This will probably be my last Gilly post for a long time as I finished up my winter raptor surveys this week. It's a beautiful county and I can only imagine how amazing it would be if it wasn't all private land.
I ran the north part of the raptor route a couple weeks ago, stopping at an open structure where there is always a Barn Owl. One might call it reliable. But if I have learned anything about reliable birds, it is that they are not reliable.
My route took me past a couple approachable Prairie Falcons...
Shortly after seeing the above bird I turned onto Bunker Hill Road and noticed a large pale hawk on an irrigation device.
I got the scope out and I was 99% sure I was looking at a Ferruginous Hawk, a fine bird for winter in Gilliam County. So fine that eBird scoffed and I doubted myself and sent a bad photo to Seagull for verification.
These long drives are super boring for the dogs and we have to get out to stretch our legs here and there...
On Thursday I went back out to run the south route finding a similar number of birds but with far less diversity (RTHA, RLHA, AMKE, PRFA). Good mammals though, and the scenery never disappoints.
In Buttermilk Canyon a Say's Phoebe was flying out and singing from the high rocks while Canyon Wrens hopped around plucking insects from the low rocks.
Not far from here I caught sight of a herd of Rocky Mountain elk on the next ridge.
Here I also had my first wildflowers of the season to look up! If only I could retain flower info from year to year this would be much easier. My Oregon Wildflower app tells me this is sagebrush buttercup:
Before descending into the town of Lonerock there is a nice stretch of hillsides scattered with junipers that Mountain Chickadees and Townsend's Solitaires love.
As I was returning from the short stretch of raptor route south of Lonerock I came across a flock of 52 Wild Turkeys in a field. I only saw four records in eBird of turkeys in Gilliam, the highest number being 10 at one time, so I was concerned they were not actually wild. But they were. I have since learned at least one other person has had a large flock near Lonerock. County bird. Year bird. Yay.
After backtracking through town I started the climb up Lonerock Road, stopping short when I saw a small mammal on the side of the road.
Marmot! This yellow-bellied marmot took me by surprise as I had never seen one away from really high elevations (Mt Rainier, Mt Hood, Yellowstone, etc) and I was only at 2800 feet. The internet strongly suggests they are found at 6000+ feet but in talks with other Oregon birders I have learned they actually have a much bigger range. That's awesome though I can imagine them being a yard pest in some places.
The internet mentioned they wake from hibernation the last week of February so this dude was right on schedule.
Somewhere along the way I stopped to check out a gorgeous horse family who wanted nothing to do with me.
The route ends in Arlington where I drove out to the port on the Columbia to look for ducks and things. Close in Barrow's Goldeneyes are nice.
That's it from Gilliam County where my list stands at 107. Not bad for such a weird county. Good times!