[birding] Crabtree BBS route this morning (kind of long)

Joel Geier joel.geier at peak.org
Sun Jul 1 13:45:16 PDT 2007

Hi folks,

Yesterday Martha (age 8) and I drove up to Crabtree Lake above Lacomb in
Linn County, and then this morning came back the other way, doing the
Crabtree Breeding Bird Survey route.  The route runs through private
timber lands which are gated off (I have to check out a key each year to
run the route). However Crabtree Lake itself is on BLM land and can be
reached by going the long way around, via the Quartzville and Cougar
Camp roads above Green Peter Reservoir.

We were sort of late getting to the lake last evening since, while
running the route in reverse, we came upon a clump of downed trees on
one road that doesn't get much timber traffic. Reminder to self: Bring a
chainsaw next time! I spent about 45 minutes working with handsaw and
hatchet, clearing the smaller alders and managed to cut through the
biggest one (a big-leaf maple that was about 10 inches in diameter at
that spot), only to find that I couldn't quite swing the upper part of
the tree out of the way enough to negotiate the turn around the end of
the main log. So we gave up, went back down to Lacomb and came up the
Snow Peak mainline road.

Somewhere along the way we passed a MOUNTAIN QUAIL that was strolling
along the road near the edge of a clearcut. Then, just after we made it
through last gate into BLM lands, Martha spotted something standing in
the road. It turned out to be a displaying male RUFFED GROUSE, with his
tail fanned, his ruff fluffed out, and red crescents showing above the
eyes. We watched him for a while, then tried to ease by in our minivan.
As we got within about 25 ft, he scurried a bit farther up the road
(never dropping his tail), then resumed his display. Finally he ducked
into the grass as we eased past, but he never did lower his ruff or his
tail. I was surprised to see a grouse displaying this late in the
season. I'm guessing that he must have had a female close by, since he
wasn't "drumming," just displaying.

At Crabtree Lake we checked out the wildflowers on the rock outcrops.
Broad-leaved stonecrop, linear montia, Tolmie's mariposa-lily (cat's
ears) and another that I haven't figured out yet were blooming on the
outcrops, along with paintbrush, bleeding heart, penstemon, and more in
the areas with more soil cover. Rough-skinned Newts (and lots of those)
were the only vertebrates that we observed in or on the lake.

We heard a few VAUX'S SWIFTS (some usually nest in the old-growth around
the lake) but no Common Nighthawks, either yesterday evening or this
morning. Because of our misadventure with the downed maple, we didn't
have time to wander out to the bog below the lake. I heard SONG SPARROWS
and MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLERS but who knows what else is out there.

The evening serenade by SWAINSON'S and VARIED THRUSHES (with a distant
HERMIT THRUSH) might have been nicer if a guy who was camped out there
with his 12-ish years old son hadn't been blasting bad 1980s rock music
with the door speakers of his shiny black SUV. I guess he was not happy
that we showed up in "his" private spot, even though I went right over
right away and told him why we were there and not to worry, we'd be gone
by first light in the morning, and then we set up as far from his camp
as we could. Definitely one of the more unfriendly people I've ever run
across in a remote situation.

I haven't tabulated the full results for today's BBS route yet, but it
seemed like high numbers for PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER (19), WILLOW
FLYCATCHER (11), and OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (5). Jeff Harding always
asks about Hammond's Flycatchers on this route, since there ought to be
some in the old growth around the lake, but I didn't hear any. Granted,
the first three stops (4:54 to 5:11 AM -- BBS routes consist of 50 stops
spaced half a mile apart, at each of which you listen for 3 minutes
before you race ahead to the next one since you have to finish within 5
hours) are sort of early for flycatchers, and after that you're out of
the best Hammond's habitat ... but I didn't hear any around the lake
last evening either.

We got back to our old friend, the downed big-leaf maple, around Stop
30-something. I really thought we'd have to backtrack, make a 10-mile
detour, and then pick up as much of the route as we could from the other
side. But I thought I'd give it one last try. By using a smaller log as
a lever, I managed to move the top part of the maple another foot or
two. That was just enough room so we could squeeze through ...
literally!  I wound up "pivoting" the van around the log with the
plastic kickplate bearing on the end of the log as the back wheels sort
of skidded around behind to make a shorter turning radius, so we could
get past a pile of dirt on the other side of the log (I have to give
credit to Toyota for such a useful birding feature, even if overall this
vehicle is not quite as good for birding on logging roads as the Subaru
that Jeff & Jamie & I tried out last summer). 

A YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT was singing in the usual spot where we came back
onto public roads (where Fish Hatchery Rd. ends at the private trout
pond above the Larwood covered bridge). An adult BALD EAGLE flying by
the same spot seems to be a new species for this count.

Despite all of the Lazuli Buntings that have been around this year, I
was surprised not to find a single one on this survey.

Happy birding,

Joel Geier
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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