Tuesday, April 15, 2014

To Bend!

Last week I attended a fire science conference in Bend and Sarah and the dog came along to enjoy the change of scene.
We stayed at Entrada Lodge on the southwestern edge of town. This is a favorite place of ours because the rooms are just a few steps from the Deschutes National Forest and its inhabitants.

A few minutes after checking in, we found these mule deer and a flock of Pygmy Nuthatches. The deer were much easier to photograph.

At the end of each day, we sampled the town's growing brewpub population. The patio at 10 Barrel was a great place to enjoy the 70-degree weather.

We woke early on Thursday, bundled up, and drove east of Bend for the trip's marquee attraction: Greater Sage-Grouse.

We found the Millican Lek and watched the males puff up to display and fight with one another at sunrise (see Jen's blog for better photos). While we watched, a few hens wandered into the lek and selected some genes to pass down to the next generation.
I had not watched a sage-grouse lek since 2001 when I worked on a grouse study, so I  could hardly sleep the previous night. Though we were too far from the grouse to take decent pictures (what else is new?), their morning performance on the sagebrush stage was well worth the sleep deprivation.

On our way back to Bend we did manage a photo of this Sagebrush Sparrow, one of three individuals perched high on shrubs near the road, just begging to be seen.

Our final birding stop of the trip was new one. The flooded meadow around Barclay road outside of Sisters was busy with birds and quite scenic. We found nesting geese, displaying snipe, and our first Common Yellowthroats of the year. We'll be back!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Crane Fest!

A few months ago, Sarah and I were invited to talk about birds at the Sandhill Crane Festival in Othello, Washington. Prior to hearing about this event, I knew very little about this town (it's southwest of Spokane and north of the Tri-Cities). Sarah and I delivered a presentation about our book last Friday night and I gave a lecture on hummingbirds on Saturday morning. Both events were filled to capacity and we had a great time answering questions and sharing stories.

We also spent much of the weekend driving farm roads and exploring the beautiful broken country of the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

With excellent directions from the local crane experts, we found this pair and hundreds more among the corn fields outside of town.

We'd also hoped to see Burrowing Owls and Long-billed Curlews. After a little driving, we found a roped-off road along an irrigation ditch.

Sure enough, a pair of owls were hanging out near their nest burrow.

In an adjacent field, several long-billed curlews were displaying in the air and resting on the ground. Success!

We can't overstate how much we enjoyed taking part in the festival. It was well-oiled machine fueled by friendly volunteers and was well-attended by enthusiastic folks of all ages. There was a lot to do both indoors and out.
A small army of experts gave lectures and tours on topics ranging from ground squirrel reintroductions to the legacy of ice age floods. Though we experienced a small portion of what was offered, we learned a lot about a part of Washington to which we can't wait to return.

Thanks Othello!