[Tweeters] Fincheless along the White Pass Highway

Andy Stepniewski steppie at nwinfo.net
Wed Jan 23 07:43:54 PST 2013


Birding the White Pass Highway (US-12) west of Yakima on both 13 January
(myself) and 19 January (with Denny Granstrand), I (we) observed zero
finches. Repeat, zero. Redpolls were noted along this route by John Hebert
during this period but we failed to find these.

Stops were made at frequent intervals in the various vegetation zones along
this route, from low to high elevation. Zones encountered include: Riparian,
Ponderosa Pine, Interior Douglas-fir, Mixed-conifer, and Subalpine. At least
14 species of conifers are found along this route. I believe this absence of
finches along this route in winter is unique in my experience.

Norway Spruce, an introduced tree and widely planted in residential areas in
Washington, by contrast, appear to be enjoying a banner cone crop everywhere
I've been in the state starting in the fall of 2012. The top third of many
of these trees appear brown from afar, on account of the masses of cones.
This species in eastern Washington is probably responsible for many of the
Red Crossbill reports away from the conifer forests in eastern Washington,
and possibly some of the White-winged Crossbill reports. I know this to be
true for Yakima where Red Crossbills have wintered in unprecedented numbers.

Andy Stepniewski
Wapato WA
steppie at nwinfo.net

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