[Tweeters] Columbia Basin birding - Day one 4/8

Tim Brennan tsbrennan at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 10 23:51:11 PDT 2014

Hey Tweets,

Long trip, long days, long posts, so I'm going to break it up a little here. I'm on spring break and my kids aren't, so...I went out for three days in the Columbia Basin - mostly in Grant county - although I also spent half a day each on Lincoln and Adams. I got to a lot of new places and picked up a lot of new county bird, including one lifer!

Tuesday, I got up ridiculously early and set out for Kittitas County. Heading down the Old Vantage Highway at dawn, I had the windows down enough to listen for Ring-necked Pheasant or Chukar, but struck out on both. At Quilomene, I went in hoping to get Brewer's Sparrow, and did fairly quickly. The Ginko Overlook was absolutely crawling with Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, but the water levels are still really low on the Columbia above Wanapum Dam, so there wasn't much in the way of waterfowl to scope.

I crossed I 90 into Grant County, checking the Columbia on the way, with lots of Scaup, a Common Loon and a Red-breasted Merganser being the highlights. From there, I birded the Mattawa area, trying to scan for lingering winter sparrows, Long-eared Owls in trees, and Partridge on the ground. I had no luck on any of the above, but when I went up towards the viewpoint on the Saddle Mountains, I got a Loggerhead Shrike, and a Sagebrush Sparrow on the way up. It was a beautiful view from the top - being able to see both sides of the Saddles at once was amazing, and the highlight birds at the top were... Golden-crowned Kinglets?? There were two of them working through the sagebrush at the top, which seemed very strange.

Back down, and I made a quick stop into Benton County. I stopped at the Vernita Bridge rest stop and picked up Golden-crowned Kinglets there as well. A pair of Wood Ducks got scared out of the sewage lagoons by the rest stop. From there, I took the first road heading West - a DOE managed road that took me past some basalt cliffs (Canyon Wren and Prairie Falcon) and orchards (bees... they were apparently pollinating trees, so... I drove slowly past so... many... bees.) Two county birds closer to 100 in Benton! I'll be back there in July to try to put that one over.

I came back and went from Grant to Othello to Grant again, with my first stop back being the County Line Ponds. These were hopping with birds, incuding Dunlin, American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt and Killdeer for shorebirds, a ton of Canada and Cackling Geese, and a not unusual mix of ducks.

Corfu was interesting - I had not really birded it before, but I was able to pick up a Lincoln's Sparrow and Virginia Rail, along with my first of year Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a Loggerhead Shrike. I picked up a handful more birds at Dodson Road before heading up to the north end of the Potholes. At the Winchester Wasteway ponds, I was amazed at the variety of waterfowl, and found more Dunlin, Stilts and Avocets.

I attempted to find the North Potholes Reserve from here, but I got pretty turned around, so I didn't end up at the rookery. I still got Western Grebes, and a Golden Eagle

That's enough for now - tormorrow Day Two.

-Tim Brennan

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