Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Highlights From the Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival

The woodpecker diversity surrounding the town of Sisters, Oregon is nothing short of astonishing. Considering that woodpeckers occur worldwide, have an evolutionary history that may go back 55 million years, and yet do not occur in Australia, this is a fascinating family of birds. That a density of 11 species occurs in such a small area in the temperate latitude of Oregon’s northern Cascades is also surely worth some investigation; on my Southeastern Peru tour, in an area of the world’s highest bird diversity, we typically see only about 10 species in a much larger area. But that’s beyond the scope of my blog.

In any event, this is clearly a very good location for the Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival, and this is the second year that I have helped lead field trips for it. The following is the list of the species seen after the third day of trips.

The field trip that Tom Crabtree and I led was highlighted by the discovery of a pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers, the most unpredictable species in this region.

In the same burn we found two different Black-backed Woodpeckers.

This is a female Williamson's Sapsucker, one of the most interesting birds in the area. You might have already read somewhere that when the first one was collected it was described as a new species separate from the male.

 A Red-breasted Sapsucker, a species which seems to be slowly encroaching and displacing Red-naped Sapsucker in this region. No bird distribution is totally static, human-caused habitat changes or not.

The White-headed Woodpecker is clearly one of the most charismatic birds of the region. I never tire of seeing this bird.

Not to be laughed at here is Downy Woodpecker, restricted to riparian areas.

The numerically rarest woodpecker in the region is the Pileated Woodpecker, which needs large trees in this part of the continent. We found ours on our last, half-day of field trips by Suttle Lake.

Of course there are other birds to be seen here. Western Tanager was in a few places, and this one was a lucky spot along the road to the old GW Burn near Sherman Camp.

In the same area we had this Townsend’s Warbler. Lacking yellow on the breast, it seems to show some intergradation with Hermit Warbler; perhaps two or three generations back.

Not far from here we had a typical Hermit Warbler.

This Green-tailed Towhee sat up nicely; we heard a few more, though the song is confusingly similar to the local thick-billed subspecies of Fox Sparrow.

We had two different Northern Pygmy-Owls this weekend, though neither were as cooperative as last year’s bird at Calliope Crossing. I took this photo – through the impenetrable Ponderosa Pine needles – with my camera held up to my binoculars.

If you know me, you know it’s more than just about birds. The Brown's Peonies here were early this year, now in fruit.

The participants were definitely into birds, but all were compelled to stop for this stunning concentration of Dwarf Purple Monkeyflower (Mimulus nanus).

The creek leading to the Black Butte swamp seems to be the only place in Deschutes County where one might find the delightfully fragrant Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana).

In this area we came across a nest of the Western Tent Caterpillar moth (Malacosoma californica).

Pale Tiger Swallowtail (Pterourus eurymedon) was also in this area.

Higher up towards the Pacific Crest Trail near Big Lake we found several of this Persius Duskywing  (Erynnis persius borealis).

There were a couple of these small Two-banded Checkered-Skippers (Pyrgus ruralis) in the same area.

This lovely meadow in the old GW Burn was near the Linn-Deschutes county border as well.

The Common Beargrass here is in the lily family and not related to the agave relative we know in SE Arizona also called beargrass.


  1. Rich, an excellent summary of the trip! You and Tom were great trip leaders! Can I ask what camera you were using? Those are excellent photos!

  2. Thanks Dwayne. I'm using the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. I've only had it since March, but I'm liking it a lot.

  3. Rich,
    Your photo of the Hermit Warbler also looks like a hybrid with Townsend's Warbler. Note the streaking on the flanks which a pure Hermit Warbler don't have.