Painted Hills II
Tomas and I left the Ochoco National Forest and continued our exploration of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument area.
Successfully spooking deer and herds of pronghorn along the way.
Along HWY 19 we pulled over to check out Cathedral Rock.
While admiring the magnificent colors of the cliff walls, we heard harsh croaking monster screams and looked over hesitantly to see what the racket was. A Great Blue Heron rookery! Of course.
There were three nests full of noisy monster muppet babies. We watched them for a while enjoying the show. Tomas says this was one of his favorite parts of the trip. Yessss.
Watching these primordial looking (and sounding) birds with the ancient towering cliffs in the background was remarkable. A very cool moment.
Continuing along, We saw several other bird species including:
And we even manged to spot American White Pelicans in a pond near Ochoco Reservoir.
We spent our last night camping at Shelton Wayside County Park in Wheeler County. For camping over a holiday weekend, it wasn’t as horrible as I’d feared. We found a semi-secluded spot, settled in and enjoyed the warm spring evening listening to the symphony of pine cones popping open.
Of course I couldn’t sit still for too long, so I wandered down an old abandoned highway and heard Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, and Chipping Sparrows. And I spotted a Say’s Phoebe on a powerline.
Then I saw a second Say’s Phoebe.
I sat down and watched as one grabbed a large insect expertly out of the air.
It sat perched on the wire, calling its low, whistled sad-sounding “pit-tsee-eur” over and over again. I thought, why aren’t you eating the bug, weirdo? Then I looked over to the building on the right.
Ohhhhh. That’s why. I backed further away then not wanting to stress out the bird. It didn’t want to give away the nest location! Good bird. Eventually the chicks got fed.
So amazing! Spring is the best.
Leaving the campground the next morning, we made our way to our last stop, the Clarno Unit.
We walked along the paths, looking at the fossilized leaves in the rocks, and imagined how different this place was millions of years ago.
Incredible. Then we looked up to see White-throated Swifts performing courtship displays! They paired up, clung to one another, and fell, swirling incredibly fast towards the ground. At the last second before impact, they separated and flew off in different directions. One of the coolest bird displays I’ve seen yet.
It’s like they gave us the fireworks-grand finale display of the desert. But wait, there’s more!
Who says the desert is barren?
After visiting the painted hills, I’m officially a fan of the desert. Five out of five stars and the cactus agrees.