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Birds of Oregon and General Science, (BOGS)

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BOGS: Dorris Ranch to Clearwater Landing Nov 14, 2013

A paved pedestrian/biking path was recently completed, linking Clearwater landing to Dorris ranch, running mostly along the North side of the Middle fork of the Willamette River. Previously, we have walked the 2 mile stretch from Clearwater Landing up to where the construction of the remaining segment began. This time we divided up into two groups, each group beginning at opposite ends of the four mile trail. Most folks walked two miles until meeting up with the other group and then turning around to go back the way they came. A handful of us walked the entire trail starting at Dorris Ranch. Those who did that and whose cars were back at Dorris Ranch were ferried back at the end of the walk.

It was a pretty gloomy day and a bit cool but not too cold and only moderately windy. I had hoped the Sun would break out and the clouds would diminish, but that didn't happen to any significant extent during our walk.

We had a pretty good-sized turnout again for this walk and the group I was with was enthusiastic about identifying the birds we were seeing. Steve led the group from the Clearwater Landing end of the trail, while our Dorris Ranch group didn't have a formal leader. Some of our group went ahead of the main bulk of us and sometimes we were stretched out along the trail a bit.

Right from the start we began seeing a variety of common birds. We saw a group of Cedar Waxwings which with wind-ruffled feathers caught by the camera.

A Spotted Towhee was feeding on and alongside a table in the Ranch area. Stellar's Jays were coming and going, as were Scrub Jays. I captured a juvenile Scrub Jay, atop a tree, looking mostly gray against a gray sky. See if you can find field marks in the photograph, to identify this bird as a Scrub Jay. (Or my own conclusion could be wrong).

Once we were beyond the borders of Dorris Ranch and walking between the Quarry Butte and the river, the forest was denser and the trees quite tall. A retaining wall held up the Butte side of the trail, and it contributed even more to the overall low light level of the couldy day and the dense stand of trees. In that stretch we came across a flock of small very active birds just a little above head level. A Brown Creeper was identified for sure, as were Black-Capped Chickadees. I was pretty sure There were Kinglets among the flock. The only photograph I managed to get in that area was a blurry shot of a bird with considerable yellow on it's belly.

From that point, it seemed that birds were only seen here and there. The occasional Great Blue Heron, Robins, Chickadees ... Further along there was a pond on the North side of the trail in the fenced-off Springfield Utility Board grounds. Swimming in the pond were some female Ring-Necked Ducks which I photographed through the chain-link fence.

After meeting up with Steve's group, there was a Mallard Duck pair off to the side of the main river channel. I was hoping to see a Red-Breasted Woodpecker like we did last year when Fred Munz spotted one up ahead of us in a tree just above the edge of the trail. Great Horned Owls have also been reported near the middle section of the trail this past Summer, and I am always hoping to see one of those, but we didn't have that kind of luck this particular day. I think I got fewer pictures than on any walk since January so I was a little disappointed about that.

The new trail is wonderful and I am excited about it. It allows us to pass through some long stretches of very nice riparian habitat. There had been a Bobcat seen recently and I know that a decade ago there were Cougar sightings in the Dorris Ranch area too. The steep rocky slopes of Quarry Butte are probably still providing a good home for lots of wildlife. When Spring migration comes along I hope we will return and walk this trail again to see what turns up.

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