Monday, January 21, 2013

Western Meadowlark

I visited Wallowa County in northeast Oregon for the first time this past January 4th & 5th. It's well know as a hotspot for winter migrants such as Bohemian Waxwings and Common Redpolls, two of my most desired targets (neither of which I saw).
None-the-less, I did see four new life birds plus a new Oregon bird.

Sometimes opportunities occur when you least expect them. As a grade schooler growing up in Minnesota, I used to see Meadowlarks regularily. Here in Oregon, though they are the state bird, I see them much less frequently and seldom up close.
One of the country tour loops recommended in the area by Birding Oregon is Golf Course Road out of Enterprise, Oregon, followed by Leap Lane and finally driving Highway 3 back to Enterprise. While I had high expectations about the first two segments, I didn't expect much along Highway 3. However, this stretch provided me the best photography opportunity of the day.
There, along the road, sitting on a fence post was a Western Meadowlark basking in the winter sun. By the time I got a good look at it, I was still traveling much too fast to stop and get a longer look, so, after debating a bit with myself for a bit, I decided to turn around and hope it was still there.
Luckily, the traffic was relatively light, allowing me to pull over on the narrow shoulder without worrying too much for my safety. The Meadowlark was quite cooperative, allowing me the chance to get my best photos of this species to date. 

When one thinks of a Meadowlark, the feature that come to mind first is its brilliant yellow breast and bold black "V" as seen in the two images above. And while I love those pictures, the one above from the side, obscuring the breast, reveals an intricate array of earthy brown feathers with delicate black markings that I find fascinating.

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