[birding] Crabtree Lake, Linn Co. -- A BBS Odyssey

Joel Geier joel.geier at peak.org
Sun Jun 29 13:27:45 PDT 2008

Hi folks,

This morning I ran the Santiam Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route in the
Crabtree Creek drainage above Lacomb, Linn County. This route starts at
about 3500 ft near Crabtree Lake (DeLorme atlas p. 55, D5). This is a
neat spot on BLM land, but hard to get to ... especially this year! 

I drove up there yesterday afternoon, with our border collie Heidi for
company. After clearing some minor windfalls and then having to chop a
12-inch diameter Doug fir into sections small enough to drag off the
road, we finally ran into snowdrifts 5 ft deep, about 3/4 mile from the
starting point for the BBS route. So we parked there and hiked up to the
lake which is about 1/4 mile past where the route starts. I'd brought
along snowshoes but the snow was firm enough to walk on in boots (though
you had to watch out for thin spots where it was melting underneath --
Heidi found one of those!). 

Up at the lake, there was bare ground on the rocky outcrops where the
cryptosols were still moist and a few avalanche lilies were blooming
(sedum and saxifrage weren't yet though). A male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD was
trying to impress two females which were hanging around a currant bush
that was in bloom, diving right along the edge of the cliff face where a
small waterfall tumbles out of the lake into a marsh below. The marsh
was mostly snow-free and had a singing LINCOLN'S SPARROW plus two
SPOTTED SANDPIPERS which appear to be nesting there. Aside from the
large number of biting insects, large and small, it was an idyllic spot.

I timed our walk on the way up and back down, and figured that there was
just time enough to do the first two BBS stops on foot. So at 4:25 this
morning, after waking up several times in the night due to a
thunderstorm that came through, Heidi and I hiked back up the road. On
yesterday's hike, I'd dragged a stick to make a groove in the snow, so
we had a good track to follow in the pre-dawn gloom, without falling
through the snow bridges. 

We got to the first stop about four minutes early so I had time to catch
my breath (Heidi didn't need to) before the official starting time of
4:54. We heard COMMON NIGHTHAWKS both there and at the second stop, 450
paces back down the road. In between stops I heard the Spotted
Sandpipers calling from the marsh, but sadly couldn't count them. Then
we hustled back to the van, hopped in (pausing just long enough to fill
a bucket of snow to take home to the valley), and managed to finish the
remaining 48 stops of the route just on time, rolling into Stop 50 right
at 9:57 (Well, I think I might have gone 15 seconds over the limit,
counting the time that it took to hop out of the van and start the 3-
minute point count).

Some quick impressions on the route:

A RUFFED GROUSE was drumming surprisingly late (at Stop 6, where there
were still patches of snow out in the forest). A MOUNTAIN QUAIL was
calling in a clearcut at Stop 21.

YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS keep showing up in more places around Lacomb, with
a total of 4 heard at 3 of the last 10 stops. 

Once again I didn't find any Hammond's Flycatchers on this route, but
stops, and OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER at 4 stops.

A CHIPPING SPARROW singing at stop 16 (in 5- or 6-year-old reprod) was
unusual for this BBS route. I heard EVENING GROSBEAK (not usually found)
at two stops at medium elevation, around big-leaf maples.

Finally, it was about 15 degrees cooler in the forest, even at lower
elevations, than out in the valley yesterday afternoon!

Happy birding,

Joel Geier
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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