds.  When they rose to the desired height they would peel off and go search for fresh roadkill.

Later at the rock rim along Hwy 205 at MP 46 we saw even more rock wrens.  Then an obliging Prairie Falcon cruised rapidly along the top of the rim face in front of us, soaring several hundred yards by simply manipulating feathers on  wing and tail, never flapping, maintaining a close but safe distance from the black rock rim.  It was the finest form of falconry by one who knows it best.

After lunch at Page Springs, we headed up the north arm of the Steens Loop, going as far as the Kiger Overlook.  Aspen are starting their yellowing.  Mammals we saw: Belding’s and golden-mantled ground squirrel, deer, cattle  As soon as we reached the elevation where scattered juniper dominated, we saw Mountain Bluebirds.  There was an Osprey at Fish Lake, naturally.  Fish, get it?

Then at Fish Lake campground a young Cassin’s Finch ran around a barren latch near a campsite, picking seeds from dried grass stems.  Whatta beak!

Above the tree line the grassy slopes of Steens were populated by many sparrows—chipping, vesper, white-crowned.  We also saw Horned Lark.  At the Kiger Overlook we were looked over by…Rock Wren.  Third location of the day for that species that seemed to compete with ubiquitous Sage Thrasher and red-tails for “Can’t Miss Us” species of the day. No rosy-finches seen.

Groundling is the Cassin’s Finch. Click on any image for full screen–last three show various aspects of the Buena Vista TV congress.

In several places on Steens Loop and in the basin blooming rabbitbush drew crowds of colorful butterflies.


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