[Tweeters] Umtanum Creek

Neil and Carleen Zimmerman n3zims at comcast.net
Sat Jun 8 19:34:41 PDT 2013

Hello Tweeters,
I decided today to head over to Umtanum Creek in the Yakima Canyon south of Ellensburg. I got there about 8 am and as soon as I stepped out of the car, I heard my first Yellow-breasted Chat of the day. The first of many. In a 3 1/2 hour period I must have seen and heard 20 chats. They were calling and doing their display flight up and down the canyon. This is the most I have ever seen there and definitely the most I have ever seen in this short time period. Chats always crack me up. It is like they have a multiple personalities and they all take turns singing. A real weird mixture of songs and calls.
Lazuli Buntings were also very common as well as Black-headed Grosbeaks. About a 1/4 mile down the trail there is a cliff nest with three juvenile Prairie Falcons in it. I didn't see an adult on the way in but did on the way out. A pair of Kestrels and a Cooper's Hawk were also seen along the hike. Probably the most unusual birds seen were Common Bushtits. I saw them in two different places and they seemed out of place in the Yakima Canyon. I heard several Canyon Wrens and some Chukars chuckling but could not find them.
About the time I decided it was time to turn around, I looked up on the ridge to see three Bighorn Sheep rams.They are great animals to see. Two of them turned to each other and smacked heads. This time of the year, it must be their version of a slap on the back.
I then headed south on the Canyon Road. There is a Bald Eagle nest a couple miles south of Umtanum Creek (about 14.5 mile marker) that had one adult and two juveniles at the nest. The youngsters are full sized and fully feathered. As I drove past the entrance to the Big Pine Rec area I saw a group of birds flying in the sky. I slammed on the brakes and pulled over like a true birder. There were about 45 Common Nighthawks feeding over the river and directly overhead. I really enjoyed watching and hearing them as they soared overhead. I looked at my watch and realized that these were not Nighthawks but Noon-hawks.
I found the Golden Eagle nest but did not see anything in the nest or hanging around. At least I think I was looking on the right spot. Two male Bullock's Orioles chasing each other around were a bonus.
Good day, sunny warm weather and lots of birds.

Neil Zimmerman
Brier, WA

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