[Tweeters] Okanogan County birding, Dec. 16
contopus at telus.net
Thu Dec 18 18:12:36 PST 2014
Last Tuesday, I spent almost the whole day birding in Okanogan County.
Rather than focussing on the Okanogan Highlands, as many birders do, I
decided to look for birds along Osoyoos Lake and along the Okanogan River
from Oroville south to Ellisforde.
The first spot I checked (after crossing through the international border
from B.C.) was Boundary Point on the west side of Osoyoos Lake. A big flock
of about 300 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS was milling about near the turnoff to
Boundary Point Road, then flew north into BC. There were lots of waterfowl
on Osoyoos Lake, mostly CANADA GEESE and MALLARDS, but out on the lake were
6 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS. This species is uncommon, but somewhat regular in
occurrence on Osoyoos Lake in the winter. An immature NORTHERN SHRIKE was
perched on a shrub just west of Highway 97.
Next on the agenda was Westlake Road, which follows near the edge of Osoyoos
Lake for a little over 2 miles till it rejoins Highway 97 at the north edge
About halfway along is Deep Bay Park, which gives a good view of the
southern part of Osoyoos Lake. From here, among other things, I could see 3
COMMON LOONS, 8 TRUMPETER SWANS near the shore north of the park, 4 more
RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, and a tight flock of about 30 COMMON MERGANSERS.
Elsewhere along Westlake Road, a TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE was singing (!) from
the top of a Lombardy poplar, and a flock of 30 CALIFORNIA QUAIL were
feeding in the middle of a large group of free-range chickens in an
orchard-- an interesting combination of fowl!
I spent about 90 minutes birding in the town of Oroville itself. From
previous experience, I knew there were likely to be quite a few birds on the
Okanogan River in the middle of town. The species I saw included 6
RING-NECKED DUCKS, a drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, 6 TRUMPETER SWANS, and a
PIED-BILLED GREBE. Other typical urban birds were seen, including 20
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES and 83 ROCK PIGEONS. Two FOX SQUIRRELS were
involved in a chase in the middle of town, and I saw what looked like
several leaf nests of Fox Squirrels in shade trees.
After lunch at the Oroville Subway, I headed south on "Highway 7", also
known as the Janis-Oroville Road, which parallels Highway 97, but on the
opposite (west) side of the Okanogan River. This route proved very
productive for birds of prey. Along Highway 7, I tallied a total of 18
RED-TAILED HAWKS, 9 BALD EAGLES, one GOLDEN EAGLE, 2 AMERICAN KESTRELS, and
a COOPER'S HAWK. I counted an impressive total of 53 BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES,
including 2 large flocks. I made a short side trip to the east on Truman
Nelson Road, which gives a good view over a large area of floodplain; a
highlight here was a PRAIRIE FALCON which flew in and landed atop a leafless
tree, giving great views through the scope before it flew off a couple of
minutes later. Nearby were 2 more flocks of BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS, totalling
another 98 birds. Farther south on Highway 7, another NORTHERN SHRIKE was
perched near the road. A second highlight, accompanying a flock of 39 CANADA
GEESE in a field, was a single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE-- completely
unexpected, and a new species for my all-time Okanogan County list!
By now, it was almost 3 PM-- not much daylight left. I crossed over to the
hamlet of Ellisforde on Highway 97 via the Ellisforde Bridge Road. As I
headed north on Highway 97, I tallied one more species of raptor-- a
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK perched close to the highway. Then I decided to head for
Havillah in the Okanogan Highlands via the Swanson Mill Road, a well-graded
gravel road which I had not driven before. This road traverses a nice
stretch of ponderosa pine forest, but in the late afternoon, birds were few,
other than a third NORTHERN SHRIKE on the way up the hill, and a huge covey
of 60 more CALIFORNIA QUAIL near a house in the lower part of the pine
Though it was late, I hoped to perhaps see or hear an owl species or two
near Havillah; I drove in to the Highlands Sno-Park, where there was only an
inch or two of snow on the ground. Despite my best attempts at hooting, no
owls appeared. However, a pleasant surprise-- and one of my best birds of
the day-was a flock of 34 WILD TURKEYS which crossed Dry Gulch Road only
about 500 yards north of the Havillah Road, and ran up a nearby bank, about
15 minutes after sunset. This was the biggest flock of Turkeys I had ever
seen in Washington, and a new species for my year list!
I will probably check out the Okanogan Highlands in January or February, as
many of us often do, but it was a nice change of pace to spend a day mostly
in the valley bottom. The day produced a list of 40 species, including some
that I rarely see in Okanogan County.
Good luck and good birding,
Wayne C. Weber
contopus at telus.net
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