Sunday, May 23, 2010

Oregon in Spring WINGS Tour: Catlow and Alvord Basins

With temps starting at freezing this moning, we got a slightly later start than usual and began a few blocks from our hotel, where the yard of Larry Hammond must be the #1 feeding station in Harney County. There were dozens of Western Tanagers and Bullock's Orioles fighting for a place among the fresh fruit. These two Western Tanagers were soaking up the morning sun on the lawn. I glimpsed the Baltimore Oriole that Larry found yesterday, but it flew before anyone else got on it.
(Addendum: all present got to see it on our second attempt in the afternoon.)

This is the where we took shelter for lunch yesterday – along with a half dozen other birders and about 20 motorcross riders. Today we just stopped briefly on our way past to check for migrants. Nothing unusual here, other than a sighting of Eugene birders Kitt Larsen, Larry McQueen, and a friend of theirs.

We rose into the higher elevation Catlow Valley were it must have snowed much more than in the Blitzen Valley. Vesper Sparrows were all over the highway shoulders, making it nearly impossible to keep from hitting them. Cars blasting through at the usual 70 mph must have killed many.

This is the usual stop below the Catlow Rim north of Roaring Springs Ranch where we had Yellow-breasted Chats – unusually beautiful with a snowy background.

Sage Sparrow was one of our targets today.

As was Burrowing Owl – our 10th owl of the tour. The only other possible owl on the route would be Great Gray. Maybe tomorrow?

At the Fields Oasis were rather few birds. This Wilson's Warbler was probably trying to conserve energy after struggling to find food the past few very cold days.

Great Horned Owl is an annual breeder here.

I dove suddenly to catch this Common Racer, which was warm to the touch after sunning down in the windless grass. But I forgot that I had been carefully cradling upright one of the Fields Station's famous milkshakes in my vest pocket. It made more of a mess all over my vest and pants than the snake's musk.

Alvord Hotsprings over a mile below the 9722-feet peak of Steens Mountain.

We stopped to stretch, get some fresh air, and look at the many wildflowers at the northern pass of the Alvord Basin.

Prickly-leaved Phlox, Phlox aculeata

Sheathing Lomatium, Lomatium vaginatum

Stiff Vetchling, Lathyrus rigidus

Toothed Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza serrata


  1. Hi Rich--I'm enjoying the bird and flower pics in your Oregon blog. Sounds like you have had "interesting" weather. We ran into Cynthia up at L. Erie a couple of weeks ago! Lots of great looks at warblers passing through in migration, including an unexpected bonus--Kirtland's!

    Deb Marsh

  2. Hi Deb,
    Thanks for reading. It's been a great tour here, despite the weather. Not as relaxing as Jamaica though! Lucky you to see a Kirtlands on migration. I still have never seen one.