The next morning I woke up groggy but excited for the day. The coyotes had howled all night long. They are true party animals.
We packed up camp and hadn’t gotten a mile down the road before I got a text from Scott, three baby Great Gray Owls on the ground and the light is beautiful! Scott is the best. I may have found only one owl on my own, but with his help we were going on ten.
One baby was nestled in the grass soaking up the sun.
Another was perched on a branch, muppeting its head around in circles curiously observing the world around.
And the third was feeling brave.
No maybe this side.
Next thing you know, this happened.
Climbing trees is easy!
We watched as the adult male brought in the last meal of the morning.
Then we said our goodbyes as the owls quieted down to sleep the day away until evening time. But our day was just beginning. We decided to leave the forest and head to Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area outside of La Grande. I thought it might be fun to chase some waterbirds.
We arrived in the heat of the day and were happy to sit, rest, and take a moment under the shaded overlook. It was so peaceful with the Wallowa Mountain view in the background and the loud robotic songs of Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
Cornell describes the song as “a screeching buzz, rather like a heavy door swinging on a very rusty metal hinge,” kind of like WHIU-HU-EEEEAAAAUUUUHHHHH. Cracked us up every time.
American Coots were also at the refuge and I finally got to see their ugly babies!
I mean cute babies, of course. They stayed mostly hidden in the reeds, but occasionally the little red and black bald babies would paddle out behind quickly following the parent.
We also saw lovely pair of Cinnamon Teal.
On the wires above perched Western Kingbirds.
And soaring high above was a Swainson’s Hawk! The white chin really stood out.
Also in the sky was a Red-tailed Hawk.
Hmmm, what’s it carrying? OH GEEZ. It’s a body-less squirrel! The head dangling from the spine. Sorry, kids. Nature is metal.
Hey look, a cute Barn Swallow!
We stopped to get information from the Cliff Swallow at the booth.
Who told us to go down the gravel road, turn right, take two lefts, and go just past the abandoned building until we find a Great Horned Owl.
There were two fluffballs and one adult hidden within the leaves. So fun. We found most of the birds I’d hoped for. I missed American Avocets, but I did get a bonus Gray Catbird!
Perched out in the open singing loudly for a change. Meow!
From Ladd Marsh we traveled farther east towards Medical Springs Hwy and back into the shaded pine forests. I became fixated on the idea of finding (or even hearing) a Flammulated Owl.
We drove along crazy rutted forest roads that wound up and up until we reached the top.
There were Cassin’s Finch, Townsend’s Solitaire, Western Bluebirds, and Western Wood-Peewee singing. The view at the top was nice, but we decided to set up camp back where I’d spotted the White-headed Woodpecker.
Almost missed that one. This was also where I’d seen a Pine Siskin.
I was way more excited than I should be to see this bird. Contrary to prior winters when there were gobs of them on our feeders at home, this little one in the woods is the first I’ve seen this year. They didn’t visit the yard this winter but I hope they do next time!
Tomas set up camp as we settled in for the evening.
As the sun set I heard an intriguing sound, “poor-will, poor-will, poor-will,” the lightbulb when off and I remembered that was the sound of the Common Poorwill! Incidental life bird! A rare treat in Oregon these days.
After the long day, I was so sleepy I had to lay down. I told Tomas to wake me up if he hears owls.
He stayed up to take night shots like the one above. After I’d just fallen asleep, he woke me up when he heard hooting in the distance. I wrapped myself in the sleeping bag sprang out of the tent and followed him to the meadow.
We were hoping for a deep-pitched single hoot like the sound of blowing across the top of a bottle. The sound was so far away it could have been that, or it could have been the end note of a Great Horned Owl. Too far to tell so I didn’t count it.
But I did count the stars. And the “Who’s awake me tooo,” of the Great Horned Owl at 3am. That counted too. I hadn’t given up on finding flammies either. We had one more day to look.
Tweets and chirps,