Audubon Bird Counts

Audubon bird counts happen several times during the year. This is when citizens go forth with clipboards and binoculars and count birds…..yes, really, and they have fun doing it (at least I did!) Some of us use big cameras with long lenses instead of, or alongside binoculars. These are great photo opportunities to learn about new birds. (For the record the binoculars with a camera in them…….suck.

There are several seasonal Audubon bird counts. Right now we are into the Christmas bird counts. So far I've done Madras and Summer Lake.

There is also the Great Backyard Bird Count. coming up Feb. 17-20, 2012.

The Audubon bird counts are a great way to help conservation efforts and to get some photographs of birds you might not normally see.

For me, new to birding, it is a fantastic learning experience at the Audubon bird counts I get paired up with people who are much better at spotting and identifying the birds. (AKA Birding GEEKS). For a better explanation of bird geeks read this….

Madras Audubon Bird Counts (Christmas)

We started out really early (for me) in the morning in Madras, which is about 60 miles north of Bend. The first thing we saw was a pair of pheasants right in front of us on the road. They were lovely! Pretty good size birds just wandering around the road!


Once we got to the reservoir to count the waterfowl off to the left was a golden eagle sitting on a snag. Mt. Jefferson was just lighting with the morning sun and it was breathtaking so I took off and photographed that eagle.

golden eagle

I can’t begin to tell you what this looks like as an 11x14!

After the eagle I went back to my friends and we caught the reservoir birds. The people who've been at this a while can look and say "That's 525 Canada geese." Which is nicer than me standing there going "One, two, three....."


Next we found a ton of white crowns all over the place. Here is a whole bush of them hanging out in the sun. Cute little things!

white crowns

The day progressed with hawks and bald eagles galore.

flying bald eagle

We worked out a signal after I mistook a momentary stop of the vehicle as an opportunity to jump out and photograph two huge bald eagles taking off and the car almost creamed me when he repositioned it. The new signal was “I’M GETTING OUT!”

This red-tailed hawk swopped down and grabbed a vole. Then he sat in the tree and glared at us while he let it dangle. For the record, I had no intention of stealing his dead rodent.

red tailed hawk with vole

We found a lovely merlin on the OSU property. He was content to sit in the tree and let us take photos of him. (I say “him” as a guess. In reality I wouldn’t have known it was a merlin without my birding peeps hanging with me.)


We found fields of brewer’s blackbirds and I had some fun chatting with a few that were on a wire. I loved the classic look of the images with them.

brewers blackbirds

We rounded off the day with some pretty lesser and American goldfinches at a feeder


and a lovely golden crown in a berry tree.

golden crowns

All in all for my first bird count I had a ton of fun, got some great images, made new friends and learned a lot. It was definitely worth getting up at 5AM.

Next week….Summer Lake!

Summer Lake Bird Count (Christmas)

The Summer Lake Audubon bird counts started with meeting at the ODFW office at 7:30AM so we left Bend at 5AM. My husband was a really good sport about it. He usually does not come along on the Wednesday Birding in Bend because it is so early so instead I drag him out two hours EARLIER.

This brought us above Silver Lake as the sky started to fire up. Stunning bright colors with the moon still on high.

east Oregon sunrise

It was a perfect day for a count. Beautiful skies and no wind, a rarity for Summer Lake. We saw a lot of Harrier Hawks. They soared the skies with abandon.

soaring harrier hawk

Tundra Swans were abundant. I thought it particularly cool to find seven of them together in the week leading up to Christmas!

seven swans

Several times we found them and they took off. They look so wonderful flying.

tundra swans flying

tundra swans flying

We counted quite a few Great Horned Owls. My husband had never seen them in the wild so he was enchanted as they turned their big heads and blinked golden eyes at us.

great horned owl

We headed home after a great day and caught a beautiful sunset on the way. All in all a really superb day.

great horned owl

In Silver Lake I heard an owl and spent about 20 minutes hooting at it while it hooted back :) (Maybe you had to be there...but it was really cool.)

Oakridge Bird Count (Christmas)

The last of the Christmas Audubon Bird Counts of the year for me was the Oakridge count. We went over to Oakridge (located on highway 58 between highway 97 and Eugene) the night before so we could get up at 4AM and go out in the forest and “look” for owls. What this really means is hoot for owls since you can’t see much at 4AM.

We got over there in time to scout out the Hills Creek Reservoir south east of town, for some birds. We saw a few waterfowl but the truly spectacular event was the sunset. It started with long light…..

Oakridge Reservoir

and moved on in to full on spectacular.

Oakridge Oregon sunset

Oakridge Oregon sunset

We retired to our lovely Oakridge Hostel , which was, on a scale of 1-10 a 15. Truly it was more like a B&B at hostel rates. Breakfast included. I’ll write a more in depth review of it on the related Oakridge page.

Oakridge Oregon hostel

We got up early and I mean EARLY to go on the owl count. The goal was to go to specific locals where owls hang out and call them. They apparently got the memo..the one that said the crazy people were coming and to hush up. The night was not at all a loss because it was not only lovely and far away from any light pollution, but the meteor shower was in full swing.

I had a great time practicing my night star photography

Oakridge Oregon starscape

We came back to the Oakridge Hostel for a wonderful breakfast and then headed out again for the Christmas Bird Count. Our area happened to be the Hills Creek Reservoir that we had scouted the day before. Cool!

In the beginning a lot of the birds we saw were on the water and far out of camera range. Soon though we came upon a juvenile bald eagle flying around. He eventually settled in the tree near us for his photo op.

Oakridge juvenile bald eagle

Late in the day we headed on foot to the wetlands at the base of the dam. We found a little dipper that was none too happy to see us and glared from the weeds.

Oakridge Oregon dipper

On the way back up I had to stop and shoot the creepy forest. Creepy, but way too cool to pass up…Despite what you might be yelling at the T.V if it were a movie..... I did go in there.

Oakridge Oregon wetlands

Lastly we went out of our area and I got to see some Cormorants close up! What cool birds. This one was FAST.

Oakridge Cormorant

We wrapped up our day with pizza at a local place. All in all the counters spotted 71 species and I got 11 life birds!

Our 2011 Audubon Bird Counts done for the year, we will now go back to Wednesday Birding.

Audubon Bird Counts-Summaries

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