I heard the first bird way back in the regenerating track straight ahead
Are you kidding? No way was I going to ride all the way to this spot to settle for a heard bird! I figured that after hearing the first bird, I was playing with house money, so to speak. After all, I had only covered maybe 2 of the 10 miles of the climb to the peak, so there were certainly more chances for quail between here and the top. Continuing the climb, I entered what turned out to be a 15-20 minute car-free stretch. I made another 3 miles up the road. By this time I had climbed to nearly 2,500' of elevation (as signed on the roadside). I came wheeling around a right hand turn and BOOM! 2 quail took of from the ditch along the right hand side of the winding road. These were followed by 2 more, then 4 more, then lots more! There were at least a dozen birds and there could have been up to 14 or 16! This sudden explosion sent me into scramble mode as I got the bike off the road, broke out the binoculars, and tried frantically to assemble the camera. I could see the birds scampering up the hillside to which they had flown. This hillside was much to steep and thickly vegetated to try to pursue them, and I could see my chances for documenting this species evaporating before my eyes. I could hear the birds clucking away, but there was not way for me to get to them. I would have to settle for a very brief but serviceable view of the covey as it disappeared into the forest. Bird #547 was on the books. 2 cars went speeding by me as I got back on the bike. Had I arrived at this spot 5 minutes later, these birds probably would have been gone! I had trumped over the Mountain quail in what turned out to be a remarkably easy fashion. It wasn't Mike Tyson circa-1988 easy, but, given the potential headaches that could have resulted from chasing this bird around on multiple occasions over the next 2-3 weeks, this was an incredible outcome for me!
The covey of quail flushed from ditch on the right.
They all went up the steep hill above me.
Now I was really playing with house money! I was now 1400 feet below the summit. I made the decision to keep going thinking I might be able to find a few more quail higher up. Another half an hour or so and I was able to find 2 Sooty grouse sitting right in the road. I got a distant photo of 1 of them before they flew downslope into a tree. The aperture setting had been bumped to f/22, so the pictures are terrible! I subsequently found a group of Gray jays below the summit, and a large group of ~20 pipits at the summit. I got a nice photo of the latter once I got all the camera settings sorted out.
After my quick descent, I grabbed the rest of my stuff, loaded up the bike, and headed back to Corvallis to celebrate at Dairy Queen. Since I had an open afternoon, I hit the road to Eugene to make some miles in the southerly direction. The ride was fast and uneventful. At the end of it I was flagged down on the roadside by a man who introduced himself as Newt. He asked about my "Biking for Birds" license plate, and we got to talking. It turns out he works in the solar industry, so we had a nice chat about alternative/renewable energy sources and the poor government support given to them. Sigh...its the same old story. Old, rich guys in government who make money from oil companies don't want to so anything on that front. I'll save that for another day though.
A big climb and 97 miles!
Me and Newt at roadside
One thought I had on my ride down from Mary's Peak today is how frustrating it can sometimes be to be a birder. What I mean by this is how easily unbirders can influence the outcome of a morning of birding or bird photography. Clearly everyone has a right to be out recreating, but it is amazing how much some other outdoor activities negatively affect birds and birders. My descent today perfectly example of this. I was hoping to take a hike down a specific trail when family came bounding along the trail with 3 very loud kids. That option was out. I next found a dirt road that looked good, but there were gunshots coming from half a mile down it. That was out too. A couple of motorcycles next came racing up the road ensuring that no birds would be within a half mile of me for the entire descent. Birding under such circumstances can be incredibly frustrating. I have on many occasions been viewing or photographing shorebirds when some clown with an unleashed dog ruins my entire morning. I have had even birds scared off by kites! It is so frustrating that so birding (and especially bird photography) can be so negatively influenced by unbirders. As I said, everyone has a right to be out there, it just sucks that everyone can disrupt birders while birders seem to disrupt so few.
Tomorrow I am going to look around Eugene for Red-breasted sapsucker and perhaps Purple finch. After this I'll head back to the coast for several hundred miles!