Oregon Venture 2022

August 29 – September 9, 2022

Leaders: Kevin Burke and Michael McCloy

Narrative by Kevin Burke; Photos by Holger Teichmann and Kevin Burke

This was our first Oregon Venture in quite a while.  Seven awesome participants and two guides wound our way through most of the state on an updated longer itinerary of this incredible state.  The weather that we had this year was pristine, but also variable.  We never really ran into any rain, but the temperatures ranged from 43F in the Cascade Mountains to 101F in the Great Basin Desert.  The immense diversity of habitats in Oregon had us winding through three mountain ranges, the Great Basin Desert, and the coastal environment.  With the great range of habitats came a great diversity of birds.  We finished the trip with 209 species. 

We had travelers from North Carolina, California, Hawaii, and Germany all eager to discover the avifauna of Oregon. 

Our first evening started with an introductory dinner in Portland.  Everyone was on time, which is rare for air travel these days. We chatted and got to know each other a little better before our Venture began.   Our first full day began early with a drive to Sherrard Point near Larch Mountain in the Cascade Range.  Here we were treated to 360-degree views of the surrounding areas where we could see Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood all crystal clear.  We got great looks at Sooty Grouse, Hermit Warbler, and Townsend’s Warbler

The grouse was our main target of the morning and after a few fleeting encounters we tracked one down on the side of the road and had great views of this sometimes-elusive bird.  Our first looks at Chestnut-backed Chickadee were also a delight.  Our destination for the night was at the base of Mt. Hood.  We took the Columbia River Gorge to get there, giving us a chance to take in the beautiful scenery and California Scrub-Jay, California Gull, and Brewer’s Blackirds.  It was a great first day.

The next morning started early with a trip up to the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood.  We stopped early on the drive up when we saw a flock of birds on a hillside.  We would stay there for the next hour watching Western Tanagers, Cassin’s Finch, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Townsend’s Solitaire, Orange-crowned Warbler, and many others.  

Our destination tonight was Sisters, so we headed South and checked out a couple reservoirs on the way.  We had Common Merganser, Pacific Wren, Black-necked Stilt, White Pelican, and Red-necked Phalaropes. 

On the way to Sisters, we came upon a Prairie Falcon sitting on a post.  That evening at the hotel in sisters we had a flyover group of Pinyon Jay’s that totaled over eighty birds.  It was a great way to end the day.

We had a full day of birding in the Sisters area. The surrounding area is one of the best spots in the United States for woodpeckers.  It did not disappoint.  Woodpeckers we had here included Williamson’s Sapsucker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Black-backed, Hairy, Downy, and Northern Flicker.  We also had great looks at Cassin’s Vireo, Mountain Chickadee, and MacGillivray’s Warbler. 

The afternoon consisted of the group checking several different lakes for Barrow’s Goldeneye.  We finally found them at a place called Big Lake just west of Sisters.  We had a nice picnic lunch here with Red Crossbills all around us in the pines.  After dinner we headed out for some owling and had great views of a pair of Western Screech-Owls.

The next morning consisted of an early breakfast at the Whispering Pines Campground outside of sisters to see if we could find an American Three-toed Woodpecker.  It took a little while but we were all able to see one foraging on top of a dead snag.  It was a great bird to end our Eastern Cascade birding in and around the Sisters area.  We next headed to the far East of the state to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  We stopped at the small community of Brothers to have lunch.  Here we had excellent views of Sage Thrasher and Brewer’s Sparrow. 

A quick stop at another roadside pond gave us our first looks at White-faced Ibis, Western Sandpiper, Black-billed Magpie, and Northern Shoveler.  The day finished up in Burns, Oregon to set up for a full day of birding the refuge the next day.

We awoke early in Eastern Oregon.  The weather was going to be hot today so we got out early to bird the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  This area is an extremely important stopover point for many migrating species.  The ponds and wet fields here are the only water for many miles so it collects a fair amount of excellent bird species.  We stopped at the refuge headquarters to see what was coming into the feeders.  We had Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds were guarding the feeders.

A very cooperative Gray Flycatcher let us study it for quite a while.  A female type Lazuli Bunting bounced through the bushes while Red-tailed and Swainson’s Hawks hunted the fields. 

Next we drove down the Central Canal Road.  Ring-necked Pheasants ran across the road and Western Kingbird’s perched up high.  The ponds held Cinnamon Teal, American Avocets, Great Egrets, and many other birds.  We had very cooperative looks at both Virginia Rail and Sora in the open several yards away.  We also had our first looks at Western Grebe. 

By this time the weather was getting fairly hot so we decided to check back a the visitor center and found a roosting Common Nighthawk in the trees.  On the way back to town we had a pair of Burrowing Owls at a known nest site.  There were to many good encounters here to talk about in a short trip report.  You really have to experience this place to know the true value of it.

The next day we headed West to Summer Lake and then to Klamath Falls.  One route to Summer Lake we stopped and had great looks at Sagebrush Sparrow. 

We spent the rest of the morning birding Summer Lake Wildlife Area.  The small pools and mudflats here held a lot of great birds!  Trumpeter Swans, Lazuli Buntings, and Peregrine Falcon were highlights.  Shorebirds we had here were Snowy Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, American Avocet, Wilson’s Phalarope, and many others.  It was a great way to spend the morning! 

We then headed over to Klamath Falls for the night. 

We stopped just short of town to Modoc Ridge Hawk watch site.  There was an awesome view of Klamath Lake from the top of the ridge.  We had our first looks at Lewis’s Woodpecker.  We spent the night in Klamath Falls and ate at the Ruddy Duck restaurant.

We birded around the Klamath Falls area the next day.  A stop at Moore Park downtown was way more productive than expected.  Great looks at White-headed Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Oak Titmouse were a great surprise. 

We headed back up to Modoc Rim Hawk Watch on our way out of town.  We had way more Lewis’s Woodpeckers, and a really nice mixed flock which included Dusky Flycatcher, Wilson’s Warbler, Hermit Warbler, and Mountain Bluebird. 

We didn’t want to leave, but Crater Lake National Park awaited.  I had been wanting to get to Crater Lake National Park for as long as I could remember. 

The crystal-clear water inside the crater is absolutely stunning to observe.  Our target for the park was Clark’s Nutcracker.  We found several flyover birds until we walked through a small picnic area and had a nice Clark’s Nutcracker perched up on a dead snag for good views.  It was an afternoon for taking in awesome scenery.  After taking in the magnificent views we made our way to Roseburg for the night.

The first stop the next morning was in downtown Roseburg at Riverfront Park.  We had several new trip birds here including Acorn Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, and Wood Duck. 

We had a lot of birding to do today to end up at the coast, so we hurried to our next stop the Myrtle Point Marsh.  The best access for this marsh is from a hotel parking lot.  The Myrtle Trees Hotel’s owner gave us permission to bird the grounds.  She even had a list of all the birds seen at the hotel!

The bird we were all after was the Wrentit.  This would be a lifer for just about everyone in the group.  We were able to locate a pair down at the waters edge.  These usually skulky birds put on quite a show for us, perching out in the open for extended periods.  To say that we were all happy would be an understatement.  After thanking the Owner of the Myrtle Trees Hotel, we headed toward the coast. 

We had spent the first part of the trip inland and now it was time to enjoy the coast.  We stopped in the small coastal town of Bandon our first glimpses of Western Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, and Black Oystercatchers. 

A walk out on the Bullards Beach State Park jetty netted us fabulous looks at Surfbird, Black Turnstone, and Red Knot.  We stayed the night in town.

The next day we wound our way up to Newport. 

The first stop was back at Bullards Beach State Park.  We first birded the picnic area where we found a mixed flock that included our best looks at Evening Grosbeak, a few Red Crossbills, and Band-tailed Pigeons.  A trip out the Jetty netted us great looks at Wandering Tattler. 

Driving up the coast we stopped at a multitude of different places such as the mouth of the Suislaw River and Devil’s Elbow state park, where we had a very cooperative American Dipper

A quick scan of the ocean produced Surf and White-winged Scoters.  Our first Red-necked Grebes and Red-throated Loons came a little further up the coast at Yachats State Park.   The Oregon Coastline is dotted with State Parks and natural areas.  We got to experience some phenomenal scenery today.  We got to Newport and had dinner on the water with Sea Lions right next to the table.  It was fun to watch their antics as we dined.

We had a full day around the Newport area to bird today.  It started out with a walk on the South Jetty of the Yaquina River.  It was a beautiful morning with calm seas and light winds.  We had fabulous views of Marbled Murrelet and Common Murre side by side for comparison. 

We also had a Whimbrel foraging in the surf and our only Common Loon of the trip.  It was a very nice way to start the morning. 

Our next stop was the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and Outstanding Natural Area.  Here we found a big target for the trip, the Harlequin Duck

We had several female type birds and one lone male still in most of his breeding plumage.  Pigeon Guillemot showed nicely for us and was a good addition to the trip list. 

Stops at Devil’s Punchbowl State Park and Boiler Bay State Wayside gave us great looks at Glaucous-winged Gull, Western Gull, and Brown Pelican.  We did a short hike up to a bluff and had the best looks at Pacific Wren that I have ever had.  Our last stop of the day was at a campground for a rest stop but ended up being our only sighting of Pacific-sloped Flycatcher of the trip.  It was a ton of fun exploring the Oregon Coastal environment. 

Our last day was a little different than originally planned.  We were going to drive up the coast and bird our way back to Portland for departure.  Instead, we drove inland to try to get a few more species that we hadn’t seen yet.  It was a slow, but beautiful morning as we drove up to Mary’s Peak in Benton County.  We were after Mountain Quail but none were showing that day.  We did have great looks at a big flock of American Pipits and cooperative Western Bluebirds. 

We dipped into Corvallis Willamette Park in the banks of the Willamette River but didn’t find much. After lunch we stopped off at another park North of Corvallis and hit the jackpot.  We had a nice mixed flock of birds that included Bushtit, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Wrentit, and Wilson’s Warbler. 

One last stop for the trip had us go to Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge to try for the long staying Ruff.  We quickly got good views of the bird and then two American Bitterns poked their heads out of the marsh for one final trip bird.  The Ruff was a lifer for most in the group.  We headed up to Portland for dinner and departure the next day.

We had a fabulous tour of Oregon.  I feel like we got to experience the whole state on this twelve-day tour.  The birds showed up for us with 209 total species tallied.  Each ecosystem held new birds and dramatic scenery.  We were a very happy group of birders at the end of the tour.  Please consider joining us on the next tour of Oregon in 2024.  Good Birding. 

–Kevin

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