We set up camp Friday evening at Cold Springs Campground, which we’ve visited several times before to see nesting White-headed Woodpeckers, but this was our first stay. We set out immediately after setting up the tent and soon found ourselves surrounded by singing Thick-billed Fox Sparrows. Good butterflies, too.
|Thick-billed Fox Sparrow|
After dinner we took another little excursion and were halted by a high-pitched raptor-y squeal. About halfway up a tall pine was the floofiest Great Horned owlet imaginable. Neither the nest nor its parents were anywhere in sight, but when it stretched, we could see how surprisingly well its wings were developed, and that it was more mobile than might be assumed from looking at this bundle of cotton balls. We were happy when, the next day, it had stayed put and we were able to share it with the rest of the crew from our field trip.
|Great Horned Owlet|
|Lewis's Woodpecker and Williamson's Sapsucker habitat|
|Female Williamson's Sapsucker|
|Getting ready for the switcharoo|
|Western Wood-pewee nest|
Next, we headed out to a recent burn (~5 years) where our guides had staked out an American Three-toed Woodpecker nesting cavity. We had a long time waiting, and one of the guides expressed some anxiety that they may have abandoned their nest. After close to an hour I noticed the female sticking her head out slightly – either to scrutinize us interlopers, or to try an spy her tardy partner. I called it out, but she pulled herself back inside before most of the group could get on her, including Maureen. The brief encounter was enough to bolster our guides’ hopes, who decided to stay another 30 minutes.
|American Three-toed Woodpecker habitat|
|California Tortoiseshells were everywhere in this habitat, including landing on people's hats and fingers|
That extra 30 turned into 60, and still no luck. At the two-hour mark the guides polled the group on our next move, and there was near-unanimous support for pushing on to the Black-backed site. I should note that for the past hour Maureen, determined not to miss another chance, had been GLUED to the scope. I mean she had not moved an inch. She couldn’t leave empty-handed now! I appealed to the group that it was only a matter of time, and (thank goodness) a mere five minutes later the male flew in to feed the incubating, and probably famished female. This was definitely the longest we’ve ever waited in one place for a bird. What a wait; what a payoff!
|American Three-toed Woodpecker|
In contrast to the last stop, the Black-backed Woodpecker was comparatively quick and easy. Our guides had us on a female within 20 minutes. Against the black char of the scorched tree trunks, she was nearly invisible. All around us the trees bore signs of the woodpeckers having ravaged the blackened bark for beetles, which will be a useful clue in the future when we venture to find Black-backs on our own.
|"Black-backed Woodpecker wuz here"|
|Our sunset view while Northern Pygmy-owl was calling nearby|
We were on our own the next day and decided we wouldn’t mind another look at a Black-backed Woodpecker, so we returned to the burns. No woodpeckers this time, but a booming Sooty Grouse kept luring us farther into the forest. Afterward we drove to Shevelin Park in Bend, where we’d heard about four woodpecker species nesting right in the parking lot. We weren’t so lucky (we were probably in the wrong parking lot), but were able to find a pair of Lewis’s Woodpeckers who looked as if they were investigating various nest cavities like prospective homebuyers.