Gilliam & Jefferson Counties.

I took a trip out to Gilliam County a few weeks ago to start an ongoing project of test runs for the G.C. raptor routes I'm taking on this winter.  The test run proved a couple things I had suspected:  it is super easy to get distracted out there and it is just as easy to end up off the map.  Thankfully I still have a couple months to master them. 

Phillipi Canyon Lane

 The first part of the route took me through places I had been before via routes I had not travelled before.  I stopped by an open structure where I had once seen a Barn Owl, and sure enough I took one step in the building when an owl flew out.  I was bummed to have missed it but decided to look for pellets to poke.  That's when a second owl flew past.

Then a third and a fourth started flying around and things went south.  The windows in the structure have thick metal screens over them, learned the hard way by one of the youngsters.  There was a big bang as the owl hit the window and I ran outside to end their panic.  I peeked in from outside to see the owl sitting next to the window it had just struck before flying back up to a perch. 

Though the owl seemed to be fine I felt terrible.  I won't be going back in that building, that's for sure. 

Along Fourmile Road there is a sign for Fourmile Historic Site, a good spot to view wagon tracks of the Oregon Trail. 

Somewhere around here, near the Gilliam/Morrow line, I came across a family of Loggerhead Shrikes.

 I took a wrong turn somewhere around here and drove past the Caithness Shepherds Flat Wind Farm graveyard. 

I picked up my Gilliam County Brewer's Sparrow on this off-the-route drive:

Finally I got back on track and started on Upper Rock Creek Lane, one of the better roads I've birded in the area. 

Find the Cooper's Hawk!


I continued on to Bunker Hill Road, though I can't recall if this was an official part of the route.  Either way, I was psyched to see a Common Nighthawk flush from the side of the road.  After flying out over a field it returned to roost on the road. 

I abandoned my raptor route practice at this point to head to Willow Creek to look for a couple birds reported there recently.  There were a couple dead Barn Owls along the way.

At Willow Creek I easily found the Great Egret, a good bird for that area.

I also added Pied-billed Grebe and Eastern Kingbird to my county list, bringing me up to 96. 

Last week I took a trip out to Jefferson County to try to find myself a state bird that is known to hang out there.  I stopped by an open structure hoping for another Barn Owl but found only a few hanging plastic guys:

I drove 26 to Laurel Lane where the sage smell overpowers everything including dog farts. 

I pulled up to a spot on a side road, got out of the car and was welcomed by a large flock of Mountain Chickadees and Bushtits.  Quickly I noticed one of the Bushtits was not like the other Bushtits, and was in fact a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  State bird!!

The dogs and I crossed up and over a barbed wire fence on some rickety steps and started exploring, hoping for a certain bird that I never found.  I did find a porcupine!  State mammal!

I drove back towards Madras to get some food...

After food I stopped by the unexciting water treatment ponds and out of town on Grizzly Road.  More Mountain Chickadees came to check us out.

After exploring this area for awhile I decided to call it a day and drive back home.  I added 18 species to my Jeff. Co. list, plus picked up that state bird and state mammal.  Good times!


  1. Oregon is such a weirdly cool state, and not just because there are lots of cooly weirdos living there.

    Any trip where BAOWs seems to be your most numerous bird is pretty successful indeed.

  2. Jen another great outing...I have never seen a barn owl in the wilds, but I can sure agree on not going back with those windows wired up...Awesome to get the state bird and mammal in one trip!! Great shot of the Coopers!

    1. OH wanted to inquire where is the best SH cranes' in OR this time of yr if any? So far I have struck out trying to find any!

    2. Are you in Oregon?! Most Sandhills migrate in the spring and return in the fall, though some stick around. Malheur NWR is probably the best spot, they nested right at the headquarters there this year.

    3. I am planning to head toward Oregon, If I get close I'll give you a shout out! I will google Malheur!

    4. I heard my first Sandhill Cranes of fall at Sauvie Island today.

  3. That photo of sage country from Laurel Lane is captivating and makes me want to just step into that scene. Ah, and that sage smell--such a pleasant aroma that has the power to educe to positive memories AND extinguish dog farts.

  4. Congrats on the state bird and all the county ticks!


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