[Tweeters] Columbia Basin/Birder's Corner

Jim Owens jimo at brainerd.org
Mon Apr 22 11:35:40 PDT 2013


Yesterday, Gary Kelsberg and I enjoyed leading ten enthusiastic and knowledgeable birders on a Seattle Audubon Society field trip to the Columbia Basin. The day was mostly sunny, though the wind was strong enough at times to keep many birds under cover. By the end of the day, our lists totaled 75 avian species, along with Yellow-bellied Marmots found at Recreation Drive at Vantage and a small herd of elk grazing along the side of I-90 in the early morning near the Denny Creek exit.

We started our day with a pair of nesting American Dippers under the bridge over the Teanaway River east of Cle Elum on SR 10 and enjoyed seeing two young owlets at a Great Horned Owl nest on SR 10 just upstream from the irrigation diversion dam on the Yakima River. We were lucky to find three Long-billed Curlews in fields along Lower Green Canyon Road northwest of Ellensburg as well as a Swainson's Hawk overhead before spending a few minutes scoping an occupied Red-tailed Hawk nest on Reecer Creek Road that seems to be used each year by either Red-tailed Hawks or Great Horned Owls.

Quilomene Wildlife Area was quieter than usual as a result of the wind, but we heard, and had good looks at, Brewer's Sparrows and Sage Thrashers, and had fleeting glimpses of Sage Sparrows and Western and Mountain Bluebirds. The Vantage Overlook was windy, but we enjoyed seeing the Say's Phoebe nesting near the interpretive center's front door and identified both Eared and Horned Grebes in breeding plumage in the Columbia River, along with a Common Loon, Lesser Scaup, Caspian Terns and Common Mergansers. The Sandhill Crane day roost on Lower Crab Creek Road SW east of Rd E SW held about 300 Lesser Sandhill Cranes, down from the 1,500 Sandhill Cranes we saw there earlier in the week. Are the Sandhill Cranes beginning to depart the Othello area for their breeding grounds in the far north?

Birder's Corner was quite busy with Black-necked Stilts, Tree, Violet-Green and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, lots of waterfowl and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and Gary puzzled out the Blue-winged and Green-winged Teals nesting in boxes over the ponds. County Line Ponds were well-populated with Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Dunlin, Cackling and Canadian Geese, and we had good looks at a Burrowing Owl on Sutton Road north and east of Othello.

Desert wildflowers are blooming in the Columbia Basin now; this is a great time of year to enjoy birds, flowers and scenery in the basin.

Jim Owens
Mercer Island

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