Fort Rock State Natural Area
After visiting Newberry Caldera, Tomas and I continued an hour south to Fort Rock State Natural Area.
About a mile wide and 200 ft tall, Fort Rock is yet another of Oregon’s magnificent geologic features. It is a tuff ring formed 50,000-100,000 years ago when magma rose up to meet water and lake mud. Fort Rock was once an island when the whole place was intermittently flooded by Fort Rock Lake. Hard to imagine.
Today, the natural area is a desert filled with rocks, sage, flowers, insects, lizards, grasses. And birds. Tomas and I visited the park twice in three days. It’s that good. The first time we were met by swarms of White-throated Swifts, Cliff Swallows, and a conspiracy of Ravens. I was told sometimes there are humming bird feeders up, but not this time.
While on the short hike inside the fort we heard the cry of a falcon, and looked up to see a juvenile Prairie Falcon.
High up on the cliff walls, it stretched its wings and called out loudly. This was the first time I got a good look at the brown color patterns and dark “armpits” that distinguish this bird from a Peregrine Falcon.
I noticed its larger size compared to American Kestrels. They also nest here.
There was plenty of evidence owls also nest in the cliff cavities (Barn Owls I think). We searched for a long while, but couldn’t find the birds. Just the bones.
I chased around one colorful songster around the fort until it finally revealed itself. A Green-tailed Towhee! A first for me.
That is a fun bird. Not only does it have a fancy cap and tail, it has a pretty song too.
On our second visit we arrived earlier and got great views of Sage Thrashers.
And sparrows. Like this Brewer’s Sparrow.
And Sage Thrashers AND sparrows. A two-fer!
Another target bird showed up in good numbers this morning that was absent the day before. Sagebrush Sparrow!
Oh that’s embarrassing, there’s something on your face.
Nope, still there.
That’s better. Its song is hard to describe (several trills broken up by short chips) but lovely to listen to.
It was hard to pull myself away from these handsome birds. But we had another destination to get to. Oregon has so many hidden gems. You can live in a state over a decade and not realize they are there. Unless you look for them.
Tweets and chirps,
Waah!! My lifer GT Towhee was at Fort Rock too! On my first Gonzo Birdathon to Malheur and back. I flipping love those birds. Awesome post. I love that part of the state, but I have so so so much more to see.
That’s so cool!! I love them. They are eye (and ear) candy in the desert!
Tara L. here. I’m just venturing into blogging. I think I’m going to head to Fort Rock this weekend. Do you have tips for how to get there?
Neat! – we took I-5 because we came from the Newberry Volcano area. I haven’t written about it yet but Cabin Lake Rd next to FRSP is a must to bird – and are you checking out the Cabin Lake bird blinds too?? Bring suet! So exciting!