The Gorge in Winter

February 05, 2014  •  2 Comments

I woke up this morning to sub-freezing temps and lots of sunshine. Nature was clearly inviting me to explore some new territory (for me), so I headed to Klickitat County, Washington. I started in the town of Bingen, hoping to find a Harris's Sparrow mixed in with the many Golden-crowneds. No dice.

I then headed east on Old Highway 8, and headed upslope, into the forest along Major Creek Road. There was a bit of snow on the (dirt) road and the forest floor, and I was surrounded by Varied Thrushes. Varied Thrushes are related to American Robins, though they are far more skittish. I had excellent views of them the whole way up the road (the road eventually dead-ends at a private driveway), but they were camera shy, per the usual.

Varied Thrush Refusing to Turn Its Head on Major Creek Road, Klickitat County, Washington, USA

Despite not obtaining the photos I hoped for, I was treated to the lovely vocalizations of this enigmatic species. You can hear their beautiful flute-like song at this link. I was then treated to a Pileated Woodpecker doing its thing on a nearby tree, and then a Downy Woodpecker, and then a Fox Sparrow, and then hordes of Oregon Dark-eyed Juncos. I set the camera down and just took it all in -- I never tire of being alone in a forest.

From there, I spent some time on Balch Road, hoping for Lewis's Woodpeckers and whatever else might reveal itself. Sure enough, I came across a flock of Lewis's Woodpeckers. If you've never watched them, they definitely are not your typical woodpecker. They are gregarious. They live in colonies. They are cooperative breeders. They have iridescent green backs, and wine colored breasts. They fly-catch. They tend to stay up high, and like Varied Thrushes, tend to be camera shy. I didn't even get the camera out, which was fine, because spending time with Lewis's Woodpeckers is reward enough, as they don't make it to my side of the Cascades often. You can see a photo I took of a Lewis's Woodpecker a while back by clicking here.

I then headed down to the Klickitat River and the town of Lyle. Bald Eagles were abundant, hanging out on the sand flats on the Columbia River, and perched and flying up and down the Klickitat River. I checked the sewage lagoons -- I was a birder long before I was a photographer, so I feel right at home at sewage lagoons. I then ended up at Lyle County Park, where I was greeted by a Yellow-rumped Warbler of they Myrtle flavor, White-breasted Nuthatches (oaks abound in this part of Klickitat County), a Downy Woodpecker, more Oregon Dark-eyed Juncos, one Varied Thrush, some Common Mergansers, more Bald Eagles of varying ages, and four Hermit Thrushes. The Hermit Thrushes apparently got the memo from the Varied Thrushes, though they seemed to enjoy teasing me a bit with their "almost" poses. At one point, one of them appeared to be doing the hokey-pokey.

 

Hermit Thrush looking right at Lyle County Park, Klickitat County, Washington, USA

Hermit Thrush looking left at Lyle County Park, Klickitat County, Washington, USA

I then continued my eastward journey, ending up on Dalles Mountain Road. I was hoping to find some raptors and perhaps some owls. I did find a Great Horned Owl in a publicly accessible barn, but her eyes were burning a hole in me, so I quickly left. From there, I decided to pursue more cooperative subjects on the Oregon side of the gorge.

I made the mistake of touching my metal tripod and camera with my bare hand, so that limited my time with these more cooperative subjects. I was able to manage a couple of keepers, though. Several hours later, my fingers are just now starting to warm up. I really enjoy sub-freezing, crisp days once in a while, as they remind me of my years in Chicago, and they certainly make me feel alive.

 

Rowena Curves, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon, USA

With light fading fast, I went to some of my favorite sunset spots in the gorge. Reality told me the sun was too far south for my plan to work, but I checked anyway. Once again, reality won the day.

I figured I better finally photograph my version of a Multnomah Falls in winter. Alas, it turned out like the other ones I've seen online! Of course, mine shows a damaged bridge that was pummeled by a falling rock recently. You can read about that by clicking here. Regardless, it was exhilarating to hear and then see some ice fall while being sprayed in the face by the chilly waterfall mist.

 

Multnomah Falls, 5 February 2014


Comments

Dixon Soracco(non-registered)
Wonderful Scott. I would like to shoot again with you sometime.
Cheers!
Marlowe Kissinger(non-registered)
Sounds like you had a good day. I would love to see the falls frozen.
I like the photos. Even though the birds weren't cooperating they are still good shots.
I managed to go to Fernhill to find the Tufted Duck. Found him and then made one trip around the main ponds. It was too cold. I only lasted a little over an hour. Wasn't able to get a picture. He was just too far away and my camera just wouldn't go that far.
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