[Tweeters] Iceland Gull at Clarkston-2 March

Andy Stepniewski steppie at nwinfo.net
Tue Mar 5 11:17:56 PST 2013

2-3 MARCH 2013

2 March. We headed to Clarkston to search for the Iceland Gulls reported
there-either the immature or adult bird. Our first birding was at Chief
Timothy where a Golden Eagle soaring over the beautiful slopes was a great
start to our trip. A number of other waterbirds were scattered about on the
reservoir here.

There were zero gulls, repeat zero, on our first pass at Swallows Park, a
little after noon. Highlights included a couple EURASIAN WIGEON. We returned
later in the afternoon and did much better, with good views of the immature
ICELAND GULL, a real treat. Our first Lesser Goldfinches of the trip, a
species we noted at a number of low elevation stops on this trip, were
visiting a feeder and weedy fields on the south side of Asotin. We shared
this waif with Clare and Sharon Weiser, birders from Pullman who graciously
invited us to join the Canyon Birders meeting at Rowdy's in Lewiston that

Seeking a leg stretcher, we headed to the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area, tucked
away in the chasm of Joseph Creek, a magnificent gorge where geology is on
display in grand fashion: multi-layers of basalt arranged layercake fashion.
A large fire has recently burned much of the slopes to the south of Joseph
Creek in the wildlife area. The biggest groups of Wild Turkeys we've ever
seen were grazing on the greening slopes, 103 in one bunch and 17 in
another. Some of the males were displaying, too, a most impressive show. We
chose a hike on the unburned slope on the north side of Joseph Creek,
ascending up to planted junipers on a hillside densely covered with
bunchgrass. The junipers were hosting several Townsend's Solitaires.

Late after noon found us along the Clarkston waterfront northwest of Costco,
where we had heard gulls congregate. We found only a few gulls loafing off
in the river but the brambles and brush at this site proved super for LESSER
GOLDFINCHES, 50 in all! The goldfinches were concentrated in dense bramble
thickets. Spishing these birds up gave us great side-by-side comparisons
with a few Americans: brighter yellow, the males utterly distinctive, of
course. The call note "tee-yer" aided in our identification, too. Some
seemed to be in full song as opposed to Americans which uttered calls only.
As we learned from local experts Keith Carlson and Terry Gray, this species
sure has undergone a population explosion in this area over the past few

We joined the Canyon Birders in Lewiston for dinner, followed by a fabulous
program on the Dempster Highway in the northern Yukon, with birds by Jerry
Cebula and wildflowers by Sarah Walker. Their program certainly got Ellen
and I inspired to head up to the Yukon again, with hard-to-find northern
birds such as Smith's Longspur, Long-tailed Jaeger, and Surfbird, and many
more, in a beautiful subarctic wilderness setting.

3 March. The following morning, choosing to visit other habitats in the
area, we climbed to the plateau along Weisenthals Road. We've had pretty
good luck with Gyrfalcon along this road, which skirts the edge of a very
scenic "break," affording fabulous views of the gorges in the region and
Seven Devils Mountains to the east in Idaho. We dipped on the gyro but did
well with Northern Shrikes and a few raptors, including Northern Harrier,
Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks.

We paid a very short visit to Fields Spring State Park, set in mixed-conifer
forest. It was chilly and quite windy, so birds were keeping hidden save for
another 10 Wild Turkeys.

We returned to the river by another plateau route, Montgomery Ridge Road,
hence another chance for Gyrfalcon. We found the same three raptor species
as on Weisenthals Road plus a Western Meadowlark.

Descending from Montgomery Ridge Road, one cuts through Couse Canyon. We
stopped in the lower part of the canyon in habitat of White Alder,
Hackberry, and bramble thickets. Again we found Lesser Goldfinches, here
again singing their hearts out.

On the way north to Clarkston we again stopped by Three Mile Rapids where we
lingered, sheltered from the wind. The sun shined warmly and the birds were
out! Highlights included a THAYER'S GULL, Rock Wren, singing Canyon Wrens
and Say's Phoebes, our first of spring Violet-green and Tree Swallows, and
yet more Lesser Goldfinches.

A brief stop by the Asotin County Landfill was mediocre for gulls but four
Sandhill Cranes high overhead were new for our 2013 list.

The Canyon Birders had told us of Nisqually John Canyon, a great place for a
hike in a scenic setting of cliffs, rugged slopes, and dense riparian
vegetation (white alder, hackberry-in the lower sections, and bramble
thickets). Although windy and cool we made our way a mile or so up this
canyon, and saw great potential here for spring and summer birding. We heard
Lesser Goldfinches again. Soaring raptors such as Northern Harrier,
Red-tailed Hawk, and American Kestrel were conspicuous as were Bewick's and
Canyon Wrens, both kinglets, and Say's Phoebe.

Andy and Ellen Stepniewski
Wapato WA
steppie at nwinfo.net

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