Best Trees, Beasts, and Birds of Fall in Central Oregon

 aspen photo by mike putnam

aspen photo by mike putnam

Truth be told, spring and summer offer better nature viewing opportunities in Central Oregon—but fall ain’t so bad. In fact, if you know what you're looking for, you can spot some downright spectacular species. Here are a few.

Colorful Trees
We don’t have the spectacular oaks and big-leaf maples of the west side of the Cascades (which Jim Anderson lovingly calls “the swamp”). But we do have a few trees worth hunting for in fall.

One is the gorgeous quaking aspen—check out the beautiful stands at Shevlin Park, along the Deschutes River Trail (especially at Dillon Falls), and in Glaze Meadow and other areas in Sisters.

Another color-changer worth watching for is western larch. Our only deciduous conifer turns a gorgeous golden-yellow in fall. Look for mature and old-growth larch at Shevlin Park, the Metolius Preserve, and other spots in the Camp Sherman area.

Oh, and don’t forget vine maple, which you’ll find in the foothills around Sisters. Best bet? Take a drive or bike ride up the McKenzie Pass to Dee Wright Observatory or beyond.

 mountain goat photo by greg burke

mountain goat photo by greg burke

Awesome Mammals
Did you see Jim Anderson’s article in The Source Weekly about mountain goats up on Three Fingered Jack? A reader sent me a photo of seven (seven!) goats she spied off the Canyon Creek Trail. Head up above Canyon Creek Meadows and see if you can beat that (without disturbing the goats).

Also worth a drive anytime, including fall, are the pronghorn that live east of Bend. Just drive out Hwy. 20 about a half-hour and look for the pronghorns’ white rumps in the agricultural fields. Take some binoculars so you can admire the unique prongs of this ancient and truly awesome species.

 dark-eyed junco photo by kris kristovich

dark-eyed junco photo by kris kristovich

Beautiful Birds
Spring is the best time for birding, when songbirds are singing and flashing their showiest plumage. But I asked Chuck Gates for ideas on which birds to look for in fall (when many migrators are passing back through here on their way south), and he gave me way more ideas than I can fit in a blog. Here are a few.

When you drive out Hwy. 20 looking for pronghorn, also look for Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, Prairie Falcons, Red-tailed Hawks, and Swainson’s Hawks. In November, Rough-legged Hawks will also be coming down from the Arctic.

Right now (mid-September), watch for White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos to return to Central Oregon. They’re on the opposite schedule of most migrators—their fall arrival is a sign that winter’s just around the corner.

And when you head out to the Badlands Wilderness, keep an ear out for that referee whistle — Townsend’s Solitaires will be atop junipers making sure everyone knows that the berries belong to them, and only them.