[Tweeters] Frenchman Coulee highlights, rail and falcon breeding questions

Doreen Gillespie dorgilles at gmail.com
Sun May 12 22:06:23 PDT 2013

Spent Sunday morning on Silica Road and down the Coulee, just off I-90 east
of Vantage. We did not have a long species list to show for our time, but
the behaviors we saw included many firsts.

At the pond and marshes flanking Silica Road, we had Virginia Rails calling
from both sides of the road. We watched one female for nearly 30 minutes
on the edge of the shoulder vegetation as she defended her territory
against another rail calling on the opposite side of the road. The male
showed himself three times, not appearing to be agitated about territory
defense, showed a brief, but very distinctive, strut before mounting the
female and quickly disappearing back into the vegetation. Were it not for
the mating, we would not have specified genders. I am wondering if perhaps
the VRail is polygamous, hence only the female showing territory
defensiveness--any thoughts or information on this?

Gadwall, Red-headed Ducks, A.Coots, Yellow-headed and
Red-winged Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-rumped Warblers, California
Quail, a muskrat, and very aggressive mosquitoes were also seen in or
around the pond. Warblers were unexpectedly quiet at this location, and we
ran out of time to check the willows later.

Down the Coulee, the White-throated swifts were mating in flight and flying
close enough that we could hear the whoosh as they passed. Pretty
impressive flight sound for a small bird! Rock Wrens were calling
everywhere we stopped, but no Canyon Wrens were heard.

A pair of Peregrine Falcons provided a wonderful show with a mid-air prey
transfer and mating just below the campground. We were not sure of a
possible nest location but have a guess. I was very surprised that this
pair appears to have not laid eggs yet--is the season normally this much
later than on the west side of the Cascades? I expect to see continued
mating and courtship after eggs are laid, but neither bird spent any
significant time in a possible nest location to indicate brooding has

Doreen Gillespie
dorgilles at gmail.com
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