Red-tailed, rough-legged and ferruginous hawks, northern harriers, American kestrels, prairie falcons and golden eagles can be found throughout Crook County and are usually associated more closely with open/agricultural areas. Bald eagles and osprey can be found associated with water bodies. Northern goshawks can be located throughout the Ochoco National Forest. Look for ducklings and goslings in rivers and lakes.
Prineville Reservoir Wildlife Area
The Prineville Reservoir Wildlife Area offers access to view a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, otter, beaver, raptors, shorebirds and waterfowl. Maps of the wildlife area are available at the Prineville ODFW office, at Prineville Reservoir State Park office and the . Vehicles must remain on open roads, designated by a green dot, and cross-country motorized travel is prohibited.
At this time of year Deschutes County is typically enjoying daytime temperatures in the 50’s. However, a late February snowfall dumped 30-50 inches throughout much of the county and subfreezing daytime temperatures have slowed the emergence of spring. This is great news for our Cascade Mountain snowpack and predictions for summertime steam flows, which are critically important to fish and wildlife, but snow does restrict vehicular access to higher elevation wildlife viewing locations.
Drivers should be aware that the Cascades Lakes Highway is closed for the season between Mount Bachelor Village and the Hwy 42 junction south of Crane Prairie Reservoir. And Hwy. 242 connecting Sisters to the west side of the Cascade Mountains is also closed and will remain so until spring. For information on current road conditions, we recommend you visit or call Deschutes County Road maintenance (541 388-6581). A little research before heading into the high country can save you major problems and is strongly advised.
As mentioned above, cold conditions have slowed many signs of spring. By now turkey vultures would normally be returning to the county, but to date reports of sightings are noticeably lacking. When they do return you can easily identify them from other raptors by their characteristic “V” shaped wing pattern as they glide over treetops and roadways looking for carcasses to clean up.
Winter is an excellent time to view raptors, such as red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, northern harrier, rough-legged hawk, bald eagles and golden eagles sitting on power poles and fence posts scanning open spaces for a potential meal. Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne is a great place to see both bald and golden eagles. Nesting pairs of both species can be seen flying over the magnificent hills and slopes within the park.
Cross country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts can expect to see gray jays, pine grosbeaks and other forest birds at snow parks and trails off Century Drive south west of Bend and white-headed woodpeckers, junco’s, several sparrow species, ravens, spotted towhee, hairy woodpecker, cedar waxwings and red-cross bills are just a few of the species that can be found in the Deschutes National Forest and BLM managed lands. Good sites to look for birds include forest edges surrounding meadows and wetland areas. Those with patience and stealth may be rewarded by the call and possible sighting of a Virginia Rail as it moves through cattails and other wetland vegetation.
Good birding opportunities abound in Deschutes County and destinations to consider include Hatfield Lakes near the Bend Airport where you can expect to see a full cadre of waterfowl and wetland species, such as Canada geese, northern pintail, wood duck, American bittern, and great blue heron. It’s also quite common to see one or two bald eagles flying over the rafts of ducks or sitting atop a tall juniper. A flock of Pinion Jays has been regularly reported in the Camp Polk Meadow Preserve near Sisters, and recent birding reports from the Deschutes River in Bend include sightings of Canada Goose, Common Goldeneye, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded and common Merganser, Bufflehead, Canvasback, American Goldfinch, Northern Flicker, American Crow, Western Scrub-Jay, and Great Blue Heron to list but a few.
Whether you’re interested in song birds, waterfowl, or raptors and prefer remote birding locations, or those closer to urban areas, directions to a long list of great birding locations can be found at the ’s web site.
Mammal activity is minimal during the winter, but if you love spending time in the snow this is a good time to brush up on your snow tracking skills. Small mammals, such as chipmunks and squirrels can be seen in many locations including national forest and BLM lands. However, their activities, especially at higher elevations, is often curtailed in colder temperatures.
Reptiles remain sequestered in underground winter quarters that protect them from freezing conditions, but their activity will uptick once daytime temperatures warm enough to feel heat in large rocks. This can occur when “general” daytime temperatures remain quite chilly, i.e. 50 degree, but the temperature at a rocky outcrop can be much higher, i.e. 65-75 degrees, if the outcrop has direct sunshine and is protected from wind. Amphibians are harder to see in cold conditions, although some species, such as long-toed salamanders, are breeding and depositing eggs now. Most amphibians, however, will be active by April. We’ll know spring has officially arrived when chirruping tree frogs are heard once again. 03/05/19
THE DALLES DISTRICT
The Lower Deschutes River provides ample wildlife viewing opportunities. California bighorn sheep are frequently observed in the canyon and can provide fantastic viewing all times of the year. The best spot to view sheep is from the BLM access road just downstream and across the river from Sherars Falls (along Hwy 216). Focus your efforts near large cliff complexes for best viewing. Sheep can also be viewed from The Lower Deschutes Wildlife
Area access trail on the east side of the river by hiking up from the mouth of the river. Sheep can be seen about as low as river mile 7 or 8. Bighorn Sheep can also be viewed in the John Day River canyon but access is a bit more limited. The easiest place to access the canyon is at Cottonwood Canyon State Park. Hike up or downstream from the access point to look for sheep.
With the recent winter weather, the Columbia River is a phenomenal place to view wildlife, especially waterfowl and Bald Eagles. Many Bald Eagles can be seen throughout the district along the river. The best place to view eagles is at The Dalles Dam. Many can be seen perched in the trees near the spillway of the dam. Mayer State Park is one of the best places to view concentrations of wintering waterfowl. The islands near the community of Rufus are also a great place to view waterfowl, among many other locations along the river.
There also are great wildlife viewing opportunities on The Woosley Tract of Lower Deschutes Wildlife area. Many unique bird species can be found throughout the area. Bighorn sheep also can be found using the area. It can be accessed through BLM lands at the mouth of Oak, Ferry, or Ward canyons. You will need a boat to access the area, which provides a very remote experience, with usually very few other people around, if any. Please call The Dalles district office at 541 296 4628 with any questions about accessing the area.
White River Wildlife Area
Winter closure: The wildlife area lands north of Forest Service Rd 27/Badger Creek Rd are closed to the public from Dec. 1 through March 31.
Photography opportunities for buck deer are limited as their antlers are beginning to drop. Bull elk will continue to hold their antlers until mid-March and may be seen throughout the wildlife area. If traveling on or near the wildlife area, be alert for big game darting across the road.
The wildlife area is home to many other game and nongame species. Look for wild turkeys foraging for the few remaining acorns or the occasional bear or cougar as they move throughout the wildlife area.
It is also possible to see bald and golden eagles on the Wildlife Area. Other raptors such as red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and northern harriers and the currently migrating rough-legged hawks are also easily seen hunting their prey. Look for birds perched on powerlines/poles, fences and trees.
Lewis’s woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, flickers, western meadowlarks, Steller’s jays, scrub jays, gray jays, Townsend’s solitaire, horned larks, golden-crowed kinglets, and robins are all at home on the Wildlife Area.
Look on ponds, lakes and streams to see a variety of ducks and geese, as well as western grebes, coots, and mergansers as many of these birds are starting their migrations south.
A parking permit is required to park at White River Wildlife Area. Find out .
Current weather conditions: Recent storms have blanket the Wildlife Area with an average of 20 inches of fresh snow. If you’re looking to travel in the area be prepared as several vehicles have gotten stuck. Additional snow is predicted for our area.