[Tweeters] Walla Walla River delta gulls-22 December

Andy Stepniewski steppie at nwinfo.net
Mon Dec 23 12:15:38 PST 2013


22 DECEMBER 2013

Winter brings gulls to the Walla Walla River delta. With Ellen and Eric
Heisey, we first studied gulls at the Wallula "poop piles," actually
entrails from the nearby slaughter house. Among the hundreds of Ring-billed
Gulls were good numbers of Herring and a few each of Glaucous-winged and
Californias. We observed a couple first-year WESTERNS, too, a species now
regularly wandering up the Columbia River, particularly near dams. We
identified these by noting: side-by-side with Glaucous-winged-same size and
bulk, thickened all dark bill, dark brown body, brownish-black primaries in
folded wing contrasting with shade lighter body coloration.

Next, we moved south a couple miles to the delta where we found many gulls
loafing on the frozen embayment. On our first stop here we noted four MEW
GULLS, an unusual count for eastern Washington. Several THAYER'S GULLS on
the ice, all adults, spiced up our list, too.

We also scoped the pond from the US-12 overlook east of Madame Dorian Park.
Here we noted a couple more MEW GULLS, assurance we were in record territory
for this species for eastern Washington. I phoned Mike Denny to relate our
news of the Mew Gulls and he told me he and Merrylynn had counted six below
McNary Dam the day before. He also said Merrylynn had found three Glaucous
Gulls in the area 18 December.

Now targeting Glaucous Gull, we returned to the poop piles where we saw the
same birds as on our first pass. We then moved west across the railway
tracks to scan the reservoir for gulls. Scoping the thousands of ducks we
spotted gulls resting, too. Ellen was first to pick out an adult GLAUCOUS
GULL, which shortly took off and flew south. Knowing this species love for
ice, I suggested we return to the delta where we might chance upon this bird
at a closer range. Luck was with us and we had reasonable photo ops of this
most beautiful bird on the ice! Eric snapped a photo of the Glaucous and one
of the Mew Gulls in the same shot, unusual indeed for the east side of the

Scanning the various rafts of puddle ducks, it was obvious this area
supports a huge winter population of waterfowl. We noted rafts blackening
the waters off Boise paper mill and the refuge east of Madame Dorian Park. I
undertook a grid estimate, first by counting a small group (150) and
extrapolating to the larger scene. It was easy for me to see 50 times this
number just from the overlook of the refuge lake east of the delta. We noted
two to three times this number off Wallula so the count of 20000 Mallards
seems a conservative estimate.

We departed in early afternoon, very satisfied with our eight species of
gulls. "It was a good day" as Marv Breece would say.

Species list:

Canada Goose 50

Tundra Swan 4

American Wigeon 25

Mallard 20000

Northern Pintail 500

Canvasback 200

Ring-necked Duck 10

Greater Scaup 15

Lesser Scaup 5

Bufflehead 1

Common Goldeneye 10

Horned Grebe 1

Double-crested Cormorant 2

Great Blue Heron 1

Northern Harrier 1

Cooper's Hawk 1

Bald Eagle 1

Red-tailed Hawk 5

American Coot 50

Killdeer 1

Mew Gull

Ring-billed Gull 1000

Western Gull 2

California Gull 50

Herring Gull (American) 50

Thayer's Gull 3

Glaucous-winged Gull 10

Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid) 1

Glaucous Gull 1

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 25

Mourning Dove 5

Belted Kingfisher 1

Downy Woodpecker 1

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) 3

American Kestrel 8

Black-billed Magpie 10

American Crow 2

Common Raven 5

European Starling 1500

Song Sparrow 1

White-crowned Sparrow (Gambel's) 2

Red-winged Blackbird 15

Brewer's Blackbird 3000

Brown-headed Cowbird 1

American Goldfinch 2

House Sparrow 200

Andy Stepniewski

Wapato WA

steppie at nwinfo.net

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