Yesterday (June 9th) I ran the Umpqua Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route in the Sutherland/Oakland area of Douglas County. The route starts in Coles Valley a bit west of "downtown" Umpqua, follows Ft. McKay Rd. east from there to the old Stephens site, then jogs north to pick up Green Valley Rd. over to Oakland, and from there out along Driver Valley Rd. to where it goes over a drainage divide and starts to fishhook back toward Sutherlin.
This is generally a good route for grassland birds that do well in ranch lands. Yesterday I found good numbers of WESTERN MEADOWLARKS (47), WESTERN KINGBIRDS (15), and LAZULI BUNTINGS (30). SAVANNAH SPARROWS (27) were about par for the course. However I only detected one VESPER SPARROW (the long-term average is half a dozen), and no GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS (usually I find one to several, though I missed them last year too).
An unusual number of conifer-associated species made it into the count as "write-ins" (mainly as singles), including PILEATED WOODPECKER, STELLER'S JAY, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, BROWN CREEPER, and PINE SISKIN (two different stops). I thought I was going take a couple of extra minutes to visually confirm the Pileated Woodpecker since I just heard it hammering away on a dead snag during the 3-minute point count. But it helped me out by flying across the road and calling loudly from a utility pole, just after my timer went off.
Another write-in this year was PEACOCK (Indian Peafowl). Usually I don't count peacocks that seem to be connected to residential situations, but this one was foraging with WILD TURKEYS, way out in the middle of a large pasture/hay field, acting somewhat like a feral bird. Still not sure I should count it -- will need to discuss it with the state BBS coordinator. Some of the so-called Wild Turkeys (ever-increasing in population) seem only marginally wild.
This route is also fun for its numbers and diversity of flycatchers. Besides Western Kingbirds, I recorded 39 WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES, 8 WILLOW FLYCATCHERS, 4 PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHERS, and 2 ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS. One of the Ash-throated Flycatchers out along Driver Valley Rd. was carrying nesting material.
After finishing the route by 9:36 AM (despite taking time to chat with a couple of friendly ranchers in the last 4 stops), I stopped by Mildred Kanipe County Park and walked out a ways in the area where GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS have been regular in some numbers in recent years. I didn't find any.
On my way back to Corvallis I didn't take time to check the stretch of Goodrich Hwy just east of I-5, which has also been good for Grasshopper Sparrows in recent years. I did take time to stop by the K & R Drive-Inn in Pleasant Valley, which serves possibly the best hamburgers that you can find along the whole I-5 corridor. Well, it probably helps to be hungry! For this route I get up at 2 am sharp, and nothing but coffee out of the thermos goes into my system until I finish the route. Still, it's worth checking out this place if you're a connoisseur of traditional roadside drive-ins, another fast-disappearing species.