Participants of the East Cascades Audubon Society Woodpecker Weekend held last Friday, Saturday and Sunday searching for a sapsucker tree-cavity. photo by Dick Tipton
Participants of the East Cascades Audubon Society Woodpecker Weekend held last Friday, Saturday and Sunday searching for a sapsucker tree-cavity. photo by Dick Tipton

Around 100 people from all over the U.S. - and as far away as Great Britain - took part in the inaugural East Cascade Audubon Society (ECAS) Woodpecker Weekend in Sisters.

There are 11 species of woodpeckers to observe in the Sisters Country and, according to John and Anne Gerke, who helped organize the event, "everyone who attended the event got to see most of the 11 species that are here."

On Friday, the first day of the woodpecker weekend, 13 people were up bright and early to start out on birding tours that left Sisters at 5 a.m. and returned at 8 a.m. Some went to the G-W Burn (west of Sisters near Mt. Washington), while others went off with Steve Dougill, ECAS member and expert birder from Redmond, for an all-day tour of Summer Lake Wildlife Management Area, way down in Lake County.

"There aren't many woodpeckers to observe in the Summer Lake area," Dougill confessed, "but I wanted those from out-of-state to know that Oregon has some of the finest birding anywhere."

Turns out, Dougill and his people observed a rare black-throated sparrow, and came almost face-to-face with the Mystery Bird-of-the-Day at Summer Lake. After much deliberation and the usual, "Yes, it is..." and, "No it's not..." that birders are famous for when confronted by a strange, out-of-place bird, Dougill thought it may have been a hybrid cross between a painted redstart and Canada warbler. A very strange bird, to say the least. (For more on the mystery bird, visit http://bit.ly/mystery-bird).

On Saturday, over 43 people were up early to get out and see the "early birds." Tours went to the G-W Burn, while others grabbed up their binoculars and cameras and headed to Rooster Rock Burn south of town, Camp Sherman, Green Ridge and Calliope Crossing on Indian Ford Creek.

Those who went on the tour to the Rooster Rock Burn were treated to ECAS past president Dean Hale's insistence that everyone get to see the three-toed woodpecker hanging out in the burn. "We're not leaving this site until everyone has seen that bird!" Hale said.

Craig Miller, premier birder of Oregon, and wife Marilyn took a group up on Green Ridge to watch for sapsuckers and white-headed woodpeckers, and look for the Woody Woodpecker model, the pileated woodpecker.

Another group took off for an all-day tour of the Ochocos to search for Williamson's sapsucker, the male of which has a body and wings that are a bold black and white, with a bright yellow belly and red slash under the throat.

At the same time groups were also going to Calliope Crossing, and several others exploring Black Butte Swamp for white-headed woodpeckers, while others took to the high Cascades for higher-altitude species.

ECAS member Tom Crabtree took a tour of people up into the G-W Burn in search of black-backed and other rare woodpeckers known to nest and hang out in fresh burns.

Forest burns are one of the best places to look for woodpeckers, as there is almost always a plethora of species that flock to burns to feast on the diversity of forest insects that move into the burned trees. In most cases, a variety of wood-boring beetles are attracted by the smoke and aroma of burning trees and begin laying eggs on the trees before they've even cooled.

Dick and Marjie Tipton, ECAS members from Sisters, kept a photo and written record of the weekend events to share with The Nugget's readers. Everyone who spotted birds reported back to Marjie so she could pass it on. To view Dick's photos, visit www.flickr.com/photos/dickstrix.

Dick said, "We saw lots of birds, and the other fun part was meeting people from all over the U.S., including Steve Dougill's dad, who came over from England to join his son. It's strange, but we didn't have many birders from Sisters, maybe next year."

This is the first time ECAS has taken on a birder's tour on such a scale. Dick Tipton said, "Yes, this is the first time ECAS has pulled this off; we learned a lot, and there is no doubt, we'll do it again!"