Central Oregon.

I left town Monday afternoon on a mission to finally track down a somewhat easy life bird that I had let slip through the cracks for too long.  My plan was to camp near Sisters for the night in Flammulated Owl territory, then head to my real destination in the morning.  Thunder was rumbling when the dogs and I got out of the car on Cold Springs Cutoff.  It was rumbling when we went for a walk at the campground.  It was rumbling with some added lightning when we drove up NF-1018.

Half the reason birders visit the Sisters area is for the burns, many of which are started by lightning.  This made me a bit nervous but by the time we set up camp along NF-2061 things had mellowed.  That night I heard no owls though a poorwill was calling for hours.

We got up around 5 and went up the road to bum around the GW Burn for awhile.  Lewis's Woodpeckers were a highlight, though it was too dark for decent photos.

Indecent Lewis's Woodpecker

Sparrows were the stars of the day, as I had hoped.

 Chipping Sparrow

 Foxy Sparrow

 Fact:  Green-tailed Towhees are better than 92% of other North American birds. 

Jake was done with walking by about 7 a.m.

I made some coffee, fed them breakfast, then got on the road to Sisters for gas.  I drove around the Ray's Place shopping center checking for Pinyon Jays, instead finding this other gorgeous pine-lover:

Coloradia pandora (Pandora Pinemoth)

Wikipedia keeps it real and explains why this moth may not be so good for the local pine trees.  But it was soo cool-looking... 

I got back on the road and began the 40-mile drive east to the famous sagebrush area off Highway 20 to find my target bird:  the Sagebrush Sparrow.

I drove a loop of roads off 20:  South on Spencer Wells Road, then west on Ford Road, then north on Fort Rock Road back to 20.  The birds were somewhere in this mess of sage just waiting to be found.

 Ground-squirrel distractions

Sage Thrashers kept their distance

There were pockets of sparrow activity all over the area and Sagebrush Sparrows proved easy enough to locate.  The challenge was finding them in decent light.  Brewer's Sparrows were much easier. 

At one point there was a Sagebrush Sparrow and a Brewer's Sparrow perched in the same bush providing a most impressive size comparison.

Finally after two hours of sage-beating and hummus-eating I stumbled upon this most cooperative fella:

Yay lifer!

I drove back to Sisters to stop by Cold Springs again to cool off the dogs.  These little wasps were gathering on the planks over the springs.

It was too hot out to walk the dogs anymore so I called it a day and drove back to Portland.  Good times!!


  1. Damn. That size comparison is really telling. I had not noticed the differences so tangibly before, which was all the more erie considering that much of this post looked very familiar regarding the setting and birds.

    Your statistic about GTO is pretty accurate I think. Are you sure you're not a bit biased though because that bird posed super sexfully?

  2. I'm with Jake, by 7am on a hot sunny day I'm done too. Birds and bugs, that's what its all about these days. I want to see a Green-tailed Towhee.

  3. Congrats on the lifer, and I motion that the name of this blog be officially changed to "Sage-Beating & Hummus-Eating." Agree on Green-Tailed Towhee in the top 8%. One was wintering about 20 miles from my house a few years ago, and for some reason I never decided to go see it. Still kicking myself.

    1. Ha, I like the blog name proposal! Maybe I'll lock down that website name just in case...

  4. I eat sage too grow it right outside the kitchen window LOVE the aroma, humus is my main sandwich spread! Although my friend makes a pretty mean pimento cheese I did sample and am considering trying a vegan version...if it works Ill pass it along to ya...Awesome, splendid, kudos you found your target bird and got the "snap shot" to prove it!! I'm a great title if you decide you don't hate birds would be "Jen-and the Art of Bird Whispering"
    Jake is a smart cookie! My girls just had their 7th b-day and they don't want to stick their heads out of the AC.

    1. Yeah I've had some tasty vegan pimento cheeses- let me know if you figure out a good recipe! Aww happy birthday to those furry ladies! Jake and Ralph send their love (and ice cubes)

  5. We just missed you! We were near Sisters Fri-Mon. Blog post coming soon! Glad you got a Sagebrush Sparrow finally! I saw my first ones the same day had my first Sage Grouse.

    1. I think if I had tried a bit harder I would have had them the same day too- the sparrows I saw were within spitting (ok, maybe throwing) distance of the lek. Bummer we missed you out there!

  6. How cool is that to have a lifer so close to home that you can just go out and get sometime when you feel like it? It's like a rainy-day slush fun, but better.

    1. Indeed, I think that bird was the last of its kind...


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