Pacific Northwest Trip: From Cedars to Sage: Birding Along the Deschutes
As the Deschutes River travels from its source high in the Cascades to its mouth at the Columbia River, it traverses a remarkable variety of habitats. Our three-day, van-based exploration will start along the White River drainage. After our morning meet and introductions on Friday, we’ll head east, up and over Mount Hood. Our first stop will be the rich mosaic of the conifer forests, where we’ll search for Williamson’s Sapsucker, Pygmy Nuthatch, and Hammond’s Flycatchers among the towering Ponderosas. Continuing down the east flank of the Cascades, we’ll look for Nashville Warbler in the lower drainages before the landscape gives way to open oak habitat, where we’ll hope for local specialties like Ash-throated Flycatcher and Lewis’s Woodpecker.
On our first night, we will stay at the historic Balch Hotel in Dufur, adjacent to Dufur City park, where the settling ponds sometimes hold migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Please note that this hotel is true to its original layout, and all guests will have shared bathrooms.
On Saturday, we’ll head south along the Deschutes River, stopping in the relatively lush Tygh Valley, looking for Acorn Woodpeckers and where Eastern Kingbirds can sometimes be found hawking for insects from tall poles. Then we’ll visit White River Falls State Park, a hidden gem where nesting Cliff Swallows float over the double falls.
Continuing along the Deschutes River, we’ll visit Sherar’s Falls, a Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs site, where the tradition of dip-net fishing is still practiced as it has been since time immemorial. We’ll continue to search along the river, where American Dipper brave the whitewater as Lazuli Bunting sing from the banks and Golden Eagle soar over. A short hike may give us a chance to hear singing Rock Wren and Canyon Wren, while wild populations of introduced Chukar can be heard with their calls rattling around the rimrock.
We’ll stay overnight at the Imperial Hotel along the banks of the Deschutes River in Maupin, a quaint fishing and rafting town.
On Sunday, we’ll head south into the very northern reach of the Blue Mountain ecoregion, where we may find Mountain Bluebird or Loggerhead Shrike in the Mutton Mountains. We’ll head further into the arid sagebrush steppe of the Northern basin and Range ecoregion, with the sweet songs of Vesper Sparrows piercing the silence of one of the least densely populated parts of the state. With luck, we’ll find a Sage Thrasher in one of the taller stands of sage. For lunch, we’ll stop in Shaniko, the “living ghost town” full of historic buildings and the occasional flock of Gray Partridge.
We’ll slowly return to Portland, stopping for short birding and pit stops. We aim to arrive in Portland by 6 p.m.