jack williamson | Birding on and around Black Butte Ranch August 2015

Birding on and around Black Butte Ranch August 2015

August 09, 2015  •  4 Comments

A family vacation last week at Black Butte Ranch provided me with the opportunity to get out several mornings to bird many of my favorite spots in the area plus find a few new ones on the west slope of the central cascades. The best birds of this trip include, SOOTY GROUSE with young, two RED-SHOULDERED HAWK dueling with AMERICAN KESTREL over Black Butte Ranch, too many COMMON YELLOWTHROAT feeding young to count, an assortment of warblers, a recently fledged Wilson's Snipe that I chose not to chase and attempt to photograph after it scurried away just before I almost stepped on it, an accipiter at Thorne Springs that I identified as an SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, (at least) two Empidonax species with a WESTERN WOOD PEWEE (all) coming to water at Whiskey Springs at the same time, and a FOX SPARROW that I am trying to ID as either an SLATE-COLORED, or THICK-BILLED variety; whatever it is, it certainly does not resemble the Sooty Fox Sparrows that I am used to seeing. But then again I am very capable of making mountains out of mole hills - by way of example - who else do you know that has ever mistaken an American Kestrel for a Prairie Falcon.  I have to laugh at that, or else stop birding. 

SOOTY GROUSE (I had to backup to fit the whole bird in the frame): En route to care for offspring that I was unwittingly standing in front of:


AMERICAN KESTREL that flushed the hawk just as I was getting into position to watch it hunt: My first close look at the RED-SHOULDERED HAWK as it cleared the stream side vegetation: I was surprised and delighted to find a second RED-SHOULDERED HAWK pair up with the first one.


COMMON YELLOWTHROAT still being fed by parents:


Thorne Springs & Accipiter:

I've been told someone is (illegally) cutting down the trees that surround Whiskey Springs. The poachers have reduced the spring to a mere shadow of its former self. The light that now reaches the forest floor makes it a much easier place to take photographs, but it is not nearly the magical setting that I used to sit in for hours waiting for birds to show up and compete for drinking and bathing privileges. 

Flycatcher extravaganza - I am going to hazard guesses to the identity of the individual species.

All of the birds pictured below were at the spring at the same time. Crazy fun!


Same bird 


Pale wing bars, rounded primaries, short projection and long tail helped me make this ID - (four pictures):

GRAY FLYCATCHER - its downward tail-bobbing was very obvious (six pictures):

. . . here it is taking a bath:
The unusually-colored FOX SPARROW:

A few other birds that I found of interest while at Whiskey Springs are, in the order presented -


This penultimate portion of this post is about a two separate lake basins located a few miles west of the crest of the central Oregon cascades. The first is accessible from a trailhead off Hwy 126 that leads to Robinson and Kuitan Lakes. The second trailhead into the other lake basin is located off Hwy 242 at the northern end of Scott Lake.

The first basin is littered with the evidence of Pileated Woodpecker, and while we hoped to encounter the mountain variety among the several flocks of chickadee we encountered - the best we could come up with was a few pictures of CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE.

We found 4 owls pellets on the day-hike (into Robinson and Kuitan Lakes), which in turn led me to look for volunteers to accompany me on a hike back into the same area the following night at 0230 to look for owls. The two volunteers on this unsuccessful trek were Robin Norgren and my 17 year-old nephew Samuel Whittemore. Robinson & Kuitan Lakes are both enchanting - but if you are going to camp, the eastern edge of Kuitan Lake is our top pick for the best place to overnight in the area.

INTERACTIVE Map to both western slope birding hikes:

Robinson & Kuitan Lake trailhead:

Robinson Lake:

Kuitan Lake:

Scott Lake and its fabulous views of two of the Three Sisters:

We found Hand Lake completely dry (it was formerly a year-round large body of water): Nevertheless - we still like the area for woodpecker, migratory raptors, and higher-altitude species including the obvious camp robing Gray Jay, and Clark's Nutcracker.

The INTERACTIVE Map below of what I call the Three Springs Loop was added by request:

The GPS Coordinates for each of the map markers of the springs are precise to within approximately one meter.

Photos of Bear Springs:


Lori Langston(non-registered)
Spectacular as always, Jack. Thought of you all last week and hope the reunion was as special as the birding.
Bob Archer(non-registered)
Hi: Would you mark the springs on map? Do you just find spring on map and go there or do you look for something else? There are lots of springs on east side of Hood, seems like a good strategy , I need to pick one and go stake it out.

I think the sparrow is either a Thick-billed or Slate-colored Fox Sparrow. It is not as heavily marked on breast compared to the Sooty form.
jack williamson
I missed bumping into you this trip! Very best regards - Jack
Very nice ... thanks for sharing.
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