CENTRAL ZONE VIEWING
Wasco and Sherman counties
The Lower Deschutes River provides ample wildlife viewing opportunities. California bighorn sheep are frequently observed in the canyon and can provide fantastic viewing all times of the year. The best spot to view sheep is from the BLM access road just downstream and across the river from Sherar’s Falls (along Hwy 216). Also, April is the time of year to start seeing lambs hit the ground. They can be very difficult to spot as their mothers do a great job of hiding them. Waiting for ewes to stand up and nurse can be a good way to catch a glimpse at young lambs.
Spring and early summer is a great time of year to observe nesting raptors. Some raptor species known to nest in the Deschutes River Canyon include Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, American Kestrels, Prairie Falcons, Peregrine Falcons, and Golden Eagles. Raptors can be very exciting to watch as they defend their nesting territories from intruding birds and as they hunt and feed their young.
This is also a great time of year to see migratory songbirds that are not seen here year round. Look for migrants spending time in riparian areas where they will stop during the day to forage and gain energy for their journeys north to nesting grounds.
The shrub-steppe and grassland habitats of the Deschutes River Canyon are a great place to view blooming wildflowers. Some rocky slopes look yellow from afar due to large amounts of blooming balsamroot (Balsamoriza sp). Other common wildflowers in the area include lupines (Lupinus sp), phlox (Phlox sp), and shooting star (Dodecatheon sp). 4/29/14.
The Prineville Reservoir Wildlife Management Area (WMA) north shore road opened to motorized traffic on April 15. The WMA offers camping, shoreline angling and opportunities to see a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, otter, beaver, raptors, shorebirds and waterfowl. Maps of the wildlife area are available at the Prineville ODFW office and at Prineville Reservoir State Park office.
Spring waterfowl migration is well under way. Water bird species that can be seen throughout Crook County, but in higher concentrations around Prineville and Ochoco reservoirs, include mallards, American wigeon, American green-winged teal, Northern pintail, ring-necked ducks, bufflehead, common and barrows goldeneye, Canada geese, killdeer, common and hooded mergansers, pied billed grebes, double-crested cormorants , great blue herons and a number of gull species.
A few of the common passerine species observed throughout Crook County this time of year include common flickers, American robin, American and lesser goldfinches, house finches, white-crowned sparrows, mountain chickadees, spotted towhees, Townsend’s solitaire, mountain bluebirds, cedar waxwings and dark eyed juncos. Spring passerine migrants should be increasing in diversity and number as the season progresses. Red-winged and brewers blackbirds, white-crowned sparrows and tree, cliff and rough-winged swallows are a few that can be seen. Red-tailed, rough-legged and ferruginous hawks, northern harriers, American kestrels, prairie falcons and golden eagles can be found throughout Crook County and are usually associated more closely with open/agricultural areas. Bald eagles and osprey can be found associated with water bodies. Northern goshawks can be located throughout the Ochoco National Forest.
Deer, elk, and antelope remain very active. Many populations of deer and elk have moved to lower elevations due to recent greenup. 4/22/14.
Winter is hanging on, but spring has definitely sprung for most raptor species. Great horned owls began their breeding season in January and are now busily tending feathered young. Eagles, hawks, and other raptors have paired up and are focused on renewing pair bonds, and nest building, although rough-legged hawks (that winter in Oregon) will soon be headed to their arctic tundra breeding grounds. Both bald and golden eagles can be seen at Smith Rock State Park in northeast Deschutes County, and one of their potential food sources, yellow-bellied marmots are being seen on warm sunny days. Red-tailed hawks are one of the most numerous birds of prey and commonly seen on fence and power poles scanning meadows, sagebrush shrub steppe, and other open areas for a tasty rodent snack. Other diurnal raptor species you might encounter include kestrels, sharp shinned hawks, cooper’s hawks, northern harriers, prairie falcons, ferruginous hawks, and even though they are not as numerous as prairie falcons, the occasional peregrine falcons may also be seen
Scan the skies for a glimpse of a large bird with a “V” shaped wing pattern and you could be looking at a turkey vulture as they continue to return from their wintering grounds to the south. Northern pintails, mallards, common mergansers, great blue herons and many other wetland bird species can also be found throughout the county.
Cross-country skiers and snowshoers can expect to see gray jays, pine grosbeaks and other forest birds at snow parks and trails off Century Drive south west of Bend. White-headed woodpeckers, juncos, several sparrow species, ravens, spotted towhee, hairy woodpecker, cedar waxwings and red-cross bills are just a few of the species that can be found in the Deschutes National Forest and BLM managed lands. Good sites to look for birds include forest edges surrounding meadows and wetland areas. Those with patience and stealth may be rewarded by the call and possible sighting of a Virginia rail moving through thickets of cattails.
Specific birding destinations to consider include Tumalo Reservoir (west of Highway 20 between Sister and Bend), Pelton Dam wildlife overlook and Lake Simstustus (Deschutes River northwest of Madras), and Hatfield Lakes (just north of the Bend airport), where you can expect to see bald eagles, Canada geese, American widgeon, green-winged teal, bufflehead, ring-necked ducks, northern shovelers, lesser scaup, common and Barrow’s goldeneye, multiple gull species, and various grebes including horned, eared, western, and Clark’s.
Mammal activity is less obvious during the winter, but if you go high enough to find snow, this is an excellent time to brush up on your animal snow tracking skills. Most lower elevations are currently lacking snow, but absence of the white stuff doesn’t bother black-tailed jackrabbits and several squirrel species that can remain active all or most of the year.
Amphibians are starting to become active and egg laying for some species has already begun. Long-toed salamanders will finish their annual breeding by early April and the earliest laid eggs will hatch his month. Tree frogs and Oregon spotted frogs will begin to lay eggs in lower elevations this month or early April. It’s still a little cool for reptile activity, but if we get a week of warm weather by the end of the month, snakes and lizards will begin to stir in their underground winter quarters. However, they won’t become really active until warmer days are the rule rather than the exception. 3/3/14
White River Wildlife Area
With the temperature warming up, the deer are starting to move. Deer can still be found digging under oak trees looking for acorns, browsing on bitterbrush and near feed sites.
Elk are starting to move up to their summer ground at higher elevations. You may still find some small herds on the Wildlife Area. The elk have pulled away from the feed sites for the most part. The best time to look for them is in the early morning or late in the afternoon just before it gets too dark to see. The viewing site located about four miles west of Wamic off of Rock Creek Rd. is a good place to occasionally spot elk feeding in the fields. Elk are subsidized with bales of hay at that spot during the winter months.
The gates to through traffic on seasonal roads were closed on Dec. 1 and will remain closed until April 1, 2010. Some roads may stay closed until May 1 depending on weather and road conditions.
Turkeys can also be spotted in more abundance this time of year. They group up in large flocks of sometimes a hundred or more birds. They will be looking for food so find their favorite foods and you will probably find them. Some of the things they like are acorns, wheat, grasses and insects. Some good places to look for them are around wheat fields, pastures and oak groves.
It’s also possible to see bald and golden eagles on the Wildlife Area. Other raptors such as red-tailed hawks and rough-legged hawks are common sights. American kestrels and northern harriers are also easily seen hunting for food.
Lewis’s woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, flickers, western meadowlarks, Steller’s jays, scrub jays, gray jays, Townsend’s solitaire, horned larks, and robins are all at home on the Wildlife Area. There have also been lots of magpies spotted flying around this year.
Look on ponds, lakes and streams to see a variety of ducks and geese. 3/10/14.