Day 3: July 1, 2002
The dawn chorus doesn't last long in July. But there were still some singing birds to wake me up in my tent. Most were easy to identify, even if mostly drowned out by the coyotes yodeling and the bull frogs roaring: American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Northern Flicker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Steller's Jay, Tree Swallows, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Song Sparrow, and Western Tanager. One call had me perplexed, though. It was similar to the "searwit" call of Pacific-slope Flycatcher, but lower in pitch. So I was up and about rather early. As I searched for the sound of the mystery bird, I noted the Wood Ducks and American Coot out on the lake with all the tame ducks and Mute Swans, and a few Barn and Northern-Rough-winged Swallows zooming out over the lake. Finally I got close to the odd song and heard a subdued trill following the call. There was no doubt, now, it was a Spotted Towhee. The subspecies here in SW Oregon is the Sacramento Towhee (Pipilo maculatus falcinellus). Besides being more glossy black than the Oregon Towhee, (P.m. oreganus) of most of the rest of western Oregon, this species has a much different call.
I had in mind to visit several areas around the Illinois Valley. I started down Reeves Creek Road just out of Lake Selmac and headed to Kerby (DeLorme Atlas, page 18, B4 to C3). This road wound down this river canyon where several small residential developments were under construction. Primarily, though, it was still pretty wild and natural. At one pull-out along the road I found a large concentration of birds: Lazuli Bunting, Nashville Warbler, Hutton's Vireo, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Hermit Warbler, Cassin's Vireo, Dark-eyed Junco, and some other common birds. As Reeves Creek Road joins Hwy 199 there is a farm that added birds not seen elsewhere: California Quail, Brown-headed Cowbird, Western Wood Pewee, House Finch, and Brewer's Blackbird.
In the town of Kerby turn west on Finch road. Park at the base of the bridge and walk down under the bridge and south on an old jeep trail along the river. This is a great spot for birds. Yellow-breasted Chats and Yellow Warblers were most obvious. Though the nighthawk-like "beent" call of the chats had me confused (again). New birds for the week included Rufous and Anna's Hummingbirds, and Cassin's Finch. This latter species was surprising to me in this rather lowland area. Other birds included the typical birds I had come to expect in the Illinois Valley riparean areas: MacGillivray's Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Wrentit, Bewick's Wren, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lesser Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Warbling Vireo, Spotted Sandpiper and others.
After leaving the river I continued on West Side Road, eventually coming into Cave Junction. Romain Cooper indicated this was a good place to spot White-tailed Kite, but I didn't find one. (DeLorme Atlas, page 18, C3). I did find the Black Phoebe on a fenceline along the little creek just west of the bridge, still on Finch Road before it turned into West Side Road. A Western Meadowlark was the first I had seen in the grassy pastures there. A raptor proved to be a Red-tailed Hawk rather than the hoped-for Red-shouldered. Other new or interesting birds included Mourning Dove, Western Scrub-Jay, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Chipping Sparrow.
My next stop was Rough-and-Ready Botanical Wayside, down Hwy 199 near the Illinois Valley Airport (DeLorme Atlas, page 18, D3, just says "park"). This is a rather rare flatland serpentine habitat, and a reliable place early in the spring for breeding Lark Sparrows. Unfortunately, I was there late in the season and late in the morning. I didn't see any Lark Sparrows. It was very quiet. The only few birds out in the Jeffery pine and Buckbrush Ceanothus were Lazuli Bunting, Western Bluebird, western Kingbird, and American Goldfinch. It was a long hot hike of about a mile--past the high voltage power lines--to a low hill. I was pleasantly surprised to find a thin creek and wetland area here. Birds included Lesser Goldfich, American Robin, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, and House Finch. The pink-breasted interior form of Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata henshawi) was here, as was the local subspecies of Bushtit, the California Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus californicus), which is gray-bodied like the form east of the Cascades, but has a pale brownish head--not nearly as dark brownish as the coastal race.More info about Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside
Next I explored some of the roads around Cave Junction. The farm roads were generally good birding, according to Romain Cooper, but it was nearly noon in July and birds were pretty quiet. There were Band-tailed Pigeons and Acorn Woodpeckers on Holland Loop. I stopped at the big bend in Rockydale Road at about mile post 3 (DeLorme Atlas, page 18, D3.5), between Takilma and Cave Junction. A patch of Buckbrush on private property here sometimes produces the "big three": California Towhee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Oak Titmouse. And Romain had seen a Lewis's Woodpecker here earlier in the week. I found the California Towhee, but none of the others.
A brief stop was made at the Illinois River State Park, in Cave Junction. The entry road comes through extensive white oak. The riparean area is alder, ash, willow, maple, oak, and ponderosa pine. A Bald Eagle flew high overhead. Several Red-tailed Hawks nest in the riverside woodlands according to a local I saw there. Romain told me that Red-shouldered Hawks may nest here. I saw Turkey Vultures and Downy Woodpeckers, among the regular riparean birds. It sure looks like Oak Titmouse should be here, but this species is rather uncommon in the Illinois Valley.
I returned to camp at Lake Selmac and found Marlene out swimming in the lake. I spent the afternoon reading a book and resting in the shade. My reading was interrupted by a scream from the lake of: "Ouch! A bee stung me!" I thought to myself, "Oh no--the vacation is definitely over." However, it was the lady in the camp next to us that had been stung while swimming, not Marlene, much to both our reliefs. In fact, Marlene enjoyed the camp on the lake so much we decided to stay another night here, then move on in the morning. I went on to read a second book....