[Tweeters] March 23 - March 24 Coulees WOS trip report

kertim7179 at yahoo.com kertim7179 at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 25 19:52:09 PDT 2013

I led the Cool times in Coulees field trip this past weekend which covered areas around Othello, Moses Lake, Grand Coulee, Moses Coulee, and the Waterville Plateau.  14 participants enjoyed mostly sunny skies and very little wind all weekend long.
We started with a search for Burrowing Owl north of Othello.  We lucked out and found two of them.  Moving on, we then searched some of the agricultural fields nearby along Reynolds Road and found 4 Long-billed Curlews.  One pair of them engaged in some courtship displays which were very fun to watch until the deed was done which left much of the group blushing.
After a cigarette, we moved on to the Para Ponds area and scoped through a flock of blackbirds.  We found Red-winged, Yellow-headed, Tricolored, and Brown-headed Cowbirds in the flock.  The sun was perfect for highlighting the Tricolored males.  They seem to be on the comeback at this location.  Heading northwest, we made a brief stop near Morgan Lake which produced both Rock and Canyon Wren.  Also, several Violet-green Swallows with a lone Cliff Swallow.  At the Royal Lake overlook, we were amazed at the number of geese in the air and on the lake.  The continuing flock of near 500 Snow Geese were present with a thousands of Cackling and Canada Geese.  West of here along Hwy 262 just north of Hwy 26, we found a nice sized flock of Sandhill Cranes coming into a field right along the roadway. 
The county line ponds along Highway 26 hosted 4 Dunlin amidst the ducks and geese.  At the boat launch just east of Potholes State Park, we found a lone Horned Grebe in the reservoir and a singing Bewick's Wren in the brush.
Moving north, we visited the lakes on the way up from Soap Lake to Dry Falls.  At the Soap Lake, we had several Eared Grebes and Ruddy Ducks plus 3 Dunlin on the shore at the city park.  At the north end of the lake in a marshy area, we had Marsh Wren and Virginia Rail calling at us.  Lake Lenore produced our first Redhead of the day and Canvasback as well.  Lots of Scaup to look at and a couple had us thinking Greater of them.  At Sun Lakes State Park, we found Gadwal, Ring-necked Duck, Double-crested Cormorant, and a Herring Gull.  Also here, was our only Black-capped Chickadee of the whole trip!
Then we stopped at the Dry Falls overlook and the show began!  No, we didn't go inside the interpretive center to watch the movie - we were befuddled by two Peregrine Falcons that were laying claim to the airspace over the Dry Falls.  We first spotted them catching thermals and rising high up which was great to watch, then out of nowhere a Rock Pigeon made a bee-line for one of the falcons which seemed an odd play.  That falcon then gave chase several times without any strikes.  That was a very brave pigeon!  However, the show was not over yet...a Red-tailed Hawk entered the scene and suddenly one of the falcons entered into a full speed stoop towards the hawk.  This hawk then put on its afterburners and entered into a stoop itself!  The collective group watching this could not believe our eyes at the Red-tailed Hawk tucked its wings in and made itself into a bullet heading straight down.  Just at the hawk neared the ground it disappeared behind
a rock ledge with a Peregrine Falcon on its tail.  We could not see if the falcon made a strike, but the hawk did not rise up after the encounter.  The falcon returned to its mate and continued to patrol from above.  As we were leaving the overlook, we were happy to see a Red-tailed Hawk soaring off to the west and we presumed it survived the attack.  What a show!
At the Douglas county boat launch on Banks Lake, we scoped a Northern Shrike.  Then ending the day at Steamboat Rock State Park, we found one Long-eared Owl with little effort.  As the sun went down, a Great Horned Owl hooted from somewhere on the cliffs above the lake.
Sunday morning, we started very early and headed for the Leahy lek.  Since Saturday morning started off with a blush inducing show, we were very excited to see 10 Greater Sage Grouse continue that theme for us.  The males were very easy to see as they displayed while the hard to see females looked on.    As we drove away from the lek, we were treated with a quick glimpse and then several calls from a Loggerhead Shrike.  Here also was a singing Vesper Sparrow - our only one of the trip.  Also, near the highway, we found a mixed flock of American Robins, a Western Bluebird, and some juncos.
We then headed south on Highway 17, a made a quick stop at St. Andrews for some ducks and one of several Say's Phoebes that we found on both days all over the place.  Being hopeful, we headed to Atkins Lake which was non-existent and as we turned south to get back to the highway, a Snowy Owl appeared and gave us great looks.
In Moses Coulee, we drove the road north to Jameson Lake.  On the way, we found Sage Sparrows all over the place, Chukar, one Golden Eagle, Loggerhead Shrike, and Canyon Wren.  The lake had lots of ducks including Redhead, Canvasback, Greater Scaup, Common Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, and two California Gulls and one Herring.
Then on a whim, we headed to Central Ferry Canyon via the Waterville Plateau.  Several Rough-legged Hawks were hovering over the fields and we found a Great Horned Owl on a nest.  At the top of the canyon in the burned trees, we had help from the Byers and quickly found a male Black-backed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and a flock of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches.  A heard only Ruffed Grouse was here plus a Steller's Jay.  Down near the Packwood Cemetery, we found all three nuthatches, Red Crossbill, Downy Woodpecker, and Western Bluebirds.
Thanks to everyone that participated on the trip!  It was a great group of birders that had a great time!  95 total species for the trip!
Tim O'Brien
Cheney, WA
mailto:  kertim7179 at yahoo dot com

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