This morning a led a field trip for the Ladd Marsh Bird Festival based in Le Grande. After the trip I left for home. It was great way to end my first visit to the fest…started last night with a keynote address on my favorite owl. This morning our group saw SIX individual Great Gray Owls. Three adults and three nestlings. This was at the Spring Creek Management Area in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest north of Le Grande.
About 7 AM we arrived at the nest platform where the female was sheltering her three young. Drizzle. After not too long she flew off to a nearby branch and began softly calling “whoot, whoot.” After about fifteen minutes of this the male flew in from the far right and she met him on another branch. There he passed from beak to beak a dark shrew. After accepting the prey the female flew back to the nest and awarded it to an owlet. At the same time the male flew off into the woods in search of the next morsel.
Rain picked up and female formed a tent over the three owlets with her soft feathers. Though her feather are not waterproof and she may get soaked sitting in the open she will not let the young get wet. After more than a hour with the Gray Family, we went off in search of other birds but soon found ourselves watching a second male hunting. He was focused on the ground beneath his perch, with both eyes and ears. Each time he flew down to the ground, he failed to find prey and would then flutter back up to a new perch. His landing would have alerted any possible prey in the near vicinity so he changed location after each plunge. A Grande time was had by our whole group, even one birder from Yosemite area had seen on one previous GGO, and that fleetingly. Several got more than one lifer. We had a co-operative Black-backed Woodpecker, several flocks of chattering Red Crossbills, Pygmy Nuthatches at nest holes, even a MacGillivray’s Warbler that was partially visible though partial to hiding in the local thicket where he was found.
In order of appearance we have female, twice, the owlets, female tenting against the rain and then the lone hunting male on different perches.
If you’d like a copy of the book on the Great Gray Owls of Oregon and neighboring states that Peter Thiemann and I have written (he did the great photos, far better than the ones you see here), just click on this link.
Wallowa-Whitman NF–Spring Creek Rd., Union, US-OR
May 16, 2015 7:10 AM – 11:50 AM. 30 species
Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) 6 thee adults, three owlets in nest box
Williamson’s Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyroideus) 1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 1
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) 2
White-headed Woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus) 1
Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) 1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 4
Cassin’s Vireo (Vireo cassinii) 1
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) 1
Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) 2
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) 4
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 3
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 1
Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea) 10 two pairs at nest holes
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) 4 one pair at nest site with nesting material
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) 1
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) 4
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) 1
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) X
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) X
MacGillivray’s Warbler (Geothlypis tolmiei) 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) 4
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) 12
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 1; Junco, many
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) 1
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) X
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) 2
Cassin’s Finch (Haemorhous cassinii) 1
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) 50