|Following a snow plow toward the Santiam Pass|
February 19-20, 2014
|Pygmy Nuthatch at Sawyer Park in Bend|
My reason for being in Bend was simple. Some very kind Oregon birders had sent me some specific directions as to where I might find my three target raptors. However, I had already found all three. So early the next morning I made the short drive to Sisters. What a charming place! Obviously the city fathers made the decision to honor the city's heritage as a frontier town. It was beautiful with consistent architecture, clean streets, quaint shops and friendly people.
The next place I planned on visiting was Calliope Crossing. Unfortunately the entrance road was snowed in. I parked on the highway, walked down to the creek, crossed it and walked up the opposite bank. I searched for the jays and woodpeckers to no avail.
As Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast, my friend!" I don't think I covered more than a half mile when a flock of about 25 or 30 birds flew across the road directly in front of me. Did I see blue? I hopped out of the car and instantly heard the unmistakeable chatter of Pinyon Jays! I had searched all over Sisters throughout the morning and found nothing, and now they seemed to have found me! And while I stood there in wonder, I heard a different sound ... a White-headed Woodpecker. There it was, high in a pine tree, ignoring the chaos of the jays below. Both of my targets ... both lifers ... in the same field ... and they found me. Sometimes, birding is just weird. Often luck is more productive than careful planning.
Once again, I proved to be luckier than I deserve. Within a couple of miles two snow plows turned onto the road ahead of me. A driver of a pickup truck and I tucked in behind the plows and followed them over Santiam Pass (elevation about 4900 feet). The photo at the top of this blog shows you what it looked like on the way up. Each twist and turn I made was freshly plowed. Under the circumstances, I could not have been safer. Eventually the plows did a u-turn and headed back up the mountain, plowing the other side of the road. Soon the snow changed to rain, the roads cleared, and the danger diminished. The rain followed me all the way to Corvallis -- the second time on this trip I drove into Corvallis through a heavy rain. I arrived too late to bird anywhere, and too tired to try. I ordered a pizza for delivery and settled in for the night. Today I had been lucky in so many ways, and tomorrow would bring new places and, I hoped, new birds.
|Another view of the White-headed Woodpecker|
|Sisters, Oregon. I really enjoyed this town.|
|Believe it or not, this was in the lower elevations before it got really bad!|