Avocet Tours offers guided birding vacations to the best bird watching locations in North America

Oregon — Coast to Desert

May 27 - June 2, 2013
  • Explore one of the most pristine and scenic coastlines in America!
  • We’ll visit seabird colonies where Brandt’s Cormorant, Common Murre, Rhinoceros Auklet and the comical Tufted Puffin breed.
  • Hermit Warblers, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Sooty Grouse and more in ancient temperate rainforest.
  • Explore one of North America’s best birding spots, the Malheur Refuge

Sandhill Cranes - Michael DossettWestern Tanager, Chris Charlesworth

Oregon is one of the most diverse states in the USA, with everything from endless sandy beaches and ancient temperate rainforests to arid deserts and extensive marshes of Malheur.

From Portland we make our way towards the coast, stopping first in the mountains where amongst giant Douglas Firs we’ll search for Hermit Warblers, Band-tailed Pigeons and Brown Creepers to name a few species. American Dippers inhabit fast flowing streams in this area, and with luck we’ll spot a Sooty Grouse on the mossy forest floor. Once on the coast, the scenery is breathtaking. Seabird colonies with thousands of cormorants, murres, Rhinoceros Auklets and small numbers of Tufted Puffins dot the coast. We often see whales, such as Humpback Whale and Orca from shore on this tour!

Around the city of Eugene we’ll look for comical Acorn Woodpeckers and the elusive Mountain Quail, as well as Northern Pygmy-Owl and the tiny Anna’s Hummingbird. As we pass through the city of Bend, we’ll have a look in the pinyon / juniper forests for rare and local Pinyon Jays that live in this area. Once at the Malheur Refuge, the possibilities will seem endless. We will visit the area around the refuge headquarters, where at this time of year exciting migrants can be seen.

On our last tour we had Hooded and Cape May warblers here, both exceedingly rare in Oregon. The refuge encompasses huge marshes where ducks, grebes, White-faced Ibis, Franklin’s Gulls, Forster’s Terns and more breed. Extensive areas of sagebrush are home to the three ‘sages’ Sage Thrasher, Sage Sparrow and Greater Sage Grouse. Raptors of this region include Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagle and Burrowing and Short-eared owls.

Pine forests near Malheur often produce the sought-after White-headed Woodpecker, as well as Green-tailed Towhee and Pygmy Nuthatch. With luck we’ll see nearly 200 species of birds on this trip!



Day 1 – May 27 Tour begins in Portland this evening.

Day 2 – May 28 From Portland this morning we had west towards the coast, stopping along the way at Saddle Mountain Park. This beautiful park will give us a chance to explore coastal forest for such avian gems as Steller’s Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Hutton’s Vireo and the stunning Hermit Warbler to name a few species. Band-tailed Pigeons are fairly common in the region and are often seen perched high in trees. Along pristine streams near Saddle Mountain we may encounter American Dipper and with luck overhead we’ll spot Black Swift.

Next stop on the agenda will be Ecola State Park where sweeping views of the Pacific dominate. Birding here should be fantastic as we add our first Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt’s and Pelagic cormorant, Western Gull, Brown Pelican and Black Oystercatcher to our lists.

After a quick visit to the Cannon Beach Sewage Ponds (you can’t do a birding trip and not visit a sewage pond) where we’ll look for Wood Ducks, Green Heron and whatever else comes our way, we’ll carry on to Cannon Beach. This lovely tourist town has lovely beaches and coastlines, in fact some of the most photographed views along the North American Pacific Coast. With luck we’ll spot one of Cannon Beach’s most famous avian visitors, Tufted Puffin. These comical birds nest on Haystack Rock, just offshore from Cannon Beach. Through a scope, they can often be seen from shore.

As we near Tillamook, our base the night, we’ll check in at Bayocean Spit to add a few more species to our tally. This area is fantastic for shorebirds, and perhaps there will be a few lingering spring migrants about. Wrentit, an unusual year round resident of the coastal scrub in this part of Oregon, should be found here or at other coastal sites we visit during our trip.

Night at Tillamook.

Day 3 – May 29 We’ll start off this morning at Cape Meares State Park, one of Oregon’s most productive headlands for birdwatching. The access road through the park, winds through ancient forests home to Red-breasted Sapsucker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Anna’s Hummingbird and Gray Jay to name a few species. If luck is on our side a Sooty Grouse will strut out to the trail edge. Again, we have a chance to see Tufted Puffins from Cape Meares, along with the usual Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots and Marbled Murrelets. A huge nesting colony of Common Murres exists here as well. With luck we’ll spot Humpback Whales and perhaps Orcas offshore!

A stop at Boiler Bay State Wayside will provide another excellent viewpoint for watching the ocean for birds. We should pick up distant streams of Sooty Shearwaters from here, along with Caspian Terns and perhaps a lingering Pacific Loon. Harbor Seal, California Sea-Lion and Sea Otter are also possible, if not probable.

Our final view of the Pacific will be at the serenely scenic Yaquina Head, where an old lighthouse peers out over the toiling ocean. A large and easily visible seabird colony is found here, containing thousands of Common Murres, as well as Rhinoceros Auklet, Pigeon Guillemot, Western Gull, and both Brandt’s and Pelagic cormorants. After we’re done exploring the coast, we’ll turn inland and head to our overnight destination the evergreen city of Eugene.

Day 4 – May 30 This morning we’ll head to Spencer Butte near Eugene. This popular woodland park provides excellent habitat for a number of birds such as tiny Pacific Wrens, glimmering Calliope Hummingbird, noisy Western Scrub-Jays, wheezy Hermit Warblers and diurnal Northern Pygmy-Owl. With a lot of luck we’ll find one of the most secretive denizens of these forests, the Mountain Quail.

After a quick stop near the university in Eugene to view Acorn Woodpeckers, we’ll begin the drive to Burns, which takes us into the heart of the deserts of S.E. Oregon. We’ll pause in Bend, on our way through to have a quick look for Pinyon Jays, an uncommon, but noisy and gregarious resident of pinyon / juniper woodlands in the area. As we near the town of Burns, where we stay for the next two nights, we’ll begin to see numbers of raptors. These may include Red-tailed, Swainson’s or the largest of them all, the Ferruginous Hawk. Prairie Falcons are also encountered in this area. Flooded fields will have White-faced Ibis, Wilson’s Phalaropes and Long-billed Curlews to name a few species. Sandhill Cranes will be numerous. Night at Burns.

Day 5 – May 31 Today we will devote the entire day to exploring the fantastic Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This huge area encompasses giant marshes, meandering creeks, extensive sagebrush flats and many rugged rock outcroppings. As we leave Burns and start the half hour drive to the refuge, we will see American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Willets and stately Sandhill Cranes. Our first port of call at the refuge will be at park headquarters where a walk around the property can often yield some amazing birds. The trees surrounding the office are some of the only tall trees found in this barren land. As a result migrant passerines often crowd into these trees. On our previous tour to this region we found Hooded and Cape May warblers as well as American Redstart here. There are often nesting Great Horned Owls in the trees in this area.

As we carry on to explore some of the marsh habitats we will be overwhelmed by birdlife. Wetlands will be alive with chattering songs of Marsh Wrens and the whinnying of Soras. Yellow-headed and Red-winged blackbirds compete for space, while Black Terns and Franklin’s Gulls call frantically from overhead. Most of the waterfowl of North America can be found here including Cinnamon Teal, Northern Pintail and Canvasback.

After lunch we’ll visit a cliff face where Golden Eagles have bred in the past. In the sage habitat surrounding the cliffs one can often find two of the three ‘Sage’s’; the Sage Sparrow and the Sage Thrasher. The third ‘sage’ the Greater Sage-Grouse does inhabit this area, but we will have to be lucky to see one.

This evening we’ll return to the refuge to view owls, with high hopes of spotting Short-eared, Burrowing and Great Horned owls. Night at Burns.

Day 6 – June 1 We will visit a few more locations at Malheur this morning before we depart, including Paige Springs where species such as Bullock’s Oriole, Bushtit, Black-throated Gray Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat can be found.

As we reluctantly leave the Malheur area, we’ll call into the pine forests north of Burns. Here, we will search through the Ponderosas for the sought-after White-headed Woodpecker, as well as Williamson’s Sapsucker and all three species of nuthatch. Green-tailed Towhee is found here and can often be found hiding in the junipers. Other dry forest species such as Townsend’s Solitaire, Western Bluebird, House Wren and Western Wood-Pewee are all expected. Hammond’s, Dusky and Gray flycatchers will test our identification skills.

To finish off the day we’ll drive back to Bend where we’ll spend the night.

Day 7 – June 2 If we didn’t find Pinyon Jays on our previous trip through Bend, we’ll try again this morning. Otherwise, we’ll carry on north to the Columbia River where we’ll turn west towards Portland. One or two stops in this area may produce Canyon and Rock wrens, White-throated Swifts, Lesser Goldfinch and Ash-throated Flycatcher. The scenery here is beautiful with views of Mount Hood dominating the skyline. This afternoon our tour will conclude in Portland.

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