Saturday, July 3, 2010

Diamond Lake is a true jewel!

According to the Oregon birding guide I found on the internet Diamond Lake was supposed to host breeding Barrow's Goldeneyes and Eared Grebes with the Lake Creek area listed as the best viewing point of the lake. The guide also specified the western shore of the lake as the best forest birding area. With mostly fishermen guests, the Diamond Lake Resort facilities were up and running at 5 AM. It was a beautiful clear morning, with a crisp cold mountain air that I have not experienced in decades since living in central Norway. After all, the lake lies 5100 feet above sea level!

I grabbed a cup of coffee and drove the short distance to the western end of the lake. The sun rays still barely touched the mountain tops, so my plan was to enjoy my morning coffee while scanning the waters with the scope. I didn't even bring the camera with me on the short walk down to the shoreline. I almost spilled my coffee when I rounded the corner and stood face to face with a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes lying a few feet from shore!! I dropped everything and ran back to the car for the camera and made it back just in time to catch a few shots of them before they swam further from shore:
I could not find any Eared Grebes on the lake, but I saw a male Bufflehead and both Bald Eagle and Osprey patrolling the lake shore. As the sun began to heat up and light conditions improved, I started birding the hillside along the western shore of the lake. The woods were teeming with birds and one photo opportunity after another appeared in front of me:
Early on I encountered a curious flock of Gray Jays that refused to come out of the shadow of the dense canopies, so the picture quality is so and so...

Red-breasted Nuthatch (above) and Mountain Chickadee (below):
A male Red-breasted Sapsucker worked vigorously on this tree trunk to access the energy-rich sap running inside the bark. He would return repeatedly with a few minute intervals to lick the sap before other woodpeckers, chickadees or Hummingbirds stole it from him:
In the distance I heard the low-frequency drumming calls of what I suspected was a Sooty Grouse, a potential life bird. I started chasing the sound through the dense forest, but had a hard time making progress uphill because I kept running out of breath. It took a while before I realized why I was in such a bad shape; the altitude was getting to me..... As I sneaked closer and closer I suddenly realized I had past it, because the sounds were coming from behind me. Turned out the bird was up in the trees! A gorgeous male Sooty Grouse was displaying above me, showing off the bright yellow air sacks on its neck that made the drumming sounds when he forced the air out of them. Cool!!
 A Steller's Jay wanted to see what the fuzz was all about:
 This female Western Tanager was foraging close to ground next to the trail:
 Oregon Juncos were the most common songbird in the woods:

I had hoped to find an American Tree-toed Woodpecker in these woods, but settled for Pileated, Black-backed, Hairy, Downy, Northern Flicker and two Red-breasted Sapsuckers. I wanted to make the most of the great light, so I decided to move on to Crater Lake National Park. Stay tuned!

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