Birding and Natural History of Central Oregon's High Lava Plains
Explore the natural wonders of Central Oregon, learning about the region’s unique geological features and spotting native and migrating birds on daily excursions with Audubon experts.
Rating (5)
Program No. 14709RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
15 meals
5 B 5 L 5 D
Individual arrival to Bend OR take Portland Audubon shuttle
Bend, OR
Bend Riverside Motel

Activity note: We travel across the Cascade Mountains on our way to Bend with a couple of rest stops to take in the scenery, see a few birds, learn a bit about the plants and geology.

Dinner: We head to a local restaurant to sample one of Bend's many dining experiences.

Evening: After you are checked into your room and have a chance to freshen up we meet in our meeting room on the hotel grounds at 6pm. We'll do introductions and give an overview of the week and answer questions you might have. Then we head out in our vans to a local restaurant. Upon return at ~8:30pm, the evening is free.

Pilot Butte/Birding etiquette/Hatfield Lakes/Deschutes River
Bend, OR
Bend Riverside Motel

Activity note: A short drive from our hotel to the top of Pilot Butte where we spend ~ 45 minutes. Another short drive to Hatfield Lakes where we walk ~ one mile round trip to the lake shore. Lunch at Tumalo Falls and exploring along the Deschutes River afterwards. We plan to see a variety of birds including Black-billed Magpie, Clark's Nutcracker, Hammond's Flycatcher, Wilson's Phalarope, a variety of waterfowl, Townsend's and Wilson's warblers, a variety of swallows and more.

Breakfast: Early risers make a pot of coffee in your room but then join us in our meeting room at 7am for more coffee and breakfast catered by Annie's Kitchen.

Morning: Practically in the middle of town is Pilot Butte - a cinder cone now a city park. We drive to its summit for a 360 degree view of the landscape surrounding Bend. With clear weather we should be able to see no fewer than 8 volcanoes and countless cinder cones. This is also our first opportunity to bird together and practice the etiquette of group birding. There should be plenty of great birds for us to focus on with possibilities like Clark's Nutcracker, Rock Wren, and passing raptors such as Cooper's Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks. After Pilot Butte we visit a local wetland situated in the midst of sagebrush and pine trees that attracts waterfowl, shorebirds and song birds. We may see Wilson's Phalaropes, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Mountain Bluebird, Ring-necked Duck and Pied-billed Grebe.

Lunch: Depending on the weather, we may stop back at our hotel to make our picnic lunch or have our lunch along the Deschutes River.

Afternoon: Tumalo Falls State Park is right along the beautiful Deschutes River and offers several habitats in a small area. Rimrock, riparian, forest and bitterbrush & sagebrush are nestled together and offer a wide variety of birds. We should see Tree, Violet-green and Northern Rough-winged swallows, Vaux's and White-throated Swifts; Yellow-rumped, Wilson's and Townsend's Warblers; Western Wood Pewee and Pygmy Nuthatch to name a few.

Dinner: We enjoy dinner at the hotel, catered by Annie's Kitchen.

Evening: We meet at 5:30pm to review birds seen today and review tomorrow's agenda.

Bird viewing at: Ponderosa Pine Forest/Fort Rock/Horse Ridge
Bend, OR
Bend Riverside Motel

Activity note: We prepare sack lunches after our catered breakfast and depart for Horse Ridge where we spend ~ half hour birding and learning about the ridge's geological history and significance. Then it's across sage brush flats and into the Ponderosa Pine forest surrounding the Cabin Lake bird blind. Lunch in the field and then on to Fort Rock, a fascinating geological formation rising out of the high desert. Walks at all our stops are short and on mostly flat ground.

Breakfast: We enjoy a catered breakfast at our hotel this morning.

Morning: After we make our sack lunches we drive east to Horse Ridge; the sage brush flats of the Millican area; the Ponderosa Pine forests around China Hat where we enjoy our lunch and view birds at a local blind. Lewis's Woodpeckers and Mountain Bluebirds are sure to make an appearance and we have good chances for Cassin's Finch, Red Crossbill, Gray Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee and more.

Lunch: Lunch in the field at a campground among giant Ponderosa Pine trees.

Afternoon: We continue on after lunch and drive out of the pines and back into the high desert sagebrush landscape. We visit Fort Rock National Natural Landmark rising out of the barren, immense flatness of Oregon's high desert. An enormous near-circle of towering jagged rock walls make it seem like a fort. It's an old tuff ring set in what was a shallow sea in prehistoric times. We should see Prairie Falcon, Canyon Wren, Sage Thrasher and more here. Nearby agricultural fields offer good chances for Ferruginous and Swainson's Hawks.

Dinner: Tonight we venture out on the town for a group dinner at one of Bend's excellent restaurants.

Evening: We meet at 5:30pm to review birds seen today and review tomorrow's agenda.

Bird viewing in Cascade Moutains & town of Sisters/Free time
Bend, OR
Bend Riverside Motel

Activity note: We breakfast in Sisters, about a 20 minute drive from our hotel and then go in search of our target birds. We spend quite a bit of time out of the vans today as we make several stops to explore the forest habitats but our walks are short and mostly on flat ground. Bring your wallet as you'll have time to explore the unique shops in Sisters in the afternoon.

Breakfast: Prepare your first cup of coffee in your room this morning as we drive ~ 20 minutes to Sisters Oregon for breakfast at the Gallery Restaurant.

Morning: There are several sites around the town of Sisters where we will search for Pinyon Jay, White-headed Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker and other forest birds, ending up at a campground featuring a grove of quaking aspen where we enjoy our picnic lunch.

Lunch: While birding the surrounding forest a picnic lunch spread is being set up for you to return to and make your own sandwiches, etc.

Afternoon: We continue our field trip moving further west and slightly higher in elevation. Exact locations visited will depend on what birds we have encountered so far. Our final stop is time on the ground in the quaint western town of Sisters where you can window shop or more, have a latte or ice cream cone, before we head back to Bend.

Dinner: The evening is free for you to explore downtown Bend and enjoy a restaurant of your own choosing. Shuttle service from the hotel to downtown will be available but you may also choose to walk - it is only four blocks away!

Evening: You have the evening free to explore the delightful town of Bend after dinner tonight. It is a 15-20 minute walk from the downtown area to our hotel. You may choose to walk after dinner or ride in the vans.

Lava Lands/Walk along Deschutes River/High Desert Museum
Bend, OR
Bend Riverside Motel

Activity note: We take time both inside and outside the Lava Lands Visitor Center to learn about the volcanic features of the area. Two short walks on paved surfaces. Depending on the weather we may enjoy a two mile round trip walk on an old railroad grade along the Deschutes River after lunch and before we visit the High Desert Museum.

Breakfast: We take a short drive to a delightful local restaurant for breakfast this morning.

Morning: The Lava Lands Visitor Center offers a chance to learn about the volcanic origins of our surroundings from interpretive displays, movies and short walks through a young (7000 years old) lava flow and views from a fire lookout perched on top of a cinder cone.

Lunch: Lunch in the field.

Afternoon: Not far from the Lava Lands Visitor Center is the site of one of the first lumber mills in the area, right on the shores of the Deschutes River. Now a historically interpreted park with very nice walking trails we may enjoy our lunch here if weather allows and then walk some of the trails. Birding can be very good with species such as Western Tanager, Townsend's Solitaire, Osprey, and several swallow species. When done we head to the High Desert Museum, a nationally acclaimed museum with beautiful grounds that feature exhibits on native wildlife, pioneer history and native vegetation. A gift shop and coffee shop are part of the museum.

Dinner: We enjoy a catered dinner by Annie's Kitchen at the hotel tonight.

Evening: Wrap-up evening program.

Portland Bound: Our program ends at 9 am for those with their own transportation. Shuttle riders will enjoy a trip across the Cascade Mountains to the Willamette Valley and a visit to the Audubon Society of Portland Sanctuary and Visitor Center.
Bend, OR

Activity note: A 3.5 hour drive with rest stops from Bend to Portland for those riding the shuttle. Birding and rest stops along the way. We have excellent chances for Barrow's Golden-eye and Hermit Warbler today. Lunch at the Audubon Society of Portland Sanctuary and visitor center. Return to the Double Tree Lloyd Center Hotel by 1pm.

Breakfast: Brew up some coffee in your room this morning! We'll have a slightly earlier catered breakfast say our goodbyes to those traveling on their own and then load the vans and depart for Portland.

Morning: Depart for Portland. Our return route will take us over Santiam Pass and into the Willamette Valley south of Salem. Stops along the way will offer final opportunities for birding and learning about how the most recent geological story in the Pacific Northwest, the Bretz Floods (a.k.a. Ice Age floods), impacted the valley. Potential species include: Barrow's Golden-eye, American Dipper, Winter Wren, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Townsend's and Hermit Warblers. We arrive at the Audubon Society of Portland Sanctuary and Visitor Center in Forest Park just before noon. You will have an opportunity to tour the center, visit our complete Nature Store, view birds at the bird feeders and visit with some of our education birds. We have a catered lunch and then transport you to the Lloyd Center Double Tree Hotel by 1pm.

Lunch: Hot Lips Pizza is a local company that uses local and organic ingredients in making its delicious pizza. We will have a variety of pizzas to eat and beverages available in our Heron Hall.