Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Barrow's Goldeneye at Lost Lake, Oregon

Lost LakeThe 7844 foot tall peak "Three Fingered Jack" peeks over the forest behind Lost Lake in the Central Oregon Cascades on 23 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.


There are at least 19 lakes in Oregon named Lost Lake. Pitty all those Oregon Trail settlers, 160 years ago with their oxen-pulled wagons, trying to take a short-cut over the Cascades through the impenatrably dense mountain forests.

The Lost Lake pictured above is in Linn County. It is famous to local birders for the easy-to-spot Barrow's Goldeneye that swim and nest there from April to October, when the high elevation lake is ice-free.

Easily accessed by Highway 20 an hour off Interstate 5, it sits at 4003 feet elevation on the Santiam Pass between the major Oregon towns of Salem in the Willamette Valley and Bend in Oregon's high desert playground. In fact, for those birding "listers" just wanting a "tick" or "check" on their checklist for their trip, the birds can be seen by birders while just driving by at 55 miles per hour, without even stopping. In fact, the barely marked pull-off to the campground at Lost Lake is quite dangerous, as it occurs right in the middle of a passing lane. So, stopping has its hazards.

Barrow's GoldeneyeBarrow's Goldeneye at Lost Lake, Linn Co., Oregon on 23 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.


Both photos above came from an hour-long stop on my way to a week-long birding and photography trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the sage scrub desert of southeast Oregon. There was still snow in the campground, partially blocking vehicle traffic from reaching all around the lake. But there were still plenty of hardy souls in campers and tents. I believe I'm past the camping stage of life now. A nearby motel and then a day-trip meets my needs better than a smokey campfire, yellowjackets, and a tree-root poking into my side through my sleeping bag because the air matress went flat during the night... again.

Other birds there included Mountain Chickadee, Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler, Osprey, and Chipping Sparrow. This is a good spot for Gray Jays, though I didn't detect any on this trip.

It is unlikely that Barrow's Goldeneye will ever be a backyard bird, unless you live in a cabin on a remote high-mountain lake. But that is no reason not to stop at Lost Lake, or other high-elevation lake in the Pacific Northwest to see this beauty.

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