The Trout Creek Recreational Area in central Oregon is perhaps best known for its enormous basalt columns which make it Oregon's premier destination for pure crack climbs, and less so for the GOLDEN EAGLES that nest there. We decided to see the place for ourselves this year after we read the Bureau of Land Management reduced the size of the seasonal wildlife closure area on May 11th.
As you can see from the map below, the area is not a birding hot spot. In fact, you won't find a single eBird report of observations from within the area. Something I will change after this post :-)
Most years, everything to the right of the hiking trail is off limits to all use from January 15 through August 31 to protect the Golden Eagle nests from disturbance. But this year, the nest on the south side of the main climbing wall was inactive, so the BLM reduced the size of the protected area to what is roughly outlined in red below. The hike from the trailhead to Frog Springs Campground is 2.4 miles (one way).
The sign pointing the way from the unincorporated community of Gateway.
A Yellow Warbler, and a pair of adult Bullock's Oriole greeted us at the start of our walk.
Main Climbing Wall:
We noticed a Black-billed Magpie fly into the tree below at about the 15 minute mark into our walk:
We were then plesantly surprised to find four nestlings sitting outside what looks like a predator-proof fortress.
Wildflowers below the magpie nest:
Western Kingbird Nest: Strange as it might sound, we found a first year male Bullock's Oriole persistently engaging with one of the Western Kingbird near the nest.
We found multiple Rock and Canyon Wren as we approached Frog Springs Campground:
The area above Frog Springs Campground that was still subject to the seasonal wildlife closure:
Closely cropped pictures of two nesting sites that appeared inactive:
The only Golden Eagle for the day was a couple of high-flyovers of two different birds:
We enjoyed watching the crowd of crack climbers, and a few additional birds, on our way out of the area:
Lazuli Bunting -
And close views of a Swainson's Hawk with prey as we were pulling out of the canyon: