A set of four maps were provided; one of them being an overview containing the other three.
Region: Northern Lane County
We began by meeting at the overlook at Meadowlark Prairie on Greenhill Road at 9am.
We had 14 people in 8 cars.
We toured the K.R.Nielsen and Cantrell Roads area and then drove north to the Alvadore and Franklin Road areas. A lunch break at Camas Country Mill and Bakery was followed with roads going further north to Washburn Ln and Cox Butte Road. Our final stop was Shore Lane County Park south of Orchard Point Park on Fern Ridge Reservoir.
Two storm fronts passed overhead in while I was on my way to our meeting point on greenhill road. We must have had a total of 7 or more intense storm fronts. Very visible squall lines and heavy rain storms, maybe even 9; but they were all short-lived; and each time the rain stopped and it got nice out for a little while. Sometimes the sun even came out; and at least four times there were rainbows. But by all accounts, it was pretty blustery at times, and quite chilly.
I had been the 1st to arrive at Meadowlark Prairie that morning around 8:40. There was a raptor flying in the distance. I thought it might possibly be Short-eared Owl since the underwings were very light color, but after other people arrived and watched it for a while they said it was the Northern Harrier. Jim and Sue Anderson came next and Jim complimented me on the instructions I had written. I said "I guess all those years of writing instructions for physics lab students paid off." Sue Anderson said these instructions were obviously written by a former teacher. Later in the day, two other people also made positive comments about the instructions, so I was feeling good about that.
There were lots and lots of Meadowlarks all over the place beginning with the Greenhill overlook; then many more on Nielsen and Cantrell, and a few more along Alvadore Rd. In some places the Meadowlarks we're singing. As beautiful as Meadowlarks are when you see their bright yellow breasts and throats with the dark bib, it comes as a complete surprise when you see them from behind for the first time; they are completely non-descript, simply brown and white quite a bit like a sparrow; and the only distinguishing feature is the white outer tail coverts which are a dead giveaway in terms of fieldmarks. While we had been waiting to get started back at the Greenhill overlook, Chris showed me a photo and said she didn't know what this bird was; which she said was among the Meadowlarks in the field. It was a back-quarter view of a Meadowlark flying. When I told her it was a Meadowlark, she said no it doesn't have the yellow. But it was a Meadowlark. I explained that the Meadowlark is quite the schizophrenic bird, looking completely different from behind as from in front.
There were 14 of us on that Saturday morning's birding caravan in western Lane County. We did have some good sightings up close, but none of our "prime target" species showed up in our first several locations except for Bald Eagles. By 11am I was feeling discouraged with all the rain and having not found the more exotic birds I was aiming for on Nielsen and Cantrell Roads, nor at Alvadore's Starlight Ln or Franklin Road, North of Alvadore. I had been hoping we would find Say's Phoebe, Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk; all of which had been seen quite often in the two previous weeks.
Franklin Road proved to be an awkward place for a car caravan. Not only that, but for all our trouble, the few raptors we saw were quite distant. There is quite a bit of traffic and the locals were unsure about whether to pass us or wait for us to start moving when our 9 cars were stopped alongside the road. One such car stopped alongside my car only to make sure we were okay and didn't need help. They didn't complain but I would guess some of the locals didn't appreciate there being so many cars pulled over. And we weren't the first birders they were encountering because for the previous two weeks there had been a Prairie Falcon and even a Gyrfalcon seen along Franklin Road so quite a few birders had been out there to see these less common Winter visitors.
Then the sun came out as we pulled over where the Amazon Channel crosses Alvadore Rd (just a short distance south of where Avadore Rd crosses Hwy 36). Up to that point we mostly had Kestrels; lots of Kestrels; several red tailed hawks; a few of them up close; a couple of nice looks at Red-shouldered Hawks; one on Nielsen and one on Starlite Ln.
At the Amazon/Alvadore Rd crossing, we got out of our cars and a adult or sub-adult Bald Eagle flew by low and very close to us. Even better (for me, since this doesn't happen much anymore), I was the first one to spot it. We were outside of our cars in the sunlight watching some baby sheep when the Eagle came by. People actually cheered at seeing the Eagle. This moment coincided with the arrival of Aiden and Sharon, who had gotten a late start, so maybe they were half the reason for the cheering. It was surprising how much that Eagle sighting raised everyone's spirits. The sunlight helped too and so did being out of our cars and able to talk to each other live instead of only by two-way radio. (The radios had worked pretty well too while driving on the roads).
After the Eagle we drove to the Camas Country Bakery and everyone had some cookies or sweet pastries, and some may have had coffee. It was 1:30 by then and the temperature had dropped a few more degrees and it got very windy and heavy rain again as we left the bakery. Two or three of our eight cars (six people) decided they were done for the day. We only had a short section of the trip ahead of us.
The eight of us remaining went on up to Washburn Ln and Cox Butte Road; and after seeing nothing much they were still upbeat and ready to go to a place I told them about which few if any of them knew about. I think the sugar from the bakery kept them in such an upbeat state of mind. It was impressive.
I took them to a little known county park which is not being funded because since timber revenues fell decades ago Oregon hasn't come up with new sources of revenue except for the electronics industry and internet tech in Portland and Eugene. This little park has a little restroom building and a closed road 100yds to the reservoir (Fern Ridge Reservoir - which has several excellent birding locations - the best in the valley). At the shoreline of the reservoir this little park allows you to view the "low-pool" - the only section which has water in it during the Winter. (They drain reservoirs in Fall so they can use them to prevent flooding when winter rains come). This little park (Shore Lane County Park) gives a nice view of the low-pool and that is where Swans, White Pelicans, Bald Eagles, flocks of wintering Shorebirds (Dunlin especially) can be seen. No one in my group - except me - knew about or had been to Shore Lane park before. They loved it. It's at the end of a dead-end road. Really only the experienced birders go there and a few locals.
I told the group about a book edited by a well-known local birder and all the text written by a crew of experts many of whom started birding here in their teens in the 70s and most of which still are birding regularly. I told my group that "before there was eBird (online international data-base of bird sightings), before there was OBOL , (online listserve), there were telephone trees for spreading the word about rare birds, and otherwise, there was a book called "Birds of Lane County" - this book I was telling them about." The bulk of the book is a detailed listing and descriptions of all the best places to go birding in Lane County. I used to wonder how all the experts knew about all these places. But even better, the book includes short biographies of the contributors and history of the club they formed, which preceded the Audubon Society in Eugene. It was (and IS) called SWOC = Southern Willamette Ornithological club. If you go to the Oregon Birding Association website you can find some of their earliest newsletters from the mid-70s. When the pandemic ends they will resume monthly meetings once a month. I've gone to a few back in 2018.
Even in the 30 minutes we spent at Shore Lane (until heading for home at 2:30),
the weather went back and forth from sunny to drizzling and windy.
No one minded the weather.
I still think it was the sugar.