[Tweeters] From Dippers to Pelicans - CWA - 4/17/13

Barbara Deihl barbdeihl at comcast.net
Sun Apr 21 14:50:56 PDT 2013

Got out on I-90, heading east at about 12:30 p.m. - sunny with sketchy wisps of clouds to the west and the promise of "mostly cloudy" and the upper 50's, with a mere 5-10 m/p/h breeze as the forecast for the Ellensburg area. But, what I figured would be a blanket of gray (as it would have been on the west side), turned out to be a loosely-woven network of white clouds on a basically blue sky. There were semi-ominous thunderclouds all afternoon and evening, but they remained at the southern horizon. It was in the fifties and the wind may have tended to inch up a bit above 10 m/p/h at times, but I couldn't complain - it was cool and dry and bright - that was what I had hoped for and had lucked out !

As for birds, it was, by no means, a BIG DAY, but it was very satisfactory to me. I was mostly looking for nesting raptors and did find some, mostly Red-tailed Hawks on nests, in the Thorp area, particularly, but also on the Umptanum Rd. I did catch sight of a couple of white, fuzzy heads in one nest. Even using my scope, it was a stretch to pull them in close enough and look at them without branches and some leaves in the way. The deciduous tree leaves are just emerging - in a week or 2, they will really obscure views of some nests Nary an owl was seen, either in or on a nest or coming out to hunt in the evening.

I had hoped to see or see evidence of, some Prairie Falcons I had seen courting a couple of months ago. With that goal in mind, I started down Canyon Rd. (Yakima River Canyon) late in the afternoon. First saw some big birds flying in a line up high, then about 20 big white birds at a bend in the river, and was thinking "These must be White Pelicans" - couldn't pull over to really get a decent view as the road is a bit windy (as in 'wine-dee') and there was nowhere to pull over. But on my return drive, I spotted 6 of these birds, lower and the white set off by the basalt cliffs behind them - I was able to stop and watched them lazily circle around above the river - I even got some 'flight shots', in which the birds distinctive bills can be seen! That was exciting!

Back to the search for PRFA - when I got near the area in which I'd last seen one, I first spotted 2 Golden Eagles soaring up above the cliffs. Then 2 smaller raptors appeared, popping up, one at a time, above the cliff line, as if on sentinel duty - thought for sure they were Prairies, which they may have been, but later, after using the 2nd Edit. of "Hawks in Flight" to compare shapes, and after thinking I saw a diamond-shaped tail on one, I decided they must be Ravens. They both mobbed one of the eagles and succeeded in annoying it away from that area. All of this was at such a distance from me at the road, and the light was fading enough, that I had trouble figuring out what those 2 raptors were. At one point, I thought I saw buteo, reddish tail on one, but wrote that off as an anomaly of light. Now, looking at my extremely-cropped pictures and comparing them with "HiF", I'm thinking they may well have been PRFA. I welcome thoughts on this from any of you. Take a look at my pics at the link below.

Now, way back to the first excitement of the afternoon - Hiwy 10 outside of Cle Elum, is open again - the Taylor Bridge has been completed and one can again go visit the dippers (both were medium-sized, not one "Little" and one "Big" - :-)) under the Swauk Creek bridge ! It was absolutely beautiful near the bridge - water was flowing fast, but was clear and bluish-green, the wonderful rocks were out on display, some spring foliage was emerging from the bushes and trees, and cottonwood leaf/seed husks, were piling up a bit and lending that fantastic odor to the air. I was the only one there - it was very peaceful, after a jarring week of bad news and rain. And the dipper pair did their dipping in the same areas in which we've seen them in previous years. Got a few shots of one. Only other bird I noticed there was a Pileated Woodpecker, heard briefly coming from the trees on the south side of the road.

Then it was off to check out the former Prairie Falcon nest site at the cliffs a couple of miles from the "Dipper Bridge". No PRFA, just a roving Turkey Vulture. Saw single TVs from about Easton on that day.

Other birds of note:

Cle Elum Railroad Ponds: one Northern Shrike, a pair of Osprey interacting at and near the nest on the post - the area was otherwise, virtually birdless, except for Rough-winged and Violet-green Swallows and a couple of Mallard ducks on the river. I scooted out of there pretty fast, stopping only at the Cle Elum Bakery for a little treat, before I headed for the Swauk Creek Bridge.

five Black-billed Magpies, seen one at a time, on the entire trip

one Great Blue Heron along the Yakima River

Common Ravens here and there


The day was great, until I ran over a metal spike on Umptanum Rd, and had to enlist the assistance of the policeman who pulled me over for going over the 25 mph limit that now exists on a small section at the bottom of Ump. Rd. Since the tire would surely go flat on my drive back to Seattle, I needed to have something done. 2 policemen and one "after-hours" Les Schwab guy, nicely and capably helped me get the puncture repaired and I was on my way an hour later. Even this Ellensburg Grand Finale had its silver linings! I considered that day a success !

If you wish to see my photos of this Small Day of birding, consisting primarily of the nice scenery, go to this Flickr set:

"From Dippers to Pelicans" : http://flic.kr/s/aHsjEMnp3j

Cheers, Tweets!

Barb Deihl

North Matthews Beach - NE Seattle

barbdeihl at comcast.net

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