Birding near Maupin, OR

The plan for today was to go birding near Maupin (Central Oregon) and to follow the Deschutes River road north some 26 miles downriver to Mack’s Canyon where the access road ends. I was hoping to find a Belted Kingfisher and get a good photograph. I did see one as it fled across the river, out of range for the lenses on my camera.

Three stately Great Blue Herons were feeding in the shallows farther down river.

For the eight miles to Sherar’s Bridge the road is paved but after that pavement turns to gravel… badly wash-boarded gravel… the kind that jolts your bones at any speed. Four miles of jolting was enough. I wasn’t seeing birds so I did a U-turn. It was a nice sunny day and a warm 59 degrees in the canyon but the rough road aggravation was too much. I returned to Sherar’s Bridge and turned north on highway 216 toward the White River Falls State Park and a very scenic waterfall.

Roadside a small female Downy Woodpecker was feeding on a Woolly Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and paused long enough for a few good photo opportunities. Its look-alike relative, the Hairy Woodpecker, is larger with a more robust bill but the two are often confused. In this case the habitat was a clue also. The Downy is often found foraging on weed stalks.

Picoides pubescens
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  near White River State Park Wasco County

Because I had cut the Maupin road trip short I had time to cross the Columbia River at The Dalles and bird the Dalles Mountain road. It, too, is a gravel road but in slightly better condition for driving. About a mile off highway 14 is a large patch of Himalaya blackberries (Rubus discolor) about an acre or two in size. As I approached a great flock of small birds erupted from the briar patch… next time I will stop earlier and “scope” for birds before scaring them away. It was a mixed flock of birds but I saw enough to know at least some were American Goldfinches.

American Goldfinch
female American Goldfinch, Dalles Mountain, Klickitat County WA

A little farther up the hill I was treated to six Northern Harriers working in the canyon roadside. Unfortunately they presented little opportunity for close-up photography but I got a good look at their impressive aerial skills. Both sexes were present.

One lonely magpie was in residence at the ranch buildings and it flew well in advance of my approach. They have learned to be very wary of man in all forms.

Even though the species count was low it was an enjoyable fall day.


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