Mountain trip offers good look at summer birds

A few weeks ago I wrote about spring warblers. And even though warblers are remarkable birds that visit us during the warm months, they are not the only spring and summer birds out there. So today let's travel into the foothills and mountains to explore and see what other birds nest in the foothills and higher mountains.

One of my favorite day trips is to travel east on Highway 140 and cross the mountains to Dead Indian Memorial Road, then to Howard Prairie, Hyatt Lake and back to Ashland. This route takes us through many different habitats with the chance of seeing 50-60 species of birds and some spectacular scenery.

Start by turning off of Highway 140 at the Lake Creek Road. As you gradually climb through the foothills (stay on the paved road at all times), you could spot turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, California quails, wild turkeys, ash-throated flycatchers, Western kingbirds, an oak titmouse or two and Western bluebirds.

At 9.5 miles watch for a turnoff on the right (a paved road), which is Condi Creek Road. Shortly after turning, stop and check the stream for American dipper and listen for black-headed grosbeaks and Bullock's orioles.

Continue on this road and stop anywhere that looks inviting. You'll be climbing steadily now and will be passing though ever-changing habitats. Trees and shrubs could hold pygmy owls, rufous hummingbirds, red-breasted sapsuckers, Western wood peewees, warbling and Cassin's vireos, chestnut-backed chickadees, bushtits, Bewick's wrens, lazuli buntings, and chipping sparrows.

When you near the top of the mountains, watch for mountain quails, gray jays, red-breasted nuthatches, hermit thrushes, Western tanagers, and green-tailed towhees.

At the junction with Dead Indian Memorial Road, turn left and then right onto Howard Prairie/Hyatt Lake Road. Check the meadows and lake for American white pelicans, bald eagles, ospreys, sandhill cranes, Wilson's snipes, violet-green and tree swallows, ducks, and spotted sandpipers along the shore. Continue past Howard Prairie to Hyatt Lake.

As you travel alongside Hyatt Lake, watch for the rest area and the brown "Binocular" sign next to the lake. This is a great place to view a double-crested cormorant rookery in the dead snag just off shore.

Continue to the junction of Green Springs Road, turn right (west) and begin the trip downhill to Ashland. The views here are truly breathtaking.

This is a wonderful day trip with a chance to see our many mountain birds while enjoying cooler temperatures and wonderful views. Be sure to take a lunch, your binoculars, a field guide and sunscreen. You'll have a great day. I know I always do!

Richard Cronberg is a birding enthusiast and photographer who lives in Central Point.

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