On a sunny April morning I rolled down the windows, then reached for a jacket to fend off the crisp, pine-scented mountain air. Driving slowly, I soon heard the tinny, melancholic call of ubiquitous Red-breasted Nuthatches, a call a friend once likened to a duck on helium. I stopped and listened more intently because the area’s ponderosa-forest birds tend to move about in gregarious associations.
Indeed, the calls of White-headed Woodpecker — the iconic species of the Metolius Preserve — joined a chorus that included Pygmy Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, and to my delight, Williamson’s Sapsucker, among the flashiest of the 10 species of woodpecker inhabiting this part of central Oregon. The title of prettiest woodpecker — and it’s the woodpeckers that draw me to the preserve — may go to Red-breasted Sapsucker. I soon found one foraging in a larch tree, the spring sun beaming off the bird’s ruby-red head.
Another reason to visit: migrating warblers and other songbirds in May and September. Lake Creek runs through the preserve, and its riparian habitat draws impressive numbers of warblers. — John Shewey
John Shewey is a longtime outdoors writer, editor, photographer, and amateur naturalist. He is the author of Complete Angler’s Guide to Oregon (Wilderness Adventures Press).