May 18–20, 2018: Where Linda visits the La Grande, Oregon, area for the Ladd Marsh Birding Festival, and determines that eastern Oregon does have many virtues (Ok, I knew that but had yet to experience that). Even the town of La Grande is a fine place to spend a few hours and grab dinner. There’s a birding store called The Bobolink, which we did not stop at because we were literally on a mission to find … Bobolinks.
The play-by-play of what was a fabulous weekend:
On Friday, May 18, we drove from Salem to La Grande just in time to grab a bite at Side A Brewing in La Grande, check into our Grande Hot Springs yurt, and go and find two new 2018 Oregon birds: Bobolinks and a Eastern Kingbird. I also happened to notice that our hot springs were surrounded by a glorious marsh, which turned out to be THE Ladd Marsh. A fine start to the trip. The love was just beginning.
On Saturday, May 19, we had not signed up for a tour so we birded on our own in the area. Our first stop was to the area around the La Grande airstrip to find Short-Eared Owls (reported the day before on eBird), with much success. We then checked into one of the birding “stops” the festival had set up and met and chatted with a handful of other enthusiastic birders. Everyone was so excited about the birds. The contagious and animated energy we all exchanged I’m sure made us look like looked like a bunch of twittering bushtits. We got some great tips and continued on our way and ended the day with an additional three 2018 birds: Vesper Sparrow, Ring-Necked Pheasant, and Horned Lark.
On Sunday, May 20, we birded with a formal festival tour in and around Ladd Marsh and up Rhinehart Canyon just north of La Grande. Birding and the fact that I’m getting older are lending themselves to early mornings, which I admittedly love. Getting up early to go birding while I was in my 20s was painful, but I did it frequently. Waking up at 6 or even 5:30 AM now doesn’t really phase me, so this morning’s alarm of 4 AM wasn’t awful. In fact, once we arrived to our meeting spot, a number of cars were leaving, having just birded pretty much in the middle of the night, listening to secretive marsh birds. Apparently we got to sleep in.
This day kicked off with new birds around every corner, with the great great help of our tour guide Trent Bray, who also happens to be the owner of The Bobolink biding store in La Grande. New 2018 Oregon birds this day comprised 10 species: Snow Goose, Gray Partridge, Ruffed Grouse, American Bittern, Wilson’s Snipe, Calliope Hummingbird, Canyon Wren, Veery, Gray Catbird, and MacGillivray’s Warbler.
New Birds for 2018: 16
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 183