Monday, April 20, 2009

Page Springs Campground and Diamond Craters ONA

I must say that I really and truly enjoyed the Page Springs Campground. First of all, when it got dark, everyone went to sleep. Not like when I visited the Everglades National Park. There when it got dark everyone got drunk, ran their generators for their RVs, and had these nifty camping lanterns that were so bright one could not see the stars. Now, for those who like that kind of thing, by all means go to a campground that resembles a singles bar. But, for a birder, this is one great campground.

The Donner and Blitzen Wild and Scenic River goes right through the campground and there is a trail up the river. Another nature trail goes into the designated Wilderness area, part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

So, before the sun rose, the ancient call of Sandhill Cranes roused me to get out of the sleeping bag. There was frost on the ground so I found the best way to warm up was to go for a hike, first just a short distance up the river, then around the campground. The campground was full of birds, including some I had never yet photographed!

This tiny ball of fluff is a Bushtit. They never hold still! There was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet with the flock, but I had never, ever, seen a Bushtit in my entire life so even the Kinglet showing off his spectacular red crest wouldn't distract me from struggling to focus on this hyper little critter among the brambles.

As I walked further in the campground I came to a tree full of ... hmm, what are those? Are they Black-headed Grosbeak? No, Evening Grosbeak! I have seen them before, but didn't get a photo. This time they were sitting in the morning sun, warming up with a flock of Cedar Waxwings.

I was torn between going to see birds and seeing birds. Why go anywhere if the campground is full of birds? There's a colorful Spotted Towhee.

What a dilemma. Well, maybe I will have to return to this campground again tonight.

I set off with no particular destination in mind, but thinking that there was a lot of the auto tour route yet to be completed. I had only made it to stop #9 of 19. And, there was a big pond that I had not yet looked at. On the way to the pond I heard the raucous chatter of Marsh Wren and snapped a photo.

The Krumbo Reservoir was full of birds, but closed to entry until next weekend, so I set up my scope on the overlook. Far, far away was an Eared Grebe, one of the species I had come to see and photograph. It would have been smaller than a speck in a photo. It was also the first reported sighting of the year for that species for the Refuge, as was the Pied-billed Grebe. I even was the first to report the Say's Phoebe, and they had been there for months no doubt because they were paired up and making a nest next to my campsite. It isn't always that I was the first to see these birds, but I took the time to write them down on the list at the Headquarters.

Disappointed at the distance to the Grebe and concerned that it would get very hot on this clear day I decided to go to the Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area. If one is going to visit a lava field, early morning when it is cooler is always a good idea. On the way there I had to stop in the road as it was filled with a herd of cows and calves, two cowboys on horseback, and some black and white cow dogs moving the bovines from one pasture to another. After the traffic jam passed me by I drove spattering through cow pies for a few miles. The little truck formerly known as Dusty now became his alter-ego, Stinky. Maybe the guys in 10-gallon hats were in cowhoots with the car wash industry?

Once again I found there was a kiosk with an excellent full-color brochure with marked auto tour stops to learn about geology and natural history. I loved the colors in the rocks.

This is the overlook to Big Bomb Crater.

In the near distance is a shield volcano, where lava flowed out of the vent and slowly built up height over time. Let's go look into the hole!

That sure looks like a lot of white bird poop on the far wall. Let's look with the scope and see what's going on. Aha! Don't tell anyone, this Great-horned Owl might even be on a nest for all I know. At the very least, it is a well-used roost.

I read on the interpretive sign that this is one of the very few places, if not the only place, where both the Rock Wren and Canyon Wren coexist in the same very local habitat. They do have very different songs and coloration, but usually they also have somewhat different habitats. I heard them both singing. Here's the bright rufous Canyon Wren now.

Another interesting resident is a melanistic lizard. Melanin is the dark pigment in their skin. They need that to blend in with the dark rocks.

Well, it's starting to heat up ... time to get back to photographing ducks at the Refuge!

OK, *another* of my "favorite" birds ... the fanciful Ruddy Duck. It is a stiff-tailed duck. See what I mean? And, yeah, that silly blue bill is just beaked right onto the face.

Whoa, brakes. I've only seen a shrike one time in my life, and that was just this year, in the Everglades. I took this photo hanging out the passenger side window (after I stopped Dusty and put it in park, of course) then tried to back up for a closer look. The shrike would have nothing to do with the blind coming back for a second pass, and it flew off. I subsequently read up on the difference between the Loggerhead Shrike, which I had seen in Florida, and the Northern Shrike which occasionally can be found in wintertime throughout Idaho and Oregon. Now maybe I'm wrong about this, but the very narrow mask is quite different than the wide mask on the bird I photographed in Florida. And, the Evening Grosbeak is also a winter bird and I photographed one this morning. So, perhaps this is a photo of the first Northern Shrike I have ever seen. OK, you talked me into it. I'm putting it on the list.

The Black-tailed Jackrabbit rarely sits for a photo. This one was photographed through the bug-spattered windshield, then disappeared into the sagebrush.

There must have been a million coots there. This is just one of them.

Most of the Ring-necked Pheasants were very wary, running away as I slowed to photograph. This one was perhaps dumber. It'll be under glass come autumn. I wonder if they get the name "ring-necked" from the godawful squawking noise they make.
It was getting on toward dusk, and again I had not finished the whole auto tour route. I kept stopping to take photos and enjoy the scenery. There was this odd shape on the side of a ditch, and so without being really sure I just braced the camera without a tripod, jamming it onto my fingers and bracing against a boulder to hold it level and shot three frames of what really seemed to be a Black-crowned Night-Heron. Yeah, I'm looking at the photo now. That's a Black-crowned Night-Heron all right.
Stay tuned, there's more to come ...

1 comment:

Bill S. said...


Thanks for joining my blog. I loved your posting of your adventures in the great outdoors. I love to jump in my truck on my days off and head somewhere with my camera and/or fishing rod. I will be adding a lot of those to my blog.

Thanks again.