Shevlin Park and Black Butte

Last weekend I went on a solo-trip to Bend that started at 2:30 am. I would have started at 2 am but I thought I’d sleep in a little.

Sounds like a good idea, right? I thought so. I wanted to get the three hour drive from Portland over with and hoped to arrive at Shevlin Park near sunrise to maximize birding time. Bonus was seeing the Great Horned Owl from the car on the drive there (sadly, no pics).

Shevlin Park

What a great park! It’s Bend’s largest park at 647 acres with miles of hiking through beautiful pine forests. I read up on the many woodpeckers that call the park home, and was excited to start the morning with a sapsucker.

Red-naped Sapsucker

I thought I would get better views of the bird, but this was all I got before it flew away and turned invisible. The messy black and white barring on back and red patch on the nape makes me want to call it a Red-naped Sapsucker, but I didn’t get a good look at the throat, and where is the white stripe on the side? I feel more comfortable just calling it Generic John-Doe Sapsucker.

Thankfully other woodpeckers like Lewis’s Woodpeckers abound in this park, and there is no mistaking this bird.

So easy to identify

So easy to identify

And the star of the park in my opinion, and one of the reasons I put it at the top of my list, is the Pygmy Nuthatch!

Pygmy Nuthatch

Yay tiny nuthatch! New bird! Not the easiest to take photos of, but so fun to watch. It was hopping in,on, and around a snag shared with a pair of Lewis’s Woodpeckers.

Lewis's Woodpecker

Calliope Hummingbirds were sighted at the park recently, but I only found Anna’s. Still stunning.

Anna's Hummingbird

I listened to Wilson’s and MacGillivray’s Warblers that I never saw, but I did see one flycatcher.

Gray Flycatcher

If you’re lucky, you see a bird. If you’re really lucky, you see a bird sing. If you’re really really really lucky, birds will give you a little something extra. This one gave me a tail-wag. I have never been so happy to see a wagging tail because that is the diagnostic move of the Gray Flycatcher. Empidonax identified!

I got a few other birds including Black-headed Grosbeak and House Wren, both delightful year birds.

Black-headed Grosbeak

House Wren

I wrapped up hiking at the park when it became too bright and late in the afternoon, and after I started turning Eurasian Collared-Doves into Clark’s Nutcrackers (one of the birds I really wanted to see).

Not a Nutcracker

Right colors, wrong bird

I set up camp at Cold Springs Campground in Sisters, took a quick nap to recharge, then set off again to find a particular woodpecker. I walked through the thick Ponderosa Pine at the campground while listening to Mountain Chickadees and Chipping Sparrows when I heard tapping. I adhered to the good advice from Jen’s blog and followed the pecking sound.

Huzzah! White-headed Woodpecker!

White-headed Woodpecker

White-headed Woodpecker

Oh how I love this bird. It’s like something out of a fairy tale. Birds like these don’t exist. No, but they do! Here’s an exciting video of this one excavating:

I slept soundly that night. But when I woke up the next morning, I had nutcrackers on the brain. It’s funny how that works. See one good bird and you want to see another. I checked eBird and saw recent Clark’s Nutcracker sightings at Black Butte and it looked like the perfect four mile round-trip hike.

When I drove towards the butte it looked like this:

Black Butte

After driving another 10 miles (5 miles up a narrow gravel road), I got to the trailhead at 6 am. Too late for sunrise, and as it turns out I too late for any sun at all. As soon as I ascended the trail, clouds moved in and I could barely see the trail.

Foggy trail

Through the haze I found foggy Fox Sparrows and heard many others singing their lovely song.

Fox Sparrow

About this time, I heard a noise behind me and a man walked up the trail. He asked if I had heard him blow his whistle. He had no hiking gear but he did have a safety whistle around his neck. I told him I thought I’d heard something, and he told me he blows his whistle to let the little critters know he’s coming through. Okay then.

I didn’t reply and he hiked on. It was too early in the morning for crazy people, right? Or at least dangerous crazy people? I considered turning around and returning to my car. But…nutcrackers. So I hiked on.

The clouds continued to roll in. If I waited long enough I got very brief looks at the mountains in the distance. It would be a beautiful hike on a clear day.

The clouds hate me

No so much this day. It rained. I pushed on. The wind blew harder. I kept going. Slowly. So slowly that I saw Whistle Man returning back down the trail. Oh boy.

He said he’d wondered what happened to me. Then he explained he carries a whistle because he’s scared of mountain lions and bears. We chatted about hiking, birds, the terrible weather. He said his name was Jerry. It got colder and he moved on down the trail while I continued upward. Dodged that one.

I made it to the top of the butte but the wind was blowing even harder by then and there were no birds in sight. I could barely even see the fire lookout.

Fire Lookout

I returned down the trail, nutcrackerless and defeated, passing more people hiking up the trail along the way. The lower down the butte I went, the sunnier it became.

I got back to my car and found a note on the windshield.


Hilarious. Instead of a Clark’s Nutcracker I found a Jerry.

Bird watching IS fun!

Tweets and chirps,


Larch Mountain Part II

Larch Mountain was so much fun the first time, I made a return visit the following day.

Round two proved worthwhile just from the drive up. Elk! It’s been years since I’ve seen elk in the wild, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them this far from the coast. There were others with this one, but they ran off pretty quickly when I squealed the car to a stop on the road. Pretty neat sighting.


Not long after – CHICKEN!

Sooty Grouse

Just kidding, it’s a Sooty Grouse.

I’ll admit it, ever since the Ring-necked pheasant at Sauvie Island, when I see these kinds of birds by the road, my first reaction is to call them chickens (blame early mornings). There have been a handful of “chicken events,” but I rarely manage to get photographic evidence enough to make an ID, so I was pretty happy even with this sub-par snapshot.

Moving right along.

The usual flycatchers were on set, as were Cedar Waxwings, Hairy Woodpecker, a rough-looking Red-breasted Nuthatch (juvenile?), and a shining MacGillivray’s Warbler.

Cedar Waxwing

Hairy Woodpecker

Red-breasted Nuthatch

MacGillivray's Warbler

Oops…not that one…

MacGillivray's Warbler

Yeah! Better.

Mr Hermit was still hanging around the parking lot, but less vocal and showy this day.

Hermit Warbler

The rockstar show-off bird of this trip was a Dark-eyed Junco.

Giant Junco, destroyer of worlds

Giant Junco, destroyer of worlds

Mustache mania.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

And finally, LOLZ.

Dark-eyed Junco

What a goofball.

Pretty much sums up this trip!

Tweets and chirps,


Larch Mountain Part I

I hadn’t given up hope on finding a Hermit Warbler after my Johnson Road trip.

The following weekend, I conferred with BirdsEye and decided to try my luck at Larch Mountain. Funny thing about Larch Mountain, larch trees don’t actually grow there. Noble fir is the dominant species that was once marketed and sold by early loggers as the more profitable timber, “larch.” Hence, how the mountain got its name. Tsk, tsk.

Anyways, my love for abandoned logging roads is growing. I pulled over on the first one I could find.

There were Dark-eyed Juncos trilling.

Dark-eyed Juncos

And Orange-crowned Warblers trilling that sounded like Dark-eyed Juncos.

Orange-crowned Warbler

I got a better view of the MacGillivray’s Warbler.

MacGillivray's Warbler

And I saw some birds I didn’t recognize, like this one:

Western Kingbird (?)

Consensus on Whatbird was mixed, but the best guess (I think) is Myiarchus sp. possibly an Ash-throated Flycatcher (?), based on the pale yellow belly and dark upperparts. I didn’t get a look at its tail and didn’t hear a song. Western Kingbird was another consideration, however, to me the yellow on the above bird’s belly looks too pale in comparison with kingbirds. Toughie!

I was luckier with these flycatchers who identified themselves by song. I propose re-naming them according to their bird song to make their names easier to remember. I saw Fitz-bews, Quick THREE beers, and Tseet pwe-eet tsips – okay, maybe that one should remain Pacific-slope.

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Hidden in the trees, I’m glad this Pacific-slope Flycatcher sang!

Other lovely singers on the scene:

House Wren

House Wren

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

There were bugs, butterflies, and birds galore…it was just plain wonderful. Still though, no sign of the Hermit Warbler at this point, so I continued to the main parking lot area at the top of Larch Mountain, where…

Huzzah! The hermit finally came out of hiding.

Hermit Warbler

It’s funny how little effort it took once I got there. I exited my car, took two steps onto the trail, and bam – there it was, perched in the trees less than 5ft from my face (of course, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get that shot). I followed it as it flew back towards the parking lot area and I hung out for a while, listening to it’s chipper song, zee-zoo-zee-zoo-zeezee-zeet.

Hermit Warbler

What a sweet little bird!

Tweets and chirps!